feet, morton's neuroma

Hanging up my boots – Morton’s Neuroma

I have a high pain threshold but there is always a limit to what can be tolerated day after day and I hit that limit with the devil that is Morton’s Neuroma.  Little bit of a backstory without boring the pants off you.  I first experienced pain in my left foot almost 11 years ago whilst out running.  I can only liken the pain to repeated dislocations and electric shocks in my toes…not all of them.  It was very specific.  Despite visiting the doctor and being sent for an Xray, MN wasn’t mentioned and I never bothered to Google because I accepted that it was something I would have to put up with for the rest of eternity.  It came and went but mostly, it meant that running was kept to a minimum and swearing was increased to unmentionable levels.

It was some years later that the telltale signs appeared in my right foot.  The levels of pain were much greater than in my left foot and once they kicked into action, my life appeared to revolve around my feet and the agonising pain that only seemed to worsen. My thoughts turned to amputation of some of my toes, despite realising that the pain was originating in my foot.  That might give some indication of the level of pain experienced.

I wouldn’t mind if I had worn tight shoes or high heels but they distant memories of a life once upon a time ago when my mind was on other things, apart from my feet.

Fast forward to the end of 2018, I had hung up my hiking boots and running shoes and had arrived at the point where I could no longer bear the pain.  After visiting my GP, I was told of MN although I did not test positive for all the usual tests.  That’s the case with most diseases and injuries though and I was adamant that this would be sorted one way or another.  The waiting times on the NHS were longer than I was prepared to wait and so I decided to fund the investigations and subsequent treatments myself.  Consultations, X-rays, MRI’s, ultrasound guided cortisone injections and a sort hand from writing cheques.  Yes, I still have a cheque book.  It’s not as if I go on holiday or waste money on luxurious items and so I felt justified in spending my emergency fund on something that would hopefully transform my life and rid me of the disability.

I wanted to believe that the cortisone injections would work and they did, for about 3 hours.  Once the local anaesthetic had worn off, the amount of pain in my left foot was so bad that I actually cried whilst rocking back and forth on my hands and knees.  It was as if someone had poured boiling water on the top of my foot and the skin had slowly peeled away to reveal the underlying nerves and fascia.  This lasted around 36 hours and then subsided to a level that was ten times worse than I had originally experienced in that foot.  It did take my mind off the other foot, which had been the one that I had considered to be unbearable.  On returning to see the surgeon for my follow-up appointment, I made it very clear that I would not be repeating the injections any time ever.  I have no doubt that for some, they provide relief from the torturous pain but for me, it was not the case.  Surgery was planned for the 8th March and I set about preparing myself.  I was looking forward to the day because I was pinning all of my hopes on this surgery.  One of my sisters had undergone the surgery a couple of years ago and had experienced complications that required further surgery.  This was not to put me off because I was left with no other option.

 

If you are preparing for this surgery then I might advise the following before the big day.

  1.  Accept that you will be lying or sitting with your foot elevated for the first 10 to 14 days.  This isn’t an option but a necessity.  This will aid the recovery process by reducing the swelling, pain and possible complications.  That’s not to say that you are completely immobile.
  2. Gather your books, sewing, knitting, computer, treats and other luxuries and make sure they are within easy reach and not a trip hazard.
  3. Don’t expect too much of yourself.
  4. Eat and drink well and wisely and don’t fret about weight gain.  There will be plenty of time to deal with that much later when you are up and mobile and in need of a goal.
  5. Meditation helps with the discomfort or pain and if it’s something you haven’t yet tried then give it a go before your surgery.  There are lots of useful videos on you tube.  Being able to focus the breath and the mind can be life altering and enable you to get through some of the more difficult days.
  6. Make sure there’s someone around to help with food, chores and shopping.  Even if you feel like you can walk around in those first few days, do not do more than is advised by your surgeon.  It will prolong your recovery time and increase the risk of complications.
  7. Be patient, sing songs, wear bright lipstick and crazy hats or whatever tickles your fancy but do retain a sense of humour and don’t be too upset by the surgical shoe that should, quite frankly, be sent to Room 101.  It could always be worse.
  8. Ensure there’s a clear path between your sofa, bed, chair and bathroom so that you minimise the risk of trip and toe-stubbing hazards.  I can tell you now that stubbing ones toes post-surgery is bloody painful and so is dropping something on the said foot.
  9. Wear comfortable clothes and try to distinguish between pj’s and day clothes so that day and night do not simply merge into one.  It helps to give some structure to the day.

