Some Parts Are Functional…

For years now, almost a decade, I’ve had some umm… toenail issues (I think I should just give out a TMI warning right now and get it over with!). The back story is that I used to live in flip flops and sandals, and I used to get pedicures at a local salon. One day I stubbed my big toe (easy to do since I literally lived in sandals) and my toenail cracked and broke in half. When I went into the salon for my next pedicure, the lady asked me if I “wanted her to fix it?”. Like an idiot – give me a break, I was young! –  I said ‘yes’ without asking her what it entailed, and to my horror, she applied a coat or two of acrylic to it. Not what I’d had in mind – what I’d had in mind, who knows – but I’ve always sucked at standing up for myself and I figured the damage was done so I  didn’t raise a fuss and went on with my life.

A few months later, I noticed that the nail that had been acrylic-ed had started to grow weird, both curved up and in (like, the ends were going ingrown, the middle was going up to the ceiling). I stopped going to the salon, and once the acrylic part grew out altogether it fell off. Unfortunately, my toenail was never the same. The curvedness remained, and it continued to grow away from the nail bed. Around this time is when I started wearing flip flops less anyway, so I didn’t pay much attention to the problem – out of sight, out of mind. It didn’t hurt or feel uncomfortable, so I just left it alone.

By the time I started dancing, my toenail had become rather deformed and thickened. It still didn’t hurt, so I continued on. It wasn’t until about a year ago that I researched a bit and realized that when my nail had originally cracked all those years ago and been covered with acrylic, I most likely caught a fungal infection – moisture and acrylic don’t mix! The thickening of my nail was a symptom, and if I hoped to treat it topically I would have to get past the hardened, thickened part to the nail bed where the infection originated from. Easier said than done…

But about two weeks ago, while trimming my toenails I was finally able to cut off the hardened part. The end result is that I now have hardly any big toe nail on that side (but now I can easily treat it with the topical anti-fungal ointment). In the meantime, while my nail grows back I am having more difficulty balancing on releve. It’s still possible to balance, but my foot feels less stable, sort of like that ‘brake’ that keeps me from going past is not there. I’ve heard/read that many dancers lose toenails completely when they are en pointe, so I figure dancing toenail-less – especially on flat – is not a huge catastrophy. But still, I’m hoping my nail will hurry up and get better and grow!

I already knew this in a factual, I-read-it-in-a-text-book kind of way, but I needed that hands on knowledge to really understand that our toenails are not just decorations for the feet, they are Functional!

Now I’m off to research if there are any specific ways of coping with dancing while missing a toenail…

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