Not many, if any at all, except for my family and relatives know of my handicap. Today’s post is not Dolly or toy related, and I’m not asking for sympathy, nor is it to glamorize any part of it, but mostly because I have learned to accept my handicap. And my hope is, that others who have the same condition, may in some small way or another, be guided by my experiences or feel at least that they are not alone, from reading my post.
I was born in the early 70’s on Guam. My mother and father were told by the doctor that I was born with a congenital birth defect called, “Clubfoot“. Of course my parents were worried and asked the doctor what could be done at the time that would help me or correct the issue. To give you somewhat a visual, basically, both my feet were turned inwards with my ankle being the part of my foot I would step onto if it weren’t corrected. I have all my toes, its only the formation of my feet and bones that was abnormal. It is stated, that because of the way I formed inside my mother’s womb, is what caused my feet to have this condition. Interesting, because my Mother used to blame herself and for going bowling while pregnant with me, is what she believed caused my condition… I believe it was just God’s will, and what was meant to be…
So, the a plan was given to my parents, to follow in order to help them, help me recover and live what the doctors told them would be a normal life, hopefully. At the time, and I’m told by many doctors nowadays, that this was the course of action they believed would best help me. Now, this is my Mother’s account of the story and what she shared with me most of my early life, as I grew up trying to understand, why I was different. My Mother said, that when I was two weeks old, I was brought back to the doctor and a casts were placed on both my feet. The plan was for these casts to be left on for a few months in hopes that it may help correct my feet as I grew from a new born into a toddler. My Mother shared that I was heavy with the casts on and though I cried early on about them, in time, they didn’t bother me. After the casts were removed, she said, that I was quite normal, and learned to walk with no problems. The casts definitely corrected the major part of my feet being twisted and now, my feet were straighten a lot more. But, I was walking mostly on my tippy toes, like a ballerina.
I recall wearing slippers, or sandals as a child, but when I became of school age. My Mother had to take me back to the doctor for the next part of the plan, to wear special shoes in hopes that it will correct my feet even further. I recall going to the shoe store after seeing the doctor, and my mother choosing these 1950’s style oxfords, remember those?! White with brown, or black. I recall brown. But, the thing was, I had to wear them as right shoe on left foot, and left shoe on right foot?! Crazy right?! Nope, not crazy, but it was suppose to be like the casts and help my feet gradually straighten more… Not sure? But, even though my mother put them on me for school and begged me to wear them daily, I was in pain, I cried, and I refused to wear them.
I know my Mother felt so sad for me, I even recall her saying, “Never mind, don’t wear them. I don’t want you to suffer.” So, she didn’t force me to wear them, and I didn’t. Today, I wish she had, but at the same token, I don’t think there was anything more those shoes could’ve done to correct anything else that the casts had already done for me.
In Elementary school, it was hard, this was the age that most kids notice things and particularly my feet. I recall wearing sandals a lot, at least until I got tennis shoes. I played like normal kids did, ran, climb the monkey bars, etc. It’s interesting, but most didn’t even realize until, later on that I had a condition. Though there were some that would say, “Cynthia, why do you walk like that?” I would just shrug my shoulders and walk away…
As I got older and was in Middle and High School years, it was harder to fit in and act normal. PE was the worse, I loved it, played like regular kids and did the activities, even though at times I was in pain. Yup, there was pain. You see my feet was able to support my weight, but certain kinds of movements, like a lot of running or long walks or standing long, would make my feet ache at night. So, I used a lot of Bengay ointment to sleep at night. That wasn’t all, I had to wear only certain types of shoes, tennis mostly, I couldn’t wear heels, and some flats were impossible, because my heel was too small and they’d just fly off my feet as I walked in them. the front half of my feet was wide, my bones had compensated for my weight by spreading out to support me. My shoe size was not normal, my feet are actually a size 8, but I had to always buy a larger size to fit the widest part of my feet, so it was a size 9 or 10, that I bought. Ugh.
I had to make do with what I could wear and what my feet would allow me to do. When, I was thirteen years old, my Mother took me to a foot specialist. This time the consensus was for me to have surgery. The plan was, this would correct the rest the my feet by removing the extra bones in my ankle and some tissue to help form a more normal foot. The doctor warned that the surgery may correct it, but I had a 50/50 chance of walking again or not. I looked at my Mother and said to the doctor, in front of her, “No. I don’t want the surgery.” At the time, all I could think of was not being able to walk anymore. If that was the case, I told myself, I would rather live with my condition.
And that’s what I did. Since that day, I have lived my life to the fullest. I took PE classes in High School and found out later, that because of my condition, I didn’t have to take the class?! LOL, glad I took it anyways. I even joined cheer leading for a bit. But, quit early on, mostly because I couldn’t do the splits. Ha. I tried to join the Air Force, but couldn’t because the recruiter said, I might not be able to fit the standard boots they had. What?! Oh well.
Grew into an adult, had a child, then children, and life was that pretty normal, I would say. The only times I was ever reminded I had a handicap, was when I would get stares from people who look at my feet and notice the difference, mind you, I wear tennis shoes, so they are not noticeable, unless you watch the way I walk. As a teacher, it was mostly, the kids from kindergarten to 3rd grade that would notice my handicap. The first question they’d ask is, “Mrs. Flores, why do you walk like that?” As with young kids, I would answer them honestly and say, “I was born that way.” Then, they’d forget all about it. It used to be embarrassing, mostly when I was younger, but nowadays, I just chuckle. Especially, when I see someone notice my feet, and they take long looks at it, then back at their feet and then mine again. I didn’t get a handicap placard until I had injured my left foot in my mid 30’s! Too funny, I never felt I deserved one because I don’t use a wheel chair… and always felt that if I could walk it, then, I don’t need to park that close…
God gives us what we can handle. I believe it was meant to be and nowadays, there are better corrective surgeries available to fix my condition. Will I get them? Probably not, my feet are mine and I’ve experienced many amazing things along the way with them, I can still walk and move, maybe not as quickly or normal as most, but that is life.
So, go on stare, and watch the way I walk. It’s okay by me. But, know this, I am tippy-toeing my way through this life, and having a blast at it! Ha.
Thank you for reading my story! ~ ggsdolls