Disclaimer: This post contains very descriptive accounts of doctor appointments.
I’ve had quite a long break from posting. My right hand is still giving me quite a bit of trouble and likely will for the rest of my life; the diagnosis is CRPS (complex regional pain syndrome). I’m in the 10% of patients who haven’t experienced a trauma or surgery and the disease developed spontaneously. I go to occupational therapy twice a week, which includes such strange things as identifying right hands and left hands in flash cards and hiding my right hand behind a mirror while I perform tasks with my healthy left hand and trick my brain into thinking it’s my right hand doing them. The idea is to try to keep my brain from shutting down the right side of my body. On really bad days, even air hurts when it blows across my hand. It’s a really fucked up disease.
For the past two months I have also been getting treatments for my hidradenitis suppurativa – acronym of HS (otherwise known as horseshit). It is known as the worst (strictly) dermatological disease, and normally it occurs in areas where skin touches skin. However, mine also appears on my face, neck and back of my head. You’re welcome to look up this condition if you aren’t familiar with it, but every patient is different. It’s an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and tunnels of infection and lots of scarring. My worst area by far is in my groin. I have stage II because it’s in two or more areas of my body and I’m getting some bigger tracts. Every day I have between 20 and 50 infections. The bacteria is generally strep bacteria that forms anaerobically under the skin in tunnels that can be as small as a grain of rice or as big as a grapefruit. Sometimes I can’t walk.
My HS wasn’t too bad until I started on Humira shots, which I was taking for 15 months. I was allergic to those, and it actually accelerated the disease for me, which I am now hearing from a lot of patients, especially stage I and II. From what I can tell, the medication is actually accelerating the disease for about 30% of patients, not helping or hurting about 40%, and helping about 30%, and the majority of those helped are stage III, the worst stage.
So the first treatment was a topical acid I had to wear for 24 hours, and then sit under a blue light. I had a male nurse who asked if I preferred a female nurse, but I told him fuck it, nearly everyone has seen my ass by now. He didn’t know the proper name for stirrups. I got propped up in the stirrups, and then he set an old-fashioned tap bell beside me, saying, “If it gets to be too much, you can ring this and I’ll come and turn this off, but try to get through it.” I also got a dollar store hand fan, I think to make me feel better psychologically. He’s trying to be all nice and polite while my girl parts are all on display and ready to be cooked, and I told him, “Look, I’m going to sing. I have a feeling this is going to hurt. I have to sing.” He said that was fine and stepped out after turning on the timer, automatically 16 minutes.
So, the first minute was fine. No big deal. Dollar store fan? Who needs that? Not me!
By minute two, I felt like everyone had turned on their curling irons and then set them on my girl parts. Jesus god. What to sing?
At minute four, the nurse came back in and asked how I was doing. Somehow Satan had slipped into my vocal cords and I told him I was done. I can tap out, right? He said almost everyone didn’t notice as much when they got past minute seven. FINE. FINE. THREE MORE MINUTES AND IT WON’T BE A BIG DEAL.
He totally lied to me. Fuck, fuckity fuck fuck. Singing, still singing. I can’t remember what.
He came back in at ten minutes. Very cheerful. He must have felt my look of betrayal and mistrust. He told me that I had made it this far, I shouldn’t tap out now.
Still really hot. Fire of a thousand suns. The dollar store fan is just making everything feel like I’m having sparks from welding fall on my delicate bits. How do people do this to their faces? Still singing. Could have been the Star Spangled Banner for all I remember.
Finally the blue light went dead and the very cheerful nurse came back in. Turkey’s done! He got everything put away and let me down off the stirrups, but it was so fucking painful. I told him he gave me fire crotch. He laughed but stayed more than arm’s length away.
This all went faster than was anticipated, so I had to wait a few hours for my transportation (we can’t make changes day of). Sitting was torture. Oh. My. God. I basically had a 2nd degree burn and it felt like I took a brillo pad to it besides. I had to go into the bathroom to pat cold water on it once because oh my god. And I was still 35 miles from home. That was a really uncomfortable ride home. I had an ice pack on my goodies for 3 days. After going through all that, I was told I wouldn’t know if it was helpful until 3-4 weeks after the procedure.
Oh, but we’re not done.
I don’t think the blue light worked. I contacted my dermatologist in St. Paul because she had recommended laser sessions right before I moved, but I never got the chance. I had to fly up to see another doctor, so I scheduled an appointment with her as well to get treated.
Unfortunately, anything in the Lidocaine/Novocaine family doesn’t work on me, or at least, not very well. They had a topical for me that sat for about 20 minutes that was a combination of meds, but unfortunately, it didn’t really do a whole lot.
They didn’t have enough goggles for everyone, so I had stickers over my eyes. The first laser basically acts as an aerator, poking a bunch of holes in my skin. My doc thought it would be the more painful of the two. But no, it was the second one that made me swear. A LOT. The second one was like a light saber. Or some kind of a hot knife. There may have been a patient in the room next to mine who heard way more than they ever wanted to.
The doc and nurse were worried that I would be in pain for a few days after, but honestly I was okay as soon as those damned lasers stopped searing my skin. I didn’t get the same fire crotch that I did with the blue light.
The doctor indicated that if I wanted to try another session, I could book at another office where they had nitrous. Yes, please! I had that for my dental work when I was a kiddo, I know at least that will get some of me numb(er). And I do want another session because after only one week my lesions are smaller and I’m not getting new ones. It’s a motherfucking miracle.
I really, truly resent having to go through this. None of this was a problem before I took the Humira injections. I have had to completely change my wardrobe, buy tons of medical supplies, and halt my sex life. Everything is made even harder because I only have one fully functional hand.