The Doctor Visit

Sorry if looking at my bunions grosses you out.  But there they are.

In case you don’t really know what you’re looking at, here’s a clue:

I went to see Dr. Miller, and he looked at my feet.  He said, “Holy crepidus, woman!  Those are enormous!  How do you even walk?!”  Only he was much more diplomatic about it, so it came out something like, “Yes, those are significant.”

We talked about my pain level, and I told him that while the right one bothers me, the left one is worse.  He rubbed the left one and asked if it hurt.  “Well,” I replied, “it’s not comfortable.”  He asked if I’d seen anyone else about them before, and I told him that I had been seeing a doctor in Indianapolis when I lived there, but now that’s just too far to drive.  He took some x-rays and we talked about options.

Basically, I’m going to need surgery, which I already knew.  Dr. Miller said it’s up to me how long I want to wait.  My previous doctor had said to put it off as long as possible, until I just can’t stand it anymore.  Dr. Miller wasn’t so extreme.  He just said I needed to decide when the pain and the inconvenience were enough to make me consider it.

We looked at the x-ray of my feet, and it showed that the first metatarsal angles way out.  I wish I’d taken a snapshot of the x-ray to show you how the bone doesn’t line up with the ones next to it.  But if you really look at the pictures above, you can probably get a good idea.  It goes out, makes an angle at the bunion, then goes way in, pushing my big toe toward my other toes.

I asked him about orthotics.  My previous doctor had prescribed custom orthotics for me, and I really feel like they aren’t working as well as they used to.  Dr. Miller said that he almost never prescribes custom orthotics because he feels that they aren’t worth the expense.  He told me about a store in town that sells orthotics that should be able to help just as well.  He said that just going to Wal*Mart or something and buying off-the-shelf orthotics probably wouldn’t do it for me, but this other store would probably have what I needed.  (Incidentally, this is the same store where I went to look for cute shoes that I can wear with orthotics.)

So that made me happy, because my insurance doesn’t cover orthotics, but also a little bit peeved because if I’d known that custom orthotics weren’t needed I’d never have gone to the expense in the first place.

Dr. Miller and I discussed surgery.  He said that for me, the procedure would entail cutting that first metatarsal bone so it could be straightened so that it’s more or less parallel with the other metatarsals.  Then the tendon between my big toe and the next one would have to be stretched and the tendon on the outside of the bunion would have to be shortened, and the bunion itself would be shaved off.  (Ew.  Just saying that gives me the willies.)  He said that surgery is definitely a big deal.  If it were just shaving off the bunion (shiver), it wouldn’t be so big, but cutting that metatarsal is definitely a big deal.

We talked about recovery time.  He said that he would expect that I would be feeling okay within about three months, but I wouldn’t be able to run for about six months.  He said I could bike before that, and that swimming would be okay, but that running would take some time.

So this is something I’m thinking about.  I do want to go see if I can get some orthotics that will help, but right now, we have insurance and we probably won’t have it forever.  Even with the insurance, our out-of-pocket costs may approach $5000, so this is something I do not want to pay for without insurance.  I’m thinking about having it done in October, so that I can go ahead and run the races I have planned, and still hopefully be off of crutches by the time the snow and ice come in earnest.

This isn’t something I want to do.  Surgery scares me, pain scares me, and not being able to run for six months scares me.  And if it weren’t for the expense, I would probably wait another few years.  But it is my hope that in another few years, I won’t be working full-time anymore, and that means that I probably won’t have insurance to help cover the costs.  Of course, I also realize that the cost of the surgery will probably mean that we’ll be delayed in paying off our debt.  But I guess being delayed for a few months is better than having to pay for the whole shebang ourselves.

Stephan is helping me think through this, but I’m about 70% sure I’ll be having surgery this fall.


12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tracy
    Apr 12, 2010 @ 10:17:46

    Yikes, that looks painful! Praying that God gives you both wisdom with how to proceed financially.

  2. Heather
    Apr 12, 2010 @ 12:46:44

    I can’t believe I’ve never seen your feet before…. I’m not sure how it is that you are walking, let alone running half marathons. I’m so impressed! I admit, I had to skip the paragraph on the details of surgery because the room started spinning. Dreading that surgery for you, my friend, but then again, if it will address the pain then it’s probably worth doing. And you’ll be back in your running shoes just in time for spring! Praying as you decide what to do. ♥

    • Karen, the Small Town Runner
      Apr 14, 2010 @ 12:43:12

      I generally keep my feet covered unless I’m around family. I’m always afraid people are going to be grossed out. I’ve always hated my feet.

  3. Rita
    Apr 12, 2010 @ 14:28:05

    Painful just to read about it.
    I guess it’s better to get it over with.
    I just don’t know how you do it, the running, I mean.
    Now I admire you all the more!!!!!

    • Karen, the Small Town Runner
      Apr 14, 2010 @ 12:46:42

      I think it’s more painful to think about the surgery than to deal with the bunions… but as I said, I should probably get it taken care of while I have insurance.

  4. Kim
    Apr 13, 2010 @ 18:38:41

    You’ve obviously thought it through and I think you have a very good plan…after the race and before the weather gets really bad….while you have insurance even though it will mean extending the debt load…will pray as you make a final decision. It just looks painful!

    • Karen, the Small Town Runner
      Apr 14, 2010 @ 12:45:58

      It must not be as painful as it looks. I mean, it’s not constant pain. It’s just that sometimes my shoes feel tight, or when I’m running they hurt. And I’m just used to the way they look. I’ve had them my whole life, after all.

  5. Blythe
    Apr 13, 2010 @ 22:13:55

    Thanks for sharing. I have the SAME feet! (But you can’t see my big toes because they’re under my second toes. ) I’ve been running on these suckers for years, and my docs have always blamed them for all of my injuries from stress fractures in my legs to my current ankle problems.) I want to find out everything that happens to you because I’ve been thinking about having surgery some day. (Right now, it’s out of the question because I don’t have a very good insurance plan…) I had a friend in Boulder who had surgery, but I’m not sure if it was of the ‘bone cutting’ kind or not. Keep me posted. God bless!

    • Karen, the Small Town Runner
      Apr 14, 2010 @ 12:44:25

      That’s right, Blythe! I forgot! Must be why you’ve taken up swimming, eh? Yes, I’ll give you all the details. Just keep reading away, and I’ll post updates when new stuff happens.

  6. Talley Mac
    Apr 13, 2010 @ 23:00:12

    Poor Heather!! I’m sorry the room started spinning again!!! I think you said that when I talked about matt’s bunion surgery.

    Which reminds me K, you can swipe hub’s XRay’s from June of 08 to use as photo prop for what a bunion looks like. B/c like you, I am sick minded and got copies of the Xrays for my blog. Sick I know, but it IS why we get along and you love me so much! 🙂

    I’m sorry you are headed down this path, but it will be so much better when its done!!! You’ll run better then ever! Kudos to you for running on those, um, well, interesting footsies!



    • Karen, the Small Town Runner
      Apr 14, 2010 @ 12:48:07

      I think Matt’s were worse than mine. I remember seeing pictures. Was he still walking then, or was he in the chair by that time?

  7. Talley Mac
    Apr 15, 2010 @ 18:12:27

    nope he was walking on them that bad for years…His were like your friend blythes. His big toe was under his pointer toe or 2nd toe whatever you wanna call it!!

    its purdy gross I tell ya!

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