The Bunion Bugle: An Update

Playing Footsie

Shoes I Miss

Shoe Target for Next Summer

With this thankfully shorter post, I would just love to say that I am firmly registered for the 2013 London Marathon, have joined the local ramblers club and am taking part in a sponsored fun-run or two.

Yes, I would love to say that but the truth is not quite as impressive. I’ve signed up for nothing but aiming for some glorious longer walks with the dog and my OH. I’ve not even tried on a trainer. Prior to the bunion surgery, I was an utter coward when it came to fun-runs and the like, and there’s probably no reason on God’s good earth for me to change my predilections now.

Having overcome my initial hesitation over writing about the frankly unappealing subject of my bunion – I mean, I was under no illusions that people might think mmm-mmm-mmm, I simply must bookmark this bunion woman’s blog – I did write about it and have received some truly heartwarming feedback, some from bunion-sufferers and some from the uninitiated (as yet). Thank you so much to those who’ve commented and shared their own bunion pilgrimages.

Mind the Drop - Pic: trialx.com

Mind the Drop – Pic: http://www.trialx.com

A few recent comments reminded me that it might be worth updating my small but select crowd of readers with recent news.

First, I must say that I no longer see Mr. Fabulous, the surgeon (gutted – I may have to have the other foot done) and neither do I attend any physio sessions.

I’m pleased to report that, at 16 weeks post-op, I’m having no pain, unless I forget the distance from the foot-plate of a Chevy Suburban (pictured) to the ground. Forgetting that it’s at least half a metre higher than from an ordinary car and stepping swiftly out with the ‘bad’ foot leading, I suddenly heard a blood-curdling screech. The screech came from me. Swear? Passing troopers were saluting me.

Bone On Rug = Fine. Bone Under Rug = Agony and Trip Hazard.

Bone On Rug = Fine. Bone Under Rug = Agony.

It’s best to be alert. I have to keep watching the floor as walk. Otherwise I find I’m inclined to forget that the dog has a habit of burying his bones under the rug in the front room. Or that standing on a Bonio biscuit on the kitchen tiles can, for the post-op sensitive big toe, cause it to bend sharply and suddenly upwards thereby causing a slight screaming bout from said toe’s owner. Thankfully, these small but unforgettable events have been rare.

There is more ache than pain, more discomfort than the earlier agony, and usually that is because I’ve crammed my feet into, say, my narrower boots (on a shopping expedition) or walked further than usual. Dog-walks are becoming a joy again. Harry will feature further in this post, for all the wrong reasons.

Shoes? I must admit I’m still playing fairly safely here. It’s been cold, so I use the Ugg boots for dog-walks and Crocs indoors. However, I have tried out some other footwear and, as Di commented, for the most part they all make my own Bigfoot feel a tad squashed. I was delighted when I could wear my favourite old pumps with no unsightly bunion sticking up.

Look. No Unsightly Lump.

Look. No Unsightly Lump.

You will easily see that these are indeed my favourite pumps; the pictures illustrate how Harry the dog has bitten a chunk off the suede frill. He only ever chews up my favourite things: my favourite books; my favourite pen; my  favourite socks, etc. And so it was only natural that he should take his teeth to my favourite, ladylike pump shoes. It’s all right, though, I have an orange – yes, orange – un-chewed pair in the same design. Roll on summer.

Driving was, I found, easier than I’d thought and a sheer pleasure. Pleasing because, once I found I could achieve forward, left, right and back (the first time, I was with my OH) the chains that cabin fever had strewn around me dropped away. I was terrified that an emergency-brake would cause total toe dislocation, or the dislodging of a screw or staple. I can report that all ironmongery has stayed put, as far as I can tell – though don’t let’s mention the screws in my head. There was some slight discomfort but I drove in the Ugg boots, so was well padded against any sudden need for pressure.

Exercises were limited to pulling on the toes and trying to stand on the toes, as directed by my  surgeon, and walking as often as possible. Sitting here at my desk, I can do the pressing-down-on-tip-toes thing while typing. I gather it’s worth carrying on with this kind of exercise for a while and Di, who has commented on the Stage 7 post, kindly sent me this link for Exercising After Bunion Surgery.

Scars Not Too Awful

Scars Not Too Awful

As for the scars, they are fading fast. I do sometimes rub some Bio Oil in them and I doubt they will be a simple white line for another few months or more. However, as you can see, they are hardly noticeable in my lowest-cut pumps and, let’s face it, I was never going to be a foot model in any case.

I’ve joked above about possibly going for further surgery on the other foot. This was, I repeat, a joke; an understandable, imaginary ruse to catch just one more sighting of Mr. Fabulous, the surgeon.

But Weil, Akin and Scarf* procedures (and similar bunionectomies) are not surgery to be undertaken lightly or at all, I think, unless someone is suffering horribly from bunion pain. The cabin fever alone, I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Post-op pain was difficult to bear. My bunion was painless and didn’t grow much for years. But, like the deep skin cancer I had removed last year, it crept  up insidiously, becoming hideously bulbous. As it grew, it became more painful and the pain moved about from the bunion itself to the ball of my foot. I would find myself wincing with each step and looking out for handy benches on which to sit, feeling much older than I was.

Now that the surgery has settled, I may sometimes ache, or feel slight discomfort, after a longish traipse round Tesco or the nearby lanes, fields and woods, but it’s nothing like the pain that assaulted me on similar expeditions this time last year.

Where OH, Harry and I Walk...

Where OH, Harry and I Walk…

So, for me, it was surgery worth having. I still assert my right to affirm that none of this means I’m up for the latest fun-run, group-ramble or marathon. Never was – okay, apart from that school walk, 26 miles in 1974, and my vital current walking with the OH and Harry, the chomping dog – never will be. Just don’t ask. It’ll never be my latest news. From now on, I cross my fingers in the hopes that the left foot bunion stays small and painless.

I’d love to hear from all those who got in touch about their own experiences, those who are  considering the same surgery and any other interested party – I’ve befriended or discovered a few treasures in that way. That’s other than all the foot fetishists who’ve been in touch via blog or Twitter since I’ve been running these posts. Thanks for your comments and invitations but, no, I’m not interested in playing footsie.

* sounds like a city law firm

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Posted in Health, The Bunion Bugle: Stages Through Surgery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Bunion Bugle: Stage Seven

It’s Over, Mr. Fabulous

Day 50:

Care UK Goodmayes – Where The Bunion Op Took Place And The End of The Mr. Fabulous Pilgrimage Trail

You’ll have to excuse me for a moment while I have a quick weep. It’s probably for the best but I saw Mr. Fabulous, my handsome Hungarian Orthopaedic Surgeon, for the last time yesterday.

This, of course, was quite a surprise to me (gutted) although he did mention that he could arrange to see patients for a check in another six weeks but he felt that I should be okay and could call to see him again if need be. Don’t, just don’t tempt me! Well, he may be taken away from me but I’ll always have my memories. I am winking extremely heavily here, you understand.

Over The Last Week:

  • I’ve wanted to try walking with the Darco Shoe of Death off my foot and firmly out of sight. When I’ve tried this, I found I was walking on the outside edge of my foot, as the ball and first two toes are still quite swollen. There was (and still is, as I type) a tight, swollen, puffed feeling as I walk, as though I have a full, mini hot-water bottle strapped to my foot. Plus, I was terrified of agony if I actually dared put my foot down flatter. I’ve developed an odd limpy walk but, hurrah, I can walk!
  • I’ve been to the deer park with my OH and Harry the dog, each time venturing further – that’s with both Darco and crutches. The most I’ve walked is about 200 metres over grass. I am now fairly confident that, although it’s not what I’d call comfortable, I could walk to the nearest bus-stop. At home, I’ve used one crutch or gone without, only on the stairs.
  • Sleep, stairs, clothing, baths and showers presented no real problem. Actually, stairs: minus the giant shoe, I found I could mount the stairs one step and one foot at a time, as pre-op. But going down is another thing and I still have to place both feet on each step. I do still sleep so that the scar side is upwards and, by kicking the duvet around a bit with the good foot, I create a tent with no weight going on that foot. I’ve hardly used painkillers at all this last week. But see below, accidents.
  • What presented a problem was accidents. These taught me valuable lessons. In future, beware the crashing into the edge of the open door, thereby bending first two toes up in the process and nearly causing a hole in the ceiling. Beware also OH opening a kitchen cupboard right by your foot in future. A sudden whack generally brings a tearfully brave few minutes and throbbing pain for the day and possibly the night. Accidents mean that I’m becoming more aware generally, of anywhere my foot might be at any given time. I’ve kept painkillers handy. And they sometimes have been.

