Wednesday 1 August 2012

Vascular antics: when aterties turn bad

For the past two years I have been struggling with some pesky sporadic pains in my legs which appear whenever I try to walk anywhere for more than a few minutes.  Similar to cramping, it feels as though my calf muscles have all of a sudden become too short for my legs, leaving me limping and in a lot of pain.  It all subsides after a few minutes but needless to say, a 28 (and a bit) year old shouldn't be having this kind of difficulty walking. I visited my nurse at my old (and totally useless) doctor's surgery a while ago asking about it, who during a routine diabetes review told me in a matter-of-fact manner that I had, and I will never forget this, a 'weak pulse in your foot'.

As with most things, the professionals just love to blame it all on the weight.  Because if having to drag clothes from the back of the rail (not so easy when you're sporting a couple of E cup cahoonas) wasn't bad enough, apparently we (the chubbies) need to be reminded on a regular basis that we just aren't doing well enough when it comes to our diet and exercise.  

'Just lose weight and it will most likely improve' she said.

Most likely.  That seems, well, like a hopeful guess.

But you see, I'm not silly.  I know that there are millions, maybe billions, of people far heavier than myself who don't get these crippling pains.  So there must be another cause.  Another explanation.  With the pains in the legs, the weak pulse in my foot (thanks, lady) and the fact that I am now back with my previous great GP, I decided two weeks ago that I'd had about enough of walking like I have wooden feet, and made by appointment with the doctor.

As I trundled through my week-long wait for my appointment, the thoughts of how serious this could be started to dawn on me. Of course with the wonders of Google and having typed in 'weak pulse in feet and pain in legs' I had convinced myself I was harbouring of a whole host of frightening conditions, starting North of 'calf strain' and ending somewhere South of 'fasciectomy' (where they cut limbs open to release pressure, before carrying out a skin graft). I have seen more photos of black feet rotten with gangrene in the last week, than I care to recall.  

I'm a catastrophiser, you see (look it up, there's a picture of me next to the dictionary entry).

'Anna Presswell', the familiar voice called.

Into the sterile, lemon-coloured room I went and launched into my symptoms, hoping he would immediately recognise and be able to explain my condition, offering me some reassurance that this really was just down to the weight.  

After having a good poke around of the feet and a good check of the toes, out came what he refered to as, 'The Doppler'.  It turns out, 'The Doppler' is the same machine they use to hear a baby's heart beat for the first time.  Out came the jelly, and before I knew it I was listening to my own pulse through the medium of foot-whispering.  Little did I expect that the first time I used one of these, it would be to try and hear my own heart-beat, through my feet.  I expected something a little more, conventional.

After some fumbling about, searching and eventual comparison to an area where my heartbeat could be heard clearly, a very faint, distant pulse was found.  And I really mean faint.  Too faint, for my liking.  When comparing it to the other areas, it was like a whisper.  One we had to listen really closely for.

I let out the breath I've been holding onto.

As he took me through the reasons it may be happening, I mentally check every one of the boxes.  Weight, check.  Cholesterol, check.  Diabetes, check,  Smoking, check.  And before you judge me, save it. It was a silly decision the first time took a drag of a cigarette as an angry and rebellious teenager, but it was my decision and I alone am allowed to judge.  I have turned a corner in my life in the last few years and learning that smoking really can be overcome, was on of those lessons.  The cholesterol has been addressed, the weight is coming down, the smoking is a thing of the increasingly distant pass and unfortunately, despite trying to give that up too, the diabetes is a keeper.

Having explained that I am doing all the things the Doctor would be advising me to do had I come in with no intentions of changing, I have been tasked with continuing the weight-loss for another two months and make a mental note in the diary to come back for another check.  I don't think I will be needing to make any mental note, thanks all the same.  It will be the 8th of October when I make my appointment.

I have always prided myself on having been able to keep the complications of diabetes at bay, but it seems I wasn't able to escape forever.  At least this kind of problem is one I can do something about, something I can reduce, reverse or at least stop in its tracks.  I have changed my lifestyle and continue to all the time.  I find new healthy options to foods I once craved all the time.  Each week that goes by cigarettes become more repulsive and exercise becomes more enjoyable, and more frequent.

I am becoming the text book diabetic.

This is the best kind of wake up call.  Yes, it is a complication of diabetes, but its also just a reminder that mixing all of those factors together does have implications, for anyone.  Ones that I can address, but implications nonetheless.

This is also the next challenge along the way.  The next hurdle. And it will be my next success.  There was the smoking, then the eyes, now the legs.

And I will wipe the floor with these vascular antics.

And just for the sake of it, here is a picture of a pair of lovely healthy feet, similar to my own.  I even carry around the leaves, for full effect.


  1. Eek! Sorry to hear that. It might help your case toward CGM funding - stop this complication in its tracks. (((big hugs)))

  2. Thanks Lesley. I must admit it was a shock, but this is something I can truly reverse. It will take a little while, but once the weight comes down, the cholesterol reduces and the exercise takes full effect, I'll be back on track. And best of all, I'll be well aware of why not to go back to this place!


  3. So sorry to hear that Anna. But I love your attitude, thatta girl :)

  4. Thansk Alison - at least it wasn't a fasciectomy! :)