We Can’t Believe You Can Walk

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When I visited the doctors four years ago because of increasing pain, I felt a bit like a carnival exhibit. Come one! Come all! See the woman with no cartilage in her feet! She can walk and stand without the help of a surgeon or medical technology. A few months before that visit, I was feeling pretty darn good. My rheumatologist changed my medication. The side affects of sulfa drugs went away. I was no longer plagued with hot flashes and nausea. Then my left foot started acting weird. That’s when I realized with chronic illness it’s always something.

I had gained back some mobility in the early years of diagnosis with physical therapy. Just as I was feeling alot better, I began to lose that mobility. I was jolted with pain in my left foot every time I stood up. The pain would last a minute or two. If I waited, it passed. It would also whack me when I was walking. Those were usually small jolts of pain. Sometimes the pain was so bad that my foot froze up. I was often trapped in the bathroom or in a chair until I could put pressure on my foot again. Then, there was this peculiar popping sensation with almost every step. This wasn’t your typical knuckle cracking sensation. It was more like two bones getting stuck and then freeing themselves.

I went to the podiatrist. What a medical phenomena I became! My x-rays were passed around the office. The podiatrists did alot of head scratching. Oh, they knew exactly what was wrong, but they couldn’t figure out how I was walking with such badly damaged feet!

I had acquired a new diagnosis. I had so much cartilage loss in my left foot that the joints were now rubbing together. The popping sensation was the joints getting stuck and then popping back into place. The jolts of pain were caused my weakened muscles around the joints. The muscles were trying to compensate for the lack of cartilage, but they spasmed in the process. Every time I put pressure on my foot, the muscles tried to help out. They weren’t doing a very good job of it!

There was talk of surgery. They could insert pins and fuse my joints together. The surgery involves being in a non-weight bearing cast for several weeks. After which, the person has to go through extensive physical therapy. Basically, they need to relearn walking as the joints no longer are formed the natural way. It has a bad habit of affecting the other joints resulting in more surgery. There was no guarantee that it would relieve the pain. The recommendation was use surgery only as a last option. A consultation with my general practitioner proved much the same.

I was fitted for new orthotics made in a more severe angle to keep my feet in place. I was also told to wear my foot braces every day. There wasn’t a whole lot they could do except to minimize the movement in order to minimize the pain. As my feet became adapted to the braces, I would lose some of the flexibility and strength. But, the hope was that I would be able to move without to much discomfort.

It’s now been about three years. And, I’m still walking! I should quantify that though. I am not doing marathons, nor can I really walk much. Walking around a store practically kills my feet. But, I can get around the house. I’ve also been able to do a little stretching to strengthen my feet and ankles. At least, I can stand up and know that most of the time my feet will support me. I still get zinged a couple of times a day but the muscles bounce back a little quicker now.

I don’t know how long this will last. The problem has spread to my right foot, so I no longer have one good foot. In time I may need that surgery. For now, I’ll do whatever I can to stay on my own two feet.

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