Lately I’ve written often about the advantages of aging. Such as: I’m finally old enough people listen to me; I’m not easily tossed around by fashion trends or political opinions; I go straight for the legacy look in clothing; I’ve learned how to say no; I can choose to be less cranky and more accepting; and like that.
But the last couple of months have reminded me that isn’t the whole story. There are definite disadvantages to aging, too. I’ve spent more days in bed, sick, since February, than in my entire preceding sixty years cumulatively (well, excluding hospital stays). So sick I missed 5/6 of our annual family ski trip. So sick my cycling mileage has been lower than since I started keeping track. So sick I’m behind on every project I care about. All I’ve wanted to do is sleep.
Last Monday, I went to the gym to work out, and it was great. It felt like emerging from the fog, on the mend, on the comeback trail. The next day I rode a solid twenty miles on my bike, my best ride in weeks. I was beating my chest from happiness. That evening at Taco Tuesday I would’ve danced all night with Cyndi if only Rosa’s had a dance floor. I was rejuvenated and ready for springtime and action. A fresh start.
And then I woke up Wednesday morning with a broken toe. Well, that’s what it felt like.
The big toe on my left foot felt like I had jammed it, or broken it, sometime during the night while peacefully asleep in bed. That scenario seemed unlikely, but I couldn’t deny the stiffness and swelling and pain. All my toes were puffed up like Vienna Sausages. Even worse, my middle toe was bright red, probably infected.
I hobbled around all day hoping I could bring the pain to submission though strength of will, my usual technique of self-medication, but I was unsuccessful. I just felt old and lame and helpless. This wasn’t the sort of injury I could walk my way through.
Thursday was no better. I went to Cyndi’s Pilates class because I was tired of doing nothing for two months. I told her I’d try doing any routine that didn’t need my toes. She took great care of me, and it was a good workout, but I was mostly miserable.
Friday morning, I went to see my doctor. The minute he walked into the room and saw my foot he said, well there is obvious infection in that one toe. But your main problem is gout.
Bummer. Gout. One of the most ancient of diseases; documented as far back as 350 BC by Hippocrates himself. Now I really felt old.
What I didn’t tell you earlier was I had expected a diagnosis like that at some point in my life. Seven years ago, Dr. Glass, my podiatrist, found telltale monosodium urate crystals in the joints of my right foot during an unrelated surgery. He said it was ironclad evidence of gout. After that, he asked every time he saw me if I had any symptoms. Not yet, I said.
But now I have.
The good news is, by Monday morning, six days after my flare-up, I seemed to be about 85% back to normal. I even walked the mile around our neighborhood ponds. On Wednesday I walked about three miles. Maybe the comeback trail is a real possibility?
Of course, none of my complaints surprise God. He’s known all about me for a long time now. In fact, Psalm 139 says He planned each day of my life – He charted those days (on a map? a spreadsheet?) – even before I was born. Every moment He knows where I am, and He both precedes and follows me and places His hand of blessing on my head. Who could whine or complain about treatment like that?
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32