Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lessons of a Stress Fracture

"It's just a tiny stress fracture," I heard myself saying on several occasions to people who asked about the Aircast I'm hobbling around in these days. "There's a really small crack in a really tiny bone on the bottom of my foot. I could barely see it in the X-ray."

The truth is, I had lived with and walked on this stress fracture for more than a week before even calling the orthopedist's office for an appointment. I knew weird and uncomfortable things were going on in my foot, especially when I was walking for exercise, and especially doing the hilly part of the neighborhood, and at the end of the day.

I thought it had to do with my new sneakers, just a few weeks old, purchased to replace my beaten-down old ones and to support my increased walking routine. I had even thought of going back to the athletic shoe store rather than the doctor to see about some different insoles for the shoes. David was the one who nixxed that idea and suggested I really ought to call the doctor.

Even so, I saw no reason to insist on an appointment right away; after all, it probably just had to do with my new shoes, right? So I waited for an appointment in a couple of weeks and kept on walking. Only I started to find my foot hurting enough at the end of each day to start elevating it and applying ice.

I know it may sound kind of stupid, but I have to say it took me more than a week after seeing the X-ray and learning I had a stress fracture, more than a week of acting as if the Aircast meant I could still do most everything I usually do, only a lot slower, before I realized this wasn't working at all. My foot still felt terrible, especially at the end of the day. Some days I even thought it felt worse than before.

So then I backed up a bit and took stock, checked in with myself more honestly. Here's the part that may sound really stupid: for more than a week I acted as if the more important half of the term "stress fracture" was the word "stress" rather than the word "fracture", as if a stress fracture is more about stress (subtext: and only wimps get over-stressed just from walking more--I mean, please!) than about a broken bone. I even looked it up on "Web MD"!

Here's what my computer's "New Oxford American Dictionary" says about "stress fracture": "a fracture of a bone caused by repeated (rather than sudden) mechanical stress." It's really about the way the fracture happens rather than any value judgment on the fracture itself or on the character of the sufferer! (If I worked in medicine, would I be less quick to read moral content into a diagnosis?)

Ever so slowly I began to take that in. Every so slowly I realized that if I don't honestly pay attention to my foot and patiently listen to what it tells me, whether I like those messages or not, I am only going to delay the healing process and likely increase my frustration with not being able to walk and move around easily outdoors (and in) for weeks to come.

Whether I feel like a wimp or not because my bone broke while walking in my own neighborhood--rather than, say, falling from a rock climb or (as Bekah a few years ago) in a dramatic landing while dancing--is of no concern to my foot! And of course it's a big waste of time and energy anyway.

Happily now after a couple of days of listening better, of not asking too much of my foot to begin with, of adding an ace bandage to its support system, and of putting it up several times a day rather than only when it throbs I can actually believe that it might heal eventually!

How lovely to know that "pushing through pain" is not always the best option! How much more content I feel to be functioning more as a friend of my still amazing and irreplaceable body than as an adversary.

So it took me a while to learn these perhaps obvious lessons. That just gives me the chance to learn another one--not beating myself up over it. Better just to enjoy the hidden benefits of not being very able to handle those trips to the cellar to do laundry, and other assorted pleasures!

And maybe it's time to break out the vari-colored Sharpies to decorate the bland, grey Aircast.


David Heald said...

Glad I played a part--if only a small one--in the learning process. No doubt, I will have to apply the same lessons someday. Good Luck, Dave!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful reflection once again, Sukie.