Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Fungus Convention Meets Here

Not a fairy ring
[Don't forget! Thursday the 13th is International Margaret Day! Celebrate!]

The biggest living thing on earth is several thousand years old and covers over 2300 acres in the Blue Mountains of Oregon. It is a fungus. One fungus.

It's a little like calling Tokyo the largest person. But the point is well taken. There's way more to your average mushroom than you can see. Mushrooms are grabby. You might think you've plucked the whole thing but its tentacles are in the next county. This is one of the reasons people are thinking that tilling isn't the best idea. Not only do plants use their roots to suck up water and nutrients, but they hijack the huge network of fungi to their ends, too. The thinking goes, it takes a mycorrhyzal village to grow a tomato. Every time you stick the spade in the ground, you're disrupting a major nutrient highway.

Still not a fairy ring
That's how those circles of toadstools called fairy rings work. The beginning of the operation is in the center, and the fungus travels out in every direction before sproinging into fruiting bodies, like fireworks. As a short person who can't jump, I admire fungi and their ability to spread. Dave and I are earthbound. We bought the house next door, and that's about as far as we can go. Fungi could buy up all the red properties in Monopoly and still have enough poop to go for Marvin Gardens, on to Park Place, and over to the Parcheesi board.

Okay, I don't have a picture of a fairy ring
I admire fungi, but I also harbor them. Now, I'm fortunate in my health. My vital signs are hoppin'. I never have had the flu. You don't even want to know how much garbage I can eat and drink before my gut puts in a mild objection. Viruses pass through me like a ghost through a wall. Bacteria schedule their conferences in other locales. Even mosquitoes change their flight patterns to avoid me. I'm lucky.

Fungi, though, want a lot of room for their tentacles to blossom. They are grabby and tenacious and hard to get rid of because they spread so widely and thoroughly into any suitable substrate: rotting logs. The Blue Mountains. Poop. And me.

I've had a fungal infection called Tinea versicolor since I was a teenager. Mildly itchy white circles appear on my upper body and spread and coalesce into a Michael-Jackson-like patchy pallor. A good thirty years in, my gynecologist, who probably gets tired of looking in the same places, noticed it blooming on my shoulders and prescribed an ointment. I had to be really diligent with it for a couple months and then it was considered eradicated.

Then came the day when it occurred to me that maybe toenails weren't supposed to be yellow and tubular. "Do you think this is a fungus?" I asked my massage therapist Maria, wiggling my toe, and just before leaving the room to scrub her hands with a belt sander, she said yes. So I went home and looked up cures on the internet. I found the following from the reputable Mayo Clinic, and I quote:

"Toenail fungus is stubborn. You might try {emphasis mine} a combination of vinegar baths and antifungal ointment applied twice a day for a fucking year and see if that helps."

The Mayo Clinic has an attitude.

Maria told me I should file down my toenail. Filing gives me the heebie jeebies and I don't own an emery board. Dave sprang into action. Next thing I know he's in the basement and I can hear the whine of a power tool. I do not know what he is doing, but it seems appropriate to the obstinacy of a fungal infection. He was making himself a stick with a handle and he wrapped sandpaper around it and he filed the living crap out of my toenails. All of them. They have never looked better. They don't look good.

And I have one additional fungal infection. It doesn't have a name. My doctor didn't know what it was, but she said it "looked fungal," and she wrote me a prescription. Usually when you get a prescription, it has the decency to be called something like Flexoniurbum Biflatulate. Not this one. I'm not going to tell you anything more about my fungus, except that I'm treating it with a bottle labeled "special diaper cream." I don't even want to know where the tentacles are.

76 comments:

  1. Fungal infections are indeed persistent. I know nothing about the tinea versicolor (except that I was misdiagnosed with it once and then went to a dermatologist who said what I had was dry skin and I should stop taking such hot showers!) but after falling down some stars and damaging the nailbed of one toe, I did develop a fungal infection. I cut it down as low as I could with out hurting myself and then put white vinegar on it with a q-tip twice a day for months. Complete cure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am not a fan of anyone who tells me not to take hot showers. I do half my writing in there. Dang dermatologists, anyway.

      Delete
  2. Perhaps Felix Medelssohn just made a wee spelling mistake?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't think you can misspell in German. They haff ways of making you spell.

      Delete
  3. So what we should be saying about YouTube videos and captioned cat photos on the internet is that they've gone "fungal" ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha ha ha ha ha! THAT's what I'm going to start aspiring to!

      Delete
  4. Hubby has the same skin fungus and has had it his whole life. It does not bother him except to look odd when he gets his summer tan. He once took a medicine, but it looked so dangerous and it did not eradicate the fungus. The doctors have told him he will probably die with it and not from it. He has also given up on his toenail fungus and we just look the other way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I really did get rid of it for good, a two-month treatment of putting the lotion on for five minutes before my shower every single day. Not hard at all. Prescription Selenium Sulfide 2.5%. I recommend it.

