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Nobody’s ever died from sore feet.
And that’s a good thing because I’m not ready to go!
I’ve suffered from sore feet on a daily basis for nearly four years now, and I’m pretty tired of it. Unfortunately, there is not a clear and definite diagnosis for what’s causing my pain. Instead, it feels like the doctors are just stabbing in the dark. Mostly they miss, but sometimes they hit my feet, and that hurts.
Let me back up to the beginning of the story.
A long time ago, I dreamed of running a bookstore. I thought it would be the perfect job. In my imagination, I sat around all day, reading and happily chatting with the occasional like-minded book lover who wandered into the store. In 2009, when I actually began working in a bookstore, it quickly became apparent there wasn’t time to sit around reading, and in order for the bookstore to be profitable, there needed to be more than an occasional customer wandering through. Still, in my element, surrounded by both books and like-minded book lovers, I was okay with that. And by the summer of 2012, I was promoted to manager of my own bookstore.
Being a bookstore manager had its perks. Getting free copies of new releases was one of them. Overseeing the schedule was another. Unfortunately, there were some downsides as well. As a bookstore manager, I generally worked 45 to 50 hours a week, most of them on my feet. Sore feet are normal in the bookstore business, and I learned early on the solution was spending a little more money for good shoes. No, I’m not talking about picking up a pair of Dr. Scholls at Payless. To have happy feet, I was shopping at places like Foot Solutions and The Walking Company and paying prices that started at $150 and went up from there.
In the summer of 2013, I had been wearing my favorite Danskos for almost a year when my feet really began bothering me. I figured it was time for new shoes. Unfortunately, they didn’t help. If anything, they made the pain worse. So, I tried a different brand but got the same results. Looking for relief from my sore feet, I tried everything — soaking them, rubbing them, over the counter medications…
Eventually, I went to the doctor.
The initial diagnosis was metatarsalgia which translates as pain in the metatarsals or toes. According to the Mayo Clinic website, “you may experience metatarsalgia if you participate in activities that involve running and jumping.” (I’m not a runner, and with my kids grown, I rarely jumped — Boy Wonder hadn’t made his appearance yet.) It also said, “you may develop metatarsalgia by wearing ill-fitting shoes.” To rule this out as a cause for my sore feet, I bought another expensive pair of shoes, walking shoes this time, from the athletic shoe store and sales person my primary-care doctor personally recommended. When that didn’t work, we tried more support in the shoes, physical therapy, and anti-inflammatories, then steroids, then cutting back to part time work. But the condition progressed until I could no longer work on my feet.
And so, my adventure of living life with a handicap plaque and a wheelchair began.
In October of 2013, my daughters and I discovered that New Orleans’ sidewalks are made of cobblestones. Lucky for us, the rental wheelchair we’d taken with us was still under warranty. My ‘grab and go’ shopping style had to be adjusted to ‘relax and ride’ as I found grocery store motorized carts are extremely slow. In the meantime, I visited more doctors, had all kinds of diagnostic lab work and tests done, and went on and off various medications looking for an answer to my sore feet. Every time we were given a possible diagnosis — tarsal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus — the next doctor or test result ruled it out.
Being able to stay off my feet reduced my pain significantly. In addition, I began learning what my limits were — what I could and couldn’t (or shouldn’t) do. By March, my feet felt significantly better, and we left the wheelchair at home when we went to Panama on vacation.
In April, I returned to work.
Because I had been gone for six months, which included the busy holiday season, the company had assigned a new manager to my store which I completely understood. So, when I returned to work, instead of managing my own store, I traveled from store to store working on special projects, training new employees, and filling in where needed. Because the doctors wanted me to start back slowly, I was restricted to working no more than four hours a day on my feet. The various store managers were great about finding sit down jobs for me, and I kept a tall stool in the car for times when I needed to ‘stand’ at the register. I enjoyed helping customers, reconnecting with my work friends, encouraging new employees and supporting the stores, but my sore feet quickly returned. And unfortunately, the pain was worse than before.
I retired from the bookstore at the end of May 2014.
I know, I know — this blog is about Rehearsing RetirementTM. I could have said I resigned, but I like the thought of retirement better. One definition for the word resign is ‘to give up’, and I never give up! On the other hand, I see retirement as a reward for a life well-lived and a time to look forward to.
AARP estimates that 9 million Americans, many of them retired, are engaged in second careers and as many as 31 million are pursuing ‘encore careers.’ So, that is what I am doing while we get ready for Greg to join me in retirement.
I’m pursuing an encore career.
I’m a freelance writer now, another of my longtime dreams. Writing doesn’t require me to walk or stand for long periods of time, and this makes my sore feet happy.
Yes, my feet still hurt.
No, we don’t have a definitive diagnosis yet. The current working diagnosis is chronic progressive idiopathic peripheral neuropathy.
- Chronic – persisting for a long time
- Progressive – proceeding step by step — what this really means is that it’s no longer just my feet that are affected
- Idiopathic – a condition for which the cause is unknown
- Peripheral Neuropathy – weakness, numbness, and pain, usually in the hands and feet; it can also affect other areas of the body
The problem with this diagnosis — besides it being chronic, progressive and idiopathic —is that my doctors still don’t agree. Peripheral Neuropathy is the result of damage to the peripheral nerves. I’ve had two painful nerve conduction electromyography (EMG) studies done since 2013. Both times, the results indicate that I have minimal nerve damage. According to two different neurologists — when the first one didn’t agree with the podiatrist’s and primary care physician’s diagnosis, they sent me to another — peripheral neuropathy is not causing my sore feet.
That said, medications commonly used to treat peripheral neuropathy help to reduce my pain, and my primary care physician believes I am suffering from ‘nerve pain’ even if I don’t have nerve damage. So, the diagnosis remains.
As we age, we are bound to face health issues.
There are a lot of us in the Rehearsing RetirementTM stage of life who live with chronic pain. So, what’s a writer to do? Wallow in it? Write about it? (I’ve done both.)
Working through this has provoked me to take my health and weight issues seriously. And it has been my main motivator to build better habits, especially the habit of looking for good in all situations.
My sore feet allowed me to leave a job that I no longer loved. They have allowed me to begin Rehearsing RetirementTM and embark on a new and exciting encore career (which I do love!) And best of all, my sore feet have allowed me the freedom to travel (sometimes in a wheelchair, but I’m okay with that), to visit my mom, my girls, and my grandson whenever I want — let me rephrase that — whenever the budget allows. And, because I’ve been able to rest my sore feet, I only need my wheelchair occasionally now. And this is good!
It would be okay if my feet felt better. But, you know, nobody’s ever died from sore feet. And that’s a good thing because I’m not ready to go!
What about you?
Have you ever been in a wheelchair? Do you deal with chronic pain? Or do you have a different Rehearsing RetirementTM health issue you’re struggling with?