Big toeing the line… or not

“Ooooh,” my husband said, “Why don’t you shoot a photo of it and post it to Facebook?”

He was being sarcastic, of course. My husband has little use for Facebook perusal or posting, and he was pointing at my big toe. Seriously? Who would shoot a photo of her toe?

“Of course not,” I scorned. “I wouldn’t post a photo of my toe on Facebook.”

(But I considered that I would like such a photo for a blog post.)

So I waited until he wasn’t looking and took the photo.

Of my toe. My big toe.

If you look closely, you can see a slight discoloration of my big toe near the joint and at the lower left... but no lump. :)
If you look closely, you can see a slight discoloration of my big toe near the joint and at the lower left… but no lump. 🙂

Actually, I wanted the photo for more than illustrative purposes. I wanted it as a memorial. Not for my toe, which I, thankfully, get to keep. But for what this slightly bruised toe represents: wasted worry and a reminder not to toe the line.

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I had been worried about a lump in my big toe. The worry — after causing me to lose sleep — sent me to the doctor’s office. The doctor — a general practitioner, not a big toe expert — declared it was likely a ganglion cyst or a benign tumor. Definitely “not cancer.” But an X-ray was in order to determine if the lump was bone — as in a symptom of arthritis — or flesh. If bone, I would have to live with it. If flesh, then this doctor said she’d send me to a podiatrist.

Except this general practitioner, not a big toe expert, wasn’t my regular doctor. When he saw the X-rays and read the lab’s suggestion that I have an MRI, he followed suit and suggested I have an MRI.

It wasn’t because my teenager had said “An MRI is like Hell” — a strange, suffocating stillness surrounded by noisy silence and a sense of complete isolation. (He’d had an MRI when he’d dislocated his knee playing baseball, and his declaration that an MRI is like Hell was punctuated by his proclaimed desire to experience neither again.) His MRI seemed necessary — a determination of what was wrong after he’d had rest, ice, compression, and elevation (and continued pain and swelling), followed by numerous doctors’ visits and X-rays and physical therapy. Well worth the cost. But an MRI of a big toe that caused no pain except of mind?

Not likely worth the price of admission.

(Plus my husband said “no” — unless I could glean the reason why from the doctor and the complete out-of-pocket cost from the lab.)

Having paid a small fortune for a routine blood draw simply because I’d used a lab close to my workplace that took my insurance — without first determining that the lab’s “take my insurance” meant “take my insurance and whatever your gullibility will pay” (i.e. more than $250 all told in mid-December when I had a mere two weeks left to enjoy a paid deductible) — made me more than leery of this new test.

I questioned my doctor — and his reason of “the lab suggested an MRI” didn’t satisfy. And I doubted I would get the true financial statement from the lab. And so for one of the few times of my life, I chose not to “toe the line.” [“Toe the line” is a saying of questionable and/or numerous histories — perhaps from foot races (instead of “take your mark” imagine “toe the line”) or military or ship crews lining up with toes against a line — but, essentially, it means to follow the rules or conform to the expected norms.]

So I called my insurance company, discovered I did not need a referral to see a podiatrist, and made the appointment.

I went, told the doctor why I was there to see him, admitted my fears, and then put stock in his answer — which was that my lump was likely a ganglion cyst. However, he said we could determine it immediately by using a needle to draw out the fluid. And so we did. After a series of freezing sprays to detract from the pain of multiple needle injections of anesthesia on my big toe — which so swelled each numbing spot that it dwarfed my original lump of concern — he inserted a needle and withdrew a jelly-like substance that filled my ganglion cyst. He then squeezed the area around the lump to remove the rest.

Fascinating. And eww. But such a relief.

The podiatrist covered my flattened lump with a bandage and sent me on my way — my toe numb and swollen stiff. (Crutches, anyone? No. Apparently, it is perfectly acceptable to don heeled sandals immediately after minor foot surgery.) I added some bandages to cover the needle holes left by the anesthesia as well and refused to look at the wounded but no longer worrying toe for a full 24 hours. At that point, I was on the Gulf of Mexico for a week’s vacation, eager to soak my foot and the rest of me in its waters. The healing salt water was a perfect followup to my weeks of needless worry and a perfect balm to my stabbed and bruised big toe.

I had balked at toeing the line — rejecting my doctor’s request for a costly MRI and taking my own chosen action — and refused to waste anymore time worrying about the foreign lump on my big toe.

And so I shot a photo of my big toe — a memorial of taking a stand instead of toeing the line and choosing action rather than worry. And silly though it may seem, I find the lessons of my big toe a big deal.

P.S. I wrote this post mid-April, about the time that my 16-year-old nephew was diagnosed with a serious brain tumor… I have to admit my big toe seemed a much smaller deal as I followed Will’s ordeal via his family’s posts on a Caring Bridge site — and my faith seemed much smaller than the faith they displayed as well. And so I held the post in the Draft queue. My nephew has experienced what I call nothing less than divine intervention — his original diagnosis (that had a less than 5 percent survival rate beyond 5 years) was changed to “the best kind of benign tumor in the worst place” (brain stem), which was a certain life-altering ailment as surgery was impossible and radiation or chemo was certain to be lifelong…. The tumor responded by growing, forcing an emergency 5-hour surgery, during which doctors removed more than half the tumor, rendering it “dead”…. and after some scary weeks of physical therapy and apparent regression, my nephew is back home, healing and improving each day. God is amazing and faithful — in the best of times and in the worst of times — and I am thankful I can learn to trust Him with something as large as the life of my nephew and something that once seemed so large, my big toe.

P.P.S. Yes, I realize I could use a pedicure.

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