When I was a kid, for years and years, I could barely walk. Anywhere. I would legitimately have to train myself with further and futher distances, all distances that all other people my age could walk daily normally until the pain through my legs finally got too unbearable, and I'd stop. Sometimes just walking these distances back then would put me in so much pain I would be physically ill from it and would then get shit from my teachers for missing days. Whenever I got back to school, I would get into arguments about them about those days off as they would threaten me with detentions for missing too much time or exclusions no matter how bad I tried to describe the situation.
On those "days off" I was entirely bedridden. When I was forced to move, I would keep it at an absolute minimum, as I knew what it would involve. I was limping around the home holding onto every wall, every surface I could, gasping for air from the jolts of pain I'd get with each step. I legitimately felt like Forrest Gump with the leg braces for the majority of my childhood. The main difference was I at least didn't have to wear his "special shoes", but mine had a bunch of holes in them, so who really had a better deal there is debatable, I think.
This was going on way too long and was ruining my life rapidly. I'd had a severe burn on my left foot when I was three that put me into intensive care needing surgery, for which you can still the skin graft extremely visibly today despite it how much less blatant it becomes over the years. We had always assumed that was the cause of it at that point, that I'd just re-learned to walk really badly because of the damage done to me during the burn, but we finally got the docs to send us to a specialist to see what they thought.
The specialist disagreed entirely. After examining how my legs moved and painfully contorting my feet for what felt like eternity but actually read as around half an hour, she decided it was all about my tendons.
They were too short was her theory. A little so on one leg and extremely short on the other. As a result she immediately recommended I keep coming back for physical therapy, every single week, for years, multiple sessions of physical therapy.
Now, the thing about physical therapy that really truly drains you if you're not getting expected relief is the absolute of no gain for a lot of pain. Constantly being made to bend and twist and contort my legs into ways they didn't want to without tons of effort and additional assistance for hours a session, multiple times a week really fucking hurt, a lot. Lots and lots of times came where I just wanted to quit the PT. I'd get so frustrated wondering why I'm going through all of this shit that hurts like hell for hours every week, then being asked to go home and do hours more of a bunch of related exercises on my own and feeling that it never got at all better.
For years, this process continued. Gruelling physical therapy, absolutely nothing to show for it, frustrated and sick of it, tired out. Woefully depressed at my "lot in life" as it seemed to a 9 year old who just wanted to be able to play football with his friends rather than sticking to goalkeeper or center back every match for several years from knowing I simply wouldn't have the run rate to play any other position. Finally, these few years of constant sessions down the line, my PT decides "Hey you know what? We've tried literally everything with you now that we can and it doesn't seem to be helping. We're going to send you for an X-ray at the hospital." In hindsight, it's beyond amazing that they didn't start with that, it would have saved so many problems.
A little over a week later I was in a hospital looking at big blown up versions of X-rays taken of my legs with a doctor on his computer. He tells me I need to have my legs broke and I'm confused as hell. Me and my parents tell him that doesn't make sense, "what does he mean?" and all that kinda jazz, and that I've been doing physical therapy for years because we were told it was a tendon issue.
I can remember to this day, nearly 16 full years later now, the exact look he had on his face hearing that. It was so clearly news to him and news of amazement. His face was screwed up in pure perplection at the very idea I'd ever been told it was short tendons from a hand examination and been given years of gruelling PT instead of being x-rayed years before now.
Without breaking a breath the doctor, who seemed to have copied that of House to an exemplary level, told me I had to make a choice, they can break my legs, or I can spend forever with the problem just trying to push on myself.
See, as it happens, the issue was never once to do with my tendons. Misaligned knees. Born with them. No amount of that insanely painful physical therapy to fix my tendons was ever going to give me anything but even more pain. The one part that everyone had hyperfocused on solving with me by making me spend half my childhood free time doing extremely contortions inside a children's center, eventually with homework brought in so I even had to keep doing them at home to try and improve it, were never the issue, at all. All of it really had been for nothing.
I thought about it for a moment and decided to ask more about the broken legs option. How would it work? "We'd put you to sleep and we'd break your knees, then we try to align them in such a way that over the next 6 months you'll be in a wheelchair while they heal and we evaluate where you're at after the 6 months."
I'll admit it right now, I was terrified by the idea of having my legs broken and being put in a wheelchair as a kid. Hell, go ask any mafia guy and I'm sure he'll tell you most grown men would be terrified of getting their legs broke.
