One day I was in the shower and I noticed that the skin around my toe was puffy. It wasn’t an ingrown toenail, but it was similar, near the cuticle at the bottom of my nail.
It didn’t look right. It was red and inflamed and had some discoloration. Later that morning it began to ooze. “OMG I have cancer in my toe,” I thought. The ultimate cancer curse took hold of me: once you’ve had cancer, anything that appears on your body looks like and therefore must be cancer.
I immediately went to my oncologist to find out for sure. He took one look at it and reassured me that no, it wasn’t a tumor. I had something called paronychia. It’s a very common bacterial infection of the nail bed. Gross. I wash and dry my feet every day. I wear flip-flops. How could this happen?
Chemo, that’s how. Always blame the chemo. The medicine used in chemotherapy has tons of side effects and one of those is that it makes toenails become discolored, infected, or loose. Another side effect of chemo is having wounds that won’t heal. No matter how hard I try to mend this infection, it just won’t go away.
At this point my toe infection has become a loyal friend. He’s joined me on every non-adventure. I’ve named him “Chemo Toe Joe” and he’s been around for three months and counting.
Chemo Toe Joe isn’t always enjoyable to be around. He’s high maintenance and he complains a lot. He’s unsightly and a little embarrassing – I’m not allowed to cover him up. He *needs* fresh air (OMG so needy). I can’t go swimming or wiggle Chemo Toe Joe in the sand (he’ll get dirty and he might suffocate).
Luckily he has a fun side. He likes to smell the roses, feel the wind across his face and hang out with beautiful ladies. Also, he’s a bit of a hillbilly and we sing songs together.
All in all, I’m relieved that it’s not Cancer Toe. I’ll miss him when he’s gone, but I’ll be happy when Chemo Toe Joe says farewell.
Have you had an “OMG is it cancer” moment? Comment and tell me about it, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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