Feb 05 2014

Toe Tales

This saga began with the Advocate Health Care “health enews”, September 18, 2013 edition. That is a digital newsletter that gives Advocate associates and friends tips on staying healthy. That edition had an article on how your nails can be an indicator of your health. I’ve always paid attention my nails so read the short article.  That’s when the message turned serious.

The article said, among other things, a persistent dark streak in a nail could be an indicator of melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer. Yikes! I had a toenail with two dark streaks in it. They had been there for about three years, and I had assumed I had hurt my toe causing the dark streaks (although I didn’t remember any toe injury). Now I was learning it might be melanoma. Having had breast cancer three times, I was not about to ignore the possibility I had another form of cancer.

A dermatologist and a plastic surgeon both said they could not rule out melanoma without a biopsy. I was scheduled for a biopsy at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center (where I work). The plastic surgeon removed my great toe nail. Way back beyond the visible nail in the nail matrix he found two tiny brown places that he biopsied out. He then grafted normal nail bed tissue into the two “holes” in the matrix so it wouldn’t grow a split nail. Finally, he cleaned up my old toenail and stitched it back in place. I’m told the old nail plate is the best protector during healing.

The pathologist delivered good news that the brown spots were not melanoma. Whew! That was a relief. The plastic surgeon thinks that the brown spots were seborrheic keratosis as I have on the trunk of my body. I despise those brown spots, and now I really despise them in my toenail.

The plastic surgeon removed the stitches a couple of weeks later. Amazingly, the old toenail stayed in place for three and a half months. In the meantime, I was very careful about my foot, wearing sensible shoes. Last week the old toenail just came off and there was the beginning of a new toenail. No pain, no tenderness, no problem. So for the first time in about four months, I was able to wear high heels again for a special event. Not four-inchers that some women wear, but pretty, dressy, girly shoes.

The point of telling this story is to pay attention to signs about your health. I was lucky, but it could have been melanoma. Thanks, Advocate, for teaching us to stay alert.

No melanoma. Back in high heels. Life is good.

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