You may have had an experience like this: some nagging health issue not quite bad enough to take the time to tackle. Or with a solution that seems too painful, too bothersome… so you let the issue keep on nagging, usually getting worse.
For me, it was a minor foot issue – okay, an inelegant ingrown toenail. My good pedicurist, alternating with a private podiatrist (my healthcare provider does not provider for regular foot care,) kept the darned thing at bay for the past four or five years. It was a pain in the foot, but on the scale of one to ten it peaked to eight only rarely. Almost a year ago, my podiatrist reached the limit of his patience.
“Look,” he said (while I tried not to look,) “I’ve nursed this thing along for months, maybe years longer than need be. Go for the surgery.” He drew a few lines to show where a slice of toenail would be cut off. “Kaiser has some excellent podiatrists. It’s done with local anesthesia and only takes a few minutes. Three or four weeks of soaking etc, keeping it clean, you’ll be fine.”
Those were the words he spoke. What I heard was: Local anesthesia! Sticking needles in between my toes! Three or four weeks with one foot in a pan? A month without walking along the admittedly dirty park trails? It took me another six months to screw up my courage. Months of anticipated agonies one could hardly wrap the mind around, months of despair over a lengthy recuperation…
Finally I took a deep breath and scheduled the surgery. Instead of (or before; I still wasn’t looking) the shot in the toe there was a freezing action the doctor said would “feel like ice pouring over the area” which was, in fact, breathtakingly painful for about 15 seconds. And that was it. A few minutes later I was handed a sheet of instructions for “after a nail procedure,” fitted out with a Velcro’d boot, and sent off to drive home. It was all I could do to remain pitiful enough for a few hours’ sympathy. The next day, the fancy bandage came off. Recovery boiled down to Band-Aids and a little pother of three-times-a-day soaking for 5 minutes. Probably the most difficult part of this long-feared episode was being confined to home for two days, soaking, elevating (not critical, but perhaps helpful) and feeling pitiful. By the end of the second day I was going stir crazy. So I suited up in socks and Birkenstocks and went to a jazz service.
There I met an old friend who left San Francisco several years ago. “I guess you hadn’t heard about Bob’s surgery,” she said, when I asked how long they’d been in town. “They found a tumor on his kidney. He was at the VA, and they took out one kidney, his urethra, a lot of other stuff. They say he’s fine now. We got an apartment here so he could recuperate.” About that time her recovering husband walked up for a hug.
“Well,” I said, “I was going to complain about my toenail.”