I am 10 days post-op of a toe fusion which I finally did after suffering almost three years. I was, like you unable to do the basics and all of my other joints became involved causing me additional discomfort and making life miserable as you describe. Because I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and take Enbrel Injections weekly to control the disease I hesitated about the surgery basically because I would have to stop injections two weeks before and two weeks after the surgery. The thought of this pain througout my body and having to work and try to continue living was not something I wanted to go through. Having said that I found I could no longer stand the daily pain so I had the surgery on March 10th. It has not been too bad I must say. Once I got past the initial 4 days of painkillers, I am not in any pain which is a big change. I cannot weight bear on the foot for another 5 weeks and had the first surgery cast removed one week post-op and after the surgeon checked everything out another shoe type plaster cast was put on. Since Thursday I have been out daily - not for terrible long times 3 - 4 hours max. however, I am able to get around and will probably return to my job as a Admin. Assistant to Principal of a Secondary School which is a desk job for the most part. I have rented a walker as I am unable to use crutches due to RA issues of balance. I am allowed to walk on my heel, but cannot put any weight on the foot itself.
All in all I am very pleased with how little pain I am in and how quickly things are healing.
I do have a son who has helped me through the first week or so and made sure I had whatever I needed and as long as you have some help during that first few days it is worth the initial pain. I know that my gait will change a little, but since I have not walked properly in almost three years, the difference will only be that I will be able to walk PAIN FREE eventually. I am more than happy to wait out this recovery period to get there. I am a little older than you (54) but very active and sure want continue to be.
I hope this has given you some answers to your questions. If there is anything else you can think of - just ask.
Take care and good luck!