My first inklings—actually itchings—of foot problems came in my boarding-school competitive-swimming days some 70 years ago. The culprit back then, appropriately enough, was athlete’s foot. The Peddie School infirmary was more than a match for my issue, and from then till now I wear slippers or zoris when I go swimming and walk with raised toes when the situation requires me to go barefoot. Happily, athlete’s foot has not revisited me since. But the foot, as I have learned in recent years, is liable to a host of other maladies...
I won’t complain. I had 68 uninterrupted years of podiatric peace. Then one footful day in late November 2019 it happened. Cedar and I were guests of my older daughter and her husband for a week’s stay on the North Shore of O`ahu, more specifically in a lovely near-beach house in Kailua, Hawai`i. The occasion for what was in fact a family reunion was a combination of my wife Cedar’s 75th birthday and my 80th. Our younger daughter and her British husband flew up from their home in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Cedar’s brother Dave and wife, Linda, joined us from Corvallis, Oregon, and our good friend Magi Cooper arrived from Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. On my second morning in our leased mansion with private backyard pool, I found that when I walked on the white-marble floor, my left foot, especially the ball and the big toe, would hurt. The pain was between a six and a seven. I couldn’t just ignore it. Even the warm sand of the nearby beach and the famous curative power of the Pacific Ocean did little to make things better. The same was true for the various pain-relief creams I bought at Long’s Drugs despite my generous and repeated slathering on of all and sundry. Nothing helped. After the rest of the guests returned to their respective places, Cedar and I flew to Maui, where we spent another week. This time I didn’t try to cure myself. I went to the nearest urgent care. After hearing my story and inspecting the offending foot, the physician’s assistant told me in no uncertain terms, “Mr. Feldman, you have gout.” A retired English professor, I though gout had gone out in the late 18th century, in the days of Boswell and Johnson. Guess again, I thought. Fortunately, the steroid shot plus the prescribed medicine and lots of daily cilantro soon reduced the pain to a one or less, and I can report that, one small flare-up notwithstanding, I’ve been gout free ever since.
But Nature wasn’t done with my feet quite yet. This time the occasion was a church retreat at 8,500, ahem, feet. My right foot was invited to join the Feldman podiatric pain club. I’d only recently heard of plantar fasciitis, where the heel is the part that hurts. Fortunately, when my right heel started in, I learned a few simple but effective exercises from a fellow retreatant that I was able to start using immediately. The next morning, however, as I was walking down an incline on a dirt road, I began slipping and put my left foot out to stop myself. Thirty hours later, that foot began hurting to the point that I could hardly walk. Back home, an x-ray reveals no break. I had pulled a tendon and caused a painful inflammation. Fortunately, PT exercises are helping that foot heal. Many at my age if still alive have one life-threatening disease or more. When I remember that, I’m happy to merely be de-feet-ed.