Standing – This Did Not Hurt

  • I have cooked, cleaned, used the hoover and generally had a go at all the homemaking skills I’ve always been rubbish at anyway. Just for the sheer heck of doing something. Although I will emphasise here that my OH has been fantastic in this department and I can’t recommend enough to you the importance of having some help – and particularly from someone with enduring patience, excellent and careful driving skills and a deep appreciation of takeaways.
  • I’ve read about other Bunion Pilgrims who’ve gone back to work at 3 days or some such and admired their pluck but I don’t think I could have returned to my old job at that point, unless they could have stood a librarian recommending books whilst wincing tearfully. My old job was all standing, although they would have had to provide facilities and make allowances/changes in my duties until standing all day again was an option.
  • Luckily, although I’d love to have a part-time job outside the home, I’m able to work on my current novel at home. This last week, I’ve tried to ignore Twitter by various cunning means, and just got on with it. Anyway, it took my mind off the looming appointment with Mr. Fabulous.
  • I wondered about and researched physio. It seems it’s again a case of different strokes for different bunion folks.
  • There have been more errands, shopping trips and appointments – delightfully chauffeured to all of them by OH, who had to take time out of work to do so. After most new walking distances or experiences outside, my foot has been more painful in the evening or during the night.
  • Tried out different shoes, and mostly failed although I think I might try Ugg boots for autumn. I’ve settled on Crocs a size too large for now – and even they feel tight and squeeze my poor foot. I might buy a pair two sizes too big. The Bio Oil is also going down fast as the foot remains very dry. I think the extra movement and circulation now should help that.
  • Have something in common with Nigella Lawson. I’ve weighed myself this week and have found, like Nigella (no, am not a domestic goddess, ha), I’ve lost weight simply because I couldn’t be faffed to go to the fridge for food/snacks/chocolate and had little appetite whilst sitting about doing bugger-all but read or write. It’s equally connected, I’m certain, with stopping my weight-gain side-effect anti-depressants but that’s for another post.

So! Yesterday arrived and, after the shock of finding that Mr. Fabulous wasn’t quite as handsome as I’d been fantasising but very much more charming, he was able to tell me that all the above is quite normal. Further, I could cast aside the Darco and probably could have done last week! He said, in his deliciously fruity accent, that it was ‘only really necessary for the first six weeks’. Hmm. I was then glad I’d kept it off at home last week as much as I could.

Not Pretty But That Line Should Whiten and Barely Show In A Year

All the scarring and swelling was normal, he said, and then we looked at the x-rays, before and after. I’m afraid I was still too ridiculously in awe of him to ask if I could photograph the x-rays but on his computer screen I could see that I had indeed had a very large bunion. I have one on the left foot but smaller and painfree, for now. Now the ironmongery: there’s a staple at the base of my big toe, two screws in the foot-bone beneath the scar, and a screw at the base of the second toe. Now I know where to stick my pins if I ever take up an enthusiasm for needlework.

I could, Mr. Fabulous went on, now begin to explore my small world afresh. So long, cabin fever, I thought. He mentioned 3/4 months post-op as the time I will probably feel ‘back to normal’. I said I thought this time next year, everything will be normal. Mr. Fabulous laughed out loud and said ‘but of course!’ I imagined pain-free shopping trips and dog-walks at that moment. He also said I could try driving when I felt like it, walk more and more every day, gradually get accustomed to trying to walk with my foot as flat as I can to the floor. At the moment, my toes and inner ball of the foot won’t even touch the floor. But they will.

And physio? What physio? I understand from other blogs that people can have it but Mr. Fabulous told me to carry on doing what I’m doing now. Twitching. And trying to move the toes back and forth. I gathered the best exercise is simply walking about more.

Neither did he recommend any particular shoes. I’d taken my Crocs with me and he felt they were fine for now. Mary from www.bunionsurvivor.com had this past week given me some good shoe ideas and I’m sure I’ll find something. Luckily I don’t have to undertake any modelling assignments for the moment.

And in those few precious minutes with Mr. Fabulous, I also came to accept that I’ll probably never revive my ambitions in the ballet department, nor is it likely that I’ll ever wear a pair of Jimmy Choo’s shoes. Still, I comfort myself with the thought that the latter is more about cost than ability or high-heel skills. Ah. It was probably those that started this whole thing off.

So, Mr. Fabulous is happy to see me again when (and only when, as far as I’m concerned) my left foot’s bunion becomes too painful to bear but otherwise is happy to let me go. Our farewell was full of gratitude (from me) and probably relief (from him – I talked his head off). There were no tears, no anguish, no Kleenex needed. Just the thankful recognition that, at last, I have no bunion and am well on the way to achieving what looks and feels pretty much like the average foot.

The Darco Shoe of Death I could happily hurl into the nearest flaming pit but there aren’t many of those in Collier Row, unless you count the nearest pub. The crutches? I’ve held on to one – to use as a walking stick on my first outings with the dog or as something to fend off vicious trolleys with in Tesco. I’m looking forward to relative freedom again, no cabin fever (OH wipes sweat off brow) and finding a cool shoe I can live with.

I shall miss writing about my fantasy surgeon in this blog but he will crop up again in another form. Yes, he was sent to me for a purpose. I’ve already given him a part in the current novel. So it’s goodbye and hello. But a literal fantasy figure he remains.

Foot Mostly Down, The Toes Are Up. But There’s Great Potential – And NO Bunion!

My reality is better than that. I’m very lucky. You see, in my long-enduring, ever-amazing, adorable, hilarious, unique OH, I already have the ideal man for me. And he loves me, imperfect and limpy and scarred, as I am.

Ahh… I do love a happy ending.

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Good luck to anyone going through bunion surgery and this process of recovery. I may well report back in, at around the 3/4 month stage when the foot should be almost fully recovered, according to Mr. Fab.

In my Stage One blogpost on the bunion subject, I said that the bunion had a poor public (laughing-stock) image. If I write about it again in the future, I’m going to refer to a bunion as a ‘buntino’. I rather like the sound of that.

Thanks to all who’ve told me how much they’ve enjoyed checking into this blog and to all those who’ve commented. Right now, as my world begins to open up again, I need to write about something else…

Posted in Health, Relationships, The Bunion Bugle: Stages Through Surgery, Uncategorized, Weight Issues | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

The Bunion Bugle: Stage Six

The Darco Nightmare, Jimmy Choo Fantasy And The Ethel Reality

Foot At Day 40 Post Op

Still Not Pretty But It’s Getting There

Day 40:

What with scabs and dry skin falling off (and big toenail refusing to grow much at all) and Bio Oil rubbings and foot-elevation (yep, still), this bunion op stuff remains a questionable subject. Not one for the dinner table or party, is it? But hey, I committed to talking about it on my blog and that I’ll do although there’s not much to report this week and I imagine there won’t be much more to say after I’ve seen Mr. Fabulous at 7 weeks post op.

I’m delighted to say that the pain has been almost non-existent this week, except for the odd times I’ve trodden on the ball of my foot by agonising accident, like when I tripped over the computer lead as I moved from the sofa the other day. Then I tried a mad all-of-60-metres outing with the dog (him doing a slow-march heel again) and managed to trip up a low pavement on returning to the house. So those things caused more swelling and pain the next days and I refrained from making any exciting little sorties. Well, nothing more exciting than to the kitchen or bathroom.

View From Bench

My View From Bench. Paul calling ‘Harry, come here!’ while Harry runs amok, generally in the direction of any other dogs

On Thursday evening though, almost unhinged by cabin fever, I said yes when my OH offered to take us to Bedfords Park, if only for me to watch from a safe bench as he walked the dog. Or rather as the dog went into a frenzy, running madly everywhere, while OH followed. Then we would go to the small Tesco Express to buy something for dinner that night.

At the park, I realised I hadn’t accounted for how lumpy, bumpy and full of mini-potholes grassy and woodland ground can be. For a woman with a Darco shoe, crutches and potential pain. I could only give it a go, however, and once we found a bench, I was sorted for observing other people and their well-behaved dogs, while Harry careered round madly, and the colours and states of the trees as they changed into autumnal dress. All of that was a true delight.

But Tesco was another matter. I can’t stand supermarkets but, like someone returning from holiday, I was keen to see ‘if there was anything different’.  Despite the rare enthusiasm, I still flinched every time someone hurtled mission-style towards me with a list and a trolley; I’d tense and try to fling myself to one side. This is difficult on crutches and at a hobble. Then we’d only covered about half the shop’s floor area when the foot began to hurt badly. I looked about for a handy bench or stool but there was nothing of the sort. Once again, I empathised with the elderly, injured and disabled.

So what else have I been doing? Stuck to my diet, despite the eternal temptation of the fridge when constantly at home. Seen visitors. Seen neighbours. Watched a lot of tv. Read books. Knitted. Written. Been strict (no, we haven’t ventured into BDSM). I’ve tried to be more disciplined (and I’ll do another post on my efforts there) about the internet and about working on my WiP. And, of course, counting off the days until I see Mr. Fabulous, not only because he is rather gorgeous but because he should be ordering me to finally cast off the dreaded Darco Shoe of Death.

Shoes I Miss

Nothing Flash Or Expensive But I Miss These Shoes

Mr. Fabulous (who is now a character in my WiP) had said that I would see him ‘around six weeks after’ the op and, piecing info together from the internet and information sheets I was given, I gathered that would be the time I could change from the hideous Shoe of Death to Jimmy Choos. Okay, okay, I don’t actually possess any Jimmy Choos and finances are such that I’d be lucky to simply try a pair. But I took him to mean that by then I’d at least be able to wear some fitted shoes, say, with a delicate shape and a few feminine features.

