Twenty-five years ago, I had surgery on both my feet to remove arthritis that attacks the joints in your big toes. Its Latin name means “stiff toe” and it’s genetic. Two of my aunts had the same problem. DNA being what it is, I inherited it. I seem to have inherited everything.

The problem hit me in my late 30s. I was taking dance classes and all my joints swelled up. It turned out to be rheumatoid arthritis, so I figured my feet were part of the same issue. My RA has always been mild and intermittent. It’s the spinal osteo-arthritis — the result of the spine surgery I had when I was 19 — that hit me hard and continued to get worse.

When the swelling in my joints went down, my feet didn’t get better. Finally I went to an orthopedic guy and it took him about five seconds to diagnose the problem. Hallux rigidus. Not rare. Sometime inherited, sometimes from overuse of the joint. I didn’t have time to deal with it and decided to let it wait.

Fifteen years later, walking had become difficult. You’d be surprised at how important your big toe is to walking comfortably. I could go the surgical route (which the doctor was very much in favor of because there was big money in joint-replacement surgery) and have the joints in my big toes replaced. The only toe joints they had then (there have been huge improvements since) were plastic. Sturdy plastic, but under the right circumstances, breakable. Garry and I were both taking riding lessons. I had a vision of me jumping off the horse and crushing one or or both of my plastic toe joints.

I said “No thanks, I’ll live with it.”

And this was the condominium

Ten years further down the road, it was hard to walk. I had to do something. I had a new doctor. He gave me cortisone shots. The first shots worked very well. I got a good four or five months of relief. The second injection got me about half that amount of time. The third one, the doctor said it would be the last. It wasn’t working and I was going to have to give in and go for the surgery. There was good news, though. Instead of replacing the toe joints, they would remove the arthritis. Literally cut it away from the bone.

“Will the arthritis grow back? How long will this last?” I asked.

“Twenty years. Probably longer,” he said. The best thing about this treatment was I would have my own joints. No plastic.

“Well,” I thought, “In 25 years, I’ll be too old to care.” Who knew?

Usually surgery was done on one foot at a time so you could get around on crutches, but I was working and didn’t have time for two surgeries or the healing each would require. We lived in a triple-decker condominium in Boston, so I would have to go up and down the stairs on my butt.

Which is what I did. My computer room was on the second floor with the kitchen, dining area and living room on the first floor and our huge bedroom (bath and walk-in closet included) on the top floor. Both my feet healed in about three weeks. Ah, youth!

Recently, I noticed my toes were swollen. I thought it was from the heart surgery. This morning, when I woke up and both feet were throbbing, I realized I had outlived the surgery of 25 years ago. The arthritis had come back. That’s why my toes are swollen.

It turns out your body is like your house. There’s no such thing as fixing something “permanently.” Sooner or later, it has to be done again.

It turns out, you never get too old to care.

Categories: #Health, Anecdote, Arthritis, Getting old, House and home, Humor, Life

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14 replies

  1. I’m sorry Marilyn❤. It’s cause you a lot of pain.


    • Thank you for you kind thoughts. It isn’t nearly as bad now as it was the first time around and I probably am not going to do anything about it. I’m not up for surgery of any kind. I’ve had more than enough. Compared to the other things bothering me, this is more annoying than really painful.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It must be tough Marilyn. My motto in life is to get fixed what can be fixed. I hope there’s an easy fix for this one too.


    • I’ve gotten a lot of me fixed which is why I’m not doing anything about this. I don’t do any significant walking anymore so it’s not nearly as important as it was 25 years ago. It’s more annoying than painful. Mostly, I was commenting on how things come back just like you appliances wear out. It’s that cycle going round and round.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m sorry, Marilyn. Sadly, we in our “golden years” are discovering that it’s more like fool’s gold.


  4. I’m sorry to hear this! Who knew 25 years would creep up on you like that? I’ve been having foot issues beyond the badly broken toe I’m recovering from. Mine is a result of ballet, toe shoes, and wearing highhigh heels a LOT. And getting old, of course. I am going to pretend nothing is wrong which I’m really good at. So far, epsom salt soaks are helping.


    • I gave myself all KINDS of reasons, including high heels (I used to really love them). They account for the heel spurs, but sadly, the toes are a different issue. Ballet would probably do it. Humans weren’t meant to stand on tippy toes while leaping into the air. And it could be inherited.

      Regardless, get it checked out. There may be something they can do to fix it easily or at least make it hurt less. I haven’t had mine checked out because I’ve got so much else wrong with me, I’m afraid what else they might find.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I went to a great podiatrist but not for this issue, it was my broken toe that I had misdiagnosed as extensor tendonitis because I think I have an MD without attending medical school. Now I will go back with this new issue but only after I’ve spent a bit more time in denial. I hear ya about not wanting to know what else they find!


        • I you spent a lot of time on your toes, it may very well BE the same thing from a different cause. It CAN be fixed and I have to tell you, even with it coming back, I got a solid 25 years of reasonable comfort from the surgery and even though it’s back, it’s not nearly as bad as it was when I had it “fixed” the first time. You need an orthopedist, though, not a podiatrist. It’s very easy to diagnose and it’s possible they can deal with it via arthroscopic surgery which would make it a piece of cake to fix. I’ll check with my doctor when the COVID mess eases — if that ever happens. I haven’t wanted to deal with anything that isn’t “life or death” because there’s such an overload. AND my doctor’s older partner retired, so he’s carrying a 2-doctor load and this really doesn’t seem quite urgent enough.

          Life is so MESSY, you know?

          Liked by 1 person

          • I will def get a referral to an orthopedic surgeon thank you, but I have two sets of stairs in this trilevel I’ve lived in for 36 yrs and it will be too dangerous to try and get up and down the stairs. If it could be relatively easily fixed with a simple arthroscopic surgery, I might think about it. But as you know, I don’t have a Garry…


            • Garry didn’t carry me and there was no way he could help me with the stairs, so I did it on my butt. I don’t know if I could do it now, but at the time, WE were in a tri-level condo. One reason we left is because we knew we wouldn’t be able to deal with those stairs forever. We were already getting tired and when we went to the bedroom at night, we made sure to carry EVERYTHING we might need with us.

              I was right and I doubt either of us could do that on a daily basis. Hell, I couldn’t do it at all. You might want to consider that — or maybe save money for a stair climber IF your stairs will fit one. We all get older. A lot of stairs gets to be too much, whether we like it or not.

              Liked by 2 people

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