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The surgery itself was mostly unremarkable.  I got to sleep one of those sleeps where you lose track of time and suddenly it is all over.  I was free from pain apart from the very sore throat.  According to the anaesthetist, I was very tight.  The resulting cough was short lived and made worse by remnants of lubrication used during intubation…apparently.  I’m able to report that my sense of humour remained intact at the thoughts that crossed my mind.

hiking

The Suffolk Coast Path

The Suffolk Coast Path is approximately 50 miles in length, depending on the exact route taken.  You can find comprehensive details, directions, GPS routes, maps and more: here here and here.  You might choose to incorporate parts of this walk on circular routes or tackle it in small sections if the thought of walking long distances on consecutive days is not for you.  You might be surprised by the beauty and history that form a part of our most beautiful coastline.

You might find this book useful.  Not that I am suggesting you purchase it from this website.  I picked it up at my local Waterstones shop in Bury St Edmunds.  It was reassuring to have it in my backpack and it certainly helped with the logistics of my walk.

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I’m not entirely sure if I should thank or blame Simon Armitage for the fact that I’m sitting up in my bed, booking a train ticket to Lowestoft for the following morning.  I have never met Simon but I have read two of his books; Walking Home  and Walking Away both of which, I can highly recommend because they are somewhat infectious.  I also have to thank Griff  for his incredibly inspiring and comprehensive guides, without whom, I may well have been caught out by the tides or lack of a foot ferry.  You will find lots of very useful links on his website and I urge you to read through these if you are planning any of the walks that he has undertaken.

I had been contemplating walking the Suffolk Coast Path for several weeks as I was trudging along The Essex Way and The Stour and Orwell Walk.  I knew that I had a small window in which to complete the walk due to the foot ferry that operates between Bawdsey and Felixstowe and also Southwold to Walberswick.  It is important to note at the time of writing that the footbridge between Southwold to Walberswick is currently closed due to erosion of the supporting structure.

It might be appropriate to bring up the most important issues pertaining to the logistics of this walk before you head off to the beach with your sandwiches and sense of humour firmly secured in your backpack. Most importantly, check the Tides and then check them again.  Although much of the walk can be done along sections of the beach, there are pinch points that will not be favourable to anything other than sea-faring creatures at high tide.  There are inland diversions (all of which are listed on Griff’s website) so do take a look. There are many sections along the coast where mobile phone services are non-existent.

I walked this route over the course of 3 days.  A combination of coast, estuary, heaths and meanderings through pig farms and forests; all of which provided me with the opportunity to reflect, meditate and find peace.  It also afforded me the opportunity to test out my new rucksack and to make a wonderful new friend on the train between Norwich and Lowestoft.

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Lowestoft

As with any linear walk, there is the logistical issue of planning appropriate transport to the start and finish of each section.  You may well decide to camp wild at the end of each day or find appropriate accommodation.

Paddling at Dunwich
Soothing the aching feet at the end of day 1

How I broke down the route:

Day 1: Lowestoft to Dunwich 16.7 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 23 minutes.

Day 2; Dunwich to Chillesford 20.4 miles with a moving time of 5 hours 24 minutes.

Day 3: Chillesford to Landguard Fort 18.7 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 51 minutes.

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This pinch point on the beach before Aldeburgh is where you are likely to experience problems at high tide.  Remember to plan according to the tides and follow the diversion if you need to walk inland.IMG_7523

If you’ve never been to Boyton Marshes, I might suggest that you add it to your list of places to visit.  It was here that I found solitude and sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of life.  You can walk at your own pace, find peace and tranquility or watch the wildlife wading, hopping and swooping before your eyes.  It was here that I stopped to nibble on nut butter and wave to a man who was riding upon what looked like a sit on lawnmower but I realised that my greasy fingers had smudged my glasses and he was in fact, on a jet ski.

If you would like to know more about the archaeology of this area then there is much to read/research and learn.

One is never too old for frolics.

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I have visited Shingle Street many times over the years and it never fails to delight me.  Neither does it fail to make my lower legs surrender to the mercy of marching through what feels like treacle on an empty stomach and with marshmallows for legs.  I’m intrigued as to the very long stretch of shells from the cottages towards the sea.  I imagine this was both fun and beautifully therapeutic.

As an aside…this entire walk was free from the horrors that come from standing in dog shit…until I witnessed a dog dumping it’s load on the path leading to the beach.  The owner appeared to be neither concerned or in a hurry to pick it up or stick it and flick it into a place far away from boots, children and my sanity.  Not once did I come across even the slightest whiff of filth or debris on this stretch of coast…thanks to considerate owners.

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Without a doubt, Landguard Fort was the busiest section of the walk but, given that this was the end of The Suffolk Coast Path, I was not phased by the numbers of people flocking here.  I’ve walked along the estuary from across the water and am always amazed by what looks like giant lego bricks being hauled onto waiting ships.

Although this walk took place in October I was blessed with simply gorgeous weather.  Despite feeling somewhat tired at the end of each day, I was up and back at it the following morning to continue my journey.  Who knows where I might go next.