However, checking all available information, it seems that I may initially only be able to wear the kind of comfort-range shoes I’ve had no choice to wear whilst bearing up with a painful bunion! And the truly convalescent-type shoe at that. At least for a few months. And, as it turns out, I’ve received my appointment with Mr. Fabulous – for Day 49. A whole week more to tolerate the Darco shoe. So, barring any miracles, I’ll report back on that (and whether Mr. Fabulous remains so) at the time.

Nightmare Darko Shoe

The Darco Nightmare Shoe

I will mention I’ve tried to get my screwed and stapled, bionic foot into an old but pretty pump shoe and the foot simply felt crushed. I’ve also tried to put my foot flat on the floor and it won’t have any of it. It’s always slightly raised off the floor because it’s still swollen underneath and at the toes I’m just about able to twitch, whereas the healthy foot lies flat. It’s also painful to press on it. I guess it’s going to be agonising when I first start wearing ‘normal’ shoes, so perhaps it’s best to swallow any Essex-cool-pride I ever had (even Converse are too narrow) and wear something unfabulous until the foot settles down.

So I’ve looked at shoes online. At ‘comfort shoes’, no less. I have almost summoned up a shred of enthusiasm about, and nearly decided upon, the Dunlop ‘Ethel’ slipper with outdoor sole. I mean, who couldn’t be comfy, even after a bunion op, in these delightful numbers? Look. They have a stunning rubber wedge sole, a soft seamed upper, and flowers inside like my favourite pumps! They’ll so accessorize with my jeans, skirts and winter jackets! Everything goes with black! I’m sure I’ve noticed stylish women strutting about town in their Ethels!

Ethel Outdoor Slipper www.amazon.co.uk

My Post-Darco Reality: The Ethel Outdoor Slipper

Hmm. I’m willing positive thinking, here. Unsuccessfully. Yes, I can see that they’re a step up from the Darco Shoe of Death. Of course I can! And I can see that for some people these Ethels may be a fantastic blessing in (a very heavy) disguise. And I, too, could find myself actively choosing these for Christmas when I’m 70. But, right now, they’re a bit of a come-down from the Jimmy Choo fantasy. Ah, heck, I can at least try a Jimmy next year. That’s if I can make it uptown in my Ethels on public transport without being forced home owing to jeers and tomatoes from the Cool Shoe Police.

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If you swear by your Ethels, please accept my apologies for mocking your favourite footwear. I may love them when I try them! I have seriously ordered some more Crocs, in the hope that they are one shoe that will fit. Soonish. But they’re not exactly suitable for winter. Can anyone recommend just the shoe for this stage after bunion surgery? Some soft trainers, perhaps? Maybe some soft loafers or moccies? Cheers…

Posted in Health, Relationships, The Bunion Bugle: Stages Through Surgery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Bunion Bugle: Stage Five

Foot? What Foot? I’m Starring In Misery, Here!

Day 28

If you’ve been following my adventures with bunion surgery to this point, you deserve a Dedicated Reader Award. It’s all been somewhat ewww and gross, even for me and I’m writing this thing. God knows I do want to write about other things now but I’ve had some amazing feedback and felt I ought at least cover the first six weeks. I will leave the next post until after I’ve fallen at someone else’s feet, those of Mr. Fabulous, my dream leading man.

For now, it’s good to be able to tell you, and I realise I must appear wholly ungrateful sometimes, that my poorly foot seems to be turning a corner. Although I try not to turn corners too often, only very stiffly in my clumpy boot, for fear of wrecking the, uhm, masterly work of Mr. Fabulous, that real-life fantasy surgeon. Still, what’s been referred to as my bad foot is becoming a good foot.

Pain/Meds – Sleep –  HQ – Walking – Stairs – Bath – Clothing – Bedside Table

Pain/Meds and Sleep: The great news is that the pain has eased. And I see, from other blogs mentioned in The Bunion Bugle: Stage Two, it’s a common experience for the bunion surgery patient. I have been too scared of dislodging the screws and staple, or re-breaking the bones not to do things by the letter and so I’ve kept my foot elevated for a good 90% of the time. Now… I’m sure this has helped.

Peeling Back Dressing And Steri-Strips

I did as I was told and removed the last sticky dressing and the last steri-strips on Friday, four days back. It didn’t hurt to take them off and, apart from very dry skin, it all looked better than I’d expected. The still swollen toes have been described by a friend as looking ‘not so much the toes of a woman but of a hod-carrier’. Hmm. All I’ve done since then is leave the foot mostly free of covering, apart from wrapping the bandage round to protect it when wearing the awful Darco shoe/boot/fashion-nightmare.

There is still a feeling of the foot being clamped; a tightness over the skin, particularly on and around the two scars; a tingling through the toes and sole and a stiffness that means the toes can scarcely move apart from when I perform a few occasional twitching exercises, barely visible to the naked eye. This takes much effort (yes and brings a temporary return of sharp pain) for very little result. At the moment. And there is still pain and discomfort on standing or walking for more than a couple of minutes.

The Last Steri-Strips

The Last Steri-Strips Before Removal

Yet I’m no longer in pain most of the time; some discomfort, yes, some tingling and slight electrical jolts but downright pain, no. Barring careless accidents, see below. And this meant I could change my medication routine, so I’m now only taking it as necessary. Mainly at night and in the mornings and, then, only 1 Tramadol if I can.

In the last week and just after the last post, I nearly leapt through the ceiling having stood on the ball of my foot when tired and not thinking. So that time, and another, I resorted to stronger meds and doses. I’m learning my limits therefore but am generally delighted to be in far less pain and discomfort.

As a result all the other things are a little easier, too. Unless I walk too much during the day. And I never know how much is too much until I’m grabbing desperately at the painkillers to deal with the resulting payback later in the evening or night. Apart from one sleepless night and a couple of broken nights, I’ve slept through for at least 6 hours this week.

All The Other Things: Without wincing and labour-breathing all day, the peripherals are easier. Upstairs, I only use one crutch for walking. We’ve been for a couple of test runs walks, only about 50 metres away from the house and back, with two crutches each time, but it’s progress. Afterwards, my foot has throbbed but, as you’ll see from the section on cabin fever, I’m going to go crazy if I don’t get out more.

Downstairs - Porky Toes No Dressing

Downstairs – Porky Toes But No Bunion!

HQ:I’m beginning to base myself downstairs more and more (partly for the change of view and dubious tv entertainment), although it’s still simply easier to have the bedroom as a base during the day when my OH is at work. On the sofa, I’ve become expert at typing on a listing laptop with one leg raised up on a pouffe and cushions. But the laptop-on-pillows-on-bed option is easier; I merely suffer moderate back-hunch that way.

The stairs, baths and clothing: Most of this is familiar routine by now. I use one crutch on the stairs. I sit on the edge of the bath and kind of swing into it, only putting pressure on my good foot. Clothes: I’m still wearing mainly loose trousers or skirts, although, hurrah, I slid my bandaged foot through slimmish jeans and survived (but was careful not to pull toes upwards. Oww). I’m not always keeping the bandage on, however. It keeps coming off at night. For use with the Darco shoe, even though it’s not for much longer, I probably need to buy, or borrow from Paul, some unglam, loose, giant-sized socks.

Eating: Tv dinners are a must and someone to cook them an even greater must! My OH has done Trojan work in the kitchen, often cooking a hot meal, sometimes his legendary sandwiches. I’ve not always fancied much. But I know it would be a pain at the dining table. The foot would suffer if  the leg was held vertically for more than a few minutes, especially dangling down from a chair.

Red Skin Around Scar

The Skin Is Red Around The Scars

My over-capacity bedside table now also holds Bio Oil and Aqueous Cream, which I’m gingerly applying over the feet and legs. These appear to be shedding like a snake. I have absolutely no idea why but I see from other sites that it’s par for the course at this stage. The scars themselves appear to be healing well and I’m applying the oil or cream to those, too. Gross information warning: the scars are also shedding bits and pieces and it’s not just skin.

It’s all too long before I see Mr. Fabulous, my gorgeous personal foot surgeon, on the 1st October. Until then, I guess I carry on doing what I’m doing. One thing’s for sure, I can’t wait to be rid of that loathsome, clumpy Darco boot. I tried to put a shoe on the other day. Not a hope. Foot and toes too swollen to be contained in the loosest shoe. I can see my Crocs coming in useful for a while, even in autumn.

Severe Cabin Fever – My Starring Role In Misery

I was tempted to write this as a separate post as but, as it links up with what’s going on right now, I thought I’d join the two. So! Onwards to some of the side-effects of bunion surgery and the convalescence period. There was a casual, throwaway reference to it in my last post.

Misery DVD From www.spitonyourtaste.blogspot.co.uk

The Misery Cabin – Incarceration

Severe Cabin Fever (or Four Wall Frenzy/Desperation To Leave House/See Any Other Faces/Stir Craziness) has become my constant, griping companion. From my post on the bed (I swear I’ll have bedsores soon), I can see a few rooftops but there’s a fifteen-metre-wide gap between houses and the ultimate view is of Havering Country Park, where there’s a wooded hill. That’s all very pleasant. But inbetween the houses and before the woods, I can see the rear of a small local school and I used to think it sweet in September, seeing the children running about in the playground again. Now it’s utter torment.

