The Bunion Bugle: Stage One

Were Heels Like These The Cause? Or Was It Genetic?Here come a series of posts regarding bunion surgery. I had the Scarf, Akin and Weil’s procedures to the bunion and the second toe. It’s not a pretty subject but the few blogs I found on it helped me enormously; that is, in deciding whether to go through with the operation and then to help me afterwards.

Here’s my very personal view, then, to add to what’s already out there. Which ain’t much. It’s not meant to be encyclopaedic. There’s Google searches and medical sites for that.


I had a bunion operation a week ago today. And, to be strictly correct, a toe operation at the same time. No, I am not 83. I type this in bed with a laptop balanced to the left of four stacked pillows. On the right, my bandaged right foot is resting on said stack, higher than my heart. I’ll spare you a picture of this. To get to this point, and to see such an odd view, it’s been a strange Bunion Pilgrimage.

I’d had the bunion for quite some years but it was now knifing, jabbing and stabbing away at me at night, especially after those days when I’d had to walk more than five metres. Shopping trips were agony; walking the dog unbearable. Soft shoes from the ‘comfy’ ranges were becoming my only viable option. Longing to leave events way before they were over, simply because my own feet were attacking me, was common.

I’d mostly kept schtum about the growing, nagging lump on my foot, knowing if I mentioned it, the word bunion tended to provoke either a horrified (eeuuww!), revolted (la la, la la! TMI!), amused or derisory response. The name, bunion, for something that looks like a little onion, seriously needs a rethink. It’s clearly had poor press and image-management over the years, hence the impressions we have of it. There might be more sympathy or concern, and less ridiculous reactions, if it were called metatarsosis or something, it being a problem with the metatarsal bones of the foot. And it sounds such an innocuous, innocent, almost trivial thing.

A Film-Star Quality, Impressive Bunion

Yet it was becoming an agonising intrusion into my life. At my next doctor’s check-up and, regardless of my previous hesitation, I decided to mention my painful bunion. At this point, I had very little knowledge of bunion treatment, assuming (as it seems I tend to do, despite knowing never to assume anything) that it would mean an ointment, or a swift trip to a chiropodist, a quick scrape with some mysterious implement and a stitch or two at most. I mean, if this had been my OH’s or child’s bunion, I would have been doing all the research going as soon as the thing appeared. But when it comes to me and my health, fear of the unknown keeps me in blissful denial.

She looked at my feet, said ‘Ooh, yes, quite a large one! And a small one on the left!’, turned to her computer and, with no further ado, said: ‘Now, where do you want it done?’, read off a list of local hospitals, told me the nearest hospital would mean a wait of many months and recommended Care UK for their short waiting list, successful results and efficiency.

Before I could step (sorry) on the research gas and thoroughly Google bunions, I had a couple of busy weeks and then an appointment with an Orthopaedic Surgeon – clearly, Health & Safety now means that a chiropodist isn’t enough, I thought, blithely – at Care UK (based at King George’s Hospital, Goodmayes, Essex). One thing I had heard was that these buniony buggers were all different creatures and could have different treatments. Sometimes other toes/parts of the feet were involved.

I met my first live Bunion Pilgrim (surgery victim) as soon as I’d parked at Care UK, and spotted a woman being pushed by her husband towards the entrance  in a wheelchair.  From her pained expression and bandaged foot in a giant velcro shoe, I astutely reckoned she’d had some kind of foot surgery. We got chatting in the waiting room and I asked which kind, expecting the answer: ‘complete foot transplant’.

A World-Famous Bunion

‘Bunion,’ she said, smiling bravely through the tears. This was the point where the penny began to drop that there was probably a great deal more to this innocent-sounding bunion business than I’d assumed. It turned out she’d had a simple bunion done, no other toes, ‘just the one neat scar’ and that they’d borrowed a wheelchair for the early weeks. Ah. Really? Resisting the urge to hot-foot it out of there (sorry, again), I decided, with her raving recommendation of  both excellent surgeon and treatment, to stick around and at least give this butcher, oops, no, surgeon a fair chance.

