Opinion: Column: Hopping and Hoping

Opinion: Column: Hopping and Hoping

As I approach my four-week anniversary of "the burning," I do so with cautious optimism that one day soon, I'll be walking upright once again and doing so without the assistance of my walker. No more leaning over at the waist to grab the walker's waist-high grab bars. No more pulling/pushing myself up as I try to gain leverage in order to balance my weight so as not to fall backwards or to the side. And finally, once standing, no more hopping on my right foot as I favor the left; the location where the podiatrist pointed to and said at our last appointment: "You can see where that is ground zero"; meaning, the worst of the burn. And four weeks later, "ground zero" is still ultra sensitive and not bearing too much weight. The emergency room doctor had said the healing will "likely take weeks, not months." And four-plus weeks into my recovery, I would say her assessment/prediction was spot on. But I'm not there yet. I'm somewhat better than I have been, but I'm still not ready to solo. Although, I did drive for the first time yesterday. It was no problem (my driving foot is my right foot, so pressing on the pedals was not the least bit painful. However, if there had been a clutch involved, I wouldn't have been up to driving). Still, success, and a feeling of independence once again.

Fortunately, the clown shoes that the local emergency room provided finally are proving to be useful. The strappy, cushiony, black, open-toe sandals with the thick white soles I'm now wearing all day were designed to give the foot breathing room along with some support. However, in the early weeks following "the burning," when I placed my foot in the sandal, the insole felt rough as if it were tearing up the bottoms of my feet, exactly where the second degree burns had occurred. Since it seemed like it was hindering my recovery, I rarely wore them and instead put on thick socks (over the bandages lined with medication) and walked around on the heels of my feet while attempting to keep the balls of my feet (where the burns were) elevated and off the floor. It enabled me to mostly get around, but now, being able to wear the sandals, I'm much more ambulatory.

And so it finally feels as if the worm has turned, as they say. The sole on my right foot is exhibiting all the proper signs of new skin having formed and is a few days away, according to my nurse-wife, Dina (who has been bandaging my feet up to three times daily since "the burning") of returning to its pre-burned status. As such, I am nearly able to put all my weight on my right foot as necessary as I continue to favor the "ground-zero" left foot. However, if I ever inadvertently place my full weight on my left foot, I am transported emotionally back to July 17 when I first stepped on that hot pavement. I don't exactly see stars, but I certainly feel pain until I lift up that left foot and start to hop on my right. Oh, what a relief that is, as I attempt to retrieve my bearings and find some place to sit, immediately.

That being said, I am most definitely on the mend. Getting on my feet, still with the aid of my walker, doesn't conjure the same fear and loathing and pain as it once did. Urges to visit the bathroom are no longer delayed as much as possible. Nor are they fraught with anxiety and exasperation concerning the effort required to make the short walk to water the closet, especially in the middle of the night when the house is dark. But today, I can just about see the future (and a return to normal/independence) which may include a visit to close friends who live in Ocean City, Maryland, aka the beach. And when I do, I'll certainly be upright and walking normally, but I won't ever be barefoot, inside or out. I can't take any chances. As slow as my recovery has been, I don't suppose its pace has anything to do with my underlying medical condition: thyroid cancer. Nevertheless, I don't see any benefit to stressing my immune system any more than is absolutely necessary. It already has more than enough to do attempting to keep the cancer in check.