Playing footsie

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life42 Comments


I chose to have elective foot surgery. 

I suppose that's a redundant statement.

I tell you this just so we're clear that any whining appearing in today's blog post is taken with a grain of salt. I don't aspire to be a whiner. At least not after all the therapy I've paid for. But today it may pop in for old time's sake. 

It all started with pain in my big toe about three years ago. I lived with it for year and it wasn't really that big of a deal. An annoyance to be sure, but manageable. Over time it grew worse so I decided to have an X-ray and voilà the diagnosis: bone spurs on my big toe, also know as osteophytes resulting in hallux rigidus or, big stiff toe. 

I let another year pass.

This condition, while not debilitating, has definitely contributed to a major decline in my physical activity. For person whose goal is to move more and eat well, it was beginning to become a real problem. When I'd swim, I couldn't push off from the wall with my right foot. When I'd walk, I'd favor it, resulting in a gait that wasn't doing my body any favors. And don't even get me started on running. Although I could run without feeling any pain, it became a huge mental block I couldn't seem to get over. So several months ago, I booked the surgery.

The lack of physical activity combined with less than inspired eating is contributing to increasing poundage. This was the right thing to do.

The night before, I did something you should never do the night before surgery: I consulted Dr. Google. Horror story after horror story was mine to read, cherish and freak out over. And yes, you guessed it, I sat there in tears wondering if I was making the right decision. 

But I figured do it now or it will be much harder later. 

Surgery day came and before I knew it, bone spurs were gone, an osteotomy was completed and I was waking up from a restful, drug-induced snooze. 

Then the reality hit: I was going to be far more incapacitated than I'd imagined. 


Now before I begin my lament, here's the other reality: this type of thing doesn't magically go away on its own. You either live with it as it gets worse, or get it taken care of. I keep telling myself every time I make my way up or down the stairs, step by tedious step. I've been trying to remain positive. You know, act like a responsible adult who is simply doing what is needed.

Most of the time, I'm succeeding.

But if I'm being honest, this sucks goat balls.

There. I feel much better.

For the first two days, I was restricted to my room. Foot elevated, ice applied, narcotic drugs a-flowing. (Hydrocodone for those who like to know that sort of thing.) The pain was manageable. 

By Day Three, I camped out on the family room couch, still letting it sink in that I couldn't do anything. No cooking, no cleaning, no working, no nothing.

All I could do was read or watch TV. Doctor's orders. (Well, the doctor didn't order me to watch a full season of Mad Men in one sitting, but you get the idea.)

Now that may sound like a mini vacation from life, and I suppose it sort of is, but let me tell you this: I prefer life. (Although my therapist would remind me that this is life, so there you go.)

Even today, as I sit at the computer to type this up, I'm headed back to the foot elevation shortly. I have my follow up appointment tomorrow where I believe they take a pin out. I asked my doctor if I had to have another surgery for that, and she told me she would do the procedure in her office. When I asked how, she replied, "Very carefully."

I Googled "foot surgery pin removal" and let's just say I stopped watching the video when the pliers came out.

For those of you who deal with chronic issues, or who have had much more serious procedures—either you personally or someone in your family—you have my heartfelt compassion. If anything, this is making me so grateful for general health and well-being. 

When I get back to dancing form, I won't take that for granted.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a date with Don Draper though I'm still not sure if I actually care what happens to him or not. Bring on Season Two…

Thank you to my husband, my daughter and my son for taking such good care of me, and for my neighbor Angela who made me a soup that I've been living on for several days. I am so grateful to have a family who care for me and make me feel loved.





Cathy ZielskePlaying footsie

42 Comments on “Playing footsie”

  1. #1

    Speedy recovery……

    (I will take your advice not to watch video)

    I’m expecting laser surgery with my nasty veins in Oct, was told quickly recovery…

    Almost a year I have been running.. (lost 23 lbs) love it!
    Before than I never liked running. Now I do!

