Getting Back On The Horse
Written by Daniel P. Malito on March 1, 2011
This week will mark the passing of the two-month boundary since the operation to “de-bulk” the bones of my left foot took place. It has been a long crawl since the progression of healing has not been as swift as I would have hoped. Of course, the fact that my body’s ability to repair itself has been compromised comes as no surprise, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to deal with.
As many of you who follow my column know, the bones on my left foot had become overgrown on the top and side of my left foot. This was due mostly to an old fracture that happened years ago. Last time, I spoke about all the factors that went into my decision to stop my medication for a short time in order to facilitate healing and assist my body in its defense of a recent infection. Now that the ordeal has finally passed and I am taking my RA medication once again, the healing process will again slow to a snail’s pace. I don’t have a very active schedule at the moment, but it does not lessen the fact that I am laid-up while recovering.
Getting back into the swing of things is not as simple as waiting for a wound to heal. There are many different aspects that have to come together exactly right in order for people like me with chronic illness to lead a productive life. If even one of the factors is out of sync, the situation can get out of hand fast. For those who are healthy, you can liken living with disease to a game of Jenga. If just one of the blocks is in the wrong place, the entire tower comes crumbling down.
While waiting for my surgical incision to close fully, I stopped my physical therapy appointments. I might have been able to continue seeing my therapist, but keeping the left foot elevated while working on the right ankle would have been tricky, at best. Because I have been away for so long, not only will it take a few sessions before I am able to get back into my bi-weekly routine, but much of the progress I have made has been lost. If my right ankle and leg muscles are not stretched regularly, I revert to an extreme supinated state. In other words, I will begin to walk on the side of my foot again.
I also have to contend with the wait for my RA medications to reach their full potency again. Many of the treatments available for Rheumatoid Arthritis, as with many autoimmune diseases, can take up to six months to become fully effective. Even stopping these medications for a week can have a detrimental effect. In addition, there is the danger that the medication may not be as effective when restarted, or possibly not work at all. Living with that particular Sword of Damocles hanging over your head is stressful, to say the least.
Those of you who are employed at an office also have to deal with the absences from work. I work from home, so when my affliction interferes with my writing, I only have to answer to myself. Granted, if you are handicapped or disabled, the employer should recognize that fact and respond accordingly. Unfortunately, we all know how the real world works. Just because your boss shouldn’t fire you for missing work, doesn’t mean he won’t find a legitimate-looking reason to terminate you nonetheless. It’s a harsh reality but it’s the truth. If and when you do return to work, you will have to catch up on all of the work that you’ve missed. Who knows what important deadlines or vital meetings you may have missed.
Even when all of the above does come together, there is still something to be said for daily routine. From my own experience, I have found that the only way to get through some of the more difficult times is to follow the routine that I have set up for myself in weeks past. When I wake up in the morning, I can usually tell within the first few minutes what kind of pain I am going to have to deal with. When I know it is going to be “one of those days,” frequently the only way I make it through is to focus on getting through the routine I follow on a daily basis. It takes many days to revert to the status quo. It’s hard to put into words all the factors that combine to result in a “good day,” but those of you who are ill know exactly what I mean.
I’m sure that in another month I will be walking around with my brand-new pair of off-the-shelf shoes. After all, that was the reason for this entire affair. Sure, a simple procedure that would take just a few weeks for most to recover from takes me three months or longer. Sure, it may take even longer than that for my life to return to status quo. Sure, my arthritis medication may work just a little bit less now. All these things are part of what chronically ill people like me have to deal with every day. Every time there is a hiccup in our health, it takes a long time to recover, that’s why we do not make decisions lightly. Hopefully when I look down and see a red pair of converse sneakers staring back at me, I’ll know the suffering was worth it.