Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Story of My Surgery Part I

Happy Friday! I had a pretty good (albeit long) day at work, but it seriously lacked in the health and fitness departments. Luckily, this weekend has a lot of down time on the agenda, so I'm looking forward to a few great workouts and some new recipes.

One plan for the weekend is hitting up Road Runner, a store that assesses your running style and helps you choose an ideal running shoe. Since we're planning to run a half-marathon this year, I told Terry that I really want to get some kick ass running shoes. I mentioned that I have no intention of going through another surgery, and then Terry pointed out that I haven't discussed my surgery on the blog yet.

Well, here we go!

My crazy feet
My Bunion History
I've had bunions on both of my feet since I can remember. Essentially, bunions are foot deformities that create large, hard bumps on the side of your foot and cause your toes to point inward. For some people, as in my case, the issue causes minor to extreme pain. Throughout high school and with my intense dance schedule (ballet, jazz, and hip hop), the pain grew worse. I eventually began seeing a chiropractor, who wrapped my feet with tape in an attempt to straighten them out (it worked a little but didn't alleviate the pain) and a massage therapist, who focused on back and hip issues to help my feet. My dance teacher, who also had bunions, warned me that the surgery wouldn't be worth it, so I heeded her advice and pushed through it.

Sometimes, just sitting in class or driving, the pain would shoot through my foot (mostly my right foot, but occasionally both); I learned a lot about breathing through it (thanks, Pilates!). At night, after dance classes, I would dunk my feet in ice water in hopes of calming the pain. Almost nothing worked.

At UCLA, I joined the dance team and started dancing regularly again, but the pain didn't bother me as much as it did in high school. I remember some incidents of that in-class throbbing, but I think the fact that I was dancing in tennis shoes instead of ballet shoes made a big difference. It was after college that I experienced the truly debilitating pain. Even going for a walk often got cut short because of the throbbing.

That's when I decided I needed to get serious about my options. Obviously, I had seen doctors about the pain before, but I didn't really have a reason or the time to go through surgery. My research told me it would take at least six weeks to recover, and who has six weeks to just recover? But we had just gotten engaged in August of 2009, and I knew I wanted to get rid of the pain before our wedding. Plus, as fate would have it, I had just started teaching and knew that I would have a summer available for sitting on the couch and recuperating.

The Surgery
My primary care doctor took one look at my foot, said, "Yep, you're a candidate for surgery," and handed me a referral to a local (UCLA!) podiatrist. A quick meeting with him explained the following about surgery:

  • I would be on crutches and not allowed to put any pressure on my right foot for at least six weeks.
  • I would be having a more intense type of surgery that required three incisions (one to correct the big bunion, one to correct a smaller alignment problem on the outside of my foot, and one to fuse my ligaments together to ensure the bunion won't return).
  • I would not be allowed to drive. (Perhaps this should have been obvious from the first restriction, but can you imagine not driving for six weeks?)
  • After the crutches, I would be facing at least a year of recovery time, including physical therapy and limited mobility.
Armed with my new knowledge, I set the date for surgery and tried my best to mentally prepare. Terry would be my main caretaker, but my dad would come down for the surgery and subsequent few days to help babysit me in the first 72 hours. All systems go.
At Mel's Diner the night before - SO nervous.
On the way to the surgery center - last photo of the right bunion.
The surgery was uneventful, which, as in a flight across the country, is the best kind. 
Right before surgery.
The first few post-surgery days consisted of sitting on the couch, eating a delicious homemade lasagna that my incredible husband made for us, and learning to walk up and down stairs on my crutches with Coach Dad. Oh, and there was that first shower when Terry had to help me jump over the tub on one foot and I panicked, accidentally setting down my poor right foot. And then I cried. 

Dad and Terry coaching me through surgery and recovery.
Why I Decided to Go For It

  • I couldn't handle the pain, and the doctors assured me that the surgery would stop the pain.
  • I wanted to be active without worrying about how my foot would feel.
  • I had the time to recover. No kids, plenty of people to help us out, and no classes to teach.
  • I wanted to wear any shoes my heart desired for our wedding.
  • I knew if I didn't do it then, I would never do it.
My Concerns Before Surgery
  • Would the pain really stop?
  • What would my exercise options be after surgery - short term and long term?
  • How would we survive six weeks (which turned out to be seven) with me on crutches?
  • What would I do to avoid completely losing my physical fitness during that time?
  • How would I be a cheer coach (summer is a pretty busy season prepping for football)?
Part II: How to recover from major surgery, plus the answers to all those questions.

Have you ever had a major medical procedure? What made you do it (or was it not optional?)? What were your hesitations? How did you get through it?


  1. I had a similar surgery on my feet recently! It was pretty painful, but it's worth it! I've just started physical therapy to speed up the recovery so I can play soccer again. Good Luck!

    1. I hope your recovery goes well! Physical therapy was key for me, and I still do some of those exercises two years later. Good luck!