  2. #3
    Angie Coleman

    Hope you are up and about in no time! Just heed the Docs orders and pamper yourself a little. You deserve it but I know you are too active to like laying around forever! ha ha It takes time but it will be so worth it!

  3. #4
    Amie Lamm-Griffin

    I love the Dulcolax! As a woman with arthritis (and several years of not being able to do anything because of it, including getting up out of bed and stand up from a chair or toilet) I understand what those pain killers do to you! Coffee helps!
    Hears to a cup o Joe from me toasting a speedy recovery! And thank goodness for the ability to forget our pain. 🙂

  4. #5

    I feel your pain and wish you a speedy recovery! I am having surgery on Monday- total left knee replacement. I had my right one done in November and it was the best decision I ever made. I am actually looking forward to the upcoming surgery and assuming it will be as smooth and pain-free as the first one was. At least I hope! LOL.

  5. #6
    Beth Holmes

    Wishing you a speedy recovery. Thanks for sharing! I love that you are so real. Also thank you for the specifics! I too have bad pain in my left toe which comes and goes and is worse if I walk longer than 2 miles. I just assumed it was arthritis which runs in my family — though I’m only 49 I guess it could have started already. I’ve had the pain for a couple years, but it’s been worse in the last several months. Thanks to your story I think I’ll go to my doctor and at least tell her about it and see what she thinks!

  6. #7

    Ah I had 5 toes done when I was a teen, and also had plier pin removal. It’s not as bad as it sounds, honestly, and also makes a great story for grossing people out. So that’s nice.

  7. #8
    marianne b

    Don Draper was in my dream last night. Also, don’t google image Jon Hamm unless you want to see him in all his glory. It may help pass the time though 😉 Wishing you a speedier recovery!

  8. #9

    The Dulcolax made me smile. I am SO familiar with that, given a serious back issue. But that little side effect of the hydrocodone is actually a very good thing when it hurts to sit, let me tell you! *LOL*

    Sending potent healing vibes your way, Cathy, along with a healthy dose of sympathy 🙂 Heal up quick!

  9. #10

    I didn’t know you spelled your name the same way I do! I noticed that little detail on your RX bottle. You don’t see too many Cathryns with a C and an ryn! Creative moms we had!!

    Hope you’re feeling better soon – take care of yourself!

  10. #11

    The worst part for me with ACL replacement? No driving for three weeks. I pushed it, told my husband I was fine. I then went through the garage door on my first foray out of the house. Garage doors are expensive. Husbands who shake their heads over ruined garage doors and grinding of teeth with false sense of reassurance that they are not angry, no bueno. I watched all seasons of Downton Abbey and Revenge in between drug induced naps. Take a deep breath, hate your crutches, hold your hubby’s hand when they remove the pin, and take that Ducolax!

  11. #12
    Teresa Igo

    I feel your pain, literally. It sucks to be immobile. I tore my Achilles in October and didn’t do well with the crutches. So for 2 months I couldn’t put weight on my foot and felt very useless in regards to housework and getting a 5th grader out the door in the morning. Although she stepped up and was a very good helper. The time will fly by and you have good help, take advantage of that and get the rest your DR. recommends. You will be up and running again before you know it.

  12. #14
    angela ezzell

    This is exactly why I read your blog.
    1. Dulcolax
    2. Goat balls

    I’m sorry for your pain, but rest easy (with your foot elevated) that it didn’t affect your humor!

  13. #15

    You have nothing but my empathy! I took a tumble during a race in June and sprained my ankle. It is STILL not better and I’ve run nary a step and I am going CRAZY! I CAN get around but it’s frustrating. On the other hand, it is teaching me that I should’ve valued my body’s ability to go running whenever when I still had it. (and…still hoping I’ll have it again!)

    I hope your recovery goes well. May your Mad Men pleasure rise exponentially! 🙂

  14. #17

    Cathy: That boot is totally sexy. You should save that for date night! I hope that you have a speedy recovery. It is not easy to sit & pretty much do nothing. I am trying to do the same after an injury after trying to help a lost dog. Let’s just say that I have a whole new understanding of people who have pain & are trying to live with it. Take it easy. So glad that you have such a wonderful family to help you out.

