Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Thanksgiving in May

My Tragic Foot

My left foot, showing stress fractures in the second and third metatarsals.
Within a couple of months, my right foot broke, too. Ugh.

Did you know that we are exactly six months from Thanksgiving? It may seem like an odd time to think ahead to that occasion, but holding onto gratitude is more important to me now than ever before and I'm using this day to declare Thanksgiving in May. Allow me to explain...

As I wrapped up my outdoor art show season last fall, my feet hurt. Setting up and tearing down for outdoor art shows is hard work, so bothersome feet aren't unusual. But this time it was worse than usual. Being the (slightly) middle-aged artist that I am, I figured that I just needed an orthotic or better shoes. Then I could keep on selling my paintings at outdoor events, like I have for nearly two decades.

I was really shocked when my doctor told me that I had non-traumatic stress fractures in my left foot. To make matters worse, subsequent lab work revealed that I have crummy bone quality courtesy of a hereditary condition. My foot was merely the leading indicator of significant problems. I was sent home with a walking boot to use for several months while my foot healed.

But it didn't heal.

In January, my other foot broke after months of bearing the additional, compensatory load while I wore the boot. Talk about an epic bummer!

As someone who's generally enjoyed good health up until this point in my life, I was at a low point emotionally. The constant pain and future uncertainty have been a big paradigm shift for me. My paternal grandmother used to tell me, "Health is wealth" and it's a message that I internalized from a young age, perhaps no more so than in these recent months.

My feet still are not fully healed and it's still painful. But I'm slowly improving, courtesy of some amazing individuals who have helped me through this difficult time. I want to acknowledge each of them here: 

First, my husband, Tim, who has been a bedrock of encouragement and support. I half-jokingly refer to him as my "Underpaid Artist's Assistant," but I've always appreciated that he is worth solid gold. This has remained true in recent months. He's been so kind and unwavering in his support while I regain function. He genuinely loves what I do as an artist and he's helped me see how I can move forward. 

Next, my fitness team. I enjoy lifting weights and being active. Now, my quality of life pretty much depends on it. And sometimes life gives you exactly what you need. I became good friends with a collector who's a personal trainer. Since February, Robert has generously donated his time to work with me twice a week in his gym and help me remain active despite my broken feet. I really can't thank him enough for stepping into my life and up to a big task.

I'm also working with a wonderful physical therapist who has been incredibly creative in adapting therapies to my needs. Y'all, my condition was so bad that my previous physical therapist who helped me rehab from hip surgery a couple of years ago would not even work with me due to the perceived liability risk! I found a better individual to help me. Ryan has given me a sense of empowerment that has also sustained me emotionally.

Finally, my medical team. I'm fortunate to work with smart people (Rocio, Hannah, Kostas, Paige, and Kelly) who helped me modify my diet and wrestle our stubborn insurance company to the mat to provide medication that I need.  

Thanks to these exceptionally kind and dedicated people, I'm looking forward to continuing my active career painting and exhibiting my artwork. I take one day at a time, literally one step at a time, and I'm cautiously optimistic. There may be setbacks, but rest assured that I'll continue to explore and find ways to share with you my vision of this imperfect yet beautiful world in which we live.

Happy Thanksgiving (in May)!