UNALAKLEET -- Cancer survivor Lance Mackey started the 2013 Iditarod with three of his original teeth. Now he's down to two.
"I was drinking tea, eating fudge, listening to music, just cruising along," the four-time champion said. As his dogs pulled him along the overflow-soaked Yukon River to Kaltag, Mackey bit something hard.
"Wow, that's a weird-looking nut," he thought.
Then he realized what had happened.
Mackey has been falling apart for some time. Radiation treatment for throat cancer discovered in 2001 led doctors to remove his top and bottom molars, he said. He must drink water constantly while on the runners of his sled because he can't produce saliva. And he is down to nine fingers: A symptom of the nerve damage suffered from the treatment.
He lost the tooth was sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, days before the finish of the race.
"That sucks," he thought.
He put the tooth in his pocket. The pain came when he took a swig of Powerade.
Mackey mushed at least another 85 miles over 25 hours, including rest, to Unalakleet. Here, he visited a dental clinic and learned there was nothing to be done for him along the Iditarod trail.
The tooth had snapped off. The root must be removed, he said.
"They just gave me some antibiotics, which was the main concern. Penicillin and Tylenol 3," Mackey said. "She said it was enough to get to Nome, but I already ate half of them."
Only Mackey's two front teeth remain, he said. The Two Rivers musher, who was in 14th place in the race Monday night, plans to have a gold tooth made to fill the latest gap.
"I don't know if I have the heart to tell my mom," he said. "It was her fudge."