Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lucky Me, It's Not A Fatal Rash

I have a list of blog topics that I keep on my desk. Occasionally I look at them and start composing sarcastic repartee in my head which, sadly, I promptly forget as soon as I go to bed. I've been meaning to write about my little dinosaurs, about my husband's rather odd, and continually finding himself on the wrong side of the