It may have been there all along. Festering like a half-eaten Twinkie in an open wrapper dropped behind the counter on the way out the door for a month-long vacation. But the last month-long vacation I had was in 1996. When it all really started.
For years I hated it. So badly I wouldn’t wish it on my enemies. I once found myself envious of Fred Flinstone. Fred could stand all day long barefoot. He could power his car manually, stand at the quarry on his brontosaurus excavator, all without pain. When you find yourself envying a cartoon’s ability to do more than you, there’s a clear sign of an issue.
Even today when I’m forced to stop and sit I don’t feel like an injured person in pain, I feel like I appear to be a perfectly healthy individual who is just lazy and doesn’t want to work. And no matter who knows it or understands it, it doesn’t go away.
Others with chronic pain may feel different, but I know I’m not unique. Occasionally someone will ask me why I don’t try certain fixes. Truth is, I’ve tried most. Others say they wouldn’t stop trying, they wouldn’t hold off on a potential fix. But by not trying everything there’s something left to try. What if it does work? Then yes, the pain would be gone. But what if it doesn’t work? Hope is not a course of action, but without it you can’t try anything. Trying everything means that there’s nothing left to try. And if nothing works, there is no hope something can.
Yes it’s pessimistic and unlike me. The glass is not half full, it’s not half empty, it’s not half empty with a hole in the bottom and leaking. The engineer answer may be that it’s twice the capacity it needs to be. The glass is always completely full. It’s half full of liquid, half full of air, but always full. Trying it all means nothing left in the tank to try.
Faith works not by being able to prove the faith was well founded and deserved. Faith works by trusting that there is an answer.
The diagnosis in 97 was plantar fascitis. By 98 I was out of the army and able to get a podiatrist to explain it was bursitis. Often misdiagnosed according to her. Then she moved to a place called Pell City and I got another doctor. One of the best in Birmingham. He took care of me and my custom-made insoles personally, not someone on his staff. We shared symptoms. We shared solutions. We had matching custom-made insoles. Brothers in feet as it were.
When I first met him I gave him two instructions: never give me a remedy that would cause me to need another remedy to fix the side-effects of the first remedy, and we weren’t going to use steroids. It took four years before we broke the second rule.
Steroids are a nearly fool-proof way to fix the issue, but it runs a greater risk of breaking the first rule. But they worked for this fool. The pain of getting the shots were far greater than the pain in my feet. But for all its intensity, it was brief. That pain ended quickly. Then I walked around on unfeeling feet like they were asleep for a few hours. Then, I got a break.
For two weeks I had no pain in my feet. No daily hurt. No limping. No work through it. No ignore it and hope it goes away. No pain. After five years of daily pain, there was none.
Then it began again.
Another three years and I finally got a regular doctor. This doc once gave me a prescription–handwritten on his prescription pad–that told me to smile. It was a doctor’s order for me to be happy. This is the same guy that didn’t laugh or think it the least bit funny when I asked if his telling me I had very low cholestorol meant I needed to eat more red meat and fried foods. I digress but you knew I would.
My regular doctor told me he thought my problems were nerves. He gave me a pill that I swear the pharmacutical companies tried on everything. And it gave me the most severe case of medicine head I have ever had. For the first week if I shut my eyes I fell asleep. I never felt awake. For two weeks my feet again felt no daily pain, but to be honest, I’m not sure it hurt to take things out of the oven without mits either. I could feel nothing except that I was detached from myself.
I went back to the doctor and said take these pills and shove them. I gave him back the pills, not figuratively, I physically handed him the bottle and said, “It worked, but I’m too young to take a pill every day for the rest of my life and if it makes me feel like that I wouldn’t do it anyway.”
So I went back to taking the pill of daily foot pain again.
Three more years, a full decade of going to my podiatrist and he finally admited (as he gave me my second shot of steroids) that it was both plantar fascitis and bursitis. Then he told me to take non-steroidal anti-inflammmatory drugs morning, noon and night, whether I felt pain or not. This time the steroids wore off in a week. Not because they were less potent but because I didn’t quit what caused the pain.
