Stinky Feet Pt. 1

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about what’s wrong with my feet. I’ve been hesitant to write too much about it because I don’t want to sound whine-y, but I do want to try to answer your questions. 🙂 So here’s the gist:

Thirteen and a half months ago I felt a pain in the forefront of my foot, around the metatarsals. I had been wearing heels at a wedding, and had run 3 miles beforehand, so I brushed it off as fatigue from one of those two things.

However, the pain didn’t subside over the next few days, and it started to bruise. I’d had a stress fracture several years back, and this felt hauntingly similar. After much research, I was pretty convinced I’d done it again. Even knowing there wasn’t much that could be done, I headed to the doctor to get it checked out.

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The x-rays didn’t reveal a fracture, but the doctor was fairly certain that’s what I had. Plus, it was early in the injury, and stress fractures can take several weeks to appear on a x-ray. So home I went in an attractive blue boot. Not even one of the cool plastic black ones.


I was devastated that I had to stay off my foot for 6-8 weeks. Crushed.

I was blissfully unaware of what was to come.

Weeks and weeks passed. I was an excellent patient. I stayed off of it as much as I could, responsibly listening to the doctor so I could get back to running sooner. But there seemed to be no improvement; no change in the amount of pain. If anything, it was getting worse. I was downing endless combinations of Advil, Tylenol, and Aleve to no avail (which I never do). I knew in my heart something wasn’t right. A stress fracture would be healing, even if it took awhile…

Back to the doctor I went. Still no stress fracture on the x-rays, but obvious pain and trauma. I was sent to an orthopedic doctor, who took yet another set of films. No stress fracture, no bone spurs, no neuromas, no nothing. He told me it was probably metatarsalgia (inflammation of the metatarsals) and I should get new running shoes and run with metatarsal pads. While I knew this wasn’t right, I got new shoes, and I put metatarsal pads in all my shoes.

Fast forward a few more weeks with no positive progress. I returned to the orthopedist where I was given an MRI. The MRI revealed little more than some inflammation. He told me to live with it and come back in 6 months. (I’m still barely able to walk during this time).

At some point during that process, my liver had enough. It was tired.I had completed wiped it out & didn’t want to work anymore.  No more pain medication for me. It wasn’t doing anything anyways.

Frustrated, exhausted, and in pain, I headed back to my original doctor at the end of February (almost 4 months down the road now). My right foot had not shown any improvement, and now I was getting the same pain in the left foot. It obviously was not a running injury. I hadn’t run in almost 4 months, and a new pain had appeared. A week or two later, the pain showed up in my hands. If my hands and feet could be interchanged, the pain would have been in the exact same place, the exact same feeling.

The doctor’s next guess was rheumatoid arthritis, but all the tests were negative. She sent me to a rheumatologist. He ran every test in the book. (He didn’t do this willingly- I basically had to beg and plead for him to try anything. You have to be your own advocate: he wasn’t living in pain- I was.) Lots of tests- parvovirus, hepatitis, Lyme disease, lupus, RA…

Still no answers. Come back in 6 months.

Meanwhile, I was thoroughly run down and exhausted, my hair was falling out in frighteningly large clumps, and my white blood cell count and platelets were in the tank. After several re-checks, I was sent to a hematologist. She agreed my blood work didn’t look good, but couldn’t come up with a clear cut answer. Her best guess was some kind of connective tissue disorder, or a lingering virus. Perhaps a bit of a vitamin B12 deficiency, although it wasn’t revealed in the blood work. The only thing she found in my lab work was a positive ANA. So she sent me back to the rheumatologist, where I found out it the test result was very inconclusive and there was little they could do with the additional information except wait and see what happens.

Come back if it gets worse.

Worse? I couldn’t fathom what worse would be. I could barely walk- forget run or dance. I could barely hold a pen- I had trouble signing my notes at work, and opening charts was a task that left me thoroughly exhausted. I couldn’t open jars,  and I had trouble with door handles. I winced if anybody touched my hands or feet. I couldn’t sleep at night- even a sheet on top of my feet caused enough pain to wake me. I clearly remember the day I had to get my husband to zip and button my pants for me. I didn’t want to know what worse was.