Mr. Fabulous (as I nicknamed him – my OH is sick of hearing about how handsome this Hungarian surgeon is) turned out to be most reassuring, certain that surgery would bring the pain relief I’d been silently screaming for and he suggested he fix the right foot before the lesser-bunioned, and so far painless, left. Once he’d explained what that involved, i.e. three separate procedures, bones broken and altered, screwed and stapled, I admit my utter relief when he said: ‘Of course, these procedures will all be under General Anaesthesia…’  Just as well. I was awake for a 17-stitch facial skin cancer operation under local anaesthetic last year but at least I couldn’t see that. The thought of an accidental peep revealing a foot operation in all its dubious glory didn’t bear thinking about.

Prior to this and the doctor’s appointment, I had honestly not thought to look it up as I’d naively thought it would simply involve shaving the lump off the foot in chiropody-type stylie! All I could think at this time is that it was going to be worth any procedure to be pain-free at last. And my doctor had warned me – virtually waving a finger – that, now it was painful, it would only get worse. So, pained woman in wheelchair, heavier surgery than imagined, or not, I was ready for long-term relief, better walks and shopping, maybe even more sleep.

Mr. Fabulous knew exactly what needed doing, ensured my OH would be able to drive me home from the procedure and help at home afterwards, asked if I had any questions – he was clearly unaware that I was too disarmed by his looks, charm, accent and efficiency to think of any, on top of which I was still absorbing all the shock information – and sent me off to have an x-ray. After further checks with nurses, I was back at the car with the appointment date of 13 August, two weeks from that day.

Again, there were a couple of busy weeks but, three days before the op, I thought to Google bunions. I found a few useful sites and blogs (see Stage Two post where I’ve listed them at the end), some gruesome Youtube videos that I quickly halted while reaching for a bucket, some forums with questions and possible answers from other Bunion Pilgrims.  And royally freaked myself out. I was only too glad then that I was having a General Anaesthetic.

From my research, I also came to realise that there could be a longer recovery period than we’d thought. Reports varied between six weeks and a year. The woman in the Pet Shop had been a Bunion Pilgrim and survived, though she told me, helpfully: ‘there’s billions of nerves in the foot, you know.’ We spent the weekend before the op doing housework like I was never going to be able to operate a washing-machine or Hoover again – and as though my OH would also be incapable. Now, I almost wish we’d done more, such as freeze some meals or decorate a bit, like you do before a baby arrives.

By the day of the operation, I was in two minds. Should I cancel out of fear and wimpyness or go ahead while feeling like a woman condemned? I used my labour-breathing on the way to the hospital and decided to fix my mind on the long-term, pain-free view. Stage One of the Bunion Pilgrimage was over.

Stage 2 follows soon…

Pictures:;;;;; and

The famous bunions belonged to: Victoria Beckham and Tilda Swinton


About Tessa Tangent

I write and I often go off at tangents. Tessa Tangent's my nickname and, at home, I'm called Tessa more than I am my real name, Heather. In the 90s, I had short stories published in magazines like Ludus and For Women. I also won a cherished second prize in a BBC travel writing competition, was the writer of a newsletter for a dry ski slope and had a newspaper article about the slope published. At the same time, I wrote half a first draft of a novel then, for reasons I may reveal, I stopped writing. After a long fallow period, I am writing again - and not a moment too soon...
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12 Responses to The Bunion Bugle: Stage One

  1. roundpeg22 says:

    Heather! What a fantastically informative blog. I had no idea of the gravity of the situation surrounding bunions. My Grandmama had one which was mightily sore. You’ve told the first part of your story with humour and I can’t wait for part two. I wonder why my Papa always referred to pickled onions as pickled bunions? Strange but true! Wishing you a very speedy and painfree recovery going forward much love Neets xxx

    • Aww, that’s lovely. Thanks for taking time to read my post and for your good wishes. It’s a grim subject but *someone’s* got to crash through the frontiers and blog about it! Thanks for helping me see that the sooner I got back to writing, the better pain relief and distraction I would get! Love & e-hugs, Hevs xxxx

  2. Viv says:

    Many such things are horribly painful and much derided. I suppose the worst of all would be piles.
    I think the idea that something is self inflicted(which actually is not especially so in either case) is bandied around and gives people the idea that they can somehow withhold sympathy.
    Because of my loose joints, my toes have a tendency to strain the joints.
    Sending lots of love and whatnot.

