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.

Image 2018-06-07_21-29-59-336

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!

Progress

Progress. You’ve got to love it! When I was born, titanium dental implants didn’t even exist. When I was in elementary school, CT scans weren’t available. When I was in high school, MRI’s were just starting to be used. And coronary stents weren’t deployed until after I became a physical therapist. Heck, even personal computers and the internet weren’t around until a few decades ago. I had to use a typewriter to write my research thesis in college! Progress. I do love progress.

Progress is defined as forward or onward movement toward a destination. Synonyms include advance, breakthrough, growth, headway, improvement, and journey. I hope that progress defines my year.

I hope to advance toward my goals. Later this year, June to be exact, I hope to ride my bike across America. I even hope to ride at least 100 miles per day (about 40 consecutive centuries). I will be raising funds to help end multiple sclerosis (MS) along the way through Bike the US for MS.

I hope to breakthrough the wind. Headwind has always been my nemesis. I curse it as I ride. Some days the wind can be so strong, it feels like you are standing still. I’ve learned to pedal at a higher cadence (about 90 RPM) and ride in the drops which really do help you cut through the wind easier.

I hope to make headway with many things and show some growth. I happen to be on vacation in San Diego this week. A little spring break with our daughter. I’ve learned here that I have made some headway in terms of fitness improvement and that makes me happy. The leading photo for this blog is of the screen on a treadmill at the Worldmark where we are staying. Anyone looking at it might think it’s a great slow/average run. I think progress! When we were here a year ago, I had trouble maintaining a 4-mile per hour pace. Now that feels like a fast walk. When we were here a year ago, I watched from the cliff top while others discovered what was in the tide pools. This year, I had my own adventure.

I hope that I improve as a cyclist and as a person. And I hope to discover many exciting things yet to be revealed on my journey.

Ride on!