Cabin Fever www.ehow.com

Artist’s Impression of Disgruntled Me Peering Enviously From Window

Downstairs in the sitting room, I can see from my post on the sofa anyone passing the hedge bordering our front garden and because there are no high bushes or trees outside the next few front gardens, a fairly clear view quite a way up the road. I can note all the tremendous activity. Dog-walkers fairly clipping along, riders on horses and ponies clopping along, children going back and forth to school, cars whisking by, and elderly folk, smiling and laughing in the direction of my house (they are, aren’t they?) – going about with all the freedom in the world. And that’s what I want, I cry inwardly. Our little house, yep the one I usually love to pieces and wouldn’t live anywhere else, is losing its charm by the minute. I am clearly not in my right mind.

Seeing other people has helped, when they’ve been able to drop round. I was over the moon this morning when a window-cleaner appeared at the bedroom window. Nodding towards my foot, he said: ‘that looks nasty’ and we had a bit of conversation. I was appalled I couldn’t get to the door in time when the Jehovah’s Witnesses called round last Thursday. By the time I’d opened the front door, they were over the road and five houses up. Gutted. Family and friends have been over and I’ve latched on to their news like I’ve been in solitary for months.

But one thing they don’t tell you when they’re blithely instructing you to ‘just elevate the foot for six weeks and take these drugs’ is how your relationship can suffer during this time.  Cabin fever since week three has meant that we’re performing in our very own, twisted version of the film ‘Misery’.

I Love You Paul www.comicbookmovie.com

I’m Starring As Annie Wilkes & Patient Rolled Into One

See, I’m cast as Paul Sheldon (James Caan), the writer trapped in bed to recover and forced to write blog posts (ha) but I’m near-psycho, irascible, ungrateful and bad-tempered, more like Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). A couple of nights back, I snapped at Paul, my OH, accusing him of ‘never taking me for a ride in the car’. As though I’d asked! As though he knew! Like some psychic, domestic Dynamo. That’s how the trial walks idea was mooted.

Paul stars as nursemaid (and incidental husband and cook) but, unlike Annie Wilkes, has been endlessly caring, amusing, tolerant and patient. Whilst dealing with me, the impatient patient. But, if he takes much more of my moaning about pain, whingeing about discomfort, rambling about the philosophy of pain relief, as well as the cabin fever crabbishness (‘It’s all right for you/them/him/her! Some of us can walk/drive/jog/crouch/ride a horse! And some of us can’t!’) I fear he’ll transmogrify into psycho nurse Annie, fetch the giant mallet and smash it at my foot.

Smashing The Foot - www.horrornews.net

Twisted Misery – Paul as Long Suffering Nurse/Cook/Etc – Me as Whingeing & Impatient Patient – He Was Driven To It, Your Honour

The whole scenario appears to be the effect of this almost constant incarceration (even if deliberate and for a very good, healing cause) when I’m used to being able to come and go as I wish – something I no doubt previously took for granted. And I fell for the offer of a starring role in my own little drama, Misery, Essex style. The part wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. But it doesn’t have to be like that. I don’t have to stay in the part. I’m walking hobbling away from the set. On crutches, and slowly, or not.

Paralympics – Classifications

The London Paralympics have just finished and, were I the slightest bit athletically inclined, I know this period of cabin fever (much of it spent watching the Paralympics) would have inspired me to be the best athlete I possibly could. Once I regained the use of my body again and the freedom to go wherever I liked, I’d want to train it for greater things. But I realise that many of those Paralympians have suffered for a long time, some for most of their lives, with far worse challenges than relatively small-fry bunion surgery. There wasn’t even a category of Bunion Surgery Survivors.  Those athletes had overcome and achieved so much, it was humbling.

I will commit to this. That when I can sit comfortably at my desk again, I won’t take it for granted. I love working at my desk, which overlooks the rear garden and the woods where I will soon walk again with Harry the dog.

Maddie Thompson - Wheelchair Basketball www.telegraph.co.uk

Maddie Thompson in the Wheelchair Basketball – Inspiring at 17

Right now it would be impossible (or at best ungainly) to work at the desk with my leg up. But leg-up time will march on and be over, hopefully in the next two weeks. I need to look beyond crabby cabin frenzy and to the projected result of all this. The ability to spend the rest of my life untroubled by pain when walking more than fifty metres. What a gift.

When I go back to using my desk, I’m going to work my butt off to finish the book I’m writing. And then to edit it, and redraft it, as best I can. I’ll be thankful that I can sit happily at my desk in order to do that.

And I’ll be thankful that at least I’ve got two feet and a mostly healthy body. And thankful that I can, or soon will be able to, use them. Thankful also that I still have a wonderful husband, family, friends, Mr. Fabulous and medical staff, even though I have bored for England on the subject of bunions! I’m thankful for all of them. And there’s gratitude for you.

 

Posted in Families, Health, Relationships, The Bunion Bugle: Stages Through Surgery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Bunion Bugle: Stage Four

Cabin Fever, The Essential Bedside Table And When’s Bunion Awareness Day?

Beryl Cat & Harry Dog – My Bed-Mates

Day 21

It’s three weeks since the op – she says, in case anyone can’t do the maths – and I’m well enough to write the next, marginally shorter, blog post. So I’m grateful it’s not been life-threatening after all the cheerless DVT and stroke warnings.

There’s been a lot of sympathy from people. But it’s not as though I’ve been extremely ill before the op. What I had was a painful and quite common deformity of the foot and the nearest I came to feeling ill over it, apart from daily pain when walking, was with the nausea induced by simply looking at the thing.

They reckon more than 50% of women will get a bunion. They don’t all become painful. I would say never have the surgery unless the bunion is causing pain and you want to be free of that pain for the rest of your life. That was my motivation here. Short-term pain for long-term gain.

Day 20

Day 20 – Time For A Sticky-Dressing-Change And A Look At The Gore – Stitches Out, Only Steri-Strips Left

So, an update:

Pain: The pain has become more bearable during the day, though don’t do what I did and accidentally put the front of the foot down at this stage. The resulting scream was enough to make Audrey next door leap towards her panic alarm. Depending on how much walking around I’ve done, night-time pain can vary – between electric-shock twinges anywhere over the foot/toes to the entire foot feeling like it’s being held tightly in a vice.

I have reduced the dosages of, and distances between, medications. Pain is definitely reduced the less I have to move around. So I’m following the instructions of Mr. Fabulous and mostly staying put.

The nurse at Care UK said I could try exercising (just twitching and semi-curling) the toes. Currently, I try twitching the toes a few times in the day. This hurts, especially twitching the big toe upwards, and the pain can take a few minutes to settle. I showed the OH when I was doing it and, what with the bandages still protecting it, he said he’d never have known I was exercising.

Sleep: It’s improved. Put it this way, I’m getting some now. But it tends to be: fall asleep eventually at 2 or 3 a.m. Wake at 5 or 6 a.m. Go back to sleep or get up. Improved pain relief and more bearable pain, as well as wisely staying put with leg up for most of the day, seem to have helped here.

Still sleeping with foot up on pillow-stack. I need to check when I can stop doing that. I keep the bandage on for protection from my own night-time and day-time fidgeting though the sticky dressing can come off on day 25, this Friday. OH continues to sleep fitfully, next door. No idiot, him. Radio and Twitter continue to be vital – for those lonely, pain-jag hours. Fortunately, these are lessening, believe me.

HQ: During the week, this remains the bedroom. Cabin fever’s set in and I’m still jealous of old ladies, kids on horses, or indeed anyone at all, hurtling past the house. Luckily, our bedroom is currently at the back and all I can see from the bed are rooftops and the woods beyond.

OH still sets off to work, first ensuring I have both a giant mug and flask of coffee. If I go downstairs, I find I’m up and down more often and that can lead to agony at night. At weekends, when OH is around, then I am enticed downstairs where I have a whole bank of side-tables forming a kind of office around me and holding all the things that are otherwise on or near the bed. But, for someone who’s used to being able to dash in and out and have amazing freedom, my God it’s deadly dull. After a bit the walls do appear to close in and a visit from a friend, nay the window cleaners, the meter-reader (anyone with a real face) gives an electric thrill to the system. Someone to talk with! A face that isn’t mine, OH’s, the cat’s or dog’s. If I couldn’t read or write, I think I would go utterly insane at this juncture.

There have been a few visitors but nothing much could induce me into going out. I only have to think of my miserable outing to the hospital and the resultant pain to rethink any desire on that front. A friend said, when he was crutch-reliant, it was terrifying how many people on the street walked straight into him. As though they had crutch-blindness. Mell asked me on the previous post if it would be wise to go to a wedding seven days after surgery. No, was the short and snappy, gritted-teeth answer to that. And certainly not if you plan to display your quickstep skills with a smile.

Walking: Improves all the time. There’s no immediate rush for me, which is just as well. Still, I’ve become quite the single-crutch-manoevre expert, although the extra support afforded by using the two is always noticeable. Crutches, by the way, have various alternate uses. They can also be used like giant chopsticks to retrieve things like my pyjamas from the floor; to poke the OH; to push a door closed; to draw back the curtains; and to make the dog budge up on the bed. I think I’ll keep them! I would imagine in the days before remote control, people would use their crutches or walking sticks to poke the buttons on the telly.

