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!