Did you wear braces while you were growing up? Between the ages of 10 and 16 it felt like all of my friends were in braces. But not me.

Not that I didn’t want braces… we just couldn’t afford them. And while all of my friends were getting perfect smiles for $2,500 or more, I was left with an awkward gap between my front two teeth. I was embarrassed about this as a kid and learned to smile without showing my teeth. To this day I still can’t show my teeth and smile at the same time.

Fast forward many years later and here I am… an adult with medical coverage, a good job, some disposable income… and a feeling leftover from my formative years that my teeth aren’t perfect. And oh yeah, I have brain cancer.

But I’m a survivor, right? That means I need to start thinking about my life being longer than “just one more year, maybe.” If I am going to live another 20 years, by golly, I want the smile of a 16-year old.

I decided to get braces

Within minutes of realizing I could make my own orthodontic decisions I remembered that I get an MRI of my brain every few months.

If you aren’t part of the MRI Elite Club (take that, Yelp) you might be unfamiliar with the pre-MRI process.

Us MRI Elite are told to complete a form asking about all metallic objects that may be hidden in and around our body before we have each scan. There are about 30 standard questions, including:

Do you wear a pacemaker?
Do you have a shunt?
Do you have any metal plates or screws in your body?
Do you have any metal fragments in your eyes?
Have you ever worked with metal objects?
Have you ever attended a Slayer concert? (Not really, but imagine that!)

The form also asks if you wear braces.

Maybe my dream of straightened teeth wasn’t meant to be. But then…

I went to see my awesome dentist and he suggested I opt for clear plastic/invisible braces. They pop in and out like retainers, and I can eat any food I want. I just have to wear them for 22 hours of the day.

Huzzah! This seemed like the perfect thing.

Clear braces, no artifacts in the MRI

I got my first set of braces three weeks ago… and just had an MRI. (The MRI looks stable, by the way.)

I filled out the MRI clearance form and when it asked if I had braces I checked the YES box.

The technician said, “You have braces? I can’t see them?” I was so excited… I pulled my lips back and said, “See! Look! They are plastic!” And the tech waved me through, like, “No big deal.”

After the scan I saw my neuro-oncologist, the super-chill Dr. L. We went over the scans and he asked, “Anything new?”

I said, “I got braces! Check them out!”

Dr. L couldn’t see the braces either.

I pulled my lips back. “See! Look! They are plastic! I got plastic ones because I thought I couldn’t wear regular braces in an MRI, but the tech said you can, so…”

“You can wear braces in an MRI,” Dr. L said. “But the braces leave artifacts in the scan and warp the images. We get better scans if you aren’t wearing metal braces.”

So there you have it.

You can have your braces and brain cancer too.