Monday, May 13, 2013

In which I have a heart-to-heart with my dermatologist

Remember when I mentioned my little trip to the good old dermatologist a couple weeks ago? Well, it wasn't all that little. It was quite eye-opening, actually. I walked out of the doctor's office sort of embarrassed -- and not just because of my skin blemishes I'd just showed her. BBB Let me start from the beginning (and I do apologize in advance if this crosses over into TIM territory; I do like to overshare, remember?). I've suffered from eczema since high school. The itchy and red blotchy rashes that would appear on my hands and arms were more annoying than anything else. They usually showed up during times of stress (hello, most of high school!), so I'd be forced to bust out my secret weapon: a tube of prescription-strength cream. Lather a layer of two of that stuff on me, and I'd be a new woman. I outsmarted my eczema for several years, and it remained at bay without much need for that pesky cream. Then last year, it decided to sneak up on me and make an appearance. So, I go some cream from my primary doctor.

I suppose now would be a good time to take a little responsibility for what happened next. I got the prescription filled, used it a couple times, slipped it into a drawer and then promptly forgot about it. In my defense, my skin wasn't that bad and it wasn't itching. But I digress. Then about a month ago, my mom noticed an infected-looking eczema spot on my thigh. I had to take her word for it because I couldn't see it (remember my fused neck?), but apparently, it looked like some sort of wound that had opened and was bleeding. It was all-around concerning. My mother, in her normal fashion, went into panic mode. Her hypochondriac side was coming out in full force.
Wait, did I ever tell you that I used to be a hypochondriac? No? Really? Well, anyway, yes, I used to be one. A pretty bad one. Like, seriously bad. Like, to the point where I used to take my pulse and listen to my heart beat. We used to have an actual medical stethoscope, and I used to listen to my heart beat with it -- me, a 10-year-old putting that big stethoscope in my ears and listening for anything abnormal. That's how bad it was.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and I began to get a teensy bit worried I was a stone's throw away from becoming that hypochondriac -- you know, the kind that desperately searches Google images for photos of their skin condition and trolls WebMD until the wee hours of the night, fueled only by an obsession and the glow of a computer screen. Nope. I definitely didn't want that to be me. See, you know it's bad when you're worried about becoming even more of a hypochondriac than you already are. But then I also didn't really want to have skin cancer either, so after some hemming and hawing, I reluctantly made an appointment. And just like that, off to the doctor I went -- nerves and all.

After a round of the usual questions -- How long have you had the rash? Where is it? What is Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome? -- the dermatologist brought out the big guns.

"Do you use lotion?"

Uh-oh, she got me on this one. I then had to launch into my long explanation about how lotion is always too greasy and it never absorbs in my skin and etc., etc., etc. She looked a little perplexed, but thankfully, it didn't look like she was passing too much judgment in her head (I hope, at least).
She then looked at my thigh -- yes, it was a bit embarrassing -- and said it was simply a boil. So, it was good news after all. I didn't have skin cancer or the disease carried by that monkey in Outbreak (Whew! That movie always scared me...). Her suggestions? She showed me a special lotion that will absorb better, and she also suggested that I stay better hydrated to keep my skin from getting dry.

So that was it. I walked out of the office with a clean bill of health. I didn't have skin cancer. Turns out I just needed to drink more fluids and use lotion. Who knew? Not this girl, apparently... xoxo

[Second photo via We Heart It; last graphic made by me]


  1. I have eczema, too, Melissa, although it's much worse than yours. As you know, there's no cure and I have suffered the embarrassment of it for years. About the only thing you can do is keep it moisturized, Cetaphil is great and they also have a soap, and Aveeno is my tried and true lotion. And of course the steroid cream. Mine never completely goes away but if it helps your readers, let them know they aren't the only ones with this condition.


  2. 1. Hooray for no skin cancer!

    2. I love Cetaphil. It has saved my skin so many times. It's the best lotion in the world, IMO.

    3. I'm with ya on the whole, "I might be dying thing." Probably not as bad as you, but when you spend half your childhood in a hospital, a fear of sickness is completely understandable.

  3. I too have a mild degree of health anxiety. I have reason to believe certain things because there have been certain events that have happened in my life and those of my loved ones that have brought this out in me.

    I have very sensitive skin too. I use Aveeno. Love the stuff. I got my husband on it as well as my mother. My father uses Cetaphil. My mother had two aortic aneurysm dissections last year and the dye that they have to inject in order to see all that is going on is something that she is allergic to (she itches something awful). They were using and hydro-cortisone lotion and then I brought the Aveeno and she got the same relief with that and not all the chemicals that the other stuff brings along with it. She is 80 yrs old and doing cardiac rehab right now. My father is 85 and had a stroke a year and a half ago and a heart attack 3 yrs ago and for the last couple of years he has been battling skin cancer. The Cetaphil is what his dermatologist has suggest that he use. He recently had the chemical that causes the skin cancer to come to the surface and then is scabs off.

    I wear a compression garment on my left leg due to DVT. The garment can be quite restricting and hence warm and I get itchy skin. So when I take it off at night lotion (Aveeno) is the best thing for it.

  4. It's sometimes embarrassing to see a doctor and tell anout the health issues, but don't you feel goooood now as it's done? I'm just like you, stress and start thinking of worst case scenarios. I should go and see a dermato too, I don't even feel like calling (hello me and my nerves when I need to call in french somewhere). Phew.

    Bisous from France!

  5. I read this while eating my breakfast in Norway. M, you are one wonderful being.

  6. Thanks, you guys that is a great explanation. keep up the good work..

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  7. I have horrid eczema on my hands! I use cetaphil and, sometimes, creme de la mer, but that gets expensive. Staying hydrated with water helps a lot. Every now and then, I have them nitrogen freeze starting spots off before they get bad.

    Life with sensitive skin= dermatologist all the time.

  8. I don't know why it is always so hard to talk to a doctor about eczema. I had a patch on my leg for years and waited until it was cracked and bleeding before I did anything about it. Than 2 years ago it spread to my face. The doctor I saw wasn't a dermatologist since my face hurt so bad (it came on quick) and went to the first doctor with an opening. The second she saw me she got a look of terror on her face. At that point I was certain I was a goner. Nope. She consulted the dermatologist on staff and got me some cream.


    I can understand why you would have been a hypochondriac, especially as a kid, after all the time you spent at the doctors and with the surgeries I'm sure having someone around you all the time checking to see how you were doing let a major imprint on you. However I did enjoy the mental image of you with a stephascope. It reminded me of my 3 year old who has a fake one, but tells me all the time that she "has a little cough" so she needs to go to the doctor. She's a hypochodrica in training.


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