      Delete
  5. Oh my, Dave tried to cure that toenail fungus, and he probably just spread it around to the rest of us. Now that you have educated me on the persistence of that little creature, I'll be watching. Good thing you live in Portland, which means it should take at least a few weeks to reach all the way up here. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. He pulverized it. There are flakes of fungal toenail on the wind as we speak. Pray for rain.

      Delete
  6. When a fungus gets that large and lives so long, it is time to check it out and see if it's sentient. Does it know we're here? Does it even care?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would love to think of it as sentient. I don't trust humans not to mess it all up trying to find out, though.

      Delete
  7. I like some fungus like morels and chanterelles, but not toenails. How would you cook them?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I tried for the longest time to "cure" my mom's toenail fungus with home remedies like vinegar and Vick's Vaporub, to no avail. Now she visits the nice podiatrist every 61 days (Medicare pays) and he grinds away with the podiatrist's equivalent of a belt sander while she giggles and the doc and I talk politics.

    There are pills you can take, but they are hard on the kidneys and at 93, mom doesn't need to add kidney failure to her list of what's gone wrong. It's more fun to listen to her giggle anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The pills sound bad. The fungus doesn't bother me any. I will never be a foot model, but that's okay--just one less decision to have to make.

      Delete
  9. YOu never have the flu? What do you use as an excuse to get out of things? Maybe an outbreak of toadstools? Ewww - pooping out frogs?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh you can still totally use the flu excuse. No reason not to.

      Delete
    2. Except it won't work with Roxie or me. We're on to you now.

      Delete
  10. Toenails.....try using a q-tip to apply tea tree oil once or twice a day. I have had amazing results. Also...in the past I have used Vicks (yes, of the vaporub fame). It works pretty well also. You just have to be very persistent!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Persistence seems to be the key word here. Who will be more persistent? The fungi or the fungee?

      Delete
  11. I had that toenail fungus for ages but discovered a cure. I did a three hundred mile kayak race in the summer and after my feet stewed in skanky water shoes the whole time, all my toenails fell off- I presume because the fungus got disgusted and decided to take them and leave. When the new ones grew back, they were fungus free!

    ReplyDelete
  12. Wow! I never made the connection of mushrooms with fungal infections.

    Good luck.
    the Ol'Buzzard

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If only I could work up a good case of morels.

      Delete
  13. Had the toe nail fungus, did the kidney killing cure. Worked like a charm and didn't kill my kidneys. I did need to do a blood test before and afterwards to make sure that things were still working fine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Bruce! I'm afeered for you in retrospect! I'm sure glad it all worked out. Brrrrr.

      Delete
  14. So the short version is *There's a fungus among us.*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. True, but I never do the short version if I can string it out.

      Delete
  15. Yes, aggressive debridement is the ticket. I do swear by the Vicks,but you have to be really determined, and you have to file those nails way down and keep them filed down, and keep the environment fungus-hostile (meaning in this case acidic) for, as the mayo clinic says, a whole fucking year. Or at least six months. It means doing your toes a couple times a day for months and months, and I can easily understand someone deciding that giving them that much times means the fungi have won, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dave seems to be willing to file my toenails. He's really kind of unreasonably nice. Maybe I'll give it a whirl again. I did try the store antifungal dauber for a whole month. Then I saw the dermatologist (grr) and mentioned it, and he says the stuff doesn't work, so I quit. Maybe he was wrong?

      Delete
  16. I once read about all the fungi dancing in the moonlight as that was their time.
    I wonder if your toenails could join them?
    XO
    WWW

    ReplyDelete
  17. My DH has had the toenail fungus for years and his toenails are very yellow and tubular. Being the kind who won't even take an aspirin for a headache, he's given up on trying for a cure and just trims when with a sander.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll trim with anything that doesn't come with a pull-starter.

      Delete
  18. Well two decontamination showers a day and one when getting home for good measure sure didn't help my feet (surprised I don't have moss growing down there). But a soft bristle brush and some antibacterial soap will do wonders. Drying is also very important

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What, we're not supposed to have moss growing down there? WAY down there, not down there. Huh.

      Signed,

      Oregon winter

      Delete
  19. I'm learning ever so much more than I ever, ever thought I would want to know!! But then again I do have a wonky looking toenail that the doctor just "hmm'd" about when I mentioned it ... think I'll get out the vinegar and see if I can make it smarten up.

    Condolences on the latest fungal invasion. You'd think, given your general hardiness, that fungiiii (sp.?) would avoid you too. Perhaps they didn't get the memo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I try to put a shine on it by thinking of myself as a fungus resort.

