Never Gonna Dance Again

On Monday I had a recheck on my foot reconstruction that was done 10.5 years ago. My surgeon is now retired, so I saw a new doctor. He’s quite young, but I think he is still in contact with my original surgeon because he said he would mention me to him. They are scheduling an MRI in case the X-ray wasn’t doing its job, but I suspect my only problem is arthritis from the surgery, not a reoccurrence of the very rare tumor.

I remembered a blog post I wrote a long time ago that explained the discovery of the tumor, as well as a poem I published about the experience and my disappointment with my original foot doctor. Instead of reblogging, I thought I would repost the story itself, as well as a  link to a poem I wrote about dealing with this bone tumor. The poem is called “Seasons.”  Call the story “Good Thing.”

I collapse into the nearest empty wheelchair parked just inside glass doors to the ER waiting room of St. Mary’s Hospital.  “Wait, Marshal.”  I call to my husband who marches, with his head bent forward, to the triage desk.  He turns, sees me in the chair, and motions me to follow.

He speaks to the nurse, and his upper body moves with the force of his words.  I don’t have time to observe the waiting room, when the nurse pushes me into a cubicle in back.  Within minutes I am in a gown, on the Stryker bed which is no bed, but a parking place for a sick body.  The gown smells of a commercial laundry.  I unbuckle my medical walking boot, dropping it to the floor, where it looks like a robot’s foot.

Marshal goes outside for a cigarette, and I am cold, shielding my eyes from the fluorescents positioned directly above.  I get migraines from fluorescents, but not headaches.  Mine originally were confused with transient ischemic attacks, or mini strokes, because they pucker one side of my face like a rotting fruit and give me vertigo, vomiting, and an inability to rise up from a prone position.  I put the pillow over my face and wait.

“Excuse me.”  A handsome young man has pushed another bed to the opening of my cubicle.  He helps me onto that bed, tells me to lie down, and pushes me still farther back into the ER, shielding my face from the lights with a towel.  “It won’t take long to x-ray your foot.  We should have some answers soon,” he says.  His voice is gentle.  His features vaguely resemble my son’s.  I wonder if he’s Korean; my son is of Korean heritage.

“Where’s my husband?”

My bed driver says, “He’ll be back soon.”

The lights are off in the x-ray room, so my eyes relax.  My driver stays in the room.

“My foot has already been x-rayed by two different doctors,” I say.

The x-ray technician is tall, blond, and he’s focused on his machine.  “We need to x-ray it ourselves.  Did you bring those films with you?”

I want to tell him that I’ve been traveling for weeks, barely able to walk with the shoe on, with a symphony of pain in my foot.  We arrived only last night in Rochester for my husband to get to the bottom of his mysterious medical ailments at the famed Mayo Clinic.  Now, before he has had a chance to be seen, my tears have sent him driving me to the ER before his own appointments at the clinic.

No, I did not bring my films from California, Mr. X-ray.

Both young men introduce themselves to me, but I can’t take in their names.   They are studying to be doctors.   Or maybe they are already doctors, studying ER patients.  They look at me to answer their question.

I want to tell them it’s the end of July, and it was early April when the spider climbed the wall behind the couch and I jumped up and came down to a fireburst of pain in my right foot.  I want to say that in these months, I have been examined by two physician’s assistants, four doctors-in-training, and have received advice from two specialists.  Both said to exercise my foot and tough it out.

No, I did not bring my films from California, Dr. X-ray.

My driver is to hold my foot while the blond works the machine.  The rubber gloves he is to wear to protect his hands from the radiation are huge, clumsy, and my foot can’t get placed correctly.  In frustration, he pulls them off his long slim fingers and with those fingers, he pulls my foot apart, spreading the bones out like the ribs of a silk fan.  This is the third set of x-rays and the first time anyone has concentrated on trying to do the best job possible.  Gratitude wells from me like tears brimming over.   I worry about him becoming a doctor, worry that if he continues putting himself in danger for his patients that there will not be enough of him to sustain a full career and a long life.

When we reach my cubicle, my husband stands at the doorway, hands in his pockets, surveying the workings of the ER.  He looks at my face quickly, steps aside to allow the possibly-Korean young doctor to position the bed-on-wheels next to my Stryker.  I scoot over onto the bed.

“Thank you,” I say.  “Have a good life.”  He smiles and pulls the bed back out of my cubicle.

