Getting the Boot

I’ve never been very good at avoiding injury.

I think the longest period of time I’ve gone while being seriously involved in exercise and simultaneously injury-free was 4 months, and even then I had occasional sharp pains in my ankle. They were seemingly random, but I learned two months ago that this was actually the early stages of arthritis.

I’ve had many physical therapy and orthopedic appointments in the past several months. I’ve got some opinions on the competency of my orthopedist, but that’s beside the point. He told me that the degeneration of the tendon in my left ankle meant that it probably wouldn’t ever get better. There was no Pinterest quote for this- I wasn’t going to heal.

What I heard was, “You’re not going to lose weight.”

This is the hardest post I’ve ever written. I’ve written about my nearly life-ending mental illness and even alluded to life-ending thoughts. I’ve never even been able to write about the full extent of those things and no one will ever know or understand how bad it really was. Even so, nothing has affected me quite like this. Is it the recency of the matter? Probably. But it still sucks.

I don’t like writing about this because I don’t like acknowledging that it’s true. That I’m sitting with my foot contorted to avoid the piercing ankle pains and with my weight on my left hip to relieve as much pressure from my right hip as I can. It still burns.

This is also a really cool opportunity, if I let it be. I recently began rock climbing at an indoor gym just 10 minutes from my house. My brother was in town for Spring Break and started climbing last year. He was actually really helpful in getting me started. Who knew younger brothers could be good for something other than asking for rides and eating my leftovers!?

I have the opportunity now to get involved in different forms of fitness that I never needed to consider before. I had my running-lifting-Zumba routine and I was set, but none of those things have provided me with the utter frustration and total thrill as finally ascending my first 5.6. (For you climbers reading, yeah yeah, that’s the lowest difficulty at my gym. I have to start somewhere!)

***

I started writing that post 3 months ago. I was too depressed to finish or post it, or even to continue feigning excitement at a new exercise routine. Today, I’m happy to report that things have taken a turn.

Without becoming too much of a gossip, it looks like my former orthopedist, well…”left” the practice. Today, I had an appointment with his partner- we’ll call him Dr. S. Dr. S. came in, struggled with my name (as people do), and then introduce an extra person in the room. He told me to imagine that she was from the Principal’s Office; she was there to make sure things ran smoothly. I don’t know if it was just for me, or for all of my former doctor’s patients, but I found comfort in her presence. Like this time the doctor would get it right- I’d be evaluated carefully and thoroughly.

His diagnosis was as opposite as I could have imagined. My previous doctor told me that my ankle would never get better and that my only hope was to manage the pain. He discouraged the use of a boot and over the course of 3 appointments, spent approximately 75 seconds with me, total.

Dr. S., on the other hand, dropped a “kiddo” every seven words or so and definitely took his time to explain what was going on. It’s actually pretty interesting, so for my fellow nerds out there, here’s a little detail on my ankle:

Turns out, the issue is partially geographic. Usually, we get Vitamin D2 from the sun and then the body turns this into Vitamin D3 for use. Two things have gotten in the way: 1. I don’t spent enough time outside and 2. there’s a certain amount of UV light required to receive sufficient Vitamin D2, but the atmosphere where I live absorbs some of the light, making Vitamin D deficiency a common phenomenon.

I already know from a different doctor’s visit that I have a Vitamin D deficiency and started taking supplements a few weeks ago. However, I assumed (and my previous doctor confirmed) that my ankle was solely an overuse injury, so it’s interesting to see the combination of various factors that can be altered to restore my body.

That’s the most important part. And the first question I asked. I had to know, would my condition get better? “With time,” Dr. S. responded. He did so in a somber tone, but I was all but jumping off of the examination table with joy. This is not going to get better overnight, but the fact that it can and hopefully will heal is a dream compared to hearing that I was developing arthritis and that it was without cure.

I wrote above, “I’ve got some opinions on the competency of my orthopedist, but that’s beside the point.” Ultimately, that was exactly the point.

This might be my most boring post yet (don’t tell me if you agree), but the point is this: Prioritize your health. Don’t pick a fight with everyone you cross; healthcare providers want you to get better. BUT, it’s important to know when you’re not receiving proper treatment. It’s okay to switch doctors if you don’t feel comfortable in your current situation and you shouldn’t shy away from asking any questions you have. If your physician, PT, or whomever discourages any of this, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere.

And if you need me, you can catch me hobbling around on my stylish new footwear. Coffee in hand.

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