What I’ve Learned from My Left Foot
It all started with a bump. A bump on the top of my left foot. It didn’t hurt. It only looked slightly freakish. I had never heard of anyone’s cancer starting from a foot bump, so I ignored it.
But then it grew, and I thought I’d better have somebody check it out. Fortunately, one of the most passionate social justice warriors in my community just happens to be a podiatrist. She confirmed it was, as I suspected, a bump. Hoping it was merely a fluid-filled bump, she tried draining it, fighting it with strong anti-inflammatories, steroid shots and compression over the course of a few months. The bump refused to yield. She reluctantly referred me to a middle-foot and ankle specialist (yeah, that’s a thing) for surgery.
Making the Cut
“But what if I just leave the bump alone and learn to live with an increasingly hideous looking foot?” I asked, hoping to avoid the cutting. “It will eventually screw up your foot,” she said, in much more doctorly-like language. Not wanting a screwed up foot, I went on to the specialist who agreed with my podiatrist that it was a ganglion cyst that would, indeed, screw up my foot if left alone.
So I had the surgery, which took about an hour in prep, an hour in recovery and about 15 minutes on the operating table. No biggie, right? That was five days ago, and I have been laying around with my foot propped up and iced or otherwise hobbling around and hurting. That little bump has been a much bigger deal than it should have been. I’ve always thought I was exceptionally good at laying around and not doing much much anything, but forced lethargy is maddening! Plus, why is that when one part of you hurts, you just feel bad all over?
But my whole bump ordeal is going to be a thing of the past in about another 10 days. I feel like I have been gifted just a tiny glimpse in to what so many people I know with chronic health issues, aging bodies and long-term injuries deal with on a daily basis–and they know that their issues are not going away any time soon. I don’t really know it’s like, but I know more than I did five days ago. I’m feeling a little like Soul Man…which seems appropriate in a homophonic kind of way.
Those of you who are children of the 80s know exactly what I’m talking about, but for the rest of you: Soul Man came out in 1986 (loosely based on the book Black Like Me). Hottie-of-the-day C. Thomas Howell plays a young man who pretends to be black in order to get a scholarship to Harvard Law (otherwise he can’t afford to go). The movie is billed as a comedy, and it does have its moments, but it is also kind of a stealth commentary on racism. I say stealth, because it sneaks up on you in the midst of bad jokes based on really offensive racial stereotypes. BTW, it didn’t play that way to suburbanite white kids in 1986, but I don’t recommend you go back and watch it today . The most redeeming part of the movie is the last scene, where student Mark Watson reveals what he’s learned.
So yeah, I’m feeling a little Soul Man. I certainly don’t know what it feels like to have a chronic injury or infirmity, but maybe my left foot will make me a little more compassionate and empathetic with those who do. If all goes according to plan, I will go back to being my healthy, fast-paced self in less than two weeks, but as frustrating as it is, I think a little infirmity is good for us all from time to time.
It makes us slow down.
It makes us ask for help.
It reminds us the number of people in our lives who are willing to help (and I have a bunch).
It makes us grateful for abilities (like walking!) we typically take for granted.
It gives us a little more insight and (hopefully) a little more patience and empathy with those who have grown sick and tired of being sick and tired.
BTW, I’ve had to work really hard on shifting my thinking about this. My natural inclination is to be bitter and angry and impatient and whiny about the whole thing. I absolutely know that we are happier and healthier and whole-er when we can be grateful in all situations and see God at work even in the midst of pain and discomfort, but I’m still pretty lousy at it. That’s why we call it a faith practice. We’re all still working on it.