Marshal stands at the doorway and watches the ER from there.  I lie under the fluorescents.  The ceiling is low and the light so concentrated they can do surgery right there on my Stryker, if they need to.  I shield my face with my hand until my hand gets tired, and then I switch hands.  Marshal sees me squinting and finds a light switch, turning off one panel of lights over me.  I hope he, too, has a long life and gets some help tomorrow from the Mayo doctors for his ailments.  He says if you rub your arm for twenty minutes and then stop, that’s what his esophagus feels like all the time.  Nobody has solved this mystery yet, but Mayo has the best doctors in the world.

Nurses and orderlies walk back and forth in front of my doorway.  I can see them beyond Marshal.

Marshal says, “What’s taking them so long?”

I lie down and pull the pillow back over my face.  Exhaustion settles like a blanket over my limbs, even my mind.  A clatter on the floor startles me, and I realize I have started to doze.  My body settles down again, shrugging into itself from the chill of the room.  The thin blanket I have pulled over myself only keeps me from chattering off the metal bed.

“It’s been at least forty-five minutes since they took those x-rays,” Marshal says, but I tune him out.

A hum starts in the large open room of the ER.  It grows in sound, a barely perceptible vibration.  I see Marshal alert, watching the quickened pace of the medical personnel.

“They must have brought in a bad one,” he says.

I sit up and look out past him.  The room feels as if a bee colony has awoken and begun droning.  I get off the bed and hop to the doorway, lean on Marshal’s shoulder.  Two doctors are walking from the hospital side into the large room.  At the same time two others who must be doctors stride from the other direction.  I can tell they are doctors because they know they are doctors.  It shows.  A fifth doctor materializes and they meet at the nurse’s station, talking at once, interrupting each other.

Marshal turns to look at me.  “Get back on the bed,” he says and helps me up onto the Stryker.  “I don’t know what you have, but you have something.”  He’s so dramatic.  I wonder what he’s talking about.  He sounds silly sometimes.  I wonder if he has the beginnings of early dementia.  He’s such a pessimist.

I’ll tease him, as usual, when those doctors converge on the stretcher coming off the helicopter or out of the ambulance or wherever the new patient is coming from.

Then the doctors are crowding into my cubicle, vying for my attention.  They all want to share the news with me, but finally the others defer to one who speaks to me.  They are busy, taking time away from their duties, and there is no time for finesse.  “You have a tumor in your foot.”

800px-Foot_bones_-_tarsus,_metatarsusI stretch my foot out in front to stare at it, the ridiculous stranger.  “No, no!” one of the doctors says and another catches my foot in his hands and slowly pushes it onto the bed, keeps his hands on it as if it’s a new hatchling or huge opal fresh from the mine.  The speaker keeps talking.  “You must be extremely careful of your foot right now.  The least misstep and the bone will shatter.  It will be irreparable, and you will not be able to walk.  Let me explain.”

Marshal is leaning against my bed, his hands behind his back, defenseless.

“A tumor has taken over your navicular bone, which is the central bone from which the other bones operate.  There is very little left of the navicular.  The only way it can be fixed is to graft bone tissue into the bone.  If the shell of the bone shatters, there is no way to recreate a new bone.”

Eventually they file out, and Marshal and I don’t look at each other.  He hands me my clothes.  A nurse bustles in with a long list of appointments for the next day and an address for the wheelchair store.  When I’m dressed, Marshal hands me the walking boot and opens the hospital’s wheelchair, plunking down the footrests with his foot.

“Good thing we came here,” one of us says.  “Good thing.”

UCLA Santa Monica Hospital–newly remodelled

One of only two doctors who could do this surgery was located at UCLA Santa Monica, only two hours from home, so that is where I went. When I was there, the marble was an ugly dark green, and Britney Spears was having her second child.



Filed under California, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Nonfiction, Writing

59 responses to “Never Gonna Dance Again

  1. It seems wrong to “Like” this, although I like that the tumor was found (finally) and in time, and that if you can’t run, at least you can now walk. The poem is beautiful and sad at once or both.
    I guess your husband is OK now, too?

  2. I wasn’t expecting something so complicated. Since it’s been 10 years the surgery must have been a success.

  3. I remember this story, Luanne. I’m hoping you get a good report on the MRI.

    • Thanks, Jill! I feel as if it’s probably a very bad arthritis deep inside because of the surgery. If the tumor was back it would hurt all the time and it does not.

