Monday, November 17, 2014

Hallux Valgus

The realization that one is aging is never pleasant, but when it's accompanied by an ailment one has always associated with old people it's even more disconcerting.

I'm talking about bunions, people. Bunions. The word practically screams geriatric.

About a decade ago, while hanging out sans shoes with my mother, she remarked, "Oooo. You have bunions. You should have those taken care of." I looked down at my feet, which looked pretty much like my feet have always looked, and blew her off. Whatever. Old people have bunions. I was in my early thirties, so, you know, there was no way I had bunions. I chalked it up to maternal worry.

Then, a couple weekends ago, while hanging out sans shoes with some girlfriends, one remarked, "Oooo. You have bunions." Shit. My friend went on to talk about how she had bunions, too, and had even undergone a bunionectomy. She botched her recovery by getting back on her feet too quickly, and warned me not to do the same. I couldn't chalk this up to anything, and looked ruefully at my feet with their bulging balls at the base of my big toes.

At my nephew's football game recently, I had a conversation with my sister's friend about shoes. "I have wide feet," she said. "I need shoes with a big toe-box." She had complimented me on my Keens and I highly recommended them. Super comfortable, and huge toe-boxes. I didn't give one thought to my bunions, mainly because I was still in a state of denial that I even had them which was easy to do because I don't look at my feet often.

Last night, I had to trade my beloved Keens (I have three pair of Mary Janes and two sandals) for actual Big Girl Shoes. We were going to the wake of a friend's mother, and I was wearing a skirt. I pulled on my boots, zipped them up, and we got on the road. I was driving, of course, because M's right leg is encased in a huge boot that would cause him to simultaneously hit both the gas and the brake if he tried to drive. About 15 minutes into the journey out to St. Charles, my bunions let me know that they were through being ignored. Especially the right one, which has now grown considerably larger than the left. Ow. Ow ow ow ow ow.

So I finally confessed, to myself and to my husband, that I have bunions. Even saying it makes me feel old. M said, "Well, you gotta get those fixed." Yeah. Uh huh. Because both of us in walking boots at the same time sounds like a fantastic idea.

I hobbled into the wake and we paid our respects, and after awhile all I could think about was getting those damn boots off and giving my feet peace once again. I longed for my Keens. 

After we got home, I googled "bunions." (Seriously. How ancient am I?) Turns out that there are a variety of reasons why one develops bunions, not the least of which is heredity. And I learned that bunions themselves aren't really the issue…it's the fact that they send your big toe careening towards your other toes which causes all sorts of other shit to get jacked up. Great. 

According to the article I read (thanks, Harvard), my hallux valgus (Latin for bunions, yo) are mild to moderate. I should avoid surgery if at all possible, because surgery means a hella long recovery period, sometimes a year or more. Ways to avoid surgery include losing weight (shit) and wearing shoes with large toe-boxes (yay Keens!). Basically, unless my bunions hurt or are causing foot issues because of those crazy-ass crooked big toes, I'm good. One should never, ever undergo a bunionectomy for cosmetic reasons. There are different procedures that very in degrees of severity, recovery time, etc. They go from shaving off part of the bunions (ew) to busting everything down and pinning shit back together (more ew). 

What I'm confused about is this: does the fact that I can no longer wear half the shoes in my wardrobe mean that my bunions have reached the "I need to do something" stage? Am I just delaying the inevitable by wearing only shoes that allow my bunions to flourish? While I do not relish the thought of foot surgery – which is impossible right now anyway given M's current condition – I also don't want to get to the point where I have to go in for a much bigger surgery than if I had done something earlier.

I guess I shouldn't be asking you, dear readers, but should instead be consulting a podiatrist. Which is yet another indication that I'm getting old. Between "I heard a story on NPR…" and "My bunions are aching…" and "My podiatrist says…" I might as well hang up my youth right now, alongside all those clothes that don't fit any more and over the shoes that are too painful to wear.

Time to get moving for the day. Now, where did I put those Keens?


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