My Left Foot: The Year in Review

I have spent much of the last two months wallowing in misery over the things I cannot do because of my left foot (which is basically everything). But the truth of the matter is that the first ten months of 2010 were pretty great. So instead of continuing my wallow, I thought I would start the new year by reviewing some of the things my left foot and I accomplished together in 2010.

  • Committed to working out regularly and hard – and followed through.
  • Started to run, even though we didn’t like it. Because sometimes it’s good for you to do something new, even if it’s hard and not fun.
  • Learned to think of food as fuel for my workouts and ate accordingly.
  • Learned that when I want to eat something bad for me, it needs to be high quality, otherwise it’s not worth undoing the workout we just did or are about to do.
  • Organized a major project at work and went on first business trip ever to see it through.
  • Ran a 5k and learned that all kinds of regular people run races.
  • Did a 5k run/6 mile bike race. Learned that many people treat cycling as a religion. A very expensive religion. Brought home a ribbon.
  • Worked with minister and husband to prepare a church service. Read a personal reflection as though I am a person with some wisdom and experience, and provided the music.
  • Went on second business trip to Atlanta for training in a new area that would hopefully advance my career.
  • While in Atlanta, used our precious few free hours to visit the MLK National Historic Site.
  • Learned to Make Things Happen and Take What is Ours.
  • Used newfound mojo to become a catalyst – professionally and personally.
  • Completed our first triathlon – and in the exact time we’d set as a goal for ourselves.
  • Asked for a raise. Were persistent and eventually got it.
  • Went on 6 hour back country hike with family and weren’t exhausted afterward.
My Left Foot and I in Better Times

My Left Foot and I hiking in Bon Echo Provincial Park, August 2010

  • Tricked family into canoe trip that involved a couple of portages and proved to them that the effort was worth it, even when we got caught in a rainstorm.
  • Played a gig with one day’s notice and no rehearsals.
  • Gained enough confidence in our musicianship that we started to jam like we know what we are doing. Discovered that we can get more in touch with our musician mojo when we are barefoot.
  • Lost 30 pounds.
  • Got promoted from the 2nd violin section to the 1st violin section of our community orchestra, because we said we wanted it.
  • Had the privilege of being able to sing and play standards at an anniversary party. Got paid to do something I would have done for free.
  • Reconnected with a long lost and greatly missed relative.
  • Got asked to play in a rock band. 
  • Decided we wanted a promotion, worked very hard and got it. Because it is ours and we deserve it.
  • Learned to love running after all.

I don’t know for certain what 2011 will bring, but if 2010 taught me anything it’s that if I want something, all I have to do is claim it. I am looking forward to finding out what that will mean this year.

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On the Importance of Socks

Today I want to take a few minutes to talk about the wonder of socks. Specifically, compression stockings.

For a few weeks now, ever since the post-surgery constant searing pain wore off and became more of a constant dull ache with occasional twinges of stabbing pain, I have maintained that my biggest problem was swelling. I couldn’t be up on my crutches for more than a couple of minutes at a time because the swelling was immediate and unbearable. The moment I took my foot off my stack of pillows I could watch my toes swell and turn purple.

Imagine for a moment that you have a thick rubber band around the ball of your foot and four more somehow between each of your toes.

Now imagine feeling like that for a month or more, and that the only thing that slightly helps is sitting very still with your foot up very high.

Since getting my cast off yesterday, I have been wearing compression stockings. And they are making all the difference. After 2 months of having my left foot contantly elevated, I can sit normally for short periods. I can be mobile on my crutches for up to 7 minutes at a stretch before anything resembling pain sets in.

My doctor didn’t prescribe compression stockings; my husband works for a company that makes them, so he suggested that I try them. He may be dumb about certain husbandly things, but about this, he was really smart.

I cannot stress this enough: for anyone going through a similar situation, wear compression stockings, even if you have to beg, borrow or steal to get them.

I have no idea how many times I have teased my husband about being a sock tester for a living. But today those socks saved my sanity.

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Today is Day One

Today is day one. My healing begins today. Up to now, I have been waiting and resting. But today it starts.

