“That Rev. Lovejoy displeases me. I think I’ll give him a canker sore.”
— God, as spoken to Homer Simpson, in “Homer the Heretic”
If you’ve never had a canker sore, this line from The Simpsons may elicit, at best, a mild chuckle, or even indifferent silence. If you are one of those who suffer from canker sores, this line will cause you to either laugh ruefully or knowingly (they are slightly different in tone), or perhaps cause a brief twinge of mouth pain.
I am a canker sore sufferer. Oh, how I suffer. I’ve got a canker sore right now that is in what I hope is the last stages of an eruption, predominantly healed but still capable of searing, eye-watering pain if touched in the wrong way. Which, when it comes to canker sores, is any way.
What is a canker sore, you may ask? According to the website PubMed Health, a canker sore is “a painful, open sore in the mouth”. That’s pretty straightforward, but I think it should be expanded upon. I would rewrite it as “an excruciating, misery-inducing, briefly life-altering open sore in the mouth.”
Too extreme? A little overwrought? If you suffer from canker sores, you’re probably thinking that I’ve understated the case.
If you’ve never had a canker sore, let me explain in excruciating detail.
A cancer sore appears in the mouth, sometimes on the gums, sometimes on the very soft, very moist, very delicate inside of the mouth. I can feel them coming on, usually with a tiny pinprick of discomfort. If I’m lucky, it will stay beneath the surface and quietly disappear. But if it wants to — and there is no stopping it — a canker sore can bubble to the surface, like an angry volcano. Once it bursts through the surface, it becomes a tiny sore of elevated, white-ringed agony. Canker sores are extraordinarily sensitive to touch, and at their worst anything that touches them causes screaming pain. Depending on the placement of the sore (back of the mouth not so bad, front of the mouth very bad) they can make eating an excruciating experience for the week to 10 days a canker sore typically lasts. Anything acidic, like oranges, grapefruit, or their juices, creates a pain that I would equate with being touched in the mouth with a lit match.
I’ve had canker sores all my life, and my unfortunate sons are also canker sore sufferers (my only apparent legacy to them). I don’t know why I’m prone to them, and I don’t think medical science knows exactly why some people get them, and most don’t. I suspect millions of people suffer in silence (silence because when you have a really bad sore, it’s hard to talk) from canker sores, but medical science and Big Pharma seem to be fairly indifferent to the problem. There are over-the-counter products you can buy for canker sores, but generally all they do is put a thin protective coating over the sore, and add a little topical anesthetic to numb the pain. They help, briefly, but they don’t heal.
If only the savvy breast cancer fundraising machine would send just a few dollars from their various fundraising initiatives towards canker sore research, we might find a cure for canker sores. Maybe somebody should start a ribbon campaign; I picture red ribbons, with little white dots to represent canker sores.
Big Pharma disappoints me. The pharmaceutical industry is a multi, multi, multi-billion dollar worldwide behemoth. The industry has provided a pill for anything that afflicts mankind; there are even pills for restless leg syndrome, something else I have occasional acquaintance with. I’m convinced if Big Pharma developed a pill to prevent canker sores, or one that cut the pain period down to a couple of days, they could make millions. Not Viagra money, but enough to boost the bottom-line a little.
In the meantime, we canker sufferers will have to make due. And this is where I’m asking for help. If anyone reading this — all 12 of you — know of reliable cures or treatments for canker sores, please share. I’ve had to avoid citrus fruits for so long, I think I’m getting scurvy.
Please, my fellow CS victims, speak up! If you can.