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Elizabeth Hanes

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My Triumph Over Canker by Britney Spears
By Elizabeth Hanes   

Last edited: Thursday, August 30, 2001
Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2001

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Get the scoop on this under-reported health scare! The true story, from Britney's own lips. Sort of.

(as told to Elizabeth Hanes)

[Author's Note: Recently, I had a chance to sit down with pop diva Britney Spears to chat about her recent bout with canker. Here is her story, as best I could make it out from the garbled cassette tapes.]

I first noticed the symptoms while I was on stage in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Suddenly, in the middle of singing “Oops, I Did It Again,” I noticed a tingling sensation inside my lower lip. Of course, the show must go on, so I sang through the pain.

The next morning, I started to chug down my breakfast Pepsi and, whoa! The burning was unreal! It felt like this little spot inside my lip was on fire. I asked the tour medics to look at it, but they couldn’t find anything. I wasn’t comfortable with that diagnosis, so I flew to California to see my internist. She couldn’t find anything wrong, either.

My feminine intuition told me something was going on, however. I knew I was sick. I just wasn’t sure how sick. One thing was for sure, though: I wasn’t going to stop until I had a diagnosis.

I cancelled my next scheduled tour date in Tallahassee in order to fly to New York City for a consultation with an oncologist. By now, the pain was excruciating, and my lip was starting to swell up, as if a bee had stung me or something. Although, of course, I mean, I knew it wasn’t that!

The oncologist was booked solid with A-list celebrities, so she referred me to a top-notch ear-nose-and-throat doctor instead. I had an hour to kill before the appointment, so I had them close Macy’s to the public while I did some shopping. New shoes always make a girl feel better!

By the time I got into the doctor’s exam room, my lip definitely was swollen and raw. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis. I mean, is anyone ever ready to hear “that” word?

When the ear-nose-throat doctor said, “Britney, you’ve got canker” I started to cry. I was just so stunned. I didn’t think young people got canker. I thought the disease only struck old people or the very unlucky. I certainly didn't think that I, a young wealthy person, could get it. I was afraid I might never be able to sing again.

Thank goodness I’d brought my mother and two of my best friends with me to the appointment. I was numb from shock after the doctor’s pronouncement and barely heard the rest of the conversation. Something about “aphthous ulcer” and “no usual treatment.” I was scared to death!

My friends took lots of notes, though. Evidently a mouth sore like the one I had is the most common form of canker. The doctor said it would clear up on its own within a few weeks. She also said something about “a big baby” and “spoiled brat,” but like I said, nothing really registered because of my shock.

The doctor recommended I put ice on the canker or dab on some Ora-Jel. After several days of treatment, I noticed a significant reduction in swelling, and the pain had almost disappeared. Luckily, I’ve been able to return to a normal life. And, yes, I can still sing!

I cherish every day now. Me and Justin Timberlake of *NSYNC have become so much closer as boyfriend and girlfriend since then. He is my number one supporter. He makes sure I go to my follow-up visits with the doctor and keeps Ora-Jel on hand in the first aid kit on the tour bus, just in case I have a relapse. I don’t know what I’d do without him. I wish everyone who suffers from this terrible disease could have someone as good-looking as Justin to take care of them.

Mainly, I just want to encourage everyone to listen to their body. Don’t let doctors tell you there’s nothing wrong with you when there is. Trust your instincts. Early diagnosis is crucial in dealing with something as serious as canker. Be healthy!


© 2001 Elizabeth Hanes

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