On October 28, I was engaged in the highly risky activity of walking down the hall and tripped over my own foot. Catching myself to keep from falling, I came down on my left foot so hard that it created the Snap Heard Round The Office. I knew right away that it was Very Bad. It turned out to be a Lisfranc injury, which in my case meant that my foot went “splat” and my Lisfranc ligament pulled on my bone so hard that it fractured it in two places.

Two hours before I broke my foot, I had decided to train for a half-marathon.

Two months before, I had completed my first triathlon.

Eight months before that, I was so heavy and out of shape that I got winded climbing stairs. I considered myself a strong swimmer, but I had never run anywhere other than .. well, ok – I had never run at all. I didn’t even own a bike. But I was sick of feeling bad about myself and decided to do something.

I trained hard. I got strong in ways I had never been. I lost weight. I became a new person who wasn’t afraid to claim what was mine.

Then it all came to a screeching halt. My doctor said that a Lisfranc injury is rare, but when it happens, it can end an athlete’s career. The only treatment was surgery to have a screw put in my foot, which would prevent arthritis from developing later. After a lot of physical therapy, I might be able to run again one day, but never for long distances.

I was frankly in too much excruciating pain to be devastated. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that she doesn’t know me and she certainly doesn’t know what I am capable of. She is the expert on putting screws in feet. My PT and I would work on the rest.

Surgery was on November 17. Six weeks later – today – I got my cast off. I have ahead of me one to two months of wearing a boot, followed by 6 months to a year of wearing an orthotic. I can expect pain and swelling for all of those 6-12 months. I can expect my scars to take all of those 6-12 months to “mature.” I can’t expect anything to be easy.

But – it starts today.

First order of business: while using crutches, apply weight to the foot as tolerable. I attempted a walk to the bathroom at my office. Touched my foot to the floor, slowly and with only the slightest whisper of pressure. My foot complained, but not loudly. I kept on. Slowly. But I did it. More than one person commented on how good it was to see me getting around. It nearly brought me to tears to think that this was a major accomplishment. But it was. And I was proud and happy.

Mostly I was happy to be rid of that awful cast. Fun fact: no-one can prepare you for how it feels to wear a cast. Imagine a molting snake. My foot swelled so much that I outgrew my skin, but with the exception of my toes, it had nowhere to go so it stayed put, getting tighter and more leathery every day. “Uncomfortable” doesn’t begin to describe it.

At home this evening, I wanted desperately to take a bath, but knew that I didn’t want to soak in everything that was going to come off of my foot. When I took off my sock, it looked like it had snowed on our bed. So first I tried a combination of wiping with a damp cloth, rubbing and peeling. Fun fact: You have a lot more skin than you realize.

When I got everything that was loose, I still didn’t want to soak in what was left so I opted for a shower. I still have to use the shower chair for now, but it felt so good to sit and let the water roll down my leg and not worry about keeping it dry. I sat and worked on peeling off dead skin until there was no hot water left (we have a high-efficiency ultra low-flow shower head so please be Very Impressed by this).

More rubbing and peeling followed and then I settled in for my night’s work.

Commence prescribed exercises:

1. Curl toes. Think about curling toes. Watch second toe twitch uncontrollably. Repeat several times. OK, that was fun.

2. Attempt to write alphabet with toes. A – mostly a twitch. B – better. C D E – oh God I am mostly doing this with my knee. My foot isn’t moving at all. F – cry. G – Deep breath. Steel myself for the work that is to come. H – Cat is on me. He heard me cry. I – maybe with him sitting on my face and keeping me from seeing how very tiny my letters are, I will feel better. JK – Just going to pretend that I am doing this with my ankle and not my knee. L M N …

Next, aloe for the scars and sitting for a while to just enjoy the feeling of air on my skin; to appreciate the freedom from the constant rubbing of the hard cast; to bask in the knowledge that I could move my foot right now if I wanted to – I just don’t want to.

Then, compression stockings and back in the boot.

Today is Day One. How many will follow? I don’t know. But I hope you will keep me company on the ride.

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