  4. Wow. Good job listening to your body. I had no idea the bones in the feet are so … irreplaceable, un-mend-able like that! I’ve known several people with neuromas in their feet, but nothing like that. You’re as lucky as you are unlucky. 🙂

    • Yeah, we’re so used to hearing of bones being repaired and joints being replaced it seems unimaginable that there are things they just can’t repair with their little tool kits. Yup unlucky and then very lucky.

  5. Health scares are awful. It’s amazing how alone one can feel even with family all around. No one really knows what to say or do. I’ll be praying for you.


  6. It is difficult to find words to respond to such a post of honesty and power. Thank you

  7. When your feet hurt, everything hurts. Hope you get a good report.

  8. I remember when this all occurred, Luanne, and you wrote about it here in wonderful detail, so that we feel we are there interacting with the doctors, waiting for the news. I am hoping for the best possible news from the MRI. What an ORDEAL!!! I think you need more chardonnay, champagne, or whiskey.

    • And you came all the way down to visit me!!! xoxoxo I am sake now. My acid reflux is so bad lately that I switched over to sake because it is much less acidic. I’ll have to do a sake review post ;).

  9. All the best to you and for a positive outcome very soon!

  10. Oh, honey, what a beautiful little essay. I especially loved the poem. In fact, I read the poem first and then the essay and felt as if I already knew the hospital, the doctor, could already feel the harsh lighting, etc. Our bodies are so complex, so complicated. It’s scary what can go wrong. And yet it all started with a spider. In Native myths, the spider is wise and weaves truths. Isn’t it ironic (and also kind of lovely) that it was a spider that attuned you to the tumor through pain?
    Glad everything turned out back then, and good luck with your upcoming MRI.
    P.S. Still can’t get the poem out of my head. That’s a very good thing. I so love to walk around with a poem in my head.

    • Oh, wow. I hadn’t even considered the spider in that context. How incredibly . . . something. What? Serendipitous? Metaphorical? Symbolic? Coincidental? I will be thinking about that for awhile!!
      Thanks so much re the MRI and re the poem, Cinthia! MRI is in April . . .

  11. Pingback: Never Gonna Dance Again | Christine

  12. Jeepers, that must have been scary, scary. Hope the update is good.

  13. That is a very powerful, well-written story.

  14. Thank goodness you had the surgery

  15. Oh, dear, I guess we can only be grateful that the tumor was discovered and dealt with. If you’re left with arthritis, well, that might have happened anyway (hello to aging and all that!) but I’m sure it feels like a bit of salt in the wound. Your poem is beautiful and the story powerful and no doubt you would prefer that it had been all imagination. I know I would 😉 And leave it to you to add that that Britney Spears was having her 2nd child while you were in hospital!

    • The pain is different from regular arthritis (which I have inherited from my mom–but poor hubby he can’t even use one of his hands right now b/c his is so bad!) in that my foot will be fine and then a severe pain shoots right through the middle of it. A few minutes or so later it gets better. So weird and annoying, but not worse.
      Haha, if only I had imagined all this!!
      My son was bumped into or bumped into Kevin Federline while all this was going on.

      • Is the shooting pain in your foot random? Does it only happen when you put weight on your foot? Just asking because I had/have a similar problem. Actually, my left foot has been giving me a lot of grief lately. This particular problem is theoretically due to a bone spur on the joint of my big toe. In an x-ray the orthopedist could just make out that a piece of the spur broke off and “floats” around in the joint. When I put weight on my foot, if the bit of spur is in the wrong place, it hits a nerve and I feel like someone just stabbed me in the foot and, yes, right through the middle. It’s not so bad that surgery is warranted, though. I eventually bought some shoe inserts from myfootshop[dot]com and the episodes of shooting pain are becoming farther and fewer between. Now, the latest is plantar fasciitis … maybe. I’m not inclined to get my foot x-rayed again. I feel too much like the worried well, even though this–plantar fasciitis–does make walking painful. I’ll be looking into more shoe inserts, at least for my walking shoes. So sorry about the pain your hubby has from the arthritis 🙁