There is no pattern to when or where my feet will hurt. Though there are some things I can do that I know will make them hurt. Why would I knowingly do something that will cause me pain? Because I have to. They are things like stand around and talk. Sometimes it’s on a job site, sometimes its waiting in line for a table, or a meal, or a prescription to be filled. Sometimes it’s working on the roof, or in the yard, or moving someone. Placing a concrete driveway, building a house, putting up a swingset, cutting the grass, pressure washing the drive, these things don’t do themselves and whether they’re done for me, by me, or for a friend, something must be done.
This time, I had to work. The staff I had did not cut it. Failure was not an option and since they weren’t doing it I had to. Yes I should have better motivated them, or fired them, but they were civil servants used to not having to do anything they didn’t want to do. There’s more to it than that, but I had to keep walking up and down the miles of roads I was paving to insure they didn’t need to be paved again. So the third vacation from pain lasted only a week.
Then another pain developed. Abdominal. I got a new doctor, a real asshole doctor. This guy got pissed at his partners when someone changed the automated answering machine and he wasn’t the doctor you got when you pressed the number one. I’m not even sure his wife liked him. This guy was an arrogant prick. One of his former staff warned me I wouldn’t like him. But he was good. And I liked him. We hit it off great because I showed him in the first meeting that he wasn’t going to talk all doctory to me. He wasn’t going to sound intelligent, whatever he said I would dissect, digest, and regurgitate. I trumped his fifty-cent words and got his mutual respect. There was no typical Frosina Doctor/Patient talking down. We were equals. A few years later we spent more time talking about the Kobiyashi Maru and how it related to my four decade physical then the actual physical, but this was the beginning of the dance. Although, I am a Baptist. A Southern Baptist. We don’t dance. The Catholic doctor didn’t dance with me either. He was stumped. No clue as to what caused the pain.
When next I visited my podiatrist I told him of my dance with Dr Dick. In an off-handed manner he mentioned it was probably the NSAIDs. That sugar-pill of a pain reliever I had had a prescription for for over a decade. That he had told me to take three times daily regardless. He broke my first rule. Sometimes when someone gets mad at another person they sulkily end the relationship without revealing why. I did not do that, though he did not know I was ending the relationship. In stern voice I told him that for 10 years I had instructed him ont to give me a “fix” that would cause me to need another fix and after leaving that appointment have not been back to him.
I also left the world of pain pills. Well, pretty much medicine altogether. Not doctors though.
In my five years without a podiatrist my feet still hurt. They have been hurting me since before I started writing even though I’ve been off of them all night long. I did find another doctor, this one not only laughed but when I asked him if his telling me I had very low cholesterol meant I needed to eat more red meat and fried foods he said emphatically, “Yes!” So now every piece of fried chicken is doctor’s orders. But I haven’t yet gotten a new podiatrist.
Five weeks out of seventeen years is not a long time. That’s all I have had relief from my daily foot pain. But the other thing I gained has caused as much pain and consternation without a five week absence.
My daily foot pain began on 23 May 1997 while I waited for the birth of my M. The next day, at 1208 PDT she arrived. Like the Grinch, my heart grew that day and has never shrunk. I’ve worried I could be a good father, I’ve worried she might not make it, I’ve feared her falling, but I have seen her soar. I watched a failed attempt at flying like the PowerPuff Girls, and I’ve watche the Princess fail to sleep atop a pea. Tears well to my eyes whether it’s The Color of the Wind or a desire to Let it Snow. I can’t let those tears Rain on My Parade, but holy larynxes, that girl has some pipes in her.
I will never cease to fear where she may tread but I will be forever proud of every step she makes. Foot pain may come and foot pain may go, but the pain of being a father outweighs it all. Because this pain has a face. This pain is a joy. The pain of being a Dad is immensely offset by being a Dad.
I love you, Emma Byrd. No man will ever be good enough for you, no pedestal high enough, and no eighteen hundred and sixty word essay long enough to describe the joy you bring.