I knew it could be worse- at least I had hands and feet. They did function, albeit with pain and difficulty. I wasn’t in a wheelchair; I wasn’t bedridden. I constantly tried to keep that in mind and keep a positive outlook.

Despite my efforts, it started taking a huge toll on me mentally. As soon as the bruise on my foot faded, there were no visible signs of anything being wrong. At times, I felt doctor’s didn’t believe anything was wrong. I began wondering if it was all in my head. It’s tough to fight for answers when you feel that way. Frustrated doesn’t begin to describe it. I cried daily for no reason. You can only tell people you are hurting so many times- I didn’t want to be annoying, or unpleasant to be around. And people stop listening anyway.

I thought if I didn’t say anything, maybe it would go away.

Stayed tuned for Part 2… (if you haven’t fallen asleep already)

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nicole August 20, 2010 at 2:56 pm
Ok, I just commented on your "Overcoming Injury Post" (literally 30 seconds ago), but I had to comment here again, just because this sounds sooo similar to what I went through. I got tested for RA, Lupus, you name it. I did physio, acupuncture...and then was told to go back and do it again for another six months...and another...and it never worked. At one point, at age 20, my family doctor tried putting me on Celebrex! (And at that point, he still didn't think anything was wrong! I had to get a DIFFERENT doctor to run the blood tests...). I know how tough it must have been! Reading this is like having someone reach into my head and take the first two years of my illness out and write it down. I'm sorry to hear that you have no answers yet. Hopefully you will find them one day
Julie @SavvyEats October 22, 2010 at 12:46 pm
Ok, I have no idea how I missed this post the first time around. But I COMPLETELY understand the frustration of doctors not believing you. I went through the exact same thing about 2 years ago. I gained 16 pounds in 10 weeks, felt like I was going to throw up 7 or 8 times a day, had no energy, and was constantly tired. But since my thyroid tests came back "normal," none of the doctors I saw would do anything, and some even told me it was all in my head and that I just needed to eat right and exercise more to lose the weight...but that didn't explain how I gained it or any of the other symptoms! Finally, 8 doctors later, I went to a holistic doctor, who decided to put me on thyroid meds because my tests were on the high end of normal...and felt SO much better once she did. Hang in there! xoxo.
Charlesetta Westlake March 29, 2011 at 6:01 am
I don’t normally comment on blogs.. But nice post! I just bookmarked your site
Anne February 13, 2012 at 1:57 pm
Hi there - I wish I could post a photo here, because I have a nearly identical photo of a bruise on my own foot. I was running - had recently increased my mileage per day - and felt a pop! while going down hill. It took several visits to different specialists to figure out what the issue was - no obvious fracture had shown up in initial x-rays. I found out it is called a Freiburg Infarction, or Freiburg-Kohler II Syndrome - it nearly always occurs in women 14-25 years old who are involved in impact-heavy sports like running, tennis, and gymnastics - it basically means that the head of your 2nd or 3rd metatarsel is crushed, causing a lot of pain while walking or bending toes. I also would wake up due to pain from a blanket over my foot! This type of injury is very difficult to heal, as it isn't a straightforward break - and it is also often missed because contrast in X-rays don't pick it up or techs don't know to look for it. I don't know about all those other symptoms you've had - perhaps they are unrelated to the foot injury? Hope this helps - everything you said about your foot sounds EXACTLY like my experience.
Jennifer Dietz January 10, 2015 at 10:13 pm
Oh my goodness, I am so glad I found your feed and the comments, my foot looks exactly like that after I injured it two weeks ago, hitting it on the edge of a sharp dishwasher. Bruising still spreading and pain is not going away. Thank you for posting this!
Christina December 14, 2016 at 1:49 pm
You make a good point about being your own advocate. It's unfortunate you had so many visits without a concrete answer up until this point.

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