The pain in my feet had become so consistent, with so many people asking me why I was limping, that I finally went to a doctor. People who know me know that I rarely go to a doctor. I don't have a primary care physician.
I know that I am lucky. I don't have chronic conditions, like high cholesterol or high blood pressure, that would make it necessary to see a primary care physician on a regular basis--or because I don't go to one, I would be one of those people who dropped dead of a stroke if I had high blood pressure--that would be the first sign.
At a retreat at Mepkin Abbey in June, I asked an older woman about her practice of walking instead of driving, and I mentioned my feet. At the time, I only had pain in my left foot. That wise woman told me that the difference between a good old age and a difficult old age was mobility, and she advised me to protect my mobility in every way that I could.
So, I've been meaning to go to a doctor. But it was only when my right foot started hurting consistently that I decided to see a doctor.
I went to a holistic podiatrist, primarily because a friend recommended him. I'm not opposed to holistic practices, but that's not my first concern when choosing a doctor. The holistic podiatrist has 2 practice sites, and I went to the one that's in the back of an old-fashioned drug store--who knew there were doctor's offices back there? And a post office!
The podiatrist is hoping that at some point, he can focus solely on his holistic practice, but for now he divides his time between that practice and the traditional one that he shares in a different place with two doctors whom he suspects would not be open to his holistic practices. I found it fascinating to discover yet another person who has a dream of a different life and is working towards it.
He spent an hour with me; I can't remember a time when a doctor has taken that long and never given any expression of feeling rushed or harried. We talked feet, we talked exercise, and we talked about natural pain relief and orthotics.
The diagnosis: arthritis in my big toe joint exacerbated by a bunion that's growing on the top of my foot, not the side, where most people grow their bunions. He didn't need to take x-rays, because with my limited range of motion, he knew what he would see. I'm fine with that; I've been doing research, and I know that with my symptoms, there's very few diagnoses that I should have been expecting. Arthritis was not a surprise.
Except--it sort of was. I felt both relief--it's not something I'm making up to get out of exercise!--and immediate sadness, that grief that seems to be haunting me this autumn, that grief of a future that isn't looking like what I expected.
There's also the sadness that comes from hearing that I have a degenerative condition that's not easily fixed. I had been hoping for a cortisone shot and a stern lecture about how I shouldn't let pain go on for so long before getting an easy fix.
I'm not sure that any other diagnosis has so made me feel every single one of my 52 years. Sigh.
But now I have a diagnosis. Now I know. I will keep working on protecting my mobility. It's time to get more intentional about using ice, and maybe tape.
Let me also remember that there was good news: my feet are strong, and there's no sign of nerve damage. It could have been worse.