A Letter to My Podiatrist

29 Oct

I swore after I finished the marathon that I’d be sending a letter and a finish line photo to my podiatrist telling him just how wrong he was. I’ve been so swamped with work since the race that I haven’t had time to write it until today. It’s going in the mail on Monday. It was a very good, cathartic experience writing it. It’ll feel even better mailing it!

Dear Dr. _________, (Leaving name out for privacy reasons)
You probably don’t remember me, but you did surgery on my right foot on November 16, 2007. You had to rebuild my arch and lengthen my Achilles tendon as a result of an injury sustained in a 2006 car accident.

You told me that once my foot healed, I would be fine to do anything I wanted except run. You also said I’d be out of pain within 6 – 9 months of the surgery.

Exactly one year later I saw you for my final check-up. Everything had healed, but I was still in daily, excruciating pain. I had asked when it was going to stop, and you told me that I should have been better months before and the pain I was experiencing was all in my head. When I started to cry, you walked out of the office, and that was the last time I saw you.

I guess you were sick the day medical school taught that all human bodies are unique and can react differently to surgeries, illnesses and other traumas. I think you were also out sick the day they taught proper bedside manor with a patient. I hear that the University of Chicago just received a $50 million grant to focus on classes that will improve bedside manor among medical school students. Maybe you should enroll.

The pain did go away. It went away on my body’s terms, not your timetable. It went away about 6 months after I saw you for the last time. It wasn’t in my head, I wasn’t crazy, my body just took longer to heal. Probably the weight I was at (205 pounds) didn’t help the healing process either. But instead you just chose to make me feel like a lunatic.

Walking out on a crying patient who is in pain is an incredibly cruel thing to do. It very much goes against your Hippocratic oath of “first do no harm.” Other people may have just gone on in life and accepted the lot you gave them. I, on the other hand, had a fire lit inside me that NO ONE could extinguish. I was done being the weak, fat girl people made fun of. I was done with people treating me badly, you especially. Just see what happens when you tell me “you can’t.”

Determined, I went back to the gym in spite of the pain I was in. I lost 65 pounds over the course of a year. I appeared in Fitness Magazine as a reader success story for my weight loss. I won my company’s staff fitness competition and was the captain of my company’s Lighten Up Colorado fitness team that won a silver medal in the Rocky Mountain State Games.

I had all of these accomplishments, but what I wanted to do more than anything was run. Why? Because you said I couldn’t. Because you treated me like I was a crazy person and showed no compassion when I needed it the most. Because now I was a strong, determined, confident person who was going to overcome one final obstacle in my life. Because one arrogant prick of a doctor with a God complex was not going to keep me down.

You’d been wrong about everything else—the length of the healing process, the pain being in my head, I decided you were wrong about running too. I tried out my hypothesis and on August 2, 2010, I started to run. One month later, I ran my first 5K race.

Just a little over one year later, on October 9, 2011, I became a marathoner. That’s right. I ran 26.2 miles through the streets of Denver and finished a full marathon in 6:01:01. That is a whole lot of “never running again,” don’t you think?

I even had a tee shirt made that I wore at the race that said “October 9, 2011: Proving my doctor wrong for 26.2 miles.” It received a lot of support and feedback from the other runners. Quite a few of them had similar diagnoses from their doctors. One participant was 81 years old and had finished full marathons in all 50 states. His doctor told him to stop marathons after he did 11 because they were bad for his health. Well the 81-year-old man was running in Denver and his doctor, who was 10 years younger than him, was living out his life in a nursing home.

You may have gone to medical school and learned anatomy and biology, but you definitely didn’t learn the incredible strength and power of the human spirit. Bones can break and tendons can tear, but nothing can crack that awesome power and determination. That strength comes from within the soul, and it is strong enough to overcome anything thrown at it. Even you doctors. Remember that next time you tell a patient, “you can’t.”

In closing, take this final little nugget with you…when I crossed the finish line, one of my dear friends and supporters who was there at the race shouted, “your doctor was full of shit.” I couldn’t have said it better.


Noel D., a marathon finisher who has run over 500 miles in the past year

2 Responses to “A Letter to My Podiatrist”

  1. equfl October 30, 2011 at 5:20 PM #

    What a great post!! I really hope you do send this, it might wake him up a bit. And congratulations!

    • Noel D. October 31, 2011 at 5:43 AM #

      I am most definitely sending it out. 🙂 🙂 Should go in the mail this week! Thanks for the kudos and for reading!

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