Bridgehead. I cried in Bridgehead.
Not in loud, blubbery sobs that would turn heads and have other patrons talking and pointing fingers. You would have had to look closely to see my watering eyes, to notice my chest convulse, despite my attempts to hold it together.
If you were there, you would have seen me typing on my smartphone, staring at the screen, and you would have wondered if I was suppressing a whole-hearted laugh. That is, until that big blob of a tear fell and left a wet mark on my shirt.
Yes, I did have a bit of an emotional outcry, in public, but I did my best to keep my emotions in check. When I thought I might erupt again, I chugged the last of my coffee, cleaned off my table, and swiftly left the shop.
My tears weren't ones of sorrow. They weren't particularly of joy, either. My emotional outpouring was more of relief, of hope, and of optimism.
I had just come from a visit with an orthopedic surgeon at the Civic Hospital. My meeting came after more than a year of waiting, to meet the surgeon who would be operating on my left foot, to hopefully cure my Kohler's disease/Mueller-Weisse syndrome (it's name is a mere question of semantics, the surgeon told me: they are essentially the same condition).
Until my Friday visit, the surgeon had a basic x-ray image from which to assess. The specialist who I visited, last summer, who referred me to this new surgeon, told me that the clinic that took the x-ray was using basic equipment, a machine that was good at determining whether a bone was fractured but not at providing fine detail. The equipment at the Civic could obtain a much sharper image and so, upon my arrival, I was taken to the imaging lab.
When I met the surgeon, who told me to simply call him Brad, took time to listen to my whole foot history. He was interested in learning that I cycle and would like to be able to go for long distances, again: he even shared this interest. He had me walk, noticed my gait, and asked me to pinpoint exactly where the pain was felt the most.
When I touched the area, he was puzzled: "That's not where the Mueller-Weisse is concentrated," he said. He felt around, had me walk some more, heard the bone crunching on bone. "I'm going to send you for more x-rays," he said. "I'd like to look more closely at the bones around your ankle."
Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting down together, looking at the new images.
"You can see this darkened patch," he pointed out, "there's definitely some rubbing there. I'd like to examine it even more closely, but you'll need a CT scan. I'll order one.
"Have you ever had injections for your arthritis?" he asked, pointing to the top of both feet.
"No. What kind of injections?"
"It's a type of steroid that reduces the inflammation. You've really had no relief for your osteoarthritis?"
"Wow." He was silent for a moment as he studied the x-rays. "Of course, we'll need to treat the Mueller-Weisse but I think your arthritis should be a priority and we'll figure out why your bones are rubbing."
I told him about how I wasn't above hacking off my feet to eliminate my arthritic pain. I've lived with it for more than 30 years and not a day goes by where I'm not in pain.
"Well, I won't rule that option out," Brad said. "But let's try the injections first. What do you think?"
"You think it'll really relieve my pain."
"There's a good possibility but it's not a guarantee."
We ordered the injections. They are done by another doctor and the wait is about a month. The CT scan will happen around the same time or a few weeks later. And as for the surgery for the Mueller-Weisse? It's not critical at this point because it doesn't seem to be the cause of any of my pain. Brad and I will meet in October to take more images and see if there are any changes.
I've spent almost three-quarters of my life in pain. So much so that I have no memory of being pain-free. The mere notion that my pain can be reduced was powerful. It was like learning that I had won the lottery. That I had been given a new freedom. My emotions became overloaded.
There's no guarantee that the treatment will work. There are no guarantees in life. But for now, I remain hopeful, simply because for the first time in my life, I heard someone tell me that they wanted to work toward helping me not hurt.
And that's a powerful thing.