I have to stop being optimistic

I got out of bed this morning looking forward to my visit to the doctor. My tendinitis pain has been greatly reduced, I’m able to walk without any pain at all, and I expected to be told I can finally get rid of The F$#*!ing Boot. But no, it was not to be. There’s still some residual inflammation — touching the back of my heel hurts something fierce — so the doctor wants to clear out that last little pocket of trouble.

Two more weeks of The Boot. Plus a 5-day pulse of prednisone. It’s the opposite of what I wanted to hear.

To give me something to look forward to, at the end of those two weeks they’ll reassess, and if the tendon hasn’t calmed down, it’ll be time to look into surgery. The way things are going, I’m just going to assume it’s going to go badly and that I’ll get to celebrate Xmas break by going under the knife.

Damn. Well, I needed to be trapped at my desk to do a lot of grading, anyway.


  1. Reginald Selkirk says

    If you do need the surgery, go ahead and upgrade to the Ironman foot rocket installation. Well worth the extra expense.

  2. says

    Just to add a little whipped cream to top off this pleasant morning — it seems that one of my colleagues in the social sciences has complained to their division chair that I failed to erase the whiteboards at the end of my class, and that chair complained to the chair of my division who then relayed the complaint to me. This is quite possibly the most petty, passive-aggressive bullshit yet, for a few reasons. A) there is no requirement that we wipe down the whiteboards when we’re done; I am quite used to coming into the classroom with the whiteboards covered with symbols from the previous math class. I just clear it without a thought — it’s not at all onerous. B) I rarely use the whiteboards anyway, since I come in prepped with everything in PowerPoint. This was the one time I’d had the students come up and put answers to some genetics problems on the board, so it’s not as if I’ve been incessantly leaving a social sciences professor the dreadful task of having to erase cryptic scribbles that interfere with their ability to teach their class.

    It does put me out of sorts. OK, sure, I’ll hobble over and erase the whiteboard before I leave the room. I will not be complaining to the other instructors who use this room, though. (Or rather, complaining up the chain of administrators so someone else can confront them.) That’s just stupid.

    Jesus. Academics. So petty.

  3. pilgham says

    The boot sucks but who doesn’t enjoy a bit of prednisone? You feel twenty years younger, although only for a while and the return to reality is kind of sobering.

  4. flange says

    Just out of curiosity, PZ, have you ever been prescribed CIPRO, a high powered antibiotic? I found out after I had been prescribed it, that one of its side-effects was to cause tendon & ligament damage. I had a torn achilles tendon, which I’m pretty sure CIPRO caused.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    I had a Dean once who said that leaving an unerased whiteboard in a class was the same as leaving an unflushed toilet. Perhaps that was a subtle hint as to what he thought of the quality of our instruction.

  6. says

    #5: Never had CIPRO.

    #6: then I might be some kind of coprophiliac, because I rather like seeing the scraps left behind from other classes.

  7. hillaryrettig1 says

    PZ as a last-ditch effort to avoid surgery please consider trying a whole-foods 100% plant-based diet these next two weeks. animal-derived foods are known to be inflammatory, as are sugar, packaged foods, etc. the science is well documented, and i personally know a couple of people who had joint/tendon issues go away pretty quickly when they did this. (and in one case the issues re-emerged when they ate some of the “forbidden” foods.)

    it’s not a guarantee, but might help. if you do this, you need to be all-in, as even small amounts of animal-derived or processed food can neutralize the good effects. Here’s a good site w info and recipes: https://www.forksoverknives.com/health-topics/diet-and-inflammation

    as someone who is the same age, and dealing with her own post-60 health issues, I’ve been thinking of you and your boot all week. I’m personally sorry and disappointed you didn’t get better news today.

  8. says

    I already live on a 100% plant-based diet, with no sugar anywhere. We don’t eat much in the way of processed foods, either — Mary has been on a major fiber kick, buying a 10lb bag of barley and stuffing me with fruits and berries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

    The main effect has been…well, you can guess what it does. My guts are so clean!

