Friday, May 21, 2010

Reality Check

Yesterday, I had a follow-up visit with my orthopedic doctor.  I have a neuroma in my foot, nerve inflammation, not cancer, they are telling me.  Three months ago, I was assured I would not need surgery, that cortisone shots in my foot, combined with shoe inserts and physical therapy would fix me right up. 

My foot is somewhat better, but not 100%, 3 months after my last appointment, and seven months after the original injury: two stress fractures just from normal walking.  I am not aging well.   I have modified my life significantly to be able to function.  I am not working.  I have a special padded shoe I use to drive, a cane to walk with, and I avoid walking on concrete surfaces at all costs.  I haven't been to the grocery store since Halloween last year, the day the stress fracture occurred.  My husband does all of the shopping for us, and is a really good sport about it.  I handle teacher conferences via email.  I have a lot of work-arounds, but I feel like a prisoner in my house.  I can't take my baby for walks or go on a shopping trip with my daughter.  I am very ready for my foot to heal. 

I have been very anxious about this doctor appointment, anticipating two more injections in the same foot, but hoping the doctor would say I was wrong, that it actually was getting better, that I just need to be patient.  Before the appointment, I thought the worst thing would be the injection itself.  The last time it involved pain on the order of liquid lightning, if such a thing existed.  After the injection, my toe got numb as the doctor warned me, but the numbness travelled up my leg to my calf, and I had unbearable pain in my foot for a full week. 

When the doctor entered the room and began to examine my foot, he said he would do one more set of injections and then surgery if it didn't improve in three months.  When I explained my anxiety over the injection and having to relive the numbness and pain, he stopped and asked more questions.  Soon enough he determined that for me based on my reaction to the injection, surgery wouldn't really be an option, that I would be at very high risk for things going bad, for permanent pain in my entire leg in addition to the numbness in my foot that would result from cutting out the nerve.  He said the injection may not work either, but would effectively be my last hope for a full recovery.  I asked if I would need to go back to physical therapy again.  His response, "Physical therapy won't help you." 

After the injection, while waiting for the paperwork to get another device to insert into my shoe and to get a temporary handicap sticker for my car to make picking up my kids from school bearable, I fought back tears.  What ran through my head was this:  I may never be able to walk my baby, take my kids to an amusement park, go to the grocery store, take my daughter shopping at the mall, or run a 5K (which has been my goal for a long while).  As I write this, tears roll down my face even though I've pretty much come to terms with accepting this negative outcome.  

I try to remember it could be way worse:  it could be cancer, it could be one of my kids with the same problem, a million other things could happen that would be tremendously worse.  I can get a wheelchair to do all of these things, I can try everything I can think of to make it better, and I can teach my kids not to be defeated, not to indulge in self-pity.  I can make the most of it and find ways to exercise without using my foot that may well open up doors that I never imagined existed before.  My daughter agreed she would try doing yoga with me and will not give me a hard time about it if I need to use a wheelchair to be able to get out of the house. 

A few weeks ago, my ex-husband had a full bowel resection, was sliced all the way up his stomach and had three heart attacks while in the hospital.  My mother is planning on having surgery on her back that may well paralyze her.  My father-in-law had two massive strokes just a few years ago.  Way worse things could happen, and people have to carry on.  How you choose to face life every day is the variable.  I choose to work hard to be positive even though I am really sad about this.  I can't bear the thought of making my kids and husband miserable just so I can feel sorry for myself.  So today while they are at school and work, I am going to allow myself to mourn the loss of any 5K's in this lifetime, but this afternoon I am going to find a way to have fun with my kids, hopefully outside of the house.

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