Given the Boot

January 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm (Uncategorized)

I had a fall yesterday. We’ve had a mid-winter thaw in Montana, which partly melted the six inches of snow we got last week. But it is still slushy and icy. I was walking my 8-year old son, Andrew, to his after-school art class and I wanted to make sure he safely crossed the slippery street and got settled with his teacher before I zoomed off to run errands and write as many words as I could in the 90 child-free minutes this class provides.

Andrew and I were holding hands, and had just stepped onto the sidewalk. He was mid-sentence about some Harry Potter factoid, when my foot unexpectedly crashed through what had looked like solid snow-pack. For a sickening instant, I felt my clog-shod foot skitter for firm purchase on the ice lurking beneath the snow. And then, in a more sickening instant, something popped like a firecracker, pain exploded through my leg, and I fell suddenly. I nearly dragged Andrew down with me, but I let go in time to sprawl face-first on the slushy, sodden ground.

“That’s what you get for trying to out-parent me at the art drop-off,” my husband, Jay, said, when I called him to tell him the news. He was trying to cheer me up, to de-escalate the panic that was rising in my throat. “I usually just kick the boy out at the curb. It’s better for your health,” he said.

By the time he made it home—less than an hour later—my ankle had ballooned and I couldn’t put any weight on it. I had propped my leg up in bed, and when I pulled back the bed-spread, with a Chronic Town-style magic trick flourish, Jay abandoned levity and just said “Crap” about 45 times.

Crap indeed. Jay and I have been down this road—or flat on my face in this road—twice before. This wasn’t a mere sprained ankle, and we both knew it. The sarcoidosis that has infiltrated nearly every organ in my body has also wreaked havoc on my joints. Some of you might remember my posts in 2008 and 2009 when I twice ruptured my right-ankle ligament, or when I spent months in a cast, zipping around my house on a scooter, because the sarcoidosis eroded my foot bones and I couldn’t put any weight on the fractures in my foot. Ah, happy memories.

Maybe my auto-immune disease decided to shake it up this time. Here we’d accustomed ourselves to my right foot and ankle collapsing—and have at least three expensive right-footed orthopedic boots in the garage to prove it—and now I’ve gone and screwed up my left foot.

At least I’ve learned ankle management skills in the past couple of years. Rather than inflict a night at the emergency room on myself and Jay, I opted to swaddle the swollen ankle in ice packs, down as many pain killers as I had, and wait to see my own doctor in the morning. He ordered x-rays to make sure I hadn’t broken the joint, and then checked me out immediately after. He confirmed that the ligament in my left ankle had ruptured, and that I need to stay off it as much as possible, see a specialist once the swelling has decreased, and ice it a lot. And he sent me home with this stylish, 2012 model of the orthopedic boot.

I keep careering between bouts of solid self-pity and moments of clarity, when I remind myself that compared to some of the other health challenges I’ve faced in the past few years—ranging from potentially fatal heart rhythms to surgeries to periods of total blindness—a busted ankle isn’t that bad. Plus, I know I can get through this. This is an irritant not a catastrophe, I tell myself. Which is true. But it’s equally true that my leg hurts quite a lot, that I am bed-bound after surviving another round of chemo last week, and that irritants are, well, irritating. The toughest part of hacking it in Chronic Town, as anyone with a chronic illness can tell you, is keeping your head above the tsunami of irritants that illness brings.

That’s the extent of my profundity for the evening.

7 Comments

  1. Barbara Barnes said,

    “…the tsunami of irritants..” sums it up so well. When I read this I felt a rush of gratitude for this blog and that you can be heard by so many open and compassionate hearts. AND that you can be heard by peers in Chronic Town… a flavor of empathy that can only be described by others who taste the bitter waters of that tsunami you so eloquently described in your “profundity”. I love you, I love your ankle, I love your family… and I have a question… does Jay slow down when he kicks Andrew out.. and does he have a black sedan???

    • Rebecca Stanfel said,

      And I love you, Barb. You rock. You are so insightful and can eloquently name what’s happening.

      I’m grateful for this blog, too. I think pushing myself to write during bitter times–and sweet ones–helps keep me from drowning or getting lost at sea. Part of the healing and sustaining this blog brings me comes from the writing process. Writing about bad days–and good ones–pushes me to stay engaged. It’s easy to disassociate from your own life. But an equal, if not greater, part of the healing for me comes from the empathy I receive from readers. I can feel it. It sounds a little nutty, but I can feel the love, the good wishes, the hands and hearts holding me up. They are a life line, thrown to me. Yes, I do think that other folks in Chronic Town “get” the specific challenges that chronic illness brings and can offer an empathy of shared experience. But everyone who reads and comments, ranging from old friends in the “real” world to family to people who have happened upon my blog inadvertently on the Internet and decide to stay for a while, all nurture me, comfort me, care for me, and help me. I know I sound a little smarmy, but it’s true. If I hadn’t been able to write about my ankle and receive humor, wisdom, consolation, and commiseration, I would be under water, getting slammed into the sand by the big-ass wave, and disoriented about which way the shore is. You all are my guides to the shore.

      Now, to more important matters. I don’t know if Jay slows down. Maybe he has instructed Andrew in the fine art of leaping out of a moving car. As to the black sedan, I can only say, “Hmmmm.” He does use an awful lot of “state cars” to drive to “Missoula” for CSKT negotiations. “Hmmmm.”

      xo
      rebecca

  2. Carrie Daws (@CarrieDaws) said,

    “This is an irritant not a catastrophe” Wow. I love your perspective. Of course you are right — and I love how you can see it. I might just have to print and post that phrase all over my house, though, for the next time my dear husband has something pop up with his health issues. It’s encouraging and helps me refocus on the important things. Thanks!!

  3. Marianne said,

    There was a Kristi McNichol was in an 80’s movie Just the Way You Are where she wore a cast to a ski resort and a bunch of guys thought is was really sexy. That film was depressing for more than just that reason, by the way.

    • Rebecca Stanfel said,

      At first, I was a little perplexed about your comment. I was wondering “Did Marianne inadvertently post on my blog a comment intended for another person’s?” Then I googled Kristi McNichol and the movie and I got it. Good one!

      The process of me making the connection between my boot and Kristi McNichol was an interesting one for me. I was too lazy to type her name and the movie title, so I just went with her name. The first page google gave me was a press release about Kristi McNichol coming out as a lesbian in her middle age. “How is this related to my ankle?” I thought. And thought. Remember, I’m taking high doses of narcotic pain medicine. I’m slow on the uptake. But I was curious enough to type in the movie name and read the IMDB movie summary. Did you remember her character was a really good flautist?

      Still, I’m pondering what else made the film depressing?

      –rebecca

  4. Wendy Barron said,

    Ugh. Irritant or catastrophe, a busted ankle is a pain in patoot. Here’s wishing you a quick and complete recovery!

    • Rebecca Stanfel said,

      Hi Wendy,
      And well put! Pain the patoot this is. In the wake of the current patoot pain, I needed some cheering up and a reminder that this too shall pass and that the future will provide a better view than my current one of the wall across from my bed. So, I made my hotel reservation for SiWC 2012. (And I spent an undignified sum on-line at Bath and Body Works for various lotions and potions, but that’s not quite as exciting.) It was so good to meet you in Surrey, and I really appreciate your staying up with my blog.

      Thanks for your good wishes,
      rebecca

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