      Delete
  20. You have a nasty habit of inserting images into my head (and I am not a visual person). Now I am thinking 'attack of the killer funghi' has a nice ring to it.
    Good luck with exorcising the ones who have been so rude as to attempt to colonise you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Attempt?" They hab done stormed the beaches.

      Delete
  21. I am well familiar with tinea versicolor.
    I also think that instead of trying to treat your toes with vinegar, just let a little beer splash on your feet on occasion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Horrors! Oh, you mean after you've drunk it.

      Delete
  22. Thanks so much for reminding me of the most revolting TV commercial EVER:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTEa2lQepik

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The little yellow guys? I thought they were kind of cute.

      Delete
  23. Fungus are fabulous and frustrating, depending on whether they are growing on you or not. I wish all gardeners knew the ecosystem that lives in the soul and helps plants grow. Chemical fertilizers can kill them. In Texas we have the Texas madrone, a gorgeous red-barked tree that is extremely difficult to grow from seed. It needs a fungus to help it sprout. Now people know to collect soil around the tree in which to start the seeds.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You meant "lives in the soil," didn't you? Because I took you at your word at first and I just loved it.

      Delete
  24. With all this talk of fungus, is it wrong for me to crave a mushroom omelette now?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had one this morning. Guess who made it for me?

      Delete
    2. Actually, I understand that pee on the toes is very effective. I am not trying it though. I do know that urea cream helps, however.

      I disagree with the suggestion of a "soft" brush. I require a seriously stiff scrub brush for my feet. I think the result is reasonably similar to what you'd get with a belt sander.

      Delete
    3. Frankly, I'm thrilled just to be able to reach my feet. And as someone is bound to point out, they're not that far away.

      Delete
    4. Well I've used angle grinders at work. Problem there might be that it'll remove your toes and leave the fungus.

      Delete






















































































  25. Clorox applied with a dropper to the afflicted nail also works quite well. Every few days will do. Who'da thunk that so many of us classy folk would share such a weird malady?

    Great post, darling.....so many things I nev der knew......








    clorox applied

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ya did! Ya broke my comment machine! Now I'll need to apply vinegar, Vicks Vaporub, and Chlorox to Blooger until it quits festering. Thanks Lo.

      Delete
  26. Well now, you are the only other person I know who has been diagnosed with Tinea versicolor. Yep. I first got it in college (along with a few other things) and mine appears as white, vaguely circular patches. It has been dormant in me for quite a while, so maybe yours will go underground too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got those other things in college too.

      Delete
  27. Pray for rain. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!

    Bag Lady in Seattle

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I thought it was funny too. Hey, I'll take it over the lack thereof.

      Delete
  28. GREAT POST as USUAL. Perhaps it has something to do with living in that damp climate. Here in SoCal fungus spends most of its time decomposing dead wood, or living in concert with algae to form Lichen . . . which is, ah, ah, just Lichen which just is what it is!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I had a terrific lichen picture to put in here but I figured someone would call me on it only being half fungal. Such smart people.

      Delete
  29. I got rid of Laurie's toenail fungus by filing all his nails down every day for two weeks. When I got to fresh-grown nail, I quit. The stuff never came back.

    I love the idea of Dave in the shop making a sandpaper nail file. You guys are endlessly inventive!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe so, but I'm still running if he comes at me with a Skilsaw.

      Delete
  30. Every now and them I get amazed at myself by learning something I didn't know about self and accompanying brain: apparently I am creeped out by toenail fungus. It might be because I'm a swimmer and this kind of stuff lurks around pools.

    So if this stuff kills you, is it a fungicide?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. And "homicide" means the killing of homies.

      Delete
    2. So, does "fratricide" refer to atrocities against drunken college louts?

      Delete
    3. Yes, and there isn't a jury in the world that would convict you.

      Delete
  31. :: gasps ::

    Someone who loves mycorrhyzal fungi! As a gardener, I salute you. So much goes into healthy soil flora, so we need to respect the microscopic fungi if we want healthy gardens. This is why I never rototill (preferring my trusty mattock), never use pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and use copious amounts of compost. The fungus must be encouraged to take up real estate in garden soil!

    As for wild fungi, your post reminded me of a fun mushroom club in my area that would study wild fungi. I need to look them up again.

    As for toenail fungus, have you tried soaking your toes in undiluted Listerine?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have a homicidal mattock my own self, but I keep a close eye on it. I keep dumping compost on everything and hoping. This is probably why i even have fungi on my person.

      The Listerine, and the peeing on the feet, and everything else I've ever heard of, probably must be repeated every day for a fucking year. So, no.

      Delete
  32. Wherever we go there's a fungus among us. Condolences, Murr.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well I just think of it the same way I think of all my bacteria. We're all in this together. It's a jolly group.

      Delete
  33. Haha that is just what Buddy has and that filing works great. Forget the meds!! He never has trouble with bugs biting but I do! Love mushrooms and will eat them often.

    ReplyDelete