Revisiting “Shoes”

If you’re not a regular follower of my blog, you can find the link to my original post, “Shoes”, by clicking here

 

It’s now been three years since I had the last major surgery on my right leg in June 2010. Although I feel that my leg will always be a source worry, I think that the range of motion, scars, nerve sensation, and general muscle strength that I have now will be fairly stable going forward. After three years, I don’t think that I can expect much more in terms of recovery.

In the past year, I have struggled with avascular necrosis (AVN for short) impacting the bones in my foot. I have worn Danskos almost exclusively for 10 months, and most of the sharp pain has diminished. I’m left with minor aches and the general feeling of having a stone in my shoe where a joint has collapsed. 

When I moved into my house, I put all of my high heels in the closet in the guest bedroom. I felt that having the shoes in there kept them out of sight for the majority of the time – and therefore less of a reminder of what used to be – but they were present enough to make me hope for the time where I could wear them again. 

Tonight I realized that today is just mere days after the three year anniversary of a surgery that left me with an incision from my knee to below my ankle. I went into the guest bedroom and looked at my heels. I wondered what I should do with them, then decided that I should try them on. I tried on my favorite night-out-on-the-town shoes first, and quickly discovered that I no longer have the control to fit my foot into the shoes. My “bad” toe bent uncomfortably in the shoes, and I had no way of fixing it. Next, I tried on a pair of shoes that I frequently wore to work on days where I knew I was going to have a meeting or important event. Those shoes had a modest, inch-and-a-half heel, and while not the most comfortable, they were manageable. I continued trying on all of my heels, and came to the conclusion that my days of wearing 3″ stilettos were behind me. I no longer have the strength in my foot, muscle control in my toe, and general flexibility to walk in those shoes. 

I sat in the floor, surrounded by shoes that serve as a very tangible tie to my past, and wondered what I should do. I began sorting the shoes into two piles: one pile of shoes that I felt had a modest heel that could probably be worn for short periods of time while I was mostly sitting (like out to dinner), and a second pile of shoes that I knew I would never be able to wear again. 

I put the latter pile into a bag and texted my cousin. She’s about to turn 18, just graduated from high school, and is venturing into the college world. I so vividly remember that summer between high school and college – it was so full of excitement and preparation, nerves and adrenaline, wonder and anticipation. I remember that I had everything figured out – I knew exactly where I was going to college, how long it would take me to graduate, and what I would do after graduation. I knew that I wanted to get married and have babies (not that I think that’s what every person should do, it’s just what I wanted for myself). I remember having a plan and a timeline, and having the hope and excitement that comes with both.

My cousin, who I am so proud of, is now experiencing that same summer. I decided that I would give her the heels that I can no longer wear. The dreams and aspirations that I had the summer between high school and college have grown and changed so many times in the six years since. The shoes that I wore for a couple of years before Behcet’s changed me no longer fit the life that I have made for myself today. But, a whole new world is opening up for my cousin, and I want to pass along something to her that meant so much to me.

In the end, it’s not about the shoes at all. It’s about growth and the realization that I don’t have to go back to where I was; I can dream a new set of dreams. The innocence of youth may be gone, but the freedom of letting go is at my fingertips.

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Shoes

Some people will think this post is vain, selfish, or even petty. Others, who perhaps have walked down a similar road, will understand the intentions and emotions behind it.

 

In 2008, I was a college sophomore just like every other college sophomore. Any of my physical symptoms of illness could be explained by the typical college life: not enough sleep, poor eating habits, and stress. However, over the course of the next five years, my life would change drastically and rapidly.

There are a lot of sacrifices that I made in order to survive. I didn’t choose Behcet’s, nor did I make choices that caused it. But, because of this illness, I have been thrust into a world of hospitals, surgeries, injections, and symptoms. I have re-arranged my life to accommodate medications, recovery periods, and physical therapy. I have re-arranged my wardrobe to hide scars. I have re-arranged my hopes and dreams for the future to accept a more attainable reality.

But I never had to give up my shoes. My shoes that I wore were beautiful. They were the thing I treated myself to. They were arguably the most feminine thing about me. I loved heels, especially designer heels. From the time I was a pre-teen, my dad had always bought me special pairs of shoes that were “loud” and made a statement. I was able to walk, and walk well, in 4″ heels, and more conservative heels were a staple in my wardrobe.

When I had my first surgery on my leg in 2008, my aunt (who is also a physical therapist) promised me I would be able to wear my heels again. When I had the next surgery in 2010, she again promised me that I would be able to wear my heels. After the fourth surgery, I was ready to just be able to walk without a walker.

Recently, I have started having to deal with secondary symptoms, the ones that you get as a result of medications or symptoms of Behcet’s. The newest has been avascular necrosis (also known as AVN or osteonecrosis), the death of bones because of a loss of blood flow. This is probably a result of years of insufficient blood flow to my foot and leg, as well as years of Prednisone use.

Because of AVN, I’m wearing Danskos now. My job requires me to be on my feet and moving, and I have never been one to sacrifice my personal life because of Behcet’s. So, I have to wear Danskos to protect the bones from further injury or decomposition. Danskos are not pretty, and they are certainly not unique. They do not come in fashionable heels, and they do not come in styles that can easily be worn on a night out.

I am happy to do what I can to protect my foot, but my shoes were something that I very much considered part of my very personal identity. Now, I’m left to wonder what to do with them. I have a closet full of shoes that I will most likely not be able to wear again. Getting rid of them seems awful, almost like giving up, but seeing them every morning as I get dressed, reminding me of the sacrifices that I have made, may be more masochism than I can handle.