Going down, Jake!

Stairs: This takes practice. All I’ve had to learn is it’s a bit like being Jake the Peg – deedle, eedle, eedle, umm. Thanks to the last elderly owner of this house, we have a handrail on each side. So I use one crutch on stairs and hold it on the side of the poorly foot. It goes like this. Downstairs: crutch leads (on next stair down), poorly foot, good foot. That’s the bit where, as you watch it, it’s just like that tv clip of Rolf Harris. Upstairs: Good foot, poorly foot (assisted by crutch still on stair below), then crutch. Doddle. It helps to have a long-handled basket or a rucksack if I’m on my own and wanting to take things up or downstairs, like halfway through a weekday and I need to go down and make a new flask. By the time I’ve done all that, we are back to intense foot pain again. So you can see what I mean about weddings.

Bath: Until the sticky dressing’s off in a few days, I was told I could bath/shower but couldn’t get the foot wet. We don’t have a shower till we win the lottery and renovate the house, so the bath is my only choice. If the (waterproof) dressing was only over a very small area, it would probably be all right to immerse completely. However, my dressing stretches over the first two toes, thereby leaving a gap for water to invade. I’m staying on the safe side, me, and not tempting fate until all dressings are off.

Strip washes continue, therefore, although I was enabled to bathe by OH who helpfully held my bad leg up as I sat on the edge, swivelled and lowered myself, one-legged into the water. I was then free to rest the crap foot on the edge of the bath. Not ideal but it was a blissful Badedas bath nonetheless.

Clothing: Dressing results in pain if I try to do it standing up. Best bet, I find, is to sit on the edge of the bed and, whatever my fashion desire of the moment, make sure whatever clothes I choose are loose enough to pull over the foot without shooting through the ceiling. Jeans are out for the moment and because I’ve mainly been at home, it’s tended to be those loose-bottomed jogging pants, pyjamas and loose shorts. For hospital appointments/dressing changes, I’ve worn a longish, loose skirt.

Bedside Table: Anyone having a bunion operation should ideally have a vast bedside table, or buy one in preparation. Both around my bed and on the bedside table, I have:

  • Flask and Mug
  • Books – Including TBR pile, The Little Book of Calm (which I meant to read but never had the patience) and Bunion Monthly. No, I jest, but there is Writers’ Forum right now.
  • Notebooks and Pens
  • Sweeteners, An Apple (in case of emergency hunger), Monster Munch Pickled Onion Flavour (ditto) and Entire Range of Different Boiled Sweets
  • Tiny Radio (for lonely, sleepless nights) and Earphones
  • Medication
  • Phone (vital to invite people over – and vital to talk to them when they can’t come over)
  • Tissues and Micropore Tape
  • Cigarettes, Lighters And Ash Tray
  • Water Bottle
  • Oh, And Bedside Lamp Just About Fits On Table (is in fact swamped to the point of dimness by the other things crowding it)
  • The Laptop Wont Fit On Table So It’s Either On The Bed Or Near Me On The Downstairs Sofa (My Evening and Weekend HQ)
  • Beryl The Cat and Harry The Dog – a permanent daytime fixture on the bed

One more thing. That maligned, derided, poor public image for the humble bunion is still playing on my mind. Did you know that, in the United States, there’s a National Foot Health Awareness Month? No, me neither. And that starts when? On April Fool’s Day. The image of the foot and bunion as hilarious jokes must be redressed.

There’s certainly a month or day for most people, places and things now. There’s a day for every other kind of awareness but where is Bunion Awareness Day? You’d soon know if you’d been unaware of someone’s painful bunion. There would be the slight giveaway clue of an agonised, blood-curdling scream and a swift slap round the chops, if you so much as nudged your foot against it. Particularly if you were on your way to a National Hobnail Boot Day convention.

Next week, I hope to be dressing-free. Then it’ll only be two weeks before my 6-week check-up, when I can once more arrive drenched in my most alluring scent, and come over all faint in the presence of Mr. Fabulous. And when OH will no doubt very swiftly escort me from the mighty surgeon’s office, the second the man’s closed my file. Hmmph.

Stage Five coming soon.

Posted in Health, Relationships, The Bunion Bugle: Stages Through Surgery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

The Bunion Bugle – Stage Three

Staying In And Stitches Out:

Written on Day 11:

HQ - OH Makes A Flask Of Coffee Each Morning - There Is A God...

Bed HQ – OH Makes Flask of Coffee Each Morning – There IS A God…

The previous post was written at 5 days and I’m adding this at 11 days post-op. I’ve found my routine. As mentioned, the first two days of getting up and living downstairs – wincingly using the stairs to and from the loo – proved to be too painful, so since then I’ve had the bed as my sleeping, working and living quarters.

It’s far less painful to keep the foot raised (some say higher than the heart and some higher than hips, so I vary it) after trips involving stairs, and apparently it’s wise to aim to elevate it for 90% of the time. This all bodes well for my suppleness and ballet career when recovery is over.

OH is wisely protecting his beauty sleep and still using the spare bedroom. That suits me fine as I otherwise wouldn’t sleep for fear of his turning over in the night, his leg shooting out and striking my poorly foot.

Vital Meds After Bunion Op

Vital Meds After Bunion Op

The meds? I’m taking 2 x 50mg Tramadol and 2 x 8/500mg Co-Codamol at night (the first week, that dose was night and morning, too) and then 1 Tramadol and 2 Co-Codamol three times over the course of the day. That’s a vast improvement on the initial few days of waking with what felt like a hundred dentist’s drills going off in my foot.

That excrutiating agony returns, however, every time I use the stairs (even with the Darco shoe of death), when I’ve been back to the hospital, or any amount of standing around for a bit. Like waiting for the kettle to boil. It’s a case of grin and bear it afterwards, or take an extra Tramadol. It improves after a while and I imagine it’s different for everyone, depending on the type of surgery they’ve had and how sensitive to pain they are. Unlike childbirth (a one or two-day breeze, haha) this lasts for longer than any labour I’ve ever heard about.

I peeked under the bandage one evening. Oh, all right then, I took the whole thing off on a hot, muggy night, to find the two white but bloody, sealed dressings over the stitches. As well as a violently purple and green, swollen foot, including sole, toes, and ankle. It was like a prop from the ‘Thriller’ video. I replaced the bandage pronto; that foot felt vulnerable.

Frugal Lunch But Chef OH Works Wonders For Dinner

I have meds, my flask of coffee, books, radio, notebooks, phone and usually both cat and dog on the bed with me. As I’m fat-fighting, during the day I eat light (a tasty apple/scrummy Ryvitas) and OH cooks for England later. I am glad this happened now that our children have all grown up and left home. But I saw younger women who mentioned they were mothers in the hospital and it made me wonder how they got on.

Twitter has been a fantastic distraction and the people on it supportive amusing, empathetic or piss-taking. It all helps, believe me.  I also looked around the internet for more information about recovery from bunion surgery. There’s pitifully little online but I put a couple of useful blogs at the end of the Bunion – Pilgrim’s Progress – Stage Two post.

I’ve found the pain a little easier and, oh joy, I’m getting around 4-7 hours sleep. It can vary. It’s early days, I suppose, and just when I think I’ve slept through the night and all will be well from here, I then spend time awake with some pain – and listening to radio phone-ins again – in the early hours of the next night.

My Lovely View & Shoe Of Death

It’s always a relief to elevate the leg, particularly after walking, although initially I got into contortions with it while trying to write whilst on the bed. I’ve now settled on having the laptop one side of my pillow-stack and my foot on the other.

Tomorrow, Day 12, I have an exciting second outing to the hospital. I’ll have hair washed, make-up on, carefully-selected clothes. This will be my Big Day Out. But I’ll try not to get too excited or wear myself out. I’m going to have the stitches removed.

Written on Day 13:

So, Day 12 was the exciting trip back to the hospital to have stitches out. I say exciting because I’m quite used to being able to come and go as I like, drive the car, walk the dog and so on. By the 12th day of incarceration, I would say I was, erm, a little stir-crazy at best and quite deranged at worst. Much as I love our modest home, I was also longing to see something, anything, beyond the confines of these walls.

Envy On My Part As Horse Rider Buys Ice Cream Outside Our House

I’d find myself staring out of the window at elderly ladies positively whizzing past our front hedge with their walking sticks, perhaps on an exciting errand, or off to the bus-stop to go shopping. I envied the young as they ambled by, recklessly taking their able feet for granted.

And don’t even get me started on the horses and riders who pass regularly. I stared glum-faced at them, deprived of the casual freedom they flaunted before me. Although I was simply going to be attending a mere stitches-out appointment at the hospital, it was a major Big Deal to me.

As I’d pledged, I made the effort and had a stand-up wash, then washed my hair over the basin with one of those rubber shower sprays. Wearing the Darco shoe of unloveliness meant that I didn’t put pressure on my foot (only on the heel) and it was the world’s quickest hairwash ever. But I instantly felt better and, more importantly, clean.

