A Source of Toe-tal Stress

I don’t like horror stories.

I’m not big on scary things, in general (besides Halloween…I love dressing up)…but horror stories, in the form of tales told ’round the campfire or in media such as television or film, have never been my cup of tea. Probably because I’m a giant scaredy-cat, but I digress.

My disdain for horror doesn’t mean I’ve been able to successfully avoid it over the years. I’ve traipsed through my share of haunted houses, watched countless scary movies (with my hands over my eyes for a good portion of all films), and listened to spooky ghost stories.

The scariest story of all that I’ve heard over and over again has to do with…

Diabetes. And feet. Without going into more detail – because I’m shuddering at the mere thought – diabetes complications could lead to, um, amputations.

I’m not trying to make light of a very serious subject here: Let me be crystal clear when I say that diabetes complications are real and terrible, I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. They also frighten me so much that I tend to avoid blogging or even talking about them altogether. The slightest blur in my vision or tingling in my toes can send waves of panic through my brain that are so intense that I convince myself that I’m experiencing my first diabetes complications.

So when I discovered a cut on my toe several weeks ago, I couldn’t help but totally freak out, especially when I noticed blood around the site.

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As a person with diabetes, you’d never catch me barefoot and surrounded by all those rocks. OUCH.

For most people, a cut on the toe sounds like no big deal – you just put some antibiotic cream on it, wrap a Band-Aid around it, and let it heal. But for someone like me who has diabetes, a little cut triggers fears of serious issues like cellulitis or other infections that could lead to major problems.

It might sound ridiculous, but in the first couple days after I noticed my cut (it was a bit like a split in my skin), I had horrifying visions of my toe turning black and falling off. I became hyper-aware of every sensation I could and couldn’t feel in that area, and when I felt a slight stinging around the area a few times, I imagined that it meant that my days with all of my toes were numbered.

Was it silly for me to jump to such dramatic conclusions? Probably. Was I being paranoid? Definitely. But my overactive imagination was enough to convince me to at least consult my primary care physician about the matter.

I’m glad that I did. Over a two-week span, I had two virtual appointments with my doctor who took my concerns seriously. I described the issues and he gave me advice as to how to treat the cut (stop putting Neosporin and a Band-Aid around it each day, let it breathe, use a nail file to very gently proximate the wound, make sure I wear socks and shoes for all forms of exercise to better protect my feet). He agreed with my overarching concern: to heal it in order to prevent it from getting worse.

My toe is doing much better now, and after all that, I feel a bit (okay, a lot) sheepish that I made such a big deal about it in my head when I initially spotted the split in my skin. But in life with diabetes, everything related to my health has to be taken seriously, even if it means dealing with an added source of toe-tal stress.

 

Starting Off on the Wrong Foot

“How are you today, ma’am?” The man behind the Dunkin’ Donuts counter smiled and looked at me expectantly, as I started back at him blankly.

I wasn’t sure how to answer. My mental state wasn’t great, that was for sure. I’d just come from a visit to a walk-in clinic, where I’d had X-rays of my foot taken to see whether or not it was fractured.

The previous 24 hours had been a bit of a whirlwind. I’d worked and gone to my first-ever kickboxing class, which was an awesome experience. I’d had dinner with my partner and started playing video games soon after as a way to unwind after the long day. That’s when pain in my foot flared up, suddenly and significantly.

Could I have injured it in the kickboxing class, without even knowing it? Was I overdoing it on exercising, in general? How and why did the pain just start up like that? Almost immediately, I plopped myself down onto the couch with an ice pack and extra cushions, hoping that I could stop the pain as quickly as it started.

No such luck. I went to bed early that night, but the pain was so severe that sleep was virtually impossible. I tossed and turned for hours, wondering what the hell was going on and coming up with a plan to get it checked out A.S.A.P.

That’s how I found myself at a walk-in clinic, a little over 12 hours after I first felt the pain. I was evaluated by a nurse practitioner who told me that “the likelihood of a fracture was low” (thank goodness) and that it was “probably tendinitis.” I was given instructions to rest, ice, and elevate my foot for the weekend, and take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (otherwise known as NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen or Aspirin) as needed.

Hugging the cactus - a t1d blog
I’m trying to put my best foot forward as I deal with this injury.

That meant hours and hours of being sedentary.

That meant no exercise of any kind – I even had to keep walking at a minimum.

That meant my spirits were crushed.

I was glad that it wasn’t worse, and proud of myself for not waiting to seek medical treatment. But that didn’t mean I was thrilled with the outcome. Basically, I had to take the wait-and-see approach. Time will tell how long the pain lasts, and I can’t stand not knowing. I also can’t stand not being able to be active. Daily exercise is a key element to maintaining good blood sugars. Sitting around idle doesn’t do my diabetes any favors, but it’s not like I had any other choice.

I left the clinic, trying to process this information. This certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to kick off the long Memorial Day weekend. It definitely could have gotten off on a better foot. (Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the puns.) I found myself at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts minutes later. I hobbled in, hoping that an iced coffee might lift my spirits somewhat.

I blinked, bringing myself back into the moment, and smiled wryly at the Dunkin’ cashier. “I’m okay,” I said to him. It wasn’t just a response to his question, it was also a reassurance to myself. I’m okay and I will be okay. I won’t let this get me down.

For Feet’s Sake!

First and foremost, let me apologize: I’m sorry for all of the cheesy puns that are about to follow.

Now that’s off my chest, let me put my best foot forward and write about feet.

People with diabetes are told to pay extra special attention to their feet. There’s a few things to look out for, such as circulation and nerve issues. So recently, when an old foot injury flared up, I knew trouble was afoot and I better do my best to heel it.

A couple years ago, I broke a very tiny bone (roughly the size of a corn kernel) in my foot called the sesamoid bone. It was classified as a stress fracture, so I wore a bootie and did non-weight-bearing exercises for six weeks while it heeled. I also decided to take a break from high-heel shoes and cushion my sneakers with gel inserts, which wound up being an important step in recovery. Before long, my foot was feelin’ fine and my soul was joyous.

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Fast-forward to the present day, and the injury seemed to be waltzing its way back into my foot. For feet’s sake, I thought it was a thing of the past! Luckily, I’d kept my gel inserts from the first time around and started wearing them again. I didn’t want to toe the line with this foot pain – I addressed it and monitored it closely, and will continue to do so.

For now, my foot is toe-tally better. I’m reminding myself that it’s important to pay attention to my body’s signals and handle them accordingly. Foot health is absolutely not something to mess around with, and like everything else related to diabetes, I’ve got to hop to it and take good care of my feet. Can you digit?