  15. #18
    Jennifer L

    I’m so sorry for what you’ve been going through! I have been dealing with foot issues lately (foot surgery to remove a mole on the bottom of my foot, plantar fascitis) and I am so sending your my good wishes. It’s hard being a runner and swimmer and not being able to run or swim. If you need a distraction, read American Gods by Neil Gaiman. You will be very well distracted.

  16. #19

    when I’m done spitting over the “goat balls” comment I’ll be sending lots of happy healing vibes your way! Keep your sense of humor and you’ll survive this just fine. Great excuse to get lost in a good book too!

  17. #20

    wishing you a easy recovery, with lots of Don Draper for good measure. I too am still chuckling over the “goat balls” comment.

  18. #21
    Tammy B

    It sucks to be incapacitated. Maybe you’ll get the all clear for crutches which would be extremely helpful. I broke the big toe on my right foot about 5 years ago and just this past weekend I wanted to cut if off myself. It kept cramping up and aching so badly. Rest easy and remember that this is for the betterment of your overall health!!

  19. #22
    Jill B

    I look forward to Halloween and your new rendition of the bee dance. Here is to you back up and running soon, but for now just rest. Prayers Jill B

  20. #23

    I love reading your blog because you are so REAL. Hang in there Kathy. I kind of fell off the wagon when it comes to your current class: Move More, Eat Well. I thought I’d try again in January. I too understand recovery: Fundoplication a year ago. For me it was a tough thing to swallow and still is as my esophagus is half the size as it was. Things could be so much worse though and these challenges keep us mindful of when things are going well in life. This too shall pass. Hugs to you. Thanks for the inspiration you give on your blog. Love following it when I can.

  21. #25
    Pam P (blkcow)

    Sorry to hear about your foot surgery…..but hey, you have a gorgeous pillow to elevate you foot on!! Hope you feel better real soon 😉

  22. #26
    Faith Tankersley

    I have had foot surgery 3 times and you are right, it’s not for sissies. Ice, rest and elevation. If you have not watched it yet, I highly suggest watching Downton Abbey, first 3 seasons. Awesome.

  23. #27
    Leanne in CA

    Goat balls! Love it. Oh Cathy, hang in there. It will be better before you know it. You’ll be glad you went with the surgery and can get on with your exercise and feeling better!! Sending good thoughts your way…

  24. #28

    Get well real soon. Sounds like your new computer really rocks. What a sweet family and neighbor to take care of you.

  25. #29

    I laughed very hard as I read this post…you are one funny lady and such a joy! Wishing you a speedy, somewhat pain-free recovery…


  26. #30

    Okay, this is going to sound weird but…would you keep us updated on your foot? I have a similar issue (stiff big toe, bone spur off the side). It’s been that way since about…oh…2007? I keep just dealing with it because the doc I went to said surgery would not likely give me any mobility in my toe back and could make it worse. As a runner/dancer that wasn’t acceptable to me. Mine only bothers me really badly after a full day walking. Although finding shoes that fit is a bit ridiculous. Which means I favor flip-flops. Which only exacerbates the problem. I’d resigned myself to surgery eventually, but keep saying “not yet” because of a) doctor mentioned above and b) when? WHEN do I have time to take 6 weeks off from serious upright activity (which is how long I was told recovery would take)? So please – strange as it may be – keep us in the loop on how the recovery goes. Inquiring minds (fellow whiners) and all that.