  9. says

    One other thing to check out: are you on statins? One of the lesser-known side effects is to affect one’s tendons. I blew out my Achilles a few years ago while on statins–after that I refused to take them any more and am now on Repatha.

  10. Dennis K says

    Armchair medical and dietary advice aside, I suffered one of these little bastages some years ago. Was barely able to dodge the surgery bullet. Barely.

    The thing about old bodies — stuff like this just happens. I chock it up to shortening telomeres and move on.

  11. seanpatgallagher says

    Achilles Tendon surgery is one where the surgery itself is rather minor but the recovery is no joke.

    Should you need the surgery, planning is everything: be prepared to be on crutches with no weight bearing for 2 months, partial weight-bearing for 2 months more. Invest in a kneeling scooter – they help keep your hands free. Consider purchasing 2: one for upstairs and one for downstairs. Practice navigating stairs on crutches for a few days before your surgery. Install weight-bearing hand-holds around the toilet and tub. Purchase a shower-seat so you can give yourself sponge baths – you won’t be able to get your foot wet (even a little bit) for months.

    And very, very important: make sure your spouse has the support he/she needs since you’re going to be leaning on them (literally) for quite some time.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    I am sorry you have a longer period of misery ahead of you than already anticipated.
    The advice by seanpatgallagher @ 12 look very good. Always plan for the worst and get a pleasant surprise when things turn out well.
    Getting enough sleep is important for enduring awful periods in your life. Will the painkillers suffice to let you fall asleep? If not, bring it up with your doctor.

  13. birgerjohansson says

    If we were all immunocompatible, we could handle this like the Igor clan in Ankh-Morpork and get a slightly used tendon or a whole foot from a relative that has no further use of organs.
    I assume one way of storing them and keeping them fresh would be to stitch the extra pieces to Igors that don’t mind having an extra hand or foot flopping around. And eyes! “He has his father’s eyes”, indeed!

  14. Jazzlet says

    Who knew you were so terrifying that a colleague from another subject was too scared to approach you directly? Perhaps they are an arachnophobe … if it wasn’t cruel to the spiders I would suggest releasing a few around the whiteboard.

    I hope your tendon responds to the continued boot use and presnidone.

  15. says


    Whiteboards should ONLY ever erased at the beginning of a class, that way students have the option of staying around for a few minutes to update their notes with things they’ve missed. That other prof isn’t just petty: they’re wrong. What’s good for the students is erasing at the beginning of a class, not right away at the end of the class. And what’s good for students should rule.

  16. hemidactylus says

    @18- PZed
    Are you unusually now chatty without a filter? I had a coworker who took prednisone for a bit who was already talkative, but became downright inappropriate on the stuff.

    I had to take it for a week (contact dermatitis) and the first dose hit me hard. I acclimated to it, but could see how it diminishes your brain-mouth filter. Gave me weird energy.

    Would short term use warrant a little more caution in times of COVID?

  17. says

    No, no filter problem. Instead, my brain is running at hyperspeed all night long. Unfortunately, that hyperspeed is aimed in all different directions at once, so it never gets anywhere.

    Damn but I’m tired. Also wired at the same time. I’ve got three more days of this.

  18. says

    #19: Yeah, I agree. The biggest “offenders” in my division are the math people, who tend to leave dense piles of formulae all over the whiteboards as they work through problems, and I can see how students might struggle to keep up (although nowadays, what I usually see is students whipping out their phones and taking photos of the complexity).

    I only use the whiteboard lightly, to supplement the complexity on the PowerPoint slide. It simultaneously makes it silly and petty to complain about a few sketches that would take seconds to wipe away, and also means I’ll just be the one to take a few seconds to clean up at the end of the hour.

  19. says

    Oh, yeah, which reminds me of my undergraduate comparative anatomy course. No powerpoint, no slides, no whiteboard: Prof. Snyder would come into class a half hour early and draw by hand all these magnificent illustrations of anatomy in colored chalk on the blackboard. They were art. I’d come in early with colored pens and pencils and try to keep up.

    We didn’t have cell phones, so nothing was preserved. I always felt like it was a tragedy to see them casually erased.