In the bedroom, I dried hair with foot on a stool, put make-up on and chose a fitted top and loose trousers to wear. This contrasted agreeably with the Unintentional Grunge look I’d been sporting the previous few days. In any case, I didn’t know whether I might bump into Mr. Fabulous at the hospital and I wasn’t about to take any chances.

The Reverse Wedge Shoe In Its Glory – Worn By All Bunion Op Pilgrims

One tip I knew was to take painkilling meds half an hour before going out, or before appointments, so I did. At the hospital, I noticed a man with bandaged foot and Darco shoe. I stood (stupid, that) talking with him and he told me he’d had surgery the day before. He must have been in agony as he’d been afraid of asking for more adequate painkillers, yet had come for a dressing change. His wife said: “He won’t ask. But I will.” This is the thing. Everyone’s entitled to adequate pain relief and there are no prizes for heroism. Really.

Anyway, we were immediately whisked in to see Lahdi the nurse, who was the gentlest nurse I’ve ever had the dubious pleasure to meet, in such circumstances anyway. I got a student last year on my face stitches. Enough said. I looked about to see if anything would cheer me up. A sighting of Mr. Fabulous, the gorgeous surgeon, for example. But no, nothing.

My deep gloom was dispelled by Lahdi’s cheerful manner. But WARNING: The gory bits are coming.

Lahdi Removes The Old Dressing As I Get A Grip On Myself

You can see what Lahdi did in the pictures. First she gently removed the old bandage and dressing.

This revealed the two scars with their stitches, from the two osteotomies, one on the 2nd toe metatarsal and one on the 1st for the bunion itself. The foot wasn’t as swollen as at the previous dressing change, although the toes still look like party-chipolatas. It was all still rather red from the operation sterilising liquid.

And I’d cut my nails extra short before the op, in fear of not being able to go near them for months in the future. Hmmm. Ill-judged, that. Could have got OH (Chef/Fetcher & Carrier/Tea-Maker/Hair Washer/Comedian) to add add pedicure skills to his CV. Not the most alluring sight in the world.

Little And Large – My Scars. Eat Your Heart Out, Frankenstein.

OH took a good gander at the scars as I stiffened, dreading the stitch removal itself. “Blimey,” said OH, steadying himself. Lahdi unwrapped a small blade and kept talking quietly with me the whole time so I’d felt nothing terrible by the time I noticed she’d removed half the stitches. They were all removed quickly and my student-nurse-based fear from last year proved to be utterly unfounded. I’d been dreading her pressing on my foot at all. Mercifully, she somehow hadn’t.

New Waterproof Dressings – Off Swimming Soon…

She cleaned the wounds, added new sticky dressings with the lightest of pressure, a new bandage to protect the foot – and I was done. Lahdi then told me what I’d longed to hear. I could now have a bath or shower. At last … full immersion! The waterproof sticky dressings need to remain for another two weeks. The bandage could probably stay as a protective measure until my 6 week check-up with Mr. Fabulous, or until I wanted them off.

Going out had been a blast. I’d been rivetted by everything outside the truck window (‘Wow! The fields! The trees! People! The Pound Shop!’)  and everything in the Care UK Treatment Centre (‘Woohoo! A car-park space! A tv in the hospital! Another bunion patient! A nurse!’). That was, sadly, just about the full extent of my outing. I was all glammed up with nowhere else to go but home. However, home was probably the best place.

The pains were getting worse as we drove back. I stiffened my leg at every slight bend or bump in the roads, and clenched my teeth as I thought of getting my feet up again – and of when OH’s full butler duties could resume.

Admiring My Newly Bandaged Foot

Stage Four coming soon…

Meanwhile, I found a useful website. This particular post talks about what to expect, and the kinds of exercise to attempt, during the recovery period.

Posted in Families, Health, The Bunion Bugle: Stages Through Surgery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Bunion Bugle – Stage Two

The Osteotomy Operation & The Post-Op Days

They All Went Home, Except Me: The View As I Awaited My Fate

Written on Day 5

Waste of Time

Waste of Time

13th August came and the OH took me to Care UK at Goodmayes for the bunion and toe osteotomies  (Weil, Akin and Scarf procedures). I’m not saying I’m superstitious about the number 13 but, on this occasion, I carried a silver, four-leaved clover and wore lucky pants. I needn’t have bothered with the latter.

We were swiftly taken into a small day-surgery ward full of wincing, teary-eyed, post-op women, who either bore crutches or some kind of walking-aid, lay in bed or hobbled about awkwardly. Pilgrims who’d gone before me and wearing the badges to prove it. One very tall, young girl who looked like Agyness Deyn wore a shocked and sad expression, and was lying in bed coming round from her op. I noticed the bandaged foot and the Velcro shoe lying on her bed-table. This could affect people of all ages.

There was a pre-op visit from the anaesthetist and from Mr. Fabulous, my surgeon, who again asked if I had any further questions. Once again, he would have had no idea I was too stunned by his looks and charm to think of anything useful to ask, even with my lovely OH sitting there. He could do what he damn well liked, as far as I was concerned. And he did. He drew a very fierce but unmistakeable arrow on my right leg, chatted with us a while, then disappeared. I wouldn’t be seeing him for six weeks. Gutted.

Arrow

Reassuring to Know Mr. Fabulous Will Operate On The Correct Foot

After a long delay because I’d forgotten not to have skimmed milk in my morning coffee and during which I was issued with crutches and given instructions on their use (especially on stairs) by the Physio as well as watching all the other patients gradually leave the building, my turn came.

For the delayed three hours, I’d been sitting on the bed with my phone in my hand Googling a few last bits of information. As mentioned in Stage One, it’s been useful to Google: bunions, osteotomy, Scarf Akin and Weil’s procedures, metatarsalgia, bunion blogs, etc. And I took these pictures. Pity I didn’t get a decent ‘before’ picture of my horrible bunion.

Step Away From Your Lucky Knickers – Here’s Your Unlucky Paper Ones!

By the time they came to tell me to change, I was as well informed about this bunion business as I was going to be. It was my big moment to wear nothing else but the unfetching gown and polythene-wrapped paper knickers that had been placed on my bed.

My OH and I assured each other we were loved and next thing I was wheeled off to a theatre ante-room having a canula placed by the Anaesthetist who told me she’d be giving me an ankle-block, too. There was a tiny glimpse of Mr. Fabulous as someone opened the Operating Theatre door.  Oh my. Then another woman placed an oxygen mask over my face and that was that.

I woke in Recovery with a male nurse fussing about, taking temperature, blood pressure, and administering i/v Tramadol and Co-Codamol. Even with a giant bandage dressing in place, I could tell my foot was finally straight in the area where the gross bunion lump used to be. And, despite the initial intense pain, I still had a foot!

Wheeled back to the ward, being greeted by a relieved OH (who’d waited for an hour-and-a-half) and given tea and toast, I was sitting in bed when ‘they’ came round to ask me what level of pain between 0-10 I was having. I said 8-9. I should have said 10 or 11.

So I was sent on my way with a packet of Co-Codamol (30/500 – quite strong), a hideous ‘Darco’ Velcro-fastening, reverse-wedge shoe – to put weight on heel, if at all – and crutches. That was my first practical crutch-using session, awkwardly loping towards the entrance where my OH was waiting with the car. I knew now why those women had been raw, tearful and wincing earlier on in the day. Day surgery does not necessarily mean painless surgery.

That night and the next day, the pain actually did become unbearable. I shall always remember that first night, awake and in pain, seeking solace in some talk radio phone-in, anything to distract me. I’d love this to be a totally good-humoured piece about those funny old things, bunions, a my-how-we-laughed affair,  but that was serious and nothing, not even a repeat showing of Karl Pilkington’s adventures in Egypt (‘you don’t see that in the brochure’ as a nappy flies past him at the Pyramids) could make me mirthful in the midst of agony. I couldn’t be distracted from the pain by anything, not even my OH’s stupid dance he does when I need cheering up.

My Bandaged Foot, With Toe Splints, Day After Op

Painkillers were only slightly taking the edge off the pain for roughly 40 minutes to an hour. So the routine appeared to be. Take meds, wait an hour for them to work, achieve slight relief for an hour if lucky, then wait 2 more hours for the next pain relief.  And then it seemed I’d just get to the ‘taking the edge off’ bit when the loo might be needed, so then I’d get up, take the stairs gingerly and agonisingly, only to come back down again to worse stabbing pains than ever. I was not amused.

It’s hard for your loved ones to do anything for pain, other than make you take the meds and try to distract/amuse/soothe you. And I so tried to be brave. But I am no heroine and wasn’t out to win a medal. So I put in a tearful call to the emergency doctor who then arranged for OH to be able to collect Tramadol from a Boots in Romford. This was a trial and error thing. One tablet wasn’t enough to take the pain away. Two made me feel sick. Finally, I came to a one during the day, two at night (oh, those painful, awake between 1-4 a.m., nights) arrangement.

I still had no idea what was actually causing all this pain, only a bit of knowledge about the kind of operation I’d had. What lay beneath the bandages was still a mystery. It was one of the questions I could have asked if I hadn’t been so mesmerised. But I was going to be enlightened upon this point very soon.

