Walking, Step By Step

This post is dedicated to everyone who has participated in an Arthritis Walk, who is going to participate in an Arthritis Walk, or who has sponsored someone participating in an Arthritis Walk.

WalkRheumatoid Arthritis Guy loves to walk.

During high school I lived in an old medieval city in northern Italy. I would take the funicular to the walled upper town, pass under the stone gate with the winged lion of St. Marks (back in the times this city – Bergamo – was part of the Venetian City-State). I would spend hours walking around the narrow streets and along the top of the tall stone wall. The Alps were visible to the north and the plains of Lombardy were visible to the south.

When I was in college in New York City, I would take long walks starting on the (upper!) upper west side. Sometimes I would reach Lincoln Center. Sometimes I would reach Times Square. (This was back before the Times Square of today, when it was still the land of three-card monte, fake watches, and peep booths.) Once I even reached Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan. The best park of walking in New York City was that no matter where I ended up, I could catch a subway and zip back home.

In grad school, I would walk along the Charles River in Boston after the last snow had finally melted and the air had turned warm. (If I remember correctly, there were usually about two weeks of spring between the loooong cold winter and the arrival of summer’s mugginess.)

Once, while visiting Beijing, I abandoned the tour guide and the taxi and opted instead to use my feet and my map. (One of the things I enjoy most about visiting a foreign city is just walking around for hours on end and getting a true taste of the city – something that the main tourist attractions do not always provide.) This walk was one of the few times that I truely got lost, and the language barrier did not help a bit. Still recovering from jet lag and with the temperature hovering in the low teens, I somehow confused Guang’anmen Wai Dajie road with Guang’anmennei Dajie road.

This past March, my thirteen year-old nephew (he is a homeschooler, and is very interested in nature studies) and I hiked about 20 miles round trip in Pt. Reyes National Seashore, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. We spent the night in a small tent on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in Wildcat Camp #7. (Hint: go during the week and chances are that you will not only have the best campsite, but you will also have most of the trail and campground to yourself.)

So since one of my favorite things in the world it to take a long walk, it can be quite a challenge for me when I go through periods where the distance I am able to walk quite limited.

Two days ago I went to refill my Arava. I took a taxi door to door (where I live, Arava is only available through the authorized distributor on the pharmaceutical company) and entered the office to buy my medicine. As luck would have it, the credit card machine was not working correctly, and I had not taken any cash with me.

I decided that since it was a sunny morning, I would walk to the nearest ATM machine – located about one large city block away. Every step I took caused a very sharp pain in my heel (later that day, my physical therapist would tell me that this a sign of plantar fasciitis, a painful (are you for real???) inflammatory condition of the foot). Eventually I made it to the ATM machine and back.

I don’t know if this is was sign of my slowness or a sign of the technician’s speediness, but by the time I got back a representative from the credit card machine company had already arrived and fixed the machine. Great.

As I look back on this walk of a couple of days ago, I am beginning to realize that this walk I took was wonderful, in its own certain way. I was aware of every step I took. (I had no choice, with the pain of every step.) While it may not have been as “grand” as some of the previous walks I described, I have no doubt that it will be a walk that I look back upon many times in the future. And I remind myself, that the pleasure of walking should not be measured by the total distance walked – but should instead be measured by the beauty of each step.

Please visit the Arthritis Foundation’s Arthritis Walk Web Page to find a walk event near you!

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

6 Comments
6 comments
  1. Angie says:

    I got tired just reading about the walks that did. Now I don’t have to go and workout at the gym today. Thanks!

    On a serious note; I really enjoyed your descriptions of your walks. It was almost like I was there. And I am also sorry to hear about the plantar fasciitis. But like you said you were very aware of your walk that day. May is Arthritis Awareness Month, it was just reminding you!

  2. Sara says:

    I, too, love long walks and discovering a new place by ambling around, finding my way and seeing where it takes me. I went to Prague last April, about the time that my enbrel was really starting to kick in, and I remember marveling at what it was like to get to be able to do that again -to be able to take one of those long walks down cobblestoned streets and get a little lost. It’s funny how much we take for granted, so thanks for a beautiful reminder!

  3. Cathy says:

    RA Guy, your life is beautiful! Not only are you a Superhero, you are an adventurer. I love the idea of you and your nephew walking 20 miles and camping out (yah homeschoolers!). Hmmm…I feel the need to get out and explore!

  4. Kali says:

    Oh, plantar fasciitis can be so incredibly miserable!

    Because of my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, I have had plantar fasciitis since I was 12. When it first started, I would get these enormous swollen areas on the soles of my feet from the tearing, and because of how badly they swelled, if I tried to walk afterwards, my weight would be on those big swollen areas…I couldn’t do it. the pain would be so bad I’d just crumple to the ground after a single step. I’d end up missing 3-4 days of school and crawling around the house until they got better.

    Have they got you wearing inserts in your shoes to help? You can get ‘heel cups’ for about $20/pair in medical supply stores, and they can help a huge amount. I wore those up until I got my new gigantic ankle-foot-orthosis braces.

    ~Kali
    http://www.brilliantmindbrokenbody.wordpress.com

  5. RA Guy says:

    Angie – workout through reading…if only!

    Sara – what a wonderful thing, cobble stone streets…except for when they twist my ankle (grin). It sounds like you like to travel also!

    Cathy – thanks for the kind words and looking forward to hearing about your latest explorations.

    Kali – thanks for sharing your experience with plantar fasciitis, I am sure it helps many of us to read your words. I got myself some Dr. Scholl’s heel supports; I hope they help!

  6. Kali says:

    I hope they help! For me, the Dr Scholl’s and other more commercially available supports sadly didn’t help, I really needed the heel cups. But then, my physiatrist says I probably have periostitis in my heels (inflammation of the lining of the bone) so I probably have more pain there than your average person with plantar fasciitis.

    ~Kali

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