I shut my eyes firmly and through gritted teeth muster a weak, “you can do this.” I’m in some twisted out-of-body experience watching myself push a shiny needle into my stomach, forcing the medicine deep into the fat. I could feel the liquid searing pathways through every layer of skin and a lightheadedness begins to creep behind my eyes. “Snap out of it, this is just the beginning.” One down, 13 more to go.
I’ve had four surgeries in two years. Three out of the four weren’t terrible. There were difficulties sure, both mental and physical (sometimes excruciatingly mental) but it was pretty easy to see the minuscule improvements in my body. You’d think the last and final one would be a walk in the park— pun intended. “It’s fine,” I’d tell people, “it’s practically a routine by now.”
I’m at the final stage of changing my life forever, or one would hope because the first two surgeries didn’t work quite so well. Since I was 14 years old, I’ve had a throbbing hot pain at the bottom of my feet and as I grew older, the pain became agonizing, gradually traveling all the way to my knees, hips, and shoulders, forming deeply rooted knots all throughout. The chronic pain became all I would think about, my life having to revolve around it as I had little to no control over my circumstance. It was debilitating and in not having anyone to blame, I’d channel my frustration and anger inwards, it just wasn’t fair my body was faulty physiologically… why me? I felt envy for people with high arches and at times attempted to live the “high” life by putting myself in situations that would result in unbearable pain for days. But I’m young and how often would I get to go to a music festival? Or dance all night in uncomfortable heels in grubby and sweaty bars (exhilarating, I know). “You should try icing your feet,” people would tell me, “trust me,” I’d say, “I’ve done it all.”
Ice, heating pads, steroid injections, wax treatments, acupuncture, massages, electric therapy, physical therapy, stretches, you name it.
So, of course, surgery was the last and final option. The first one was difficult, yes, because my immobility led me to believe I was trapped and at the will of others. That’s how I learned I was a social person, more than the average individual. But within a few weeks of voicing my fear to loved ones, I felt surrounded and deeply cared for— that’s also how I found out who were my “ride or die(s?).” Now I’m at the last surgery, and quite frankly it’s become one of the most harrowing experiences of my life.
It all began with a medical aid that poked me aggressively one too many times, and if you know me well, one of the few phobias I have are needles. In college, there was a plasma center that would pay students to “donate” a certain amount of blood a few times a week, and it seemed like a lucrative option at the time. Practically free money. It wasn’t much and surely not something I’d do today, but at the time it was enough chump change to treat myself to the local Thai spot or to purchase a cute top from the Urban Outfitters on the corner. I was indifferent to needles, until one particular Friday night when I decided to take it easy and donate plasma rather than drink senselessly. The clinic was empty and I placidly walked in carrying a book as I envisioned those 30 minutes to be pleasant and even relaxing. I was hooked up and jabbed with a massive needle (that now looking back, it shocks me that I didn’t hate it much earlier). Within 10 minutes my body began to sweat and the life was just draining out of me. If you’ve ever fainted, you’ll know it isn’t particularly painful, in fact, it’d be a nice way to go… you just kind of fade away and shut down. But apparently, it’s highly dangerous to faint with a needle inside of you, and one of the many machines I was hooked to unleashed wildly high-pitched beeps that sent my nerves into a spiral. I began to panic and within seconds there were nurses all over me placing ice packs in sensitive parts of my body. One nurse began to talk to me and tell me to open my eyes, wake up he’d say with a firm but gentle tone. With time my body began to warm up again and my vision became less speckled with black dots. Long story short, after I was better I was kicked out and asked to not return again. I didn’t even get paid that night.
So, after a shit experience like that, what’s worse than having to force me, a nervous mess around needles, to stab myself with one daily. And if I don’t, I risk getting a blood clot and well… I’d rather not know how that can be worse than feeling all of this.
I won’t get into the details of the compounded shit feeling of being bound to a chair and feeling your body lose absolute control, even primal/automatic functions; all the while your loved ones are watching you writhe in pain with anguished looks. Silver lining? Soon I’ll be able to climb into 4-inch heels and feel no pain ever again. As a friend comically says, “how many feets do you have?”
Anyways, Happy New Year and all that happy talk. And remember that sometimes just getting up to brush your teeth or change your clothes can be an accomplishment too.