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October 31, 2006

When I left off with the fusion saga I was twenty-eight days post surgery, sporting the heavy blue surgical boot not-so-affectionately referred to as BIG FOOT.

I was luxuriating in my La-Z-Girl recliner, catered to 24-7 by the houseboy. And I was pining for the day when I would leap out of my chair and on with my life.

Good grief! What was my hurry?

Here I am, now 133 days post fusion ...and whenever I mention something about putting the tea on, the houseboy says, “The plane has landed.”

He’s referring to my last blog wherein I waxed on (medicated for sure) about the post fusion journey being akin to a long flight ...confined to my seat, food quality only okay, movie something I’d already seen. I think I may have made a tactical error when I said the food was “only okay.”

Yes, indeed, the plane has landed and the houseboy has morphed back into “the husband.” He doesn’t appear to feel sorry for me anymore. When I mumble something about a cup of tea, he looks over his glasses at me ...and just looks. Doesn’t say anything mean-spirited like, “I don’t see a piano tied to your leg.” No, he just does the peering-over-the-glasses thing. So I let out a meaningful sigh and snap the La-Z-Girl upright and march into the kitchen to make tea the way he likes it.

It all started about week four when I clomped into the kitchen on my home-made walker to make a salad for dinner. Not for the frugal Ushers the purchase of a high-end Roll-a-bout at $700 US. Oh no. Mr. Handyman found an old walker in the attic. To this he affixed a plywood shelf at knee level. I rested the knee of the fused foot on the shelf and clomped around the house, steadily resuming my responsibilities.

I felt like a Halloween attraction. Quasimodo of the BIG FOOT. When the Saturday morning contingent of hockey/softball/Scouts rang the doorbell looking for contributions to their pop can drive ...they’d hear me clomping down the hall towards the front door and reverse at double-time, right up the drive to the safety of Mom’s minivan.

I remember what that was like. When I was growing up we had two old lady witches living in a creaky old house on a road named for their long-dead father. Rumour had it they gave out full-sized chocolate bars for Halloween ...but I don’t remember anyone brave enough to check it out.

So the clomping around on the walker lasted for six long weeks. Then I was given the go-ahead to start weight-bearing on BIG FOOT. Woo-hoo! This was going to be great. Not.

While non-weight-bearing I had slowly but surely come to a lovely pain-free place. Now I descended again into this dark place where every step hurt soooo much again. And the toes. Oh those were fun. They spasmed when the re-awakening nerves shot off fireworks in the night. I’d have to get up and loosen the boot and massage them till they settled down. THIS WAS NOT WHAT I EXPECTED.

The doctor had said to use a cane for support for a week or two, then go to full-on weight bearing without support. After a few days of trying to make it on the cane I decided to listen to my own body and proceed more slowly. I retreated to the clompy old walker again ...slowly adding a little more weight to my fused foot as it became more comfortable. It took about four weeks. By six weeks I felt good enough to head off on a Gulf Islands Cruise with the American cousins.

This was really fantastic. Everyone treated me like a princess. I wasn’t allowed to do anything much more than sit there and look pretty ...and I did a good job of that. Wonderful holiday.

The BIG FOOT was annoying. We had the bow, chain-locker cabin with the V-berths which meant that the bottom of the berth got narrower and narrower. I would move around in the night and my BIG FOOT would crash against the side of the ship. I’m sure David, whose credit card was on the line, must have wakened at times and thought we’d crashed into something for sure.

But we didn’t and he didn’t and it was a great holiday.

Then we bought a small trailer, a 9.5 foot, 1979 vintage Trillium and pulled it out on a three-day test run to Lillooet. That was fun too.

But the build-up was beginning ...September 7th was my big day at the ankle clinic. I took my shoes. Well actually, I wore my right shoe. I carried my left shoe ...determined to wear it out of there and I did. The x-rays showed I was ready.

What a triumph that was. Out the door on my own pins.

The next day I put on my walking shoes and took off through the neighbourhood. Go girl! Except no one told my ankle it was finished healing. Man did I crash. Big time.

So I backed up and took it slower. And I did lots of crying because I had really believed it was all over and since there was no pain in BIG FOOT there would be no pain once I moved into shoes, but there was.

The fusion was fine, but with the joint fused and not flexing, all the movement for walking has to come from the front of the foot. Not only was this something the front of the foot had not been told would be required of it ...the foot had been on vacation for the past 12 weeks. In BIG FOOT, nothing had been required of it. So it was not happy ...and whatever muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc resided there ALL woke up and started screaming at me at once. We were NOT a happy little family, me and my body parts.

And the nerves in the foot ...well, they had begun reconnecting with each other and they started screaming at me too. And they were really nasty ...choosing to do all their screaming in the middle of the night. Not nice.

So I retreated into this terrified place where I feared that this was it. This was as good as it got. And if that was so ...I might as well start crumpling my dreams and pitch them into that trash can over there.

Day after day I just kept hobbling around as best I could until one day I got up from my chair and walked across the room ...and it hadn’t hurt. It HAD NOT HURT!!!!

And so it’s gone. Progress is not measured in days but in weeks. Today might be worse than yesterday, but invariably, this week is better than last week.

One week I could not make it around Safeway without draping myself over the buggy for support. Then last week we were at Costco in South Centre, Seattle ...the biggest Costco I have ever been in ..and I walked around there for nearly two hours, and IT DID NOT HURT!

So I’m working very hard now at re-creating myself. There’ve been so many years of compromised physical activity ...there is so much to catch up on. I have a weight and flexibility program that I follow at the gym three days a week, and on the other three days of the week I do power deep aquafit and swim laps. On Sundays I rest. Oh, how I love Sundays.

The husband gave me a pedometer for my birthday earlier this month ...and once I have a whole day with no pain in the course of my normal activities ...I will start walking for exercise. That’s not too far away anymore. I can feel it.

In fact, yesterday was such a cold, crisp, blue sky day that we turned our backs on the stuff that needed to be done and headed off into the mountains to walk through the leaves at Alouette Lake. It was something else. Walking and walking and walking ...and if you’d been there ...if you’d seen me walking along the lake? Well, you wouldn’t have noticed me.

I looked like everyone else walking through the leaves ...no crutches, no cane, no clutching the husband for support. Just a lady walking through the leaves.

Unremarkable to you ...but all the world to me.

Carolyn Usher