Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Unsexy DNA

Heretical Heredity

© 2007 Leighann Lord

From my Dad's side of the family I inherited flat feet and the problems that go with them. Well, I didn't know having flat feet was a problem until a few years ago when I discovered I have Plantar Fasciitis. That's a fancy way of saying my feet hurt. My podiatrist suggested I do calf stretching exercises, wear sneakers with good arch support, cut down on the high heels and consider orthotics, custom inserts you put in your shoes. Sexy flats here I come.

A few months ago in kick boxing class I threw a round kick to my opponent and felt the side of my left foot explode in pain. I stumbled back and sharply sucked in air as if not breathing would help. It didn't. My foot continued throbbing at double my heart rate. When the bell rang I hobbled off the mat. "Are you okay?" my friends asked. "I'm fine," I said reflexively, but the pain was so intense I feared I had broken my foot.

Over time the pain lessened, but never really went away. Every time I kicked with my left leg, the side of my foot would erupt. I naturally became reluctant to kick. I went into my first kick boxing tournament hesitant to use one of my best weapons. I won second place, but believe first could have been mine had I not subconsciously been afraid of kicking.

Even used sparingly I could barely walk by the end of the tournament. I limped heavily over to the photograph area to have my picture taken with the ladies who had won first and third. The adrenaline was still pumping, shielding me from the agony yet to come. When I finally got dressed and tried to put on my shoes I felt my foot say to me, "Bitch are you crazy?"

For a brief moment I hoped my husband would sling me over his shoulders or carry me bride-like in his arms. To his credit I think he would have but neither of us wanted his back to feel as badly as my foot. I considered going shoeless, but it was December. I loosened my laces, leaned on my husband and took a slow walk to the car. It was time to go back to the podiatrist.

Her office is a foot fetishers dream: walls covered with foot diagrams and a moveable model to help explain what's wrong with you. I told her what had been happening, but she took one look at my foot and said, "You have a bunion."

"A what?"

"A bunion," she said, "and it's inflamed."

I should have been relieved. I had feared a broken bone or a fracture. Not so deep down I would have preferred it. A bunion sounded so medieval. It conjured up images of fortune telling old crones with hooked noses and hair sprouting worts.

To quote, “Bunions are most often caused by an inherited faulty mechanical structure of the foot. It is not the bunion itself that is inherited, but certain foot types that make a person prone to developing a bunion.” It's exacerbated by wearing high heels or tight, uncomfortable shoes. It will get worse over time. Orthotics are no longer optional. (Not according to my insurance company, but that's another story.)

"Are you sure it's not broken?"

"Did you drive yourself here?"


"Then it's not broken."


The big question – after what will this do to my Summer foot wear options – is what about my martial arts aspirations? I've made it no secret that I intend to go for my black belt this year. Will the bunion put an end to that? Thankfully no. "I have marathon runners who are in a lot worse shape than you and they still run," my podiatrist said. "Just be careful and wear a bunion cover."

So there I was, in what I previously considered the "old people's aisle" of CVS drug store looking at an array of products that included toe separators, corn removers and callous shavers. I'm talking high glamour, my friends. Who feels sexy now?

When I finally went back to class, foot wrapped in the cutest bunion cover I could find, I took it easy; as easy as one can in a contact sport. Things are much better. My foot still gets irritated on occasion, but I'm recovering faster. I also find it's teaching me how to kick better and more effectively. The bandage-like wrap on my foot inevitably elicits questions from concerned class mates. "Hey what happened to your foot?"

"I hurt it during the tournament," is all my vanity will let me say. I'm sorry. The words, "I have a bunion" just sound so lame, no pun intended. But in the Russian Roulette of genetic ailments, I'll take it and consider myself lucky.

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