Tuesday, March 20th, I had surgery. Not a simple “let’s put a pin/screw in your foot to hold it together” surgery, but a “let’s completely reconstruct your right foot and ankle” two hour surgery.
My husband (henceforth referred to as JW) reminded me that this was the 8th surgery I had undergone since we married in 2001. This was the 5th foot surgery.
During all the preparation for a surgery, all the IV sticks and blood pressure cuffs, the question always comes up – what exactly happened to you to make you need THIS surgery? Often, for the sake of the person asking, I simply say “childhood abuse” and leave it at that.
I like to leave it at that. Because the truth is painful, and the truth often scares me. The truth makes me think that possibly my luck is going to run out and I won’t wake from anesthesia this time.
The procedure I underwent on Tuesday the 20th had a description that was so long, convoluted and technical that the surgical nurse didn’t even know what it was. In order to confirm that I knew what was happening, I simply said “he’s reconstructing everything south of my shin”. In truth, this amazing surgeon basically broke and reset my foot and ankle, doing several tendon grafts to hold it in place, taking a wedge of bone from my tibia and wedging it into the inside of my ankle (a bone graft) to set my foot at the proper angle. Once everything was screwed/pinned and sewn in place, he molded a cast onto my foot & lower leg, wrapped it up tight and sent me off to the recovery room with a morphine push.
I had this same surgery done last June on the left side. It was 12 weeks of no weight bearing, riding a knee scooter, agonizing pain and showers every 3 days (because that’s all I could manage).
12 weeks of talking in my sleep because I can’t actually find REM, of moaning every time I had to roll over, of crying because it hurt so much. JW would say it was more like 6 months of me telling him he couldn’t even begin to understand the pain.
So, here we are again. Why?
Because in 1976 I was a ballet dancer. I had talent, and at 9, I was dancing en pointe so well that a ballet company wanted me to train with them. They were old-school, with Russian coaches who smacked the backs of your legs as they barked at you to hold your head up as you plie.
Because the dance company wanted me to live with other dancers so I could train all day, and have private instruction.
Because my stepfather couldn’t bear the idea of having the object of his sick desires, the receptacle of his rage and violence, the victim of his nightly rape and brutality to be taken away.
At 45, I am finally having my feet and ankles repaired because at 9 my stepfather thought it better to break them with a hammer so I could never dance en pointe again, so he could keep beating and raping me every day for another 5 years.
And now, it feels like I have 30 pounds of throbbing pain hanging off my knee, and the pain is so reminiscent of the original wound, and sometimes I can’t help but cry for what was lost. I scarcely take the pain meds – because there simply isn’t enough Dilaudid or Morphine to lessen the pain in my soul.
It helps that JW is wonderful. It took me a long time to find him. It helps that my daughter (Bean) is perfect and funny and loves to dance. It helps that my children will never know the savagery that I have lived firsthand. It helps, too, that the Beast is dead, his liver finally pickled to the point that the alcohol poisoned him. What helps most is being able to talk about it, being able to say, this happened, this made me – but it won’t win. It paints a shadow into every corner of my life, but it won’t win.