Pain, masks, and the longest hike

It’s weird how the universe works in parallel sometimes.

About 10 days or so ago, I broke my toe. And just so you know I’m not making this up:

I really did. Not doing anything heroic, unfortunately. I broke it by running too enthusiastically into an unpacked box that was filled with some as-of-yet unknown substance, probably cement, or maybe iron bars or something. Nonetheless, what I thought was a stubbed toe turned into that mess within a day or so.

It’s not bad. It’s taped up and I can get around just fine, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Bone cancers are known to be one of the more painful types of cancers. This is what I struggle with, with Kekoa. She was not acting particularly painful when she was diagnosed, though we know how a pet acts on the outside doesn’t mean they aren’t actually experiencing any pain. So the second I realized what was going on with her, I started her on pain medications. She has a little more pep in her step now, an indicator she was feeling better than she was.

I almost cried when I found this today:

Heaving herself up onto the couch is not something she usually attempts. It’s good to see her feeling well. I know it won’t last, so I am happy with what I can get.

So back to me and my inflated cocktail weenie of a pinkie toe. This weekend, there was a local meetup group that was hiking a trail called Mt. Woodson. I’ve always wanted to go, and this was the first time it’s worked with my schedule. I’ve missed being outside, my hiking routine cut short during the hassle of the move and the holidays. I really wanted to go.

Part of me knew that after two months off, I should start on a flat 3 miler, not a hilly 8 miler.

Another part of me knew that my toe was probably not ready for any hiking, regardless.

But I’m nothing if not impetuous and prone to occasional bursts of Type-A ness when it comes to competitive challenges, particularly when I’m competing against myself. So I stuffed my foot in the boot and went.

The good news is, the trail was choked to the gills with New Years Resolution types moving uphill like spawning salmon, so had I fallen, I was a mere 2 seconds away from salvation in the form of a high schooler with a cell phone.

The bad news is, I did indeed jam or inflame or otherwise brutalize my toe. The fact that no one in the group stopped to ask me if I had accidentally stepped on a rattler is an indication that mind over matter indeed works and my outside demeanor in no way reflected what was going on with my neural pain pathways. I made it, but man it hurt.

Pets are notorious for doing the same thing. Dragging themselves way beyond the normal limit, not wanting to disappoint us. I was distraught to read the Yelp reviews of the exact trail I was on and read people say that dogs were getting carried off the trail routinely, having pushed themselves to exhaustion trying to keep up.

I suffered the throbbing pain gladly, knowing there was an end in sight- though I did have to grit my teeth when I felt the bones grind against each other. Guess it was a break and not a sprain after all. I could take a rest when I needed, catch my breath, and go on. And shortly enough, I’d reach the end of the hike, and with some rest, the toe will heal. As long as I stop doing stupid stuff like this.

Kekoa, on the other hand, is on a perpetual hike with a broken limb, an ankle that, I know, pains her, though she, like me, is content for the moment to soldier on because the view is still worth it.

So when she stops to rest, I will know what it means. But as strange as it sounds, I’m grateful to have had this personal reminder of the power of pain, and be reminded of my responsibility to her to manage it as intensively as I can.

And of course, feed her lots of snacks along the way.

Filed: Blog, Cancer sucks, Daily Life Tagged: , , ,
  • Sherry in MT

    Yup, life is weird that way and I hope your toe is healed soon and in the meantime, sure makes you understand your girl better and you are such a great Mom!!!!

    • Thank you Sherry!

  • Cathey

    Its a really good thing to be reminded of our pet’s perspective once in a while, not only in pain, but in other things. Sometimes it’s truly NOT their fault they nabbed the loaf of bread that was dangling at the edge of the counter! Glad to hear Koa’s feeling a little better now with some pain management.

    • The bread was begging to be put out of its misery.

  • Susi

    Nicely said, Jessica. There’s no greater blast into empathy than to walk a mile in others’ shoes, quite literally.

    • You can walk in my Choos anytime.

  • Lisa W

    Koa is lucky to have you as a mom – you have both been blessed. What a great post!

    • And I am lucky to have her, gas and all. ๐Ÿ˜€

  • Joey-dog/cat mom

    Your baby is so lucky to have you…your love and your empathy.Knowing we are goi g to lose hem is almost beyond bareable. But knowing you are going to give her everything you can is a real gift to her. Good luck and my heart goes out to you both.

  • Crysania

    It’s good to remind ourselves of what our pets might be going through. So glad to see her getting up on the couch! And yes…cancer does indeed SUCK.

    I feel you on the toe…and the stupid things we do when we break them! I did a number on one of my toes (the second one in from the outside) last summer. Right before my big vacation. So I hiked and walked and did all sorts of things on that toe I never should have. It never healed up correctly so PLEASE take care of your toe and rest it! I still can’t bend mine and I still have occasional pain in it, though I can get around (and even do agility) fine.

    • It’s so easy to ignore it. It’s just a toe! Until it gets all huge.

      • Crysania

        Exactly so! I’ve broken my toes a few times and I’ve always just thought “meh, just a toe, it’ll heal.” This time it didn’t heal so well and I suspect it’s because of all the abuse I put it through (including running in agility class).

  • Tamara

    Having to say goodbye to two kitties in a very short time, one to cancer, I agree that it is part of our responsibility to manage their pain as well as possible and to know when we have done all we can. It’s an honor, really, to be there for them in that way. Kekoa is a lucky girl to have had you for even a minute, much less at this time when she needs you most. XOXOXO to you both.

    • You’re right. It is an honor, isn’t it?

  • Natalie

    I just have to say…. You have adorable feet! ๐Ÿ™‚