Saturday, June 09, 2007


Five years ago, I was picking up boxes of ceramic tile for the kitchen floor when one of them tumbled off the shelf and crushed half of my left foot, especially damaging the big toe. Ouch doesn't begin to describe the pain of 40 pounds of tile hitting a very bony part of the body. When people say "tears sprang into my eyes," I now know what that means. It was instanteous and without thought. My foot was crushed and my eyes erupted.

My foot healed, but my toenail was oddly painful thereafter. About a year ago, I was "taking the waters" in Hot Springs, having regular baths, massages, facials, a manicure and a pedicure. The woman doing my pedicure mentioned I should have the left big toe checked out, there might be something wrong there. The nail was a bit soft on top, she said, and then she mentioned the F word.

The only experience I have with F is living in proximity to men who have F-infested toenails. I have, over the years, watched in horror as my husband sheds one toenail after the other. My father's toenails are as thick as a parrot's beak and have to be cut with a special clipper. Fungus. It's dreadful.

I continued to paint my nails whore red and ignored the technician's suggestion until last November, when I was trimming my nails and it was apparent that there was something under that left nail. It hurt to push on the nail and after I trimmed it, it (eeeewwww) leaked. It's giving me cringey toes just to write this; I'm sensitive about my toes, can't really stand to think about something under the nail. Makes me all quivery inside.

But there was something under that nail. If you've seen the old version of The Blob, it looked very much like the moment when the creature is oozing under the door of the grocery store. And it hurt. I hoped that it would go away, but apparently cutting it gave the thing a growth spurt and it began to rise up, pushing the nail up in the center, causing the nail to shrink in from the sides.

Quelle horreur. I was forced to go to a podiatrist. The charming and funny Dr. Finkelstaedt told me the injury likely gave an opening to the unspeakable F thing. He trimmed the nail waaaaaaay back, noted the other toenail had a touch of F too, and gave me a bottle of Pen-Lac to paint on the nails nightly. The oral meds were out with my liver still recovering from years of alcohol abuse, or I'd have taken the easy route of swallowing a pill every day.

I painted. I soaked. I explored alternative cures. It got no better and I went back. Other options include temporary nail removal and permanent nail removal. My toes curled in horror and I renewed my efforts to effect a cure.

No improvement and two weeks ago, I found myself looking at toes which were polish-free for the first summer in 35 years. What is summer without whore red nails? Not much, I can assure you, so I bravely called the doc to make an appointment for nail removal, temporary variety.

It's done. With the husband holding my hand, a 10 mg valium and shots in my toes (ugh), he ripped off my big toenails using hammer, chisel and pry bar. It will be a year before I have any paint-worthy nails, he says, and meanwhile I can get prostheses at the beauty supply store.

But OUCH! Fuck, this hurts. My toes are throbbing and have been ever since the anesthetic wore off. I don't know what I thought, but I didn't expect this. I guess there's a reason torture is accomplished by diddling around with peoples' nails. I'm thinking bamboo shoots pounded underneath couldn't hurt any worse. And I am reminded horribly of that scene in some movie (was it 1984?) where the character's teeth are removed with pliers.

But what price beauty, eh? I am having a hard time accepting that here in my dotage I was vain enough to go have my toenails ripped off just so I could paint them red again. Yes, there was a little pain with the fungus, and they were just not very pretty, and there was the overarching fear that I'd get parrot beak nails like my father, but the real motivation was red enamel. I am in agony for red enamel. But I can't wait to have my nails back.

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Anonymous Kamrin said...

Funny thing is, I am in the same spot! I caught a can of tomatoes with my right big toe. Eventually the nail came halfway off. I am left with this tiny gross looking nub of a toenail for the summer. I can't find closed toe shoes and have resigned myself to a light pink polish. So not summer!

June 09, 2007 2:36 PM  
Blogger here today, gone tomorrow said...

I am looking at my red polished toenails, and feeling very, very bad for you! I totally get where you are coming from, and mourn the fact that you will not be able to wear your red polish. Be sure to post a photo when the happy day arrives!

June 09, 2007 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Brion said...

Well sheeesh!!!

Now this is something we have in common, sort of!

Many years ago, when I was still at school, I used to play soccer, called football in Europe. (round ball instead instead of that testicle shaped object all those 'straight' men chase after!)

This LARGE (very large) opposition player stood on my left foot.
When my big toe failed to heal properly my doctor suggested it may be an ongoing problem unless I was able elevate my foot at regular intervals. Yeah...right!

Anyway..I eventually had to have either a partial nail bed removal with no guarantee of success or complete removal of the nail bed, hence no nail ever!
The ruptured flesh wouldn't heal with the nail intruding into it!

So I now have a big toe on my left foot with NO NAIL! It's just a 'stump'!

Yes, it has caused some conversations to ensue!! (And some 'strange ' requests, but we won't elaborate here!)


June 09, 2007 4:06 PM  
Blogger more cowbell said...

Oh poor you. I can emphathize with the polish thing. It's the one thing that doesn't wrinkle, sag, or turn grey. It still looks hot no matter how much weight we gain or how old we get. Don't blame you a bit.

A drawer fell on my big toe about 5 years back, I lost the bottom half of the nail --weird! Also slammed my finger in a huge steel door. Pain for both was absolutely excruciating. (And this from a woman who's done childbirth sans drugs.) The nails and torture thing? They're spot on with that shit.

Hope you heal quickly and beautifully.

June 09, 2007 5:04 PM  
Anonymous ewe said...

i had my nail fall off because of this and it was also because of a traumatic assault my big toe was subjected to. I hope that the condition does not return. Are you to put that liquid medication on till it grows back in. I would because my big toe is still discolored with the new nail. Such is life. It does not hurt and I plan on soaking it in ocean salt water this summer.

June 10, 2007 3:44 AM  
Blogger Willym said...

All nails intact here - thank God. It sounds like torture and it was a favorite form of torture at one time (though God knows in some places like oh maybe Poland, it may still be used). There was a reason that the boot was one of the more horrible ways of obtaining a confession.

And you are not doing it from vanity - you are doing it to bring more beauty into the world! Nah... sounds like vanity. But honestly Lady what's the matter with vanity?

June 10, 2007 6:58 AM  
Blogger Ms. Place said...

Ouch! I feel for you. I once had my nail pulled out when moving, long story, but let's just say that I couldn't wear a shoe until that portion of my toe toughened a bit. The nail came back slightly smaller.

Good luck! I think I would have come to the same conclusion as you and have the danged things pulled out.

June 10, 2007 7:17 AM  

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