A Leg to Stand On // It’s important to “stay on your toes” when it comes to your health

By Elka Schreiber 

Day 1: There’s a little bump on my toe.
Day 2: Hmm, what’s that bump on my toe?
Day 3: Maybe I should do something about that toe.
Day 4: I really ought to do something about my toe because there’s a big thing growing on it.

If you ever need medical advice, go to a Yiddishe simchah. When I hobbled into Auntie Miriam’s daughter’s wedding, I was pelted with advice and tips. In fact, it’s just about the only thing you can get for free nowadays. Well-meaning relatives have your best interests at heart, so I listened attentively. Everyone seemed to be of the same opinion—that Mrs. G. was the person to consult. Apparently, she had magical potions that could heal any ailment, from MRSA to cellulitis and cysts. For the price of only $200 for a two-ounce bottle, her remedy was supposed to be able to drain all fluids without having to open the skin.

Now, I’m not much of a believer in alternative medicine, but I had been entertaining second thoughts about opting for conventional medicine when alternative and holistic approaches were all the rage. I’m the kind of person who would treat every ear infection with antibiotics and every headache with Excedrin, and I would never willingly expose a child to chicken pox. When I feel unwell I see a doctor, not a chiropractor, and I keep at least ten feet away from anyone who claims to be into energy healing.

So I tried to block out everyone’s advice and went to see a local doctor. He examined my toe and told me that it didn’t look like cellulitis, suggesting that I see a surgeon. By then there was an ugly mass of dead gray skin covering the entire toe, and I was in serious pain. Still, in the back of my mind, I kept hearing the chorus of voices telling me to go to Mrs. G., so I figured it couldn’t hurt to try. As much as I trusted the doctor, seeing a surgeon for something like this seemed a little drastic. And the entire world seemed to think that Mrs. G. could make my problem go away with a wave of her magic wand.

So I limped to Mrs. G.’s basement apartment with a hefty wad of cash in my wallet. I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was a lovely person who was not at all pushy about her products. When I asked her how she’d developed her line of remedies, she had some really impressive answers. I checked her off as legit and allowed her to dress the wound. But when she examined my toe, she looked a little puzzled.

“Hmm,” she said. “This is definitely not cellulitis or MRSA. Are you sure you didn’t burn it?”

“I’m pretty sure,” I replied. “I’d definitely remember something like that.”

She packed up some products for me to take home, along with instructions for how to use them. I should give it a week, she said, by which time I would surely be feeling better. When I reached the door, she asked me again if I had burned my toe. I might have been dizzy, lightheaded and unfocused, but there was no way I could have burned my toe inadvertently.

Her peculiar line of questioning left me feeling a little doubtful about the path I was pursuing. But I was determined to try it, so I followed her instructions to the letter. Instead of finding relief, however, my toe worsened. On the third day of the treatment, the pain was so bad that I was unable to walk or even stand. The throbbing was unbearable. By the fifth day, I was starting to get an idea of what it must feel like to be a drug addict. I had a bottle of Percocet in my medicine cabinet from an old perscription, and I had to restrain myself from gobbling them down. The agony was so engulfing that all I wanted to do was float away to some place past my conscious mind where pain did not exist.

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