Things could be worse | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

It’s true. If we could lay our troubles on the table, the way we friends did the unused and unwanted items languishing in our closets at the white-elephant-exchange-gift game we played at Christmas, we might be surprised how many of us would grab back our own.

This is exactly how I feel, dealing with my own health problems. When I say I’d grab mine back, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’m better off than others; it just means, after seeing the larger picture, in which everything is shrunken in perspective, I realize things could be worse, and I should be grateful the way things are.

I have been having difficulty walking since June last year. Actually, I’ve had pain in the outer side of my left foot longer than that.

I tried ointments, cold compress, hot compress. I bought expensive insoles to correct my high arch. I did everything but diet, which would have surely helped.

I avoided my internist and the blood test he surely would have ordered. I wanted to lose the weight I had gained after that wonderful cruise, but Christmas got in the way. Before I knew it, it was January, and I had gained even more weight, and my foot felt much worse.

A friend who could not bear to see me agonizing and walking funny moved heaven and earth to get me an appointment with a doctor who had helped her many years ago with her own foot.

Emergency case

She could not quite remember the details of her own condition or the range of treatments she underwent, except that she was helped not only with her bad foot but with other ailments that had brought it on or aggravated it and others yet that would have developed had she not seen the doctor in time.

Not only did I get a quick appointment, I was moved up the line as an emergency case.

The lady doctor ordered a complete blood test and urinalysis and an X-ray of my foot. I was, after all, a new, very senior, and overweight patient—she didn’t know my medical history.

When the results came, she told me what I already knew: I was a borderline diabetic and a borderline uric acid and cholesterol accumulator. When she saw my X-ray, she became very sympathetic and prescribed painkillers and told me to see a foot doctor right away.

“You have a spur hitting a nerve,” she said and then dropped the dreaded word—surgery—but vaguely raised some possibility of escape, if not outright optimism: “I’ll leave that decision to the foot expert.”

For my other problems, she made a deal with me. For my sugar and, as a side arrester of my appetite, she would put me on 500 mg of Metformin twice a day. If a downtrend showed after three months, I’d be off the medication.

In no time, however, I discovered I couldn’t tolerate either the painkiller or the Metformin—they made me nauseated and gave me an upset stomach.

Borderline of health

I brought my tests to my regular doctor. More familiar with me as a patient than any other, he congratulated me, noting that, despite my abuses and neglect, made only too obvious by my weight gain, I had managed to remain on the borderline of health! No medication, just lose weight, and see the foot doctor right away.

I brought my X-ray (the first one of mine on a disc, instead of film) to the foot doctor. It had looked to me unremarkable until he showed me an X-ray of a normal foot and, for real measure, a skeleton of it. I had Haglund deformity.

It actually sounds more horrible than it is. In any case, it supposedly accounts more or less for the spur on the back of my heel, whose jagged edge had chipped off, leaving tiny loose splinters floating. He recommended surgery. I almost fainted.

He asked me to walk around the floor unshod and noted I was quite unstable. He jokingly blamed my Fitbit watch, which forces devotees to take more steps than they can comfortably make—I’ve set my aim at 6,000 a day, not the prescribed 10,000. He told me to think the surgery over, but to start therapy right away, to ease the pain and strengthen my ankles.

Therapy had helped me, right after the cruise, so I had reason to hope. Well, I must have been doing exercises wrong that first session because the next day I got a stiff neck—a massage took care of that.

I received a much-awaited text from our travel-agent friend: The airline promo we had been waiting for had come at last! We could now finalize our booking for another cruise in July. But instead of rejoicing, my heart sank. Is this the end of cruises and trips for me?

I have to quickly get a second opinion, which somehow takes me back to those times when I had to look for the right priest, who would give me absolution for taking contraceptives in my child-bearing years.

In my search, I quickly found a number of people with the same condition as mine who had been living with it, and living a normal and active life. I heard of ballet dancers and famous basketball players who had surgery with great results, but, of course, they were all much younger.

How quickly life can change when limitations crop up. For now, I’ll do everything else, except surgery.

I’m learning to ignore my Fitbit when it urges me to hit my programmed stride, but I wear it to sleep confident it is measuring the amount and quality of my sleep. Like the untouched polyp in my uterus, which has shrunk through the years, maybe this spur will disintegrate on its own.

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