Some people fantasize about mcmansions smack on the beach, or exotic vacations in places like Bali and Fiji, or being married to George Clooney, or Anglina Jolie (or you know, at least having sex with them). Others dream about fame, or being so rich they could use their big bills as Charmin. Me? I fantasize about wearing four inch Leboutin’s, toe cleavage, wispy flats, cowboy boots. I daydream of the freedom to walk as many mies as I want to, buy every shoe in Bloomingdale’s or Sak’s or Neiman’s without trying on an endless array of sizes and shapes, and getting all that attitude from the sales people, who by the way are working there, while I’m shopping there, and who get all angry faced when they see me coming because they know that i will require them to actually work, bringing me enough shoes to satisfy Carrie Bradshaw, but will actually not be able to buy a one of them, on account of the fact that my foot is, well, let’s call it “special.”
You’d think it might make me feel better to know that Oprah has one. Or Victoria Beckham, and Tilda Swinton. But believe me, there is no joy in the gross and disgustingly ugly foot malady called the bunion. It’s a deformity of the joint of the big toe.
And mine is the size of my head.
It’s not because I did anything wrong, as doctors have told me, it’s just the luck of the hereditary draw. Thanks, Mom. My sisters aren’t plagued like I am, one of my cousin’s has them, but me, I seem to have won the bunion megabucks. As one podiatrist told me about 15 years ago, “You shouldn’t have a bunion this size until you’re 60.” I was 40 at the time. With a disc problem by age 23, I have walked the girth of the earth to keep my back strong (this is the low-impact exercise that’s prescribed for we back sufferers), and this, apparently while helping my back, accelerated the growth of my bunion. And now, here I am with a bulbous growth so large, normal shoes elude my shopping cart. Wah, wah, wah, I want to wear my Chloe flats without a golf sized growth hitting the side of the shoe like foot muffin top. Maybe it seems like a stupid thing to wish for, when there are so many other more worthy things to spend your dreams on, but let me tell you, live with a bunion for a while and then let’s chat over coffee. Just try and find kicks that don’t look like grieving Italian widow shoes. Attempt to be stylish when you can’t wear heels. I challenge you to dress from the feet up, like I’ve had to for the last decade, and look even remotely like you’re not Amish. Go head, I dare you. You can’t. You know why? Because it would take you years of shopping, sticking your foot in and out of shoes, and a ridiculous amount of online research to know the in’s and outs of a shoe that will be your Cinderella story. For instance, you wouldn’t know to look for soft buttery leather that might give enough to accommodate your bump and your orthotic which will retard your bunion, and that you must wear. You probably wouldn’t understand that said orthotic forces you to go up a size, and resemble Big Foot. You might pass on suede, not realizing its potential to give you style and stretch. You wouldn’t have the savvy to look for a shoe that doesn’t have toe cleavage, because , while sexy, it doesn’t leave any space for your bunion, which will be sticking out of the leather like a lost ping pong ball. You might not realize that boots are a bunion sufferers best friend, because they are often roomier than shoes. You need a bunion shoe buying PhD to tackle this situation fashionably. And even then, there comes a point where you’re wondering if you could rock a pair of New Balance in place of heels without anybody noticing (oddly, this season you actually can).
I have been toying with idea of having this thing operated on for like 10 years now. I’ve been to countless doctors. None of them, except my podiatrist, who would perform a type of surgery that would allow me to walk out of the operating room in a boot, have anything encouraging to say. Orthopedic surgeons go at bunions like they go at everything, with gusto–you’re non-weight bearing for eight weeks. With a back like mine, a surgery like that could whack out the rest of my body so that I become an oversized stuffed animal you put in the corner of your closet and forget about. Seriously, let’s talk about how that would make my back feel, not to mention what it could do to my mental state. They say it takes a full year to recover from that type of bunionectomy: the Lapidus. I mean, why not just poke out my eyes. At least I wouldn’t have to look at my bunion.
Doctors seem to look ruefully at my foot and nod their heads back and forth. My husband had two hip replacements and all the doctors were like, “You’ll be as good as new.” But talk about a little foot bulge decapitation and you might as well talk about having a head transplant.
A few years ago, I decided I would wait until my foot was really disrupting my life (in more ways than just when I put it in my mouth). And, well, it seems like the time has probably come. I have a swelling on top of the bunion now, just for extra attractiveness, and less shoe options than ever. I can really only fitness walk every other day, and if I go over three miles, it begins to hit the side of my sneaker like it’s a bumper car. But I have postponed this thing, that’s kept me up at night, and made me shop for shoes online in the wee hours when I worry about how I might have to move to the Amazon and go barefoot for the rest of my life. I mean without surgery, I am doomed to a life of Nike’s and nice rocking chairs. I’ve got to put on my big girl panties if I’m going to win this battle of the bulge. I know it won’t be pretty, but hell, there are just too many shoes out there. And I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.
So, yesterday, I saw my podiatrist and booked my surgery. It will be at the end of September. I already feel a little bit of relief, just knowing I’ve made a decision. It is called the Austin. I will walk out of the recovery room in a boot (not a cowboy boot, but a boot nonetheless) I will be in that boot for a month, before graduating to, like a lovely Merrill type shoe. (Maybe I will bedazzle them, just to keep my spirits up). I will then do physical therapy, and at 10 – 12 weeks, I will be able to fitness walk. It will be a long road, and this is a big step, but after a decade of pain, reduced function, limited shoe buying ability, and the psychological terror of worrying whether I could make it through a surgery like this, at least I’ve got my foot in the door.