I’m 8 days post-op on my subungual exostosis removal. In regular terms, when you walk barefoot in a creek, bang your toe, and the nail doesn’t fall off, the blood underneath begins to turn to bone, which needs to be surgically removed by the nail being taken off, the toe being cut open, and the bone being ground out. Recovery has been slow. I thought for sure I’d be back up and moving around by now. Turns out, I still have stitches in the top of my toe, I have to sit with my foot elevated for most of the day and while I sleep, and I’m only allowed 5 minutes of walking per hour. It’s truly been devastating for me. Last night I came to the realization that this whole situation is kind of like a breakup really. Let me explain.
The trail and I have always been good friends. This year, however, something changed. The trail and I became more involved. We started spending more and more time together. Sometimes I’d even blow off work for a few hours just to spend more time on the trail. Over the summer I decided I didn’t want our time together to end, so I committed to becoming a thru hiker in 2012. I ramped up my hiking even more, met new people, had new experiences, and pretty much just lived for all my time on the trail. Then, suddenly on December 21st, 2011, my dreams for my relationship with the trail came to a bump in the road. ”It’s now or never” my surgeon said, looking at the x-ray clearly showing the bone growth under my toenail. ”We can do the surgery now or we can wait until you get back, but I really think you’re going to start experiencing a lot of pain. If you lose the nail for any reason, it won’t grow over that bone.” I chose to have surgery as soon as humanly possible, which was January 17th, 2012.
Before my surgery came I planned these awesome hikes. I hiked 33-mile 9000-foot gain weekends. The final weekend before my surgery didn’t go as planned at all. The hike I wanted to do wasn’t going to get my hiking partner home in time for dinner. I felt defeated. I cried on the trail and walked slowly. Later in the day, I developed a painful shin splint, which made me have to cancel my 16-mile hike the next day in the gorgeous weather. Tuesday, January 17th, I had my surgery and I’ve been house-bound and hardly able to do anything at all. I went in for my surgery followup yesterday and finally got to see the toe causing me so much pain. The doctor said it was healing “beautifully.” I found this to be a strongly used word as it looked like my toe had been through a blender. He assured me that it would be halfway grown back by my April 1st departure date. He also told me he expects me to be back to normal in three weeks. Here is where my heart sank. It was like the final blow in my relationship with the trail.
“We have to take a break” the trail said to me. “I think we can still be friends, but you need some time for yourself for a while.” It stings. It hurts. I want to email my hiking friends and see what’s going on this weekend, but it’s all a bit too weird. I see photos posted of adventures that took place without me, but the trail was there. We’re in the same social circle, the trail and I, and when I see people spending their time with the trail it hurts a little. “I should be there too” I think to myself and then close out of Facebook.
I know that I need to be back at 100% so I can become one of the 17% of people that hike the entire length of the Appalachian Trail in one season, a true thru hiker. My breakup with the trail I know is only temporary, but the pain I feel is very real. I feel like I’ve lost touch with my very best friend and we can’t see each other right now. I know we’ll be back together soon and I hope our relationship can recover. Right now I just have to take it one day at a time.