In retrospect, I should have known something was wrong with my foot. For approximately 9 months, the arch of my right foot would become extremely itchy. After my diagnosis, a friend mentioned that I had been using the foot rest on my recliner like a scratching post.
It was summer of 2013 and I was anticipating my 68th birthday coinciding with a once in a lifetime vacation to Yellowstone National Park. My husband and I, and another couple had been planning this vacation for over a year. In June, I felt a small lump in the arch of my foot, but it was painless except for the continual itching. The lump however, was getting larger. By the last week in July, I was unable to ignore it any longer. It was barely visible, but was now the size of my thumb and overnight became too painful to walk.
In a panic, because of the upcoming trip, I made an appointment with my Primary Care Physician and was very lucky to get a referral to a foot surgeon for later that very day. The foot surgeon, Dr. Darin Bocian, diagnosed me immediately as having plantar fibroma. He told me that there was very little successful treatment for this condition, and that neither he nor his patients were satisfied with the outcome of surgery or cortisone injections. I believe that Doctors become Surgeons because they are convinced that the best way to treat “the problem” is to cut it out. So when a surgeon was telling me that ‘surgery wasn’t the solution’, I had to believe him. At this point, I could see our Yellowstone Trip becoming an impossible dream.
Dr. Bocian told me that he was working in conjunction with the University of Arizona researching the use of laser in the treatment of neuroma and was having successful outcomes. He thought that fibromas might also respond to the laser, and asked if I would be interested in giving it a try. I have always been very conservative when making medical decisions and try to research all my options before reaching a decision. With the upcoming trip, I didn’t have time to do that. I did at least think to ask about possible side effects. He advised that he was not aware of any negative side effects. I would either see positive results, or we would discontinue the treatments. I immediately made the decision to “go for it”. We decided to do one laser treatment a week, which would give me 4 treatments before I would leave for Yellowstone. I was skeptical, that this would even work, but I felt significant relief after the second treatment. After the fourth treatment, I knew I would be able to make the trip. I was the oldest of the four of us, and I am glad to say that for the entire week, I held up better than the other three, with the exception of one day that we were walking for about four hours without a break. We took a bus tour the following day that required very little walking and I recovered and had no further problems. The only precaution I took was to make sure I wore shoes with no padding in the arch that would put pressure on the fibroma. After I returned to Tucson, I continued with the treatment as follows:
I received a total of 14 laser treatments between July 27, 2013 and February 14, 2014. Each treatment lasted approximately 14 minutes and only about 2 minutes involved moderate pain. The first 10 treatments were one week apart. The final 4 were approximately one month apart. In mid- October (part way through the laser treatment) we decided to include Verapamil Gel Therapy as part of my treatment plan. I had developed 3 very small nodules on my left foot, but they were not bothering me in any way so they have not been treated with the laser. I used the gel 2 times per day on both feet and Dr. Bocian would apply it to my right arch fibroma immediately preceding the laser. So the Verapamil was used 7 times in conjunction with the laser on my right foot. I continued to use the Verapamil gel on both feet 2 times per day for 9 months from October through June. This concluded my treatment.
Today (10 months after my last laser treatment) the nodules on my left foot remain small and asymptomatic , and the laser treated fibroma on my right foot cannot be seen and can barely be felt. The pain is gone. The only thought I give to my fibroma is to make sure any new shoes do not have a padded arch. Occasionally I experience a very mild discomfort (where the restructured tissue of the fibroma is) with weather changes (we have no idea why this would be) or if I wear shoes with a high or padded arch. The discomfort disappears when I change shoes or the storm front passes. All in all, I am very happy with the outcome of my treatment from Dr. Bocian.
As a side note – The laser treatments have not been approved to treat fibroma, so my health insurance covered none of the expenses. The cost of the Verapamil Gel was $790.00. I filed a request with my health insurance carrier to cover the Verapamil Gel and was denied. I filed an appeal, since they did cover the use of Verapamil for other ailments. There was much sarcastic laughter around our house the day I got the letter from them stating that they were going to reimburse me 22 cents for the sterile water used in the compounding of the gel!
I have never been able to identify any event that would be considered a triggering factor. All my life I have been very health conscious and was very active. I enjoyed bicycling, on and off road motorcycling, snow skiing, racquet sports, horseback riding and taking care of my saddle mules, horse and burro. I was known as a “gym rat” regularly attending aerobic classes and weight lifting.
So, if over use of one’s body and feet could be a triggering factor I guess that could have been mine. Over the years, as my body has aged, and I got a whole lot smarter, I have given up much of the high risk activity. Today at 69 and with the remnants of plantar fibroma, I still remain active, attending 3 aerobic classes a week and walking 8,000 to 10,000 steps (4 -5 miles) a day – without pain! And the ranch livestock consists of only one rescue burro and two Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
As far as risk factors – I think there are a few. My ancestors are of German, Scotch, Irish and Welsh descent.
I had frozen shoulder syndrome in both shoulders that lasted one and half years.
Although I have no idea if it relates to the fibroma, one Doctor described my body as an “over reactor”. I have had moderate to very serious adverse reactions to tetanus, hepatitis B and smallpox immunizations. Thank goodness I’m healthy as I have been advised not to take flu, pneumonia, or shingles vaccines that have been recommended for my age group. I also have had some serious adverse reactions to common drugs. It seems that my body over reacts to what it perceives as a threat.
During the treatment phase of my fibroma, I read a lot of other’s experiences with this condition. I was discouraged to learn how many people experienced new fibromas or a reoccurrence of the old one. If more fibroma problems are in my future, I am optimistic that laser treatments will help me.