It’s been 22 months. In some ways, it seems like not that long ago and in other ways, it seems like forever. Funny how time and perspective can be so different in relation to the same event. Regardless, I am grateful for where I am at. I think we all probably feel that way to a certain extent, especially now in our COVID-19 world with so many lives having been lost. For me specifically, I am most thankful to have my mobility back—something I feared might never happen at one point in time. So, today as I walkabout our campground, unencumbered by an air boot, crutches or a cane, I do feel lucky.
Ankle tendon surgery has been a journey and a half—each before, during and after. The sharp nerve pain began years before, but I simply attributed it to poor footwear, threw out my bargain bin ‘cutesy’ shoes and invested in some really good ones. When that didn’t work after a period of time, I told my doctor and we tried orthotics. While the inserts tamed my aching, leg pains at the end of long working days on my feet, the breath-taking nerve pain continued. After a particularly gruelling, two-hour episode of nighttime ‘zingers’ (aka the knife-like jabs from my ankle which I had come to know all too well), I booked a physio assessment the very next day begging for whatever help the therapist could give me. For three months, I followed the young fellow’s advice and exercises to a tee, however there was no resolve. The next step was X-rays. Nothing really came of them except for the fact that my ankle had fluid on it, otherwise known as tendonitis. So, I requested a referral to a well-known sports therapist whom a friend had highly spoken about. That specialist said my tendon was likely torn and suggested shockwave therapy to increase blood flow to the area to help it heal on its own. Despite the expensive threesome of appointments that would follow, I was willing to do pretty much anything to get relief. After enduring the fifteen minute rapid, stabbing sessions, I stopped all of my physical activities to allow my ankle time to rejuvenate itself, as per the advice given. Unfortunately, those treatments failed as well. I was devastated! Especially since the therapist said afterward that there was no hope for me, citing the use of meds and a brace—for the rest of my life. When I looked shocked and confused by his announcement, he reprimanded me (really?), refused to send me for an MRI feeling certain of *his* diagnosis and basically confined me to a life lived with an ill-fated foot. I bawled like a baby. I NEVER went back to see that man again, nor will I. How he ever became a revered doctor in his field with that kind of pompous attitude, I will never know.
Good thing that ‘sports guy’ only temporarily set me back. Shortly thereafter, I was bound and determined to find help for myself. Someone had to have some answers for me. The 14/10 pain, at times, had to stop! No ifs, ands or buts. I was NOT going to succumb to a life of drugs and a half-assed tensor bandage. So, I did what most people do in this day and age, and I put a shout-out on social media to see if anyone else knew where I could turn to for help, i.e. the name of an orthopaedic surgeon or the like. I received an immediate response from a lady at my workplace whose family members had frequented a local podiatrist with successful results. My colleague informed me that because he was private, only some of the costs would be covered by our health insurance. Once again, I didn’t care. I couldn’t afford to care, figuratively speaking. Just the knowledge that a different possibility was out there for my future was all that I needed to go forward with an appointment which I promptly set up the next day.
After taking down my history and completing a brief assessment of my foot, the friendly podiatrist suspected a torn tendon as well. Oh no, I thought. To be sure, however, he sent me for an ultrasound to gather whatever additional information that we could. The scan showed fluid, but no tear. Yet, anyway. Maybe something could be done after all?! At that point, the doctor tried a series of perineural injections (a dextrose solution), which I had read about, to try to stimulate healing of the tissues in my tendon. At first, I was hopeful about the treatments, then reality set in when the shocking nerve pain persisted. Next step? An MRI, just as I had requested months earlier. The wait time for the imaging of my foot and ankle? Upward of 12 to 18 months. Well, there was no way that I could wait that long considering that my ankle began detoriating badly. Not only was I stumbling about, the level of pain had reached an all-time high after our beginning of the summer trip to Hawaii. When I begged to return home from Maui, my dream destination, it was crystal clear that something had to be done immediately.
Without hesitation, I consulted with a private company to do my MRI. It was going to cost a small fortune, but sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do and this was indeed one of those times. I just wanted answers! I NEEDED them. Within 48 hours, the podiatrist’s office had called with news of a follow-up appointment to come in and discuss my results—the imaging technician had found an issue with my ankle. It turned out to be a torn peroneal brevis tendon and the only fix was surgery. While it wasn’t exactly the news I’d hoped for, I wasn’t surprised. At least, the cause of my longtime suffering had been found out. Unlike the supposed sports therapist’s resolve (which was none), I had perhaps discovered a professional who could provide me with some relief, so… surgery it was!
A couple of weeks after my MRI, I was given a local anaesthetic and my 2.5 cm tear was carefully and meticulously stitched up. The operation itself went well—the aftermath was for the books. I had NO idea that I would still be in recovery and doing physiotherapy to some extent all of these months later, 22 to be exact. I wish that I could say the jaw-dropping nerve pain episodes are now over, but that wouldn’t be true. It HAS settled some, however, and I am told that it may continue to rectify as time goes on. Wow! Who knew that tendons were such finicky body parts, but they are apparently. Particularly in your foot which supports all of your body weight. Even my surgeon has been taken aback by my struggles. I am officially a work in progress, and I think I always will be to some extent. The weather, my activity levels, my muscle tightness, my posture and core strength, inclines/declines, uneven surfaces, steps; all of it seem to affect my day-to-day doings and feelings.
I’m not going to lie in that it’s been a really rough road over the past few years, and the rollercoaster of pain & recovery has been likely the most mentally challenging situation I’ve faced. I still fear re-injuring it regularly. It is actually one of my greatest fears since the thought of having to go through the whole process again literally makes me sick to my stomach. My husband has been my biggest supporter and cheerleader, along with my family, therapist, surgeon and numerous other professionals whom I’ve solicited along the way to help piece me back together. Nevertheless, on this sixth day of June, 2021, I am grateful that my own two feet are capable of carrying me and that overall, I can function pretty normally. Some people never get that chance, and I have to remind myself of that on the bad days. I will admit that I do marvel at people who can hike and jog and exercise without worry. Maybe one day, I will get there too. Never say never is the lesson learned here. And, NEVER take your health for granted. Ever. COVID-19 or not!