I thought it was something I could maybe stomach as much as I hated the idea, if it was safe, if it was for sure, then maybe I should say "yes, let's do it." and just deal with the 6 wheelchair months.
Then the additional questions started. "It'll only be the once?" "No," they informed me, "We may have to do it up to three times" "Oh wow, so up to 18 months in a wheelchair across three different surgeries to get it right is possible. Is it like, guaranteed then? Like if it doesn't take right the first or even second time it's just tweaking it and the third time it should work and I'll be better then right? No worse off than before at least?"
That's when they delivered the absolute gutpunch, "No, we can't guarantee a thing. We can even end up doing it once and have it not take and heal properly and you may never be able to walk again at all as a result."
That was it. I got out of there as fast as I could making clear I had zero interest. I went back to my next PT session, just to basically inform them of all the things the doctors said. Mostly, in hopes I'd get answers of why I've spent years doing the horrifically painful process I'd had to go through over such background checks that were immediately dismissed with a singular x-ray years down the line. My PT was immediately standoffish as soon as I mentioned what I was told by the doctor, and got up picking up her documents as she said it doesn't seem like we need to be seeing each other any more and I could just continue on home and not come to future appointments and briskly left the room.
I decided I wasn't going to let it slow me down. I push through it all the time when the pain starts coming through. I stand and walk with my feet pointed out as a result of this and it used to get a lot of comments when I was younger that, I'll admit, would make me feel incredibly embarrassed and insecure at the time about it, regardless of how out of my control the situation was.
I have long overcome the majority of the pain and distance by simply forcing myself through the pain, day after day, year after year. Now the pain is just so second nature unless something causes me to specifically push far, far too hard, it's nothing extreme. It's just a constant pain that I fought through and got used to, simply by refusing not to. By refusing not to walk around the entire town, or go hiking, or for a run.
A few years back I did overuse it after a busy week at a job I had in which I averaged 30-40000 steps per day for a full week straight. I found myself feeling like those childhood days from that, unable to move, holding onto everywall and dragging myself along, grinding my teeth down as I did.
For the first time in years I saw a doctor about my legs and he wanted to do another x-ray himself, as instead of my pain being up through the legs so much as before, it was directly in the very center of my left foot, as if someone had stuck an invisible knife into it and simply left it in as they walked away.
This time the x-ray revealed that even the kneebreak-advocating doc had missed something in his X-ray that the new doctor had somehow been the first to ever notice. See, the earlier skin grafted area of my left foot had effectively had all it's veins in the area broken down and destroyed, in my own doctors words, "to around the level of an 80 year old man's" when I picked up that burn at 3, but that wasn't his only interesting new discovery. Somehow, what everybody else had missed is I had multiple fused bones in my left foot too for some reason. So that's why even when I built up resilience on my knees over time and was able to manage it, putting that much pressure on my left foot in the process is what aggregated the essential clump of fused together bones located around the center of my left foot, causing that extreme stab pain that made it again impossible to walk.
I find still these days, the key is quite frankly to stay in motion. If I allow myself to get sedentary I stop being so used to the pains as to not notice them so badly. If I allow myself to be lazy and undisciplined and never go near my limits in how far I can walk on a regular basis, my tolerance before the pain creeps back lowers rapidly and I can very quickly find myself in pain.
Now there's not some big special blow you away reason here I'm sharing this story. It's just a part of my life I've always refused to talk about much. People look at you different if you have anything wrong with you and there's nothing in the world I hate receiving more than "pity", the most insulting emotion.
What there is, is an excerpt from my life, with something I seldom talk about and don't like to talk about under normal circumstances because I feel that it does have a message in there. A message about perseverance. About going through all the wrong things for you and experiencing all the related pains. A message about suffering and risk, that we all have to decide which path of suffering we're going to risk staying on in life. Ultimately, the willpower to then just stick it out.
Above all else, willpower is always the key. No matter what I did I never would have truly gotten anywhere, if not simply for using willpower to keep going further each time, to keep the voice down that says to sit on down when pain kicks in, that's why I'm able to walk around, despite an odd gait, at long distances without a concern these days, and it's that that made me really want to write this overall, to make the point of willpower allowing us to do whatever you set your mind to. It truly is and always will be the most valuable asset we have to accomplish what we choose to and I hope if you've read this far then you're thinking about what you should be using willpower for in your life right now to empower yourself.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!