On the 15th, the Wednesday, we had to return to the hospital for a post-op X-ray and then go back to the Care UK Treatment Centre for a dressing change. I’ve found Care UK (@careuk on Twitter) to be friendly and efficient. Having had private hospital treatment in the past, they compare very well – and yet my treatment has been free through the NHS.

The Charmless Darco Shoe & Bandaged Foot, About to Go Out…

So OH dropped me at the main King George’s hospital entrance before parking. Within seconds of trying to stand like a crutch adept to wait for OH to return, the pain was excrutiating. Luckily we were able to borrow a wheelchair for the long march to the X-Ray department and back again. They X-rayed my still bandaged foot from a couple of angles and then it was back to the Care UK Treatment Centre.

The nurse wasn’t at all surprised by what lay beneath the bandage. I was horrified. It was pretty grisly. I’d been surmising (assumptions again) there would be maybe a two-inch (5cm) scar. But the scar looked maybe double that length, halfway from my toe to my heel. And there was another scar to the right of it.

I honestly thought there’d be the one scar and they would have done all procedures through it. But I was forgetting the operation on the metatarsal bone of the lesser 2nd toe. The stitches were as tight as the knots round a lamb joint and the largest scarring I’ve ever received. Considering the foot is such a small area, that’s quite a shock. It’s like seeing yourself laid out in a butcher’s shop window. Anyway, they dressed and rebandaged the foot again and I was told to rest up now until I came back on Day 12 for the stitch removal.

It’s been an ever-changing learning process in the 5 days since then. There’s been learning to navigate the stairs, wincing and oohffing, with a crutch or two and the giant shoe. That’s one thing when the Physio shows you how to do it before the operation, and with two relatively good feet. Quite another thing afterwards. We have a tight little turn at the top of the stairs on which it’s difficult to get the whole shoe and, first of all, I had visions of  hurtling downstairs, crushing all the good work on the foot and knocking myself out on the hallway wall to boot.

In Bed. Foot Up On Pillow Stack.

There’s the elevating the foot above heart level for at least 22 hours a day. That’s great fun, ahem, especially in bed at night.  OH is sleeping in the spare bedroom. I stack four pillows. But this is all in order to help with healing and blood flow and I’m determined not to do anything to louse this up, certainly not having gone through more pain than I’d imagined with it.

The pain wakes me at least once in the night but, after the first, three days, it has become more bearable. Or is it just that I’m getting used to it? There’ve been a few lonely nights up with pain, listening to even more painful radio phone-ins to pass the time till the Tramadol works. Yes, it’s come to that.

And there’s learning to have patience with myself, with my OH (who has made my meals, cleaned, provided me with a flask of coffee before he goes to work in the mornings, amused me and, crucially, washed my hair) and with the healing process.

HQ And Crutches

Current Headquarters. Crutches Never Far Away.

The foot has to stay elevated, non-weight-bearing and dry for at least two weeks and it’s easier to stay in bed, near the bathroom, than to get up and have to keep painfully navigating the stairs.

I have an appointment for stitches removal tomorrow; and another appointment with Mr. Fabulous, the handsome Hungarian surgeon, in five weeks. It can’t come a moment too soon for me.

That’s my experience of the Bunion Pilgrimage to date. The only way is up now.

Stage Three coming soon.

Additional Information:

So far, the chief instructions have been:

  • Keep foot elevated and dry, to reduce swelling and help healing, at least until 12 days appointment for stitch removal.
  • Take meds as necessary (in my case Tramadol and Co-Codamol) and tell doctor if they’re not adequate pain relief.
  • Elevation of foot at least 90% of the day, therefore only getting up for the loo (pressure on foot as little as possible).
  • Use crutches, whether on the flat or up and down stairs; for any walking, use the Darco Boot which means pressure is only put on the heel.
  • Showering/washing. The idea is to get a plastic stool or chair for the shower (as standing/pressure on foot not allowed) and tie a binbag round the foot to keep dry. I am simply being patient over this and have strip-washed. My OH has washed my hair, with me on a stool leaning backwards.
  • Enlist as much help as possible, especially in the first couple of weeks.

Some Very Useful Blogs:

I found the personal stories and practical information in these blogs very useful, especially while feeling painfully isolated and yet needing to know more about this bunion business, during these days at home. They are in no particular order – take what you can from them:-

Bunion Survivor Website

The Bunion Blog

Lily’s Post Surgery Bunion Page

Not Another Bunion Surgery Blog

Bunion Surgery (Blog)

Best Feet Forwards (added 20/04/13) Recent blog about operations on both feet, simultaneously.

Harry & Beryl Keep Me Company

Harry the Dog & Beryl The Cat Keeping Me Company

Photos:

Lucky Knickers: http://www.blogs.mspmags.com

All others taken by Yours Truly (From the CanYouTellWhatItIsYet School of Photography)

Posted in Families, Health, Life's Rich Tapestry, The Bunion Bugle: Stages Through Surgery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Before:

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: http://www.totalwallpapers.com; http://www.bupa.co.uk; http://www.achesandjoints.org; http://www.history.icanhascheezburger.com; http://www.wellsphere.com; and mirror.co.uk

The famous bunions belonged to: Victoria Beckham and Tilda Swinton

Posted in Health, The Bunion Bugle: Stages Through Surgery, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Art and I: An Open Relationship

Art and I didn’t always get on. I didn’t know much about it. My parents were folk who thought art was the one print of ‘The Haywain‘ on the dining-room wall, or the lairy ’70s green, geometrically-patterned wallpaper in the hallway – now so revered as ‘retro’. Otherwise, Art was for ‘arty types‘, which, apart from my mother’s love of reading and writing, they were humble enough to realise they were not. Not really.

After a youth spent mainly dwelling on mind-expansion (and, incredibly, working like a demon), I married in my twenties and found myself with a Winchester and Oxford-educated husband, my former boss, who was rather more comfortable within the Art appreciation sector than the Art creation crowd.

With a Romford Technical High School education, a mere 11+ and a clutch of O Levels to my name and, further, feeling quite the black sheep at the dinner parties we were holding, aged 25 I turned to the Open University and never looked back. My then husband had naturally  introduced me to certain Art such as opera, theatre, ‘foreign’ films and, of course, visiting galleries, interesting architectural sites and so on. But I became hungry for more. Like Rita, in Educating Rita, I wanted to know it all.

It’s probably not the best idea to commence a degree with the sole aim of getting even with your OH, or to be able to keep up at the dinner table. But the more I went on with OU, the more I found I was genuinely fired up by Art History, Literature and Music, relishing each course, each tutor-marked assignment, each summer-school, each exam.

And that’s what started me off, following Art around, lovesick despite my lowly ‘Haywain‘ print beginnings, wherever I was in the world. I was now making a play for Art in a big way.

Of course, when the inevitable split between two diverse characters happened, I then had two children, the true gifts of the marriage. But I also had the gift of a half-completed OU degree, a sound basis on which to continue my passion for Art. Any of the arts. By then, I’d begun writing and getting published. This was my Deluded Period, when I believed myself to be quite the Bohemian figure around Blackheath.

Divorce, though, meant a Blue Period (in mood anyway) seeking out cheap and free things to do with the children, or on my own. So they were taken to free galleries, open air concerts, theatre and film when we could afford it, and it was no real surprise to me when they couldn’t get enough of it all. The National, The Portrait, Dulwich Picture Gallery and more. I remember Louise Bourgeouis’s Spider and Womb installations at the opening of the Tate Modern going down quite the storm with my two mini Art buffs.

As the children grew older and all of us still excited by Art, we sought out more and more. They were introducing me to new Art. Up to the minute stuff. My son insisted we see the installation Dreamscape at a Mile End Park – thank you, Ru, and wasn’t it great? We stormed the Saatchi Gallery to seek out Tracey Emin’s Bed, Tent and other exhibits. We all loved the Exploded Shed, I think at the Hayward.

I set aside the money in the late 90s to take my son and daughter to Glastonbury, although their father blenched at the very mention of it. We had a muddy, cramped-tent whale of a time and heard all varieties of music; though, if I never hear Firestarter again, I don’t think I’ll need a handkerchief.

Now, I’m very happily remarried and my old school friend and mechanical genius of an OH is an Art-deprecating cynic. This is fine. He has cars; I have writing and sometimes the twain meet. He’s a voracious reader, and that suits me. But with Art, he particularly takes his intellectual sledge-hammer to anything he sees as ‘pretentious and ponced up.’ Or public roundabout-and-hospital-forecourt Art of the fluorescent or mystifying kind. That he’s paid for. And that’s fine, especially as he is hilarious when I get him talking about it.

I see that view. I grew up with it – in the same way I grew up with a father who shouted ‘that’s not a boy; it’s a girl’ when the Rolling Stones played on Ready, Steady Go! Some get Art. Some don’t. There’s room for all of us.

My OH has it that a ‘proper’ (his word) painting, sculpture, installation or architectural structure is something quite different from the ponced up stuff. He loved the paintings we went to see at Greenwich Naval College. Wren and Hawksmoor had talent and hard work, he declared, enjoying the heavenly splendour of the Painted Hall.

