This time last year I was traveling and visiting some people I love on the great Chemo Tour of ‘06. While staying at a friend’s house I had one of the greatest showers of all time. I had spent a good long time in this shower because it was one of those cool ones with multiple shower heads where you get sprayed from the top as well as all sides. While you’re standing in such a shower, you can imagine you are a princess being treated as royally as you should be while your personal chef prepares you a breakfast of fresh dates and Chick-fil-A. Or you can imagine you’re a Chevy getting a pre-wax wash. Either way, it’s quite enjoyable. After soaking it in for minutes on end, I left the shower and began toweling off briskly. It was in the middle of this toweling off that something flew into the air and toppled onto the floor. Since I was naked at the time, it caught my attention. What could possibly be flying off of me? Did I have a Band-Aid on somewhere that i forgot about? Was it some sort of tag on the towel? Did something fall from the ceiling?
It was my toenail. My toenail came off. Just like that.
I once asked the nurse practitioner at my oncologist’s office why no one told me about all the side effects that were possible when I was starting chemo. She said, “If we did, would you have done it?” It was a good point. If someone actually sat you down and said here is the list of all possible side effects, you’d run screaming from the room while holding onto your pedicure for dear life. Chemo is, in many ways, a guessing game. You just can’t predict how it will affect a person. “Besides,” she said, “no one experiences every side effect” then she paused and looked up over the chart at me, “well, no one except you.”
That’s me. That’s me, Miss Sets The Bar
I can’t tell you how weird it is to not have your toenails. I felt so very fragile and vulnerable without mine. I worried about my toes. How could they make it all out there naked in the world without their proper covering? I hadn’t spent this much time thinking about nails since I was 11 – but that’s a whole other story. You may not think about them much but toenails are an integral part of your foot. Obviously. And mine have given me more grief than any toenails should. First with abandoning me, then when they decided to come back. They grew in lumpy and strange. I’ve experienced this before when I lost a couple of fingernails growing up. The nails that replaced them were wrinkled and weird. I spent hours on end rubbing and examining my new nails. It took months and months for them to grow out and come in as normal smooth nails. My toenails followed the same pattern – bumpy little virgin nails, they contained huge ridges and valleys – like a miniature topographical map of the Rockies right there on the Piggy Who Went to Market. When they finally started growing smooth, they also decided they would start growing INTO my toe. They curled downward and cut through my flesh. About this same time I started my job with The Breast Cancer 3-Day and as I walked mile after mile, they would slice my toe open. Each night I would take off my shoe and sock to reveal a bloody stub of a thing. No matter what I did, I couldn’t stop them from growing downward into my foot. It was so bad that at one point I considered having them permanently removed. But since I couldn’t get that done in the short window I had before I had to walk another 3 dozen or so miles in the next event, I simply clipped the nail in half and pulled the offending half out with a pair of pliers.
We need to talk about something else. I just about made myself puke.
My point is: Today I’m going to get my first REAL pedicure in more than a year. Because these feets deserve it. I figured up that NOT COUNTING TRAINING, I have walked nearly 450 miles in the past 3 and a half months. That’s from here to Chicago. Or from here to Colorado. Or from here to Minneapolis. Or back and forth across Rhode Island 8 1/2 times.
That’s a lot of walking. Especially for someone who couldn’t walk without assistance a short 9 months ago.
Especially for her.