This Is Me

Hi there. It’s been a while. I don’t like to write just to write and I haven’t had much to say that you haven’t heard, so I took a break. Now I’m ready to share part 2 of my story.

At this time last year, I was well into my adventure of a lifetime – my cross country cycling trip, raising funds for Multiple Sclerosis research. This year, I am continuing a different kind of journey. If you read part 1 of my story, you know that I worked hard over the last few years to recover my fitness levels of long ago. I’ve engaged in many hours of cycling, running and other cross training activities as well as making better nutritional choices. Kick starting all of that was a trip to the dentist. For my own very good reasons, I had not seen a dentist in over 40 years. You can imagine the level of periodontal disease that developed as a result of that choice. The fix ended up being the removal of all my teeth – March 6, 2014. I actually refer to that date as my second birthday because I believe my dentist literally saved my life and gave me back my “joie de vivre”. I no longer have my original teeth, but I do have my smile (and health) back!

This year, since I had no chosen events to train for, I decided to heed my dentist’s advice and take steps to prevent future bone loss of the jaw (something that typically happens over time when you don’t have the teeth roots stimulating bone growth). That meant implants for my upper jaw to help preserve the bone. I finished that process for my lower jaw prior to my epic ride. In order to place implants in my upper jaw, however, I had to first have some extensive bone grafting. I had already lost a significant amount of bone to resorption starting even prior to the teeth extractions. So, in February, I started the long process. I had bilateral horizontal ridge and sinus lift augmentations done through two separate procedures. There had to be a period of at least six weeks before any denture could be worn again. It turned out to be fourteen weeks for me because we chose to do the surgeries back to back. Fourteen weeks without upper teeth!

Last year, my ride showed me that there is still good in humanity. I had someone find and return my ID/cash pack. I had people donate to the cause. I had people looking out for my safety, offering food and water, and giving shelter in a storm. And I met wonderful, supportive teams of people who are part of the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog ministry all across the country.Image 2018-06-05_17-00-54-447

This year, my dental adventure has shown me the same. I was worried about going to work (I have a very public job) and being seen outside my home without teeth. But once any bruising from the procedure went away, back to work went I.

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I don’t know what I was so worried about. No person over that time ever made me feel the least bit uncomfortable. If there was any conversation about it at all, it was more interest in the procedures themselves and the healing involved. No one snickered. No one looked aghast. No one pushed me to do anything if I showed any trepidation about it without question or judgement. I even met a large number of new people (hundreds). I am part of the LCC K9-Comfort Dog Ministry with Team Aaron Comfort Dog and deployed to speak and share the ministry at other congregations and schools, attended events and a large conference, and met with other teams at a regional gathering. I rode in a couple of large cycling events. And when I ate out at restaurants, no waiter or waitress ever had issue with my soft diet requests or substitutions. It turns out the only person who was concerned about being out and about with no upper teeth was me. Every other person I encountered was kind and supportive.

I do have my upper teeth back now. I smile again with abandon and it feels great! I’m back cycling and running and working on my next goals/adventures. Stay tuned as I figure them out. And later this year, after 6-8 months of healing, I’ll have the implants placed. I’ll be without teeth for a short time again, but I’m not worried!Image 2018-06-05_16-45-35-323

Lessons learned:

1- There are a whole lot of good humans out there!

2- Even without teeth, you can eat just about anything – blenders/hand blenders are great!

3- Everyone has something going on. They won’t judge you for yours.

4- Having oral surgery and being without teeth is a minor inconvenience. Cancer, heart disease, MS, ALS, strokes and clinical depression among others are real struggles.

5- Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. God and people around you will lift you up.

6- Dr. J is my hero! Dr. V isn’t so bad either!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

I Believe

Merry Christmas! I LOVE Christmas! I have always loved the magic of Christmas! It’s 5 am and I am awake. I was always a night owl. Still am for the most part, but I’m up most days by now, too. It’s a habit that started with the big dog wanting his walk as soon as he heard anyone moving about. We go for two miles in the morning and then again in the early evening. I don’t mind. It gets the blood moving.