  27. #32

    This should be a challenging week for Project Life – although it looks like you have a few boot/foot elevated shots and the pill bottles are great. Hopefully your family is well trained by now to take pictures for you! I know a lot of people find these kind of weeks difficult to handle in PL, but I remember you’ve managed well in the past when you have been sick… Anyway, hopefully your foot feels much better soon! and, as always, I look forward to seeing how you represent it in your PL 🙂

  28. #33

    I’m a nurse and I always tell my non-medical family/friends to call me instead of Google. You need a filter for all that info. And it seems like the only people that blog in detail about their injuries are those less than 1% that have all the rare complications (or the big weenies!). I’m 8 weeks post broken ankle surgery. It gets better. Slowly. There were a lot of articles about the Boston bombing victims during my 6 weeks on the couch. Kind of slapped me upside the head. I’d remind myself this is a speedbump, not a major detour. But some whining was still in order. Prayers for an uneventful recovery.

  29. #35

    Surgery sucks! When I had my wisdom teeth out about 6 years ago, I had to get all 4 out at once via surgery because they were growing sideways and the roots were around the nerves. The dentist scared me by saying if the nerve was bumped at all, my face would be paralised, and although I went to the best facial reconstruction guy around to have the procedure done, it was still terrifying! While I wasn’t restricted to resting overly much, I wasn’t supposed to eat anything hot, anything that involved chewing, or brush my teeth… Living off icecream, yoghurt and custard always sounded good as a kid, but not so fun in practice! I was back to eating real food in a couple of days even though it was against doctors orders! So worth getting it done though… I no longer get bad tooth aches and my teeth have straightened back out.

    As horrible as things are now, I’m sure that once you get back on your feet you’ll find that it was worth it as well! You’re past the worst of it now, so it can only get better from here! Sending you my best wishes for your recovery 🙂

  30. #36

    First, you made me spew out water with “this sucks goat balls”. You have such a way with words. 🙂
    I hope you are feeling better soon and yes, recovery sucks. But take your time and let your body heal correctly. I had a surgery last year and was told that you only get one chance to heal, so do it right!
    Allow your loved ones to dote on you and take it easy. You will have your dancing (or running) shoes back on before you know it!

  31. #37


    Hope you are feeling better soon. There will be times during Mad Men that you will no longer care what happens to Don and quite possibly secretly hope that he takes a long walk off a short pier, but other characters are quite enjoyable so stick it out.

  32. #38
    tam shumate

    I am having foot surgery at the end of October. Complete with pins ( being removed and staying in ) and all. I will be out of commission for about 4 weeks,but I have to say I am looking forward to when it is all over to be pain free 🙂 I am wondered what to do with myself as well. Netflix will be my friend ! Heal soon , keep being positive!

  33. #39
    Kendra B

    OMGosh you crack me up!!! Glad you have people taking good care of you 🙂 Sending good vibes for a speedy recovery!!!

  34. #40

    Just had a pin taken out of my finger last week. I was told they loosen up over time. Mine did not. Huge pliers and a ton of force and it finally budged. Despite the pain while removing it once it was out I was pain free. Take some pain meds and don’t watch! Happy healing!

  35. #41
    Barb in AK

    Oh gosh, Cathy. You are not going to be able to walk around for the state fair this year!! LOL!
    Kidding aside, you are so good to yourself! Continue to take care. You have an amazing family 🙂
    I fear I have a bone spur at the back of my right heel. As you have done in the past, I, too, am ignoring it at this point.
    Good luck with the pin removal— take some of that “good drug” before going into the dr’s office 😉

  36. #42
    Jen Tapler

    Hi Cathy! I’m a Physical Therapist and wanted to reassure you that you’ll be fine. And stop Googling!! 😉 My co-worker (another PT) had the same surgery last fall and is so glad she did it. She’s also a runner, and was back to running without any problems about 8 wks post-op. If you’re having any stiffness in the toe, ask your doctor about a few PT visits – they can show you some stretches and exercises to make sure you maintain normal joint mobility while you’re non-weightbearing (this can be a problem for a lot of people and can slow down the recovery process once they’re released to normal weightbearing status). You shouldn’t need much PT, maybe just 2 or 3 visits to go over a few things you can do on your own. E-mail me if you want to chat about it! Hang in there. It will only get better and you’ll be glad you did it!

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