With the internet now, though, I can look up whatever I like without fear of jeering or mockery from the OH. I am kidding. He’s not bad (he proofreads!) but each to his own and we live happily together, alongside our individual passions. I mean, being an engineer, his idea of Art is a Spitfire aeroplane or a war-painted B17 – and he’s right, it is! Because Art is subjective and, as such, is never really ‘wrong’. It’s a question of whether the beholder likes it, hates it, or is moved by it in some way, or not.

Anyway, you’ll gather that these days I’m not quite the roving Art critic and fan that I was – the roving is mainly on the internet, on Arts tv channels or at local events. Art and I have a very open relationship. And I have a very open mind. But then I’m a whole lot happier with my life and come from a place of relative security compared to past experience.

There come times, though, when I long to go to something arty. That’s apart from all the writing events I’d love to attend. I know that every time I do, my spirit is lifted and I feel ‘connected’ with Life. Even a drag race meeting (sport or art?) appeals to the senses and lifts the spirit in the way that all effective Art does. The amazing cars, the scene the visitors and racers create.

So, last week, when I was asked by To Do List to visit one of Boris Johnson’s ‘Secrets’, an installation in parklands not far away, I jumped at the chance. It’s been many years since I visited the Uffizi, the Louvre or the Jeu de Paume, or even the Tate, Tate Modern, Portrait or the National Galleries.

Maybe Art was straying too far away from me or, more likely, I from my darling Art. I took my camera and you can see my report for To Do List below. I enjoyed my day out, with the dog and another enthusiastic visitor at the site, just keeping checks on my love for Art. We both know, me and Art, that it’s free to go where it likes. And so am I.

Here is the link to To Do List’s website. They are a fantastic, informative, always interesting, spot-on guide to free, cheap and offbeat things to do in London. They always cover Art events. Just the thing I needed when struggling through divorced parenthood for all those years.

Pictures: Me, To Do List,www.bbc.co.uk, http://www.andrewgrahamdixon.com, http://www.thefancarpet.com

PROGRESSIVE ROCK: Boris gives away one of his ‘Secrets’ in Fairlop Waters

Magic is a rare experience in our hectic, adult lives. But Nothing Is Set In Stone is offering many a delighted London explorer just that.

Fairlop Waters Underground – Central Line (short walk from station) | Fairlop Waters, Forest Road, Barkingside, IG6 3HN | http://molpresents.com/secrets | Tel: 020 8500 9911 | Open Every day 07:00 until 10:00 p.m – lakeside restaurant and bar, as well as many activities/nature reserve/water-sports and boat hire. Plenty of (pay-at-machine) parking. 

It’s the kind of thing you might expect to see at the top of Glastonbury Tor, at a Tri-Wizarding Tournament or by the teepees at Glastonbury Festival.

As we walk up the grassy pathway, lulled by angelic song, NISIS, by the artist, Mira Calix, appears to grow from the ground. It now looks smaller than the giant, Jetson-style rocket  we viewed from the other side of the lake.

As we approach, it looks and sounds  like an over-sized, musical water feature. Something Worth Experiencing. We get nearer and hear birdsong, more vibrant than the birds around the lake.

It’s shaped like an egg or a womb, it’s pointed end skywards, and made of real, huge, striped beach stones.

Meditational, ethereal song and a deep vibrational tone emits from within it. As we near touching distance, a woman tells us she has brought her little son three times. Eschewing the playground for the rock, he thinks there’s a lady in the rock singing to him personally. We imagine people sitting around on a much sunnier day, enjoying picnics.

All the elements are experienced: water, fire, air, earth, as well as wood and metal, it seems, are represented here. Much of natural earth life is represented through the sounds we hear from the monolith.

We stand before it and touch, testing how it might change. Walking around it appears to keep the sound going though the sounds may come in random order.

Although the artist has called this Nothing Is Set In Stone, it is as though she is telling us quite the opposite. Life is represented here, emanating from within this rocky womb, reminding us how earth was born, if you believe in the Big Bang Theory.

And … the rest is silence. Until birdsong, flowing water, fire, bamboo sticks, or song begins again.

Around NISIS, we can be grounded and still, like stone. Listen, admire and relish a little magic.

For more Secrets in London visit: http://molpresents.com/secrets 

Posted in Families, On Writing, Uncategorized, You Saw It Here Last: Art | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Fifty Tangents

Illustration for my Story (in For Women/Ludus) Partners In Flight – where, essentially, a lawyer has a mile high fling with her boss…

I find this whole Fifty Shades of Grey thing very funny. It apparently began life as a Twilight fanfic piece. I’m not a particularly jealous author. Well, no more than any other. (I’m writing something quite different and, I hope, it’s written as well as I can do), though, of course, it would be amazing to get the kind of sales E. L. James is currently achieving.

I simply find the raving popularity of Fifty Shades (and the actual writing, what I’ve seen of it) fantastically funny because, apart from the ludicrously terrible writing in FSOG, I know that magazines like Ludus and For Women – both were women’s top-shelf magazines – were publishing mine and others’ erotic stories in the 1990s. One of mine, “Unavoidably Detained” – aptly titled I thought – was about a librarian who misses work one morning because she is still bound and gagged from the adventures of the night before.

It wasn’t exactly literary fiction but those tales had a story, often even subplots, humour, style and were meticulously edited. I think they were ahead of their time at that point. We knew it then and we sure know it now.

Last night in the UK, there was a great hue and cry after our version of Big Brother showed Connor angrily claiming that he hated Deana to the extent that, were her epilator on the dining table, he would “shove it up her minge” and furthermore swearing curses towards the said Deana in question.

Braun Epilator

All I could think was that, from what I’d heard, this would have been worthy of a full scene in FSOG.  And many a reader, it seems, would have been loving it. Beats me. But it appears it’s not always what you say but the context in which you say it that could be important.

The male fantasy of bashing women about, or Domestic Violence as a sexual thrill (or Bondage & Discipline/Sado-Masochism) has been long-held, ever since the Marquis de Sade and probably before that, for all we know. I know that, if my OH suddenly began threshing around me with a torque wrench, I might have words to say about it.

Your street prostitute may earn £60 a time; your escort apparently can earn anything up to £1,000 a night, and some much more. The difference between £60 and £1,000, I learn from research, is sado-masochism. Or outrageous acts and a long night-stay! Does that mean, if we go to sexual extremes and practices in our fiction, we’re on the road to more pay? I think you can see where that argument is heading. Ahem…

So… it was only just about time before someone began writing a mainstream novel about it. One that one of my friends, okay acquaintances, is loving to pieces. All I can see, as far as I know, is that E. L. James (a Londoner) initially wrote some Twilight fan-fiction, substituted vampires with BDSMs and she was off and running.

All I can say is, I can only imagine that, next up, we writers will be plagiarising anything popular to that degree, writing even more badly, perhaps finding a paedophile or two that we can write about. I won’t. But picture the scene: Lolita fanfic? Clockwork Orange fanfic? I don’t think so! Because Nabokov and Burgess wrote well.

I Don’t Even Like The Tie!

Because that’s what E.L.James has done, in the sense that she writes about someone who is not only a virgin, can’t even think of a name for the common parts of her own body. This is where I start thinking about Christian Grey: “hang on, this is some paedophile”… Because this so-called heroine is behaving like a ten-year-old. This is sad. And I have read now many a review that claims it to be so. Others love it. I’m still figuring, here.

E. L. James found that writing about someone who is based on Ana in the Twilight Series, doesn’t even have a word for her own “down there”, who therefore appears very young, virginal and inexperienced yet is turned on by being bashed around (big downturn in feminist politics), is someone through whom she can earn a heck of a lot of money. Pity the poor women out there who are bashed around on a regular basis – without the incredible sex.

I remember when I wrote erotic fiction. It was accepted quite readily – I have some wonderful acceptance slips from the magazines (Ludus and For Women) for which I wrote my erotic fiction. But it was still a niche market.  In those times, they never said, “hey, make the bondage racier!” – yet they would have been thrilled if we had. We had a good run, though it sometimes felt like those magazines were a woman’s guilty little secret, male centrefold or not.

Grey tie, red hair… Hmmm, I only wrote this 20 years ago.

I’m glad Fifty Shades of Grey has somehow touched a chord. I’m a touch green about the sales figures, of course I am.

One thing it means is that readers are reading, critics are writing, people are talking about books, critiquing books, and there is a whole ton of scope remaining out there for those of us left writing original work. Please let that be a good thing. About realist stuff, about mysteries, about romance, about psychological dramas, about literary fiction, about crime thrillers, about horror, about romance, about fantasy, about… about… what we make up next.

This 50 Shades thing has been a huge lesson in … actually staying true to ourselves. And that, I think, is what we writers need to do. Never mind the fan-fic. What about the true-to-ourselves-fic?

It is one thing to write fan fic – and, oh my, to do it as badly as the original must be quite a skill – but it seems to me that, if we all sat at our desks writing fan fiction, then sooner or later there would be nothing left to emulate. Because we’d have all emulated it! And then we’d have to start again.

Give me a Werthers worthy original every time, no matter how it’s written and then let me, the reader, decide.

Please comment/tear me to pieces/bash me over the head sideways/shag me madly/shock me with the way your pants hang/shove an epilator wherever you want … below… or perhaps I should say “down there”.

Posted in On Writing, Uncategorized, You Saw It Here Last: Books | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments