Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Tale of Two Feet

When do feet stop being cute? Many babies and young children love to play with their own feet. To this day Gideon still does sometimes. And many of them even like to chew on their own toes (as you can see Lily demonstrating in the picture below.)

(Gideon finding his feet.)

But when do they morph from cute, to gross? When we start walking so much that they become calloused & rough? When we start sweating in our socks?

I can't tell you when, but I can tell you that I've had gross feet for most of my life. Not just in the usual ways that most people have gross feet, but because mine have been somewhat deformed for as long as I can remember due to bunions on both feet. (A bunion is a bone growth on the outside of the big toe.)

In addition to being unsightly, bunions are also extremely painful. And sadly, genetic. Just ask my mom, aunts, and several of my sisters. I would rarely ever wear flip flops as a teenager, and by the time I hit my twenties I flat refused to wear flip flops at all (except of course at camp, or in the MTC or any place where you had to use a public shower facility, because EEW!) I always chose sandals with wide straps that would cover the deformity of my left foot. In addition to a huge bunion, my big toe had grown crooked, making my foot look especially nasty.

Six years ago, when simply walking up and down the stairs became practically unbearable, I finally decided to visit a doctor. I had been told several years earlier by a physician that no doctor would do a bunionectomy on someone my age. He said there was too much chance that the condition could return and we'd end up doing the same surgery again in 20 or 30 years. But when I was no longer able to stand on tip toe on my left foot, I decided that was a chance worth taking.

Enter, Dr. B. He's an orthopedic surgeon who is awesome. He took one look at my left foot and told me it was the worst bunion he'd ever seen on someone my age. He didn't push me into the surgery at all, and I was comforted when he said that even if we did have to do it again in a few decades, at least I would be pain free for those decades. That to me, made it all worth it. The surgery was fairly involved since they not only had to take off the bunion, but they had to cut the tendons in between my big toe, in order to try and straighten it out and get it to grow back straight. After six weeks on crutches, 8 weeks in horrible, flat boring shoes and another 12 weeks wearing a toe brace at night, I'm proud to say that I haven't felt any pain at all in my left foot. At least not bunion pain. (After dancing all night at Jesse's wedding in 4 inch stillettos, I did have blisters and foot pain of a totally different kind. But I digress.)

Despite the small scar, which I don't think anyone but me notices anymore, you can't even tell that my foot was ever so badly deformed. Still it took me two years before I was able to wear flip flops. I remember because they were red, white & blue flip flops which I bought for the 4th of July 2005. I still remember standing in the store at the check out line debating whether or not to purchase them, even though they were so cute. The thing was, that even though my left foot looked great, my right foot still boasted a very unsightly bunion. I finally decided to buy them and wear them, though I made a vow that if anyone said anything about my bunion, I was never going to wear flip flops again.

Naturally, no one even noticed. In the years since, I've gone to wearing practically nothing but flip flops in the summertime because I love being barefoot, and it's pretty much the closest you can get to being barefoot in public places. There have been a few people now and then who have noticed my feet and commented on the bunion, but by the time anyone did, I wasn't as sensitive about it anymore. I usually just tell them that if they think that's bad, they should have seen the other foot before the surgery.

As I said earlier, I've always had pain in my feet, but because the left foot was so severe, I tended not to really notice the right foot. It isn't as bad as what I remember the left foot being, and it definitely doesn't look as bad, so I just deal with it.

And then came that moment. It's been a few weeks ago now, maybe even a month or two. But it was morning and I was mixing up some baby oatmeal with mashed banana, when I stood on tip toe to get something out of the top cupboard. The pain that shot through my right bunion, caught me so off guard that I actually fell down. (I caught myself on my knees, but it was enough to scare Gideon and he started crying.)

I was stunned. How did I get to this point? How bad had it actually been? I thought back over the previous six years and started to notice little things. Like the way I shift my weight when I'm standing so that I put as little pressure as possible on my right foot. Like how when I'm running I always take tylenol or ibuprophen to help take the edge off. Like when I'm done with a run, I always, ALWAYS, sit down and put my right foot up. Doesn't matter where I am, I just do. I noticed how the throbbing sensation in that bunion almost never goes away. And I noticed that when I walk up or down stairs, I actually put more weight on the outside of my right foot. How long have I been doing that?

I finally decided to pay another visit to Dr. B. He confirmed everything that I already knew. That the condition of the right foot isn't as severe as the left foot was. But that it's definitely severe enough that a bunionectomy would be beneficial. In the end he left the decision to me. He didn't push me either way. I knew going in there that's what he would do. That's part of the reason I like Dr. B. If he had a definite medical opinion about whether it would be good or bad, he would have shared it, but in a situation like this, the only determining factor is my pain level. Do I want to continue living with it? Or am I ready to be done with it?

And I've decided that it's time to be done with it. I understand the risks of the surgery, I've been through it before. But I also know the difference that surgery made not only in getting rid of the constant pain, but also in boosting my confidence enough to wear flip flops in public. And frankly I think it's going to be worth it, just to finally know what it's like not to have foot pain. I can't even imagine what that might be like because it's something I've had to deal with for so long.

The good news is that this surgery will be a lot easier than the previous one. It's a simple bunionectomy. Not cutting tendons, no foot brace. There are still the six weeks on crutches, and of course flat, boring shoes for a while, but no toe brace this time. We're waiting until July for two reasons, the first being so that I can still run the Liberty 5K. (It may be painful, but now I'm more determined than ever since I'll have weeks of recovery after the surgery where I won't be able to do anything.) The most important reason being that my family will be back from their travels so I'll have a little extra help. Heaven knows that with the munchkin this time around is going to be very different.

The bonus is that Travis is thinking he can work out a way to get back here and be with me for the surgery, so that will be even better. Anyway fingers crossed for that because if he doesn't make it back then, we may not see him until October. (They're so behind on that job already that they've started to say it's going to be 6-7 months instead of 3-4. Travis is pretty bummed about it. That's a long time to be away.)

One last thought before I go. Bet none of you expected I was talented enough to get an entire saga out of my feet.


Ryan & Skye Lowry said...

I have no Idea where you inherited feet problems like that? Hee, hee

Riss said...

I know exactly what you are talking about. I have bunions on both sides of my feet and on both the left and right foot. But I never thought to stay away from flip flops. My feet have always looked like this, so it's normal to me. Although a girl did scream out loud when I took my sock off in college. (I didn't think they were that bad.)
I wish I would have done the surgery in high school, but cheerleading and working at the DQ were too important. I didn't want to take time off the heal. What an idiot!!! I should have done. So I envy you. I hope everything goes well!

Hillary and Jake said...

If it is any consolation, though your feet may be ugly, they're not gross. their nice and soft and healthy looking skin and toenails. you wouldn't believe the disgusting feet I have had to massage

Guffey Family said...

I have always known you could write a saga about anything.