This morning, as I wait for the rest of the house to stir, I am sitting here reflecting a bit. Christmas does that for me. The sights and sounds and smells of the season always bring up memories steeped in the many traditions that pop up this time of year. I’m surprised the girl isn’t up with me. She loves to get up way too early to see if Santa came. As she got old enough, she would even make coffee for me and Mr. Sag so the aroma might wake us too. As I look around, I see the stockings are full. My grandmother and then my mom made stockings for everyone in the Streeter clan. Now my sister and others carry on. Any time a baby was on the way, a stocking would be started – just awaiting a name. Any time there was a marriage, the spouse was welcomed to the family with – you guessed it. You could tell those of us with the same or near birth years by the color lots of the yarn. The one I have is my second. Sadly, a mouse got to my original.

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Christmas is magical for me because it really drives home the sense of believing – and not just in Santa. All year I was reminded of things I believe in wrapped up in an epic adventure.

I believe in the unconditional love of family. I never would have been able to cycle across America without them. Who else would help someone accomplish their dream by dropping everything and living out of a mobile box for a month and a half – no questions – no complaints (well, not really) and cheering the whole way? Who else would hunt you down based on an article in a newspaper because they knew we had a long lost connection? Family.

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I believe friendships never die. They just fade away at times and then sneak up and pick up right where they left off. Friends make life interesting and livable.

I believe in giving back. Part of what keeps me riding and running, is that they give me the opportunity to do so for a cause. I have several causes that I’ve mentioned throughout the year and I’ll keep helping them in 2018. Come along with me.

I believe in forgiveness and redemption. My journey over the past few years helped me understand that one does not always represent the many. I have faith in and respect for the dental profession again thanks to Dr. Tom, Jena and others. Time does heal many wounds. And you can smile again!

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I believe in the goodness of humanity. People really just want to help each other. We’re in it together. If you don’t think so, go on your own epic adventure and see who you run into. It will surprise you in a good way!

And just as Christmas isn’t about Santa, I believe in Him and that He is with us always.

I leave you with a favorite holiday memory of mine. My mom was a wonderful pianist and she played every evening. I loved the sounds that filled the air and I love hearing that instrument played any time. The pastor at our church reminds me of her because he can really tickle the ivories too! In December, my favorite was always “Carol of the Bells”.

Merry Christmas!

Ride on!

Giving Thanks and Paying it Forward

Thanksgiving is a holiday that always makes me feel good. No matter where we celebrate, or what we have for dinner, or who we dine with, there is always the giving of thanks – taking time to be mindful of the many blessings we are given daily.

Some things I’m thankful for:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Good health
  • Safe home
  • Ability to run and ride
  • Beautiful places

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As I am reminded of the many blessings I have, it’s time again to think about paying it forward. Since giving Tuesday is coming up this week, I’ll take this opportunity once more to share links to some of the organizations I like to give to throughout the year. Some I give to directly. Some I raise funds and awareness for by riding or running in their sponsored events. Thank you for considering giving to them or your favorites.

Bike the US for MS

Great Cycle Challenge

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

American Heart Association

American Cancer Society

Pink Heals – Napa Valley

Neurofibramatosis Network

The Pathway Home

Wounded Warrior Project

Lutheran Church Charities – Comfort Dogs

Make a Wish

Compassion International

Napa Humane Society

Samaritan’s Purse

American Diabetes Association

Lutheran World Relief

Fisher House Foundation

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Michael J Fox Foundation – for Parkinson’s Research

Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

#Napastrong

 

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I live in Napa, CA. On Sunday, October 8, 2017, some of the fiercest wildfires in history broke out on one of our mountainsides. It quickly spread due to unprecedented winds gusting to 60-70 mph. Napa and several surrounding counties, Sonoma, Solano, Lake, and Mendocino have suffered unimaginable losses of human life, animal life, property, and livelihood. Luckily, my family was spared. Sadly, many whom we know, were not.

In the face of this devastation, I have also seen incomparable kindness, love, compassion, volunteerism and generosity. Napa will survive!

I had the opportunity, due to a work commitment, at the end of this week of fire, to visit one of my favorite places. I fell in love with Pacific Grove when I arrived in California 27 years ago. It is all together beautiful, energizing and peaceful. After a week filled with smoke, anxiety, and unknowing, it proved to be all that and more. I had thrown my bike in the back of my SUV before leaving home, just in case. It turns out that we had almost a full free day on Saturday, so of course, I rode. I was off before most of the tourists were even awake. I took in the sunrise, and I rode along one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline one can imagine. 50 miles and 4 hours later, I felt renewed.

