Laugh if you will. It's lipstick.
Of course, there are the perks like a complete set of teeth that allows me to ferociously bite down on Five Guy burgers (my first stop post Costa Rica), the ability to smile at people without sending them into cardiac arrest, the option to chomp on a apple or gum a banana—either option, okay, the prerogative to feel normal.
But it's the opportunity to pull a myriad of tubes from my makeup bag and say, "let's do this" that excites me maybe a little too much. Maybe it's the girly girl in me exploding at this point in my life when she hasn't in a really long time. Sure there's a billion other parts of me that need a little love and care, but there's something about painting a touch of color on your lips that creates a shield of insurance and power. Whether it's Chanel or Revlon, it's adds a layer of potential to what comes next. It's kind of like the same feeling that consumes me when I pick up my camera. "Ain't no stopping her now!"
Before I started this process, I concocted lots of reasons why I should just let this toothless scenario play out. After all, I'm an old woman and my time has come and gone. They are just teeth. Spending this kind of money on me is, basically, a waste. Although taking this route has saved us thousands, it has still cost us thousands—thousands that we could have spent on travel, dreams and a more comfortable tomorrow.
Then, I removed my martyr crown (as Len calls it) and I realized, I deserve this. I deserve to smile, feel good about myself, explore new worlds and conquer new dreams. If not me, then who? Who is me and this is my time. It's hard for me to say I deserve anything because my parents were not ones to tell me I deserved anything, a conclusion I have carried through life. God bless them, they were hard working and devout and what you got your earned or you did without. And then, I thought, what I do for myself now, will carry me through the rest of my life. What doors can this open? I'm already living my second chapter . . . will there be more? Be good to yourself, Judy. Be good.
We all need a push. We all deserve to be what we were meant to be, and that includes me. Embrace it. Run with it. Take Len along for the ride.
Like the many hues and tubes of lipstick in my bag, characters and roles played during my lifetime have been plenty. Some are over (she says rejoicing); some are beginning. I always have loved a good beginning.
This time next week, I'll be face-to-face with those gold shoes, looking out over the rain forest, and counting the minutes until this dental journey is done. I keep thinking about the first time I look into the mirror, envisioning what I will see. I hope to find a better me, one that will embrace the potential that has lived inside all along. She just needed a little fine-tuning.
Oh, and a tube of Chanel's Ever Red to blaze the way. 💋
To be honest, Costa Rica is a blur.
It becomes real when my jaw throbs or the stitches begin dangling from my gums. I still pinch myself that for an entire week, I reclined in a dental chair, each day receiving invasive and often times nerve-racking procedures. Again, I do not like dentists. I do not like anything that has to do with walking into that office, but I must say, the experience changed me. Their (the staff at Meza Dental) level of authenticity changed me. And that is where I will search for the story.
The story has become more than one of medical tourism, although that is a major part. It has become one of change, faith, trust. My story goes way beyond a dental chair.
One week home and I'm learning the benefit of luke-warm soup. I have yet to wear my partial - even for the striking new DMV photo for a renewed driver's license - because there's swelling, and well, I try to avoid pain as best I can.
I'm still on a diet of soft and cold foods. Yogurt and smoothies are my friends. I avoid Five Guys commercials. I have dreams of wallering in waist-high burgers smothered in jalapenos. I promise, it's my first stop once this mouth returns to normal.
It's not been a bad first week. Very little need for pain meds. Nighttime seems to be the hardest (isn't it always!) Some adjustment needed, but otherwise, life is rolling on as it should.
For the next two weekends, we're working weddings. Partial goes in; slurred words come out. Len will take over my voice, and will, more than likely much to his chagrin, understand the value of my pointing.
Other than burgers, I dream of the changes that will be taking place over the next few months. Like I said, my story is so much more than just teeth.
so you know . . .
Many people believe medical tourism is a new phenomenon. This is just not true. People have been traveling outside of their borders for decades. The potential for this growing trend towards globalization is not designed to improve just the private sector. Raising the quality of care internationally in the private sector can have extremely positive effects on the public sector as well. The Medical Tourism Association® connects hospitals and countries with accreditation systems making the highest level of technology and healthcare information available to people from around the world in both the private and public sector. ~ Medical Tourism Association website
For more information on the Medical Tourism Association, visit their website.
Well, the week is done. My husband laughs and says about our first week in Costa Rica, "We found the week from hell." Yes, dear.
We were in and out of the clinic in record time today. Our appointment was at 10 a.m., and we walked out the door by 10:50 a.m.
I received my partial denture today that will keep me company for the next six months. Honestly, it's not as cumbersome as I thought it would be, but it's still uncomfortable. First, the doctor checked the implant wounds and said all looks as it should. Then, this little contraption with hinges and teeth (I just had a flashback to mama's bathroom medicine cabinet). Since I'm only getting the upper plate, eating will still be a chore, for I am missing molars on the bottom. He measured the bite, making sure it was a natural fall. For the next week or so, it will stay in its little white container while I heal. Then, it only comes out when I don't want to scare clients or traumatize small children. Another perk about working from home: I only have to dress for myself and Bear.
