If I had had an appointment closer to the 19th, I probably would have written something very similar in a card to Rakhee as I just posted for her in a previous blog that listed the 30 most inspiring people I have known that have helped shape me into who I am today. However, since I could not, I shared the link to it as a proud gift I posted online for the world to see on that date. Since that entry is incredibly long and much of it doesn't specifically relate to my teeth, in case you may have missed it, I want to share the section that relates to her again here, as I consider it of significant importance to this blog, to our story. Here it is:
29. Rakhee Patel
|Rakhee and Trent fighting the Battle of Tooth 17. March 2011.|
|The most color-coordinated filling appointment ever.|
Rakhee is my student dentist who has been with me for 35 of my 39 appointments in the past year and my partner in writing the story of my smile reconstruction...not to mention the HERO of it. She is the architect who was able to envision a new and improved me before I ever even thought it was possible, and made me believe in her dream. Every time I pick up a toothbrush or floss it it a "thank you" to her...for showing me after nearly 20 years of feeling incomplete as I watched small parts of me disappear to decay that I'm not broken. For teaching me a new language to speak about the one thing in my life I could never utter and giving me the courage to find a way to make that darkest secret I most hated about myself into something positive and inspiring to the world. For helping me to make something often taken for granted and/or hated or feared into a uniquely heroic tale that for the first time in my life helped also transform my writing into something positive and accessible to thousands of supportive people all over the globe. For giving me the strength and guidance and support to face my deepest, darkest, most depressing secret and brave over a 100 hours in a dentist chair. (So far!) For helping me to find the discipline to save money for the first real time in my life and often sacrifice my sanity to sock away nearly ten grand last year--nearly half my earnings. For showing me that anything is possible if I believe in myself, and for always believing in me. For giving me my smile back, slowly yet surely, and inspiring me to truly open up to the world, regardless of how many teeth I happen to have or how afraid and vulnerable I might feel. For always making me feel taken care of, despite how much pain and torture I have endured throughout my appointments in a way that no family, lover, or best friend ever could, and teaching me to for the first time in my life to take care of the most neglected parts of me. For helping me to heal, in far more ways than just easing the pain of a toothache. For having the patience to deal with a crazy, intense patient like me, for teaching me so much about myself, and I hope even, for allowing my honesty and perseverance to inspire and strengthen her desire to be a dentist and a healer, while bearing witness in such a firsthand and intimate way to the power of her abilities to truly make someone have a better life, to watch them physically transform before her very eyes, and know that it was at her own hand. For being my biggest cheerleader through all of this. I hope that my trust in you and support from the beginning to be a part of such an intensely personal journey, let alone to let me share it with the world in such a graphically-detailed, specific and personal way on the internet, has helped inspire you to be an even better dentist--to see things, for once, so elaborately through a patient's eyes, "shoes," and mouth and truly see how exactly who you are has made a difference in the someone's life.
Pinar and Rakhee...though they've never met, they kind of go hand in hand to me. My blog about my transformation is as much about both of them as it is me. Pinar was the one who helped me to face my own demons as I helped her face hers, and prepared me mentally to finally move forward before our lives went in different directions. Rakhee is the one who picked up where she left off and helped me to fix myself physically, both of them healers in their own right who helped me to learn to love myself and be more comfortable in my own skin. Years from now, when I look back on my life...there will be the lonely, shy, cynical, alienated and tortured Paul I was for the first part of my existence, and there will be everything ELSE that came after the Hell and back adventures of 2010 I spent in love, compassion and giggles with Pinar, and my physical reconstruction and new beginning at the hands of Rakhee and relearning how to smile, enjoy eating and open up to the world, the two of which who gave me my smile, my happiness, and my life back. Words will never express the immense love and gratitude I have for them, always.
I also want to share a portion of her reply:
I am speechless Paul. That blog entry was one of the most genuine and sincere things I have ever read! It reminded me why I chose to become a dentist, how small gestures of kindness go a long way, and how big of an impact people can have on another's life! You are great, thank you for that post-- I know that this has been such a crazy journey, but it is so comforting to read that it has truly impacted you in so many positive ways!