September 7, 2008

The Foot: The Next Chapter

I'm going to the doctor tomorrow. A foot doctor. A new foot doctor.

I haven't been to see a specialist since the beginning of 2006. It took much prodding from husband and family alike to get me to even make this initial appointment, but I finally did it. I went to a new GP two weeks ago so I could get some advice about my back and knee, and to get a referral for a new doctor.

If you've been around a while, you may remember that my foot has the ability to frustrate and depress me like almost nothing else in my life (except maybe this whole new searching for the perfect job thing). I made a decision a while back that I was done messing with it. And I've held true to that decision. I got the modified shoes and just decided to deal with the rest.
The shoes, like I've mentioned before, help a little. They don't take away all my foot pain, but they can make it more likely that I'll have a manageable foot day.
Nothing much has changed in that situation.

It is a hard and scary thing for me to go see a new doctor. After I left Dr. J's practice in Spring 2004, when we'd lost confidence in his ability to handle my situation, I've bounced around from doctor to doctor from all the random places I've lived in the past 4 years. Barring my one visit to the guru at Mayo, I've never been completely satisfied that I've had someone who totally understood the big picture of what was going on.

I'm going to a podiatrist tomorrow, but it's not really directly about my feet. I mean, as my husband pointed out, I should be managing my chronic pain situation instead of just trying to live in denial of it. So, I'm going for a check-up. But really, the reason I'm going is because I've been living with back pain for over a year now and it's showing no sign of going anywhere.
The back pain started back when I lived in Montana. I'd drive to Helena to see Travis, and be so uncomfortable after a few hours in the car, that I'd want to do nothing but lie on the floor until it got stretched out again. It was also during this time that I started having trouble straightening up after I'd been in a sitting position. Especially going from Indian-style sitting on the floor to standing. I'd have to stay hunched over as I walked for a minute or two before the pain would subside.

At that point, it was still very manageable. I knew long car drives, my job at the bakery, and not getting enough walking in exacerbated the pain. So, if I avoided those things, or took decent care of my body, I'd be ok.
However, about a month before our wedding in September of '07, things went from being manageable to being annoying. I spent many hours in the car going back and forth from Tennessee to North Carolina. I was moving and packing and stressing out over wedding preparations. The low-grade lower back pain moved to all over back pain, and muscle cramps in my neck and shoulders.
I attributed most of it to wedding stress (especially that knot in my shoulder!) and trying to do to much when I was moving furniture and boxes around. It got especially bad the week of the wedding, so my kind and loving mother sent me off to a message therapist in Sewanee who spent an hour and a half working on my back and legs. Not surprisingly, she said I was too tight all over, but especially in my hips.
I felt much better after that, and made it through the wedding weekend great. On the honeymoon I pulled a muscle in my neck during our canopy tour, which kick started the back pain and issues all over again. I've been dealing with them ever since.

I know the back and knee problems are coming from my feet, but I don't quite know what to do about it. During one of my many attempts to work with a doctor, I did a bout of intense physical therapy where they tried to "correct" the way I walk. Since my gait changed after my ankle surgery as a kid, I have not had a normal "correct" gait. So for about 14 years now, I've been walking weird, trying to unconsciously compensate for and alleviate the discomfort. The therapy ended up being a painful failure. And the therapist I saw was alarmed at the tightness in my knees and something to do with the tilt of my hips. I don't quite remember all of it. But I do remember her prediction that it was going to have further consequences on my body if something didn't change.

And well...nothings changed. I'd hope the corrective shoe would help, but it didn't stop the strain on the rest of my body. And as the old song goes...
The foot bone connected to the leg bone,The leg bone connected to the knee bone, And so forth and so on. You get the idea. One little toe is messing up everything.
And this is the story I get to tell tomorrow to this brand new doctor. I'm nervous. I'm anxious. I'm worried.
But also, for the first time in a long time, I'm going into this appointment with a different attitude. I'm going to tell my story, I'm going to let him give his opinion, and then I'm going to think about it. Weigh it against what I know about how my body works and what I think is best, and then we'll go from there. I've spent too many years letting others call the shots when it came to this situation, and I've finally learned the hard truth that no one knows my body better than me. I'm willing to try a lot of things, but I'm not going in there tomorrow to walk out with another wonder anti-inflammatory drug and a pain killer prescription. Pain I can handle. I just want more information. I want to know why and I want to know what I can do to stop, or at least, slow down this deterioration.
So, we'll see what the x-rays show, and then I'll start the next chapter in this challenge. Who knows where I'll end up. But already, I feel more empowered just by telling you that no matter what he says, I'm not going to give this appointment the power to send me back into the depths.
Amen and goodnight.

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