Thursday, 30 August 2012

Death and toe joints

I'm not much enjoying getting older.  It's getting harder to get up out of a chair, or even sit down in one, without groaning or going 'oof' from the effort.  More often than not reading the news, or watching it on the box, leaves me feeling more and more world-weary.  I've always been of a fairly misanthropic mindset but 24-hour world news doesn't exactly convince me that humankind is a particularly nice species.  I dunno.  Don't mind me, I'm been feeling a bit 'blah' for the last few days, as if I've got nothing particularly exciting to look forward to.  A bit 'Sunday afternoon in the 1970s', if you know what I mean.

The weather hasn't helped one bit.  We've had, frankly, a fucking appalling summer here, and now the nights are drawing in and the leaves are starting to turn yellow.  I hope we get some good weather in the Autumn; those crisp September days where the sky is a blue million miles, the air is sharp around the edges and there's the faintest whiff of woodsmoke swirling around the dew-besparkled spider's webs.

That'd be nice.

I'm getting older but when I complain about it to my mother, she rightly replies, a little tartly, 'well, it's better than the alternative'.  And she's got a point.

A relative came to visit the other day and, for some reason, conversation turned briefly to acquaintances/friends who had died too young (why, yes, I have always been of a morbid frame of mind, since you ask...) and I could not believe that she didn't have any.  I mean, she's about 5 years older than me so unless she had friends that were wrapped in cotton wool or took no chances, then I can't see how that's possible.

It immediately made me think of and enumerate people I've known who are no longer here:  Felix, a school friend, who fell off the Matterhorn in 1987; Bulldog and Alex, Guildford punks, who died of drugs overdoses; Johnny, who died by deliberately overdosing on methadone; Robert, who died of a brain haemorrhage; Ray, who also had a brain haemorrhage; Colin who succumbed to oesophageal cancer; Dave, who committed suicide; and Simon who managed to kill himself through misadventure (aka, being a complete twat).  All of these, apart from one, were under 45 when they went to their eternal reward.  Also - and I hadn't noticed this until I started to list them - they're all male.  I'm not sure what that says - females are more healthy or less stupid or less likely to take risks perhaps.

Anyway, I've ended up thinking about all this because of my bastard foot.  Feet.  Bastard feet.

If you recall, over the last year or so I've taken up running.  And I was getting better at it, slowly but surely.  I can't honestly say that I was enjoying the actual running much, but I was feeling the benefits and liked being out in the fields and woodland, seeing the changes in the seasons, and getting lungfuls of fresh air.  At one point I was running 5km three times a week.

But then I started to get a small twinge in the joint at the base of my left little toe while running.  It would come and go.  Then it started hurting sometimes across the top of my foot, then sometimes down the side.  And sometimes it wouldn't hurt at all.  Occasionally it was so painful it felt like toothache in my foot.  But it wasn't all the time.  It hurt after I'd been walking for any distance and - weirdly - when driving.

The pain was/is hard to pinpoint exactly and fiddling around with the foot didn't help locate it, but the bone that bumps out to the side, under the little toe, is definitely tender.  Sometimes the pain is so bad it makes me limp, and it's been getting progressively worse.  I've not been out for a proper run since 1 August because I was finding that, after about a mile or so, the pain was so bad that I couldn't continue and would just have to hobble back home.  And this was after taking paracetamol and rubbing Voltarol gel into the joint before going out.

The ongoing, long-standing plantar fasciitis in my right foot wasn't helping much but at least that never really troubled me when actually running, it was always afterwards when that tightened up and made me hobble.  So, yeah, both feet, for different reasons, making me hobble.  Awesome.

To be honest, the pain in the joint started niggling in about September/October last year but wasn't bothersome until about July this year.  I finally pulled my finger out and arranged to see the doctor about 3 weeks ago.

Needless to say, he was bemused and didn't know what was wrong.  Really, I hadn't expected him to but visiting the doctor is always the starting point for investigation.  He thought it was possible that it might be a stress fracture and, as I'd been hoping, decided to send me for an x-ray.  If there's no fracture, then it's more likely to be tendon/ligament damage, or some other sort of soft tissue malady that won't show up on an x-ray.  I was really hoping for there to be a fracture, because then it would be fixable.  However, I kind of knew that it wasn't - this pain had been going on, literally, for months.  If it was a fracture, surely it would've healed by now?

I had the x-ray, after a week's procrastination.  You guessed it - 'normal'.  So nothing is showing up on the x-ray, therefore there's no fracture.  You know what it's going to be, don't you?  Arthritis.  Because I'm getting old.


Next step, then, is a trip back to the doctor to see where we go now.  My choice is to either get referred to a foot specialist, but one who treats more than just elderly patients and/or try and find a good sports therapist locally as I'm inclined to think that whatever's happened has been as a result of my running.  Which, incidentally, the doctor has told me to stop until we know what's going on.  So I stopped running altogether about 3 weeks ago and have turned to swimming instead.  At the moment I'm averaging about 1.5 times a week, swimming 1km each time, which isn't really enough but each visit costs me at least £5 which soon mounts up, especially when you consider running is free.  I do like swimming, though, and, in an ideal world, if I can get back into running, I'd like to eventually do something three times a week - swim/run/swim or run/swim/run.  But until we know more about what's going on, just swimming it is.  I've given myself the goal to clock up 20km swum by the end of the year and since the beginning of July, I've so far covered 6km.  And I'm trying to build up from 1km each time to 1500m/1 mile but that's quite a big step up.

The pool I like swimming at is a new-ish one at Surrey University Sports Park.  It's 50m in length (the only one in Surrey) that, most of the time, is divided into two 25m pools with a transversable boom and a moveable floor that can give a depth from 0 to 2 metres.  But for a few hours a day they open the pool up to its full length of 50m, and that's when I prefer to go swimming.  I'm now used to doing 50m lengths (25m seems so short now) but, more importantly, it's much easier to keep track of how far you've gone when you're doing 50m at a time.  Therefore, 1km is 20 lengths.  Another 500m on top of that (to give 1500m/1 mile) is an additional 10 lengths which doesn't sound much but by the time I've done 20 lengths in around 45 minutes (I'm not a terribly fast swimmer), I really have had enough.  But I know I can get to 1500m eventually.

I really need goals to get through this, don't I?!!

So, then, next thing is to revisit the doctor and see where we go from here.  I'll keep you updated with further whiny, self-pitying posts, have no fear!!

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