    • Ah, thanks, Viv. I guess it’s not unless you know someone who’s had the condition that anyone knows much about these things. I had no idea either that there was such a thing as loose joints. Have you written about that? That must be painful, too. I’m dealing with each day while incarcerated/bandaged/leg-up etc but so looking forward to this time next year when things *should* have improved!
      Love, TT xx

      • Viv says:

        It’s what’s called hypermobility sydrome and yes, it can be very painful. I can do myself damage easily without realising because my tendons etc are too long and allow too much movement. My spine can bend in ways that you usually associate with Olga Korbett. I’ve slipped a few discs in my time as well as dislocate things and have to put them back myself. Thankfully I have learned to not do the things that can create damage; most sports, dancing, keep fit classes and even (or especially) yoga can result in damage. It makes life tough sometimes because people don’t understand. It also makes keeping the weight off harder. I had to give up road running when a 6km run resulted in hip joints feeling somewhat displaced. But it does make for amusing party tricks if I am drunk enough….

      • You see? Yet another thing I’ve never heard of. Unless something happens to you, or you know someone, we tend to be quite unaware of what can happen to our bodies/minds. That must be hard to live with. But I wouldn’t mind seeing your drunken party tricks. LOL 🙂

  3. Janet O'Kane says:

    If anyone had told me I’d be so interested in a blog post about feet I would have scoffed! But I was, though I’m also in awe of your ability to find humour in something so painful. I’ve got hammer toes on both feet (my mother was vigilant in ensuring my shoes were big enough but I can remember squeezing my feet into very tight cotton socks – ah, those pre-lycra days). About 20 years I looked into having my toes corrected, but the prospect of having them broken then held flat with the insertion of pieces of metal, like meat on a kebab, convinced me to leave well alone.
    Am looking forward to part 2. Don’t suppose you have any pics of Mr Fabulous?

    • Thanks so much, Janet. Ah, yes, in my bunion researches, I also found out about hammer toes. I think, unless it’s very very painful and causing problems on a daily basis, I would leave any of this foot stuff well alone! I had a toe sorted as part of the procedure but I don’t think it was a hammer toe, although I believe a screwdriver was involved…

      Perhaps when I have my 6-week appointment with Mr. Fabulous, I shall cunningly ask him to pose with my scars (whilst focussing the camera only on him). Sadly – sigh – I don’t have a picture of him atm. OH is sick of him! 🙂

      Again thanks, TT xx

  4. Hi Tessa, it’s such a shock at how serious the surgery is, isn’t it? And full recovery takes up to a year – but so worth it. Oh and my surgeon was very fit and quite good looking (also very cocky!) – must go with the territory 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my blog. Cheers, Lily

    • Hi Lily, thanks so much for commenting. Your blog was a great help and reassurance to me. Yes, I know it’s lesser than childbirth but longer lasting and my shock was immense! I’ve kind of written off the idea that I’ll be utterly comfortable in stylish, fitted shoes and running about with the dog for around a year, so I’m lucky I can simply learn to be patient! Funny about the dashing surgeons, too. 🙂 All the best.

  5. I’m reading this whole saga right the way through because come Dec 5th I’ll be following in your footsteps (if you’ll pardon the expression) I too have been suffering with this seemingly-comical affliction to the point where I now can’t wear anything on my feet but slippers and have gone up two shoe sizes if I need to go out. I can’t thank you enough for all this information.

    • Thanks, Cameron, you’re welcome. I’m glad you’ve found it useful. I’ve also listed at the end of Stage Two some other bunion blogs I found helpful.

      The winter months are when we are less likely to suffer the resentment about not going out much and the cabin fever, though be prepared for it and invite others to see and talk to. Crucial… The shoe sizes possibly won’t go down straight away – those biker boots may be in the cupboard for a while yet. But I hope they’ll fit when it’s time for those glorious summer rides! 🙂

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