Friday, February 7, 2014

Injury Part II: Diagnosis

"What happened?" I was asked as I limped my way into the house.

"I think I just broke my foot."

Right off the bat instinct told me that this was a real injury. Fortunately, or unfortunately as it may turn out, I had a doctor's appointment that morning for another issue. While there I mentioned the foot and my doctor ordered an x-ray. She called me with the results a few hours later. "You have a stress fracture to the 2nd metatarsal. You should get a walking boot and go non-weight bearing for the next three weeks." Well that didn't sound good. But it also didn't seem right to me. The pain wasn't anywhere near the 2nd metatarsal and referred pain in that area didn't seem to make sense. Not being one to take injury or the idea of not exercising lightly I made an appointment with the podiatrist who had done my toe surgery in 2011 to get a second opinion.

I walked into his office with my walking boot 5 days later. After a quick exam he informed me that I didn't have a stress fracture in the 2nd metatarsal. He said the reaction they noted looked to him like "runner's foot" and was likely caused by the high mileage of the previous few weeks. He thought it was likely a strain due to the combo of my high arches and wearing worn out shoes (the run where the injury occurred were the last 6 miles I was planning on putting on those shoes). His advice was to ditch the boot, take it easy for a week and then gradually start back to normal activity. I could bike and swim, but no running or stepmill.

I happily ditched the boot and hit the cross training hard. A week later, while I was walking without any trouble, running was still out of the question. I got a sharp pain if I tried to push off on the left foot. I saw an athletic trainer. She thought I might have a sub-luxed cuboid. I saw a chiropractor to work on the cuboid. Two weeks had gone by at this point and I still couldn't push off on the foot. I called the podiatrist back and he ordered an MRI. Three weeks and two weeks from the date of injury I finally had my answer - a stress fracture to the cuboid in combination with tendinitis in my peroneal tendon.

In layman's terms, I broke my foot.

And that's when I cried.

I was scared. I was frustrated. What did this mean? The 100 miler I was signed up for in two months was definitely out. Would I be healed and trained in time to run a race in June or July? Would I be able to hike and backpack this summer? How would I possibly stay in shape when the only thing I was cleared to do was swim?

My thoughts towards myself turned cruel. "You're weak. You're a loser. If you just tried harder you could push this through this. People are going to think that you're a wuss." Despite the rational part of my brain telling me this was a true injury that couldn't just be "powered through" I tested out the foot again. Push off. Sharp stabbing pain. "I can't do this. I'm not strong enough."

Thankfully I wasn't left to my own devices. A midst my blubbering my partner looked at me, "don't take this the wrong way but you are the only person I know that would think you can power through this. That doesn't even make any sense. Your foot is broken. You don't tough out a fracture. You have to let it heal. And don't be stupid, who cares what anyone else thinks? You have to do what is right for you."

That's when I laughed. He was right. I was being stupid. I wouldn't look at anyone else who was facing an injury this way. I wouldn't call them weak. I wouldn't belittle them. Why should I treat myself that way?

The treatment? Three weeks in the boot along with crutches. Then it'll be time to re-evaluate with more imaging. Hopefully that will show that the fracture has healed and I'll be cleared to go back to weight bearing activity.

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