We walked out of the clinic with a bag of Costa Rican coffee plus hugs from Adriana and Andre, a handshake for Dr. Jose, and hopped in our third UBER of the week. I told Dr. Jose I would see him in six months. In the back room, Dr. Meza was in a consult with a patient. Those gold shoes keep moving.
It's so good to be going home. I feel relief that the first stage is complete. Knowing the pain I feel in my mouth currently and some of the ugly teeth that I still rock are only temporary gets me excited about the final process. I've listened as people tell of how their life has changed because of their visit to Meza Dental. People in the waiting room are actually happy and smiling. Not sure I can say that about any dental offices in the states.
I'm not naive in thinking that all of this is rosy.
It comes at a high financial cost, one Len and I have decided is worth the sacrifice. The cost of this option is a third of what the only other alternative would be, so we hunker down and figure out how to make it work.
It comes with lots of pain. Right now, my face is still a watermelon with a semi-black eye and a puffy nose and cheek. It's not pretty, but it's temporary.
And with this improvement, there must come others. All parts work together for the good of the whole.
It's time to find Judy once more.
So this afternoon we rest, and we fly Delta home tomorrow. We start planning our return on March 16, 2018, for the final leg.
But next time, along with teeth, we're going to make sure there's an ocean, too. We want to see this beautiful country that gave me my smile. #findyoursmileincostarica
It was early May 2016. I, like many days when I have to run errands in downtown Watkinsville, pop into Zaxby's for a salad. I take it home. Grab a real fork and plant myself in front of my computer, working and having lunch simultaneously. And how I love their summer classic, Zensation. A little Asian flare, with a mini-egg roll. What's not to love.
I'm sitting, eating and reading. A normal afternoon, when all of a sudden, a bite turns into a loud crunch. Not a salad crunch, but one that originates at the base of my front, right tooth.
First, the backstory.
I have horrible - HORRIBLE - teeth. The teeth that I do have are horrible. I make no excuses for my bad behavior as a child when I fought my mama about brushing my teeth. It was only baking soda for our family, and I detested that taste. None of that flavored mouth wash in cool colors or the refreshing sparkling toothpaste I'd see on commercials. Only that pasty baking soda. I fought it. By the time I was in the sixth grade, my dentist and I were on a first name basis. I'd sit in the waiting room, blood pressure pumping ferociously, waiting for my name to be called. The only thing that calmed me was walking through the doctor's door, down the hall, past the waist-high treasure chest of goodies that you could only reach into if you were walking the other way when everything was over. What will I get this time?
Maybe it was my childhood that instilled the fear of dentists inside me. Maybe it was the dentist actually taking off his belt because I wouldn't stop crying because it hurt so badly. Maybe it was my small mouth coupled with an active imagination. No matter what, I avoided and still avoid the dentist like the plague. It is only when I am pushed by pain or circumstance that I darken the doors.
Now, circumstance is running the show.
A next-day visit to my dentist taught me that the root of the tooth had broken loose. Since the tooth itself didn't seem to be loose, it might hold for a time, but eventually, it would require an implant and replacement. A small favor, but within the next week, the tooth became loose and the inevitable came much too soon.
Having gone through three previous implants and crowns, I knew this process would not be without its pain and economic cost. In my area, just for the extraction and implant of one tooth, the price tag soars to nearly three grand. Add the anesthesia, temporary crown, and a plethora of other items, and finally the permanent crown, it's about five grand for one tooth. The cost of a used KIA.
I'm at the point in my life, where the repair of this one tooth will simply not be enough. I need major work, major replacement of teeth, and forgive me, I won't do dentures. The thought of gumming just sends shivers down my spine while images of teeth falling out at the worst moments. Let's not forget how they look, sitting beside the bed in a cup. Now, what is my course of action?
As a traveler and journalist, I've heard snippets of conversations of what we call medical tourism. I've read about it on the AARP site, of how people my age, baby boomers, are seeking answers to their inevitable medical issues that crop up due to aging. They are looking outside the US for medical treatment that is affordable without losing the expertise of a skilled American doctor.
Today, my research begins. If I have the mouth restoration that I need here in the States, it will cost me upwards of $60K. I don't have that kind of money. I don't want to go into that deep of a hole. I don't want to hogtie my future, and my husband's future, to my teeth. There is NO insurance to cover implants or restoration (a rule that is ludicrous to say the least). My hands are tied.
The three countries recommended for exceptional dental work: Hungary, Malaysia, Costa Rica.
I start with Costa Rica.
I have horrible teeth. Always have and always will if I don't make changes now.