The period from Sept. 21 to Dec. 21 in the Northern Hemisphere has been known as harvest, autumn, and fall. We no longer call the season harvest and now associate it only with the activity that our farmers go through at this time of year. We call it fall, in association with the falling of the leaves and the falling of the seasons. Fall is the common term used in the U.S. The British use the term autumn, from the Etruscan term autu-, which connotes the passing of the time during the year, later translated into Latin and then Medieval English. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and many others have looked at autumn and fall very poetically as the passage of time in our lives as well.
Dan was in a high-velocity, rear-end motor vehicle accident. He came to me on referral from his lawyer and his physiotherapist due to orofacial and temporomandibular joint pain that he was suffering from after the accident. I worked with his health care team in a collaborative, multi-disciplinary measure in an effort to get his upper body, neck, head, and orofacial region to heal and return to a pre-accident state of comfort and function. The treatment, from my perspective, involved an intraoral orthotic (commonly, but incorrectly called a splint, since we are not splinting anything, but rather, orthopedically repositioning the lower jaw to a different physiologic position). At first he found the orthopedic position unusual for him, but he trusted me and the health care team we were working with. Wearing the orthotic most of the time, day and night, was a challenge for him. After his first week he wrote: “Commitment to success is not really an option, it’s the way I have approached the entire ordeal. While I am very hesitant to apply the terminology of ‘lucky’ and ‘unlucky’ to the extent of the injuries I have sustained in an avoidable accident caused by someone else’s negligence, accountability still lies with me for recovery. Things in general could be significantly worse.”
Dan then went on to say, “The executive assistant on my team was just diagnosed for the second time with breast cancer. If she can vow to beat it again, then I think I definitely can handle this.”
October, the heart of the fall season, is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month in Canada. We have the Terry Fox run in late September (Terry, losing one leg to cancer, tried to run across Canada with only one leg, making it almost half way before his cancer returned and he succumbed to this terrible disease) and recently the Run for the Cure, a fundraiser for breast cancer sponsored by one of Canada’s national banks. We see lots of men and women wearing pink to show solidarity and support for those suffering from “women’s” cancers and it is a time for us to pause and reflect on the gift of life and health we enjoy.
Dan wrote the passages above in February 2015. I am happy to report that by the end of April, Dan’s headaches and orofacial pain were gone and we had weaned him off the orthotic wear to nighttime use only. He was a happy man, and so were we.
As for Dan’s executive assistant… she is still with us, battling strongly and looking surprisingly well. Those who know her are praying for continued strength and recovery.
So enjoy autumn. Get out and smell the air as the season is changing, see the swirling leaves as they are moved with the passing breeze, hear the sounds of the birds heading south en masse. It is a time to pause and reflect, a time to reconsider our health and our place in this world, and a time to prepare for the coming winter.
And don’t forget to get a flu shot!