The Story of Thomas and His Big Toe

My baby had surgery the other day to remove a tumor on his big toe.

It sounds worse than it is. The doctor gave it some fancy name. Something like Carcinoma something or another. Suffice it to say, it’s benign!

But, still. My baby had surgery.

It was outpatient and his girlfriend was with us. She and I drank coffee and chatted about books and spirits and hauntings and how Thomas got this growth on his toe. And we shared that factoid with the nurses and doctors, who hadn’t really heard anything like Thomas’s story.

Trust my kid to be unique!

See, my sixteen-year-old, doesn’t like to complain. He’s like his dad in that he sucks up the little things that bother him until they get to be big (like the growth on his big toe!)

So, let me back up a little bit.

It all started at last year’s Van’s Warped Tour concert in West Palm Beach. Unlike the summer before, where we got sunburned and dehydrated, 2013 looked like something worthy of Noah’s ark. Stages were flooded. Lightning corralled crowds under the few concrete shelters. And sometime during the day, as they stood in the crowd enjoying Bring Me The Horizon, Thomas’s toe was stepped on. (He was not in a mosh pit, but is there that big of difference when the crowd is rocking out?)

He told me this as an afterthought because his girlfriend mentioned it. No big deal, he said. It only hurt a little bit.

Fast forward to that school year. He is studying Pre-Vet at his high school, Felix Varela high, where the kids study for their Veterinary Technicians license. They are a rescue, no-kill animal shelter and a barn with a variety of farm animals. The kids belong to the school’s FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapter and have to volunteer in the kennels or the barn as part of their grade. Last year, they had some cows.

I think one of the cows (that’s how I started telling the story!), a steer named Sparky, was being returned to his owner for … well, for what comes naturally to castrated bulls. He has probably become part of someone’s steak dinner or Happy Meal! Good-hearted Thomas approached his old friend to give him a hug. The happy steer returned the sentiment and inadvertently stepped on Thomas’s concert injury. That’s approximately a quarter of 1,200 pounds on my sixteen-year-old’s big toe.

Thomas and his girlfriend, Kayla, on our London trip this past Spring.
Thomas and his girlfriend, Kayla, on our London trip this past Spring.

It hurt, he said, but no big deal. Occasionally, he would complain and we’d offer to take him to the doctor, but he was always more interested in other teenager things. Even his girlfriend was nagging, but he didn’t make a big deal about it.

Then I left on my road trip in June, and his toe started hurting more.

Being a vet kid, he started treating his toe, and telling only his girlfriend, then he walked up to his father with a new complaint, “Dad, my toe is puss-y.” Steve took a look and rushed him to Urgent Care. That complaint was caused by in in-grown toenail. The tumor was found because of that.

As we sat and talked the day of the surgery, his father and Thomas’s girlfriend hoped Thomas has learned from this. I think they don’t know my son. He doesn’t complain unless he can’t handle it himself, but he will handle it himself.

A few weeks ago, the day before this year’s Warped Tour hit West Palm Beach, he asked me to buy him steel-toed shoes. I did. They look like sneakers, so no one could complain about the weapons on his feet, but when someone stepped on him in a mosh pit, it didn’t hurt!

And that’s the lesson my baby learned: Be prepared. That’s a pretty big lesson to master, don’t ya think?

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