  16. I ‘like’ this Luanne because of the rawness in your beautiful memoir writing and poem. I had no idea that you had been through this, so I thank you for sharing it again on your blog. I can only say that I hope all is well and that the MRI brings only good results these 10.5 years later (you took me back with the reminder of Brittany Spears!). There is a part in my memoir where i remember sitting in an American Diner in Los Angeles and the news came over on a TV screen in the corner (something I had only seen in America and not England in 1980) to announce the murder of John Lennon in New York. These things, good and bad, stick don’t they? I had terrible foot pain that lasted for 18 months a few years ago. It took a round of doctors and specialists before I was taken seriously and diagnosed with plantar fasciatis, tearing of the ligament that runs from the heel along the base of the foot, causing a bone spur. I was in agony with that, but I know I have a small taste of what you’ve been through. A huge hug for you right now dear Luanne, huge… <3 xoxo

    • Sherri, I read about your Mum. I’m so sorry you are going through is and keeping my thoughts and prayers on your mom and your family.
      Plantar fasciatis is what Dr. B diagnosed me with without even examining my foot. He just assumed that is what it was. So stupid, but it seems to be pretty common. So many people have told me they have had it. It sounds hideous.
      Thank you for your good thoughts, too. Thinking of YOU now.

      • Thank you so much dear Luanne…I hope you’re okay… ? Mum is recovering slowly, one day at a time… Love and prayers to you…I’m going to be away from blogging for a little while while focusing on Mum…will keep in touch over on FB.. xoxox <3
        PS Plantar fasciatis is hideous…hope never to have it again. But I'm so sorry for all you went through with your foot, and still now…Our feet are great until something goes wrong with them…silly to say, but you know what I mean..

  17. Quite the story. You had me there. I, too, had a couple of tumors removed in my left foot, but nothing like this. I hope all is well with you and your foot. Thank God for the improvement of surgical procedures.

    • Oh, that is something that you had tumors in your foot! One of the doctors I just saw said that foot tumors are very rare. I guess we are in a rare club, the kind nobody wants to be in! I hope all is well with you, too!!! Thank you.

  18. I’m sorry you had to go through that horror, Luanne. The first doctor was a real jerk.

    • I know. I didn’t want to communicate with him, but sometimes I do fantasize sending him a letter. It might be better to hire someone to go into Loma Linda and read it in front of everyone to embarrass him. HE is the most arrogant doctor I’ve ever met–and I knew him before because daughter’s back was attended to by him a few years before.

  19. Luanne, first, I hope for the best for your foot and that you’re not in the pain you were. But what a powerful post and an amazing poem – I was with you for every moment of pain, frustration and anger, hanging on every word to see what happened next.

    • The pain I have been having is nothing like before. This is a random extremely sharp and sudden pain that does not last too long. Before it was truly excruciating and went on without stopping once it started–for months. Thanks so much for reading the story, Andrea!!!

  20. I’m so glad you’re on the other side of that, Luanne. On another note, I didn’t realize migraines had a separate set of non-headache symptoms – all of which sound HIGHLY unpleasant! When I think about florescent lighting in commercial building, I wince for you – I’m sorry you have to deal with that.

    • Shel, thank you so much for your kind words! Yes, fluorescents are the DEVIL. There, I’ve said it haha! Tomorrow hubby has a colonoscopy and I’m wondering how I’ll survive the hospital lights while I’m there ;).
      I have a set of aura symptoms. One of them is this strange burning in my sinuses similar to getting water in there while swimming.

  21. I am saddened by this past double blow to you and your husband. I am hoping yours is healed, no setbacks and you don’t have pain in cold weather or air conditioning. It seems many who have things operated on continue to feel twinges of pain, Luanne. . .
    I think when travels are complicated with yours and husband’s search for safe eating adds stress. I feel a lot more aware of places that cross contaminate due to Felicia trying to stay on her RA diet. She really has serious joint pain ID she doesn’t take care to eat proper foods. (For others unlike you who know she was diagnosed with JRA while 13, OSU test study found her joints to be like a 65 year old when “dismissed” from study dur to being 21 in 2006.) I hope you and husband have a serene Sunday!

    • Such a difficult diagnosis–RA. I can imagine Felicia is in terrible pain at times :(.
      My foot is as healed as it will get. It looks a little messy on X-rays ;), and I am not supposed to run or dance or anything that puts unnecessary weight on it. (I need to lose weight!!!) But it is definitely a form of healing, and for that I am grateful!!! xo

  22. For some reason “if” turned into ID, Luanne. . . oops!

  23. Impossible to like. I left you on the trolley and skimmed down to the traumatic bit. Sheesh! The things some folks have to go through 🙁

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