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And just as the lone cypress is resilient against the odds, so too will be Napa. We will recover. We will love and help each other. We will move forward. We are #Napastrong!

Song of the day:

Ride on!

 

More Courage

Does it take courage for me to cycle 100 miles? No. It does not. Does it take courage to cycle 200 miles? No. It does not. Does it take courage to cycle 3500 miles? No. It does not. All it really takes is a bit of fitness and mental craziness stamina.

It takes courage to stand up and fight against cancer.

It takes courage to live with and fight against MS.

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It takes courage to fight and win against leukemia.

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It takes courage to stare down Parkinson’s Disease and keep riding.

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It takes courage to fight diabetes, heart disease, ALS, chronic pain, depression and so many more of life’s medical challenges.

Since I can ride, and enjoy doing so, I feel privileged to be able to help others fight by raising awareness and funding for their causes. Yesterday, I had a special opportunity to bring awareness to Pediatric Cancer research.  I challenged myself to ride for 24 hours to highlight the need and raise some funds. I didn’t quite make the 24 hours due to a flat that I didn’t have the courage to change in the cold and dark, but we were able to raise over $1000.00 in honor of a special person who lost her battle with cancer 3 years ago, while starting a full on war. Molly W. had way more courage than I could ever hope to have. The ride wasn’t a total loss either. I rode over 200 miles (35 after fixing the flat in the morning), and I had fun with friends who came out in support to run or ride for a bit.

Pics of the day:

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Song of the day:

Ride on!

Lighting the Night

I was blessed this week to be part of an ‘IncredibLLS’ team that walked to light the night to raise funds for leukemia and lymphoma research. We raised our lanterns to honor those we have lost and to celebrate those who have survived.

I walked because I lost a dear friend to leukemia several years ago. Gail was a PT I worked with in the first clinic I worked at in California. We were in a small space and our office and treatment areas were cramped, but if you ask any one of us who worked there, it was the best place we ever practiced, because of the people. Gail was part of that team and she was one of the nicest people I’ve ever known.

I walked because Danielle fought bravely and survived her battle with leukemia. She taught us all what true faith is and how to face struggles head on with no holds barred.

I walked because I could. And I’m proud to be part of a team that raised over $5000.00 for leukemia and lymphoma research.

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Song of the day:

Next up: I’ll be riding for 24 hours next Saturday (September 23) to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. You are welcome to donate by going to this site: https://greatcyclechallenge.com/Riders/MicheleArnold

Ride on!

 

Courage

What is courage?
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.
Ernest Hemingway defined courage as “grace under pressure”.
Winston Churchill stated, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all others.”
And according to Maya Angelou, “Courage is the most important of the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”
I learned what courage is from a seventeen year old girl. Molly Widner lived life to the fullest and without fear despite having a diagnosis of cancer at such a young age. She fought bravely and showed us all what courage looks like in the flesh. Molly died three years ago but not before showing the rest of us how to live.
Molly died in part because she had a rare cancer and there just wasn’t enough research that told her doctors how to treat it in a young patient. Only 4% of research dollars is directed toward pediatric cancer research. It’s time to change that. Don’t get me wrong. All cancer research is important. September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month and on September 16, I’ll be walking with Team IncredibLLS in the Light the Night Walk to support blood cancer research. I know plenty of people who have survived various forms of cancer and many who have not, including my mom. I know how impactful a diagnosis and treatment can be. And I know we are all hopeful for a cure. But when cancer strikes a child, it absolutely breaks my heart.
September is also Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. One of the things I’ll be doing to help raise awareness and funds is a 24-hour cycling challenge in Molly’s name. On September 23, I will be riding a nine mile loop along the upper part of Napa’s Vine Trail for 24 hours to see just how many miles I can ride.  You can join me too. Come and ride a loop or two and I will try and keep up! If you would like to donate and have your dollars directed specifically toward pediatric cancer research, my link for The Great Cycle Challenge is live. Great Cycle Challenge USA is a national Children’s Cancer Research Fund (CCRF) fundraising initiative. I participated in this event in 2016 and 2017. Rides are uploaded throughout June, but donations are accepted any time. They are a great organization with one goal: end childhood cancer. I’m giving a dollar for every mile I ride on the 23rd. I am hoping to do a triple century – I’ve never done that before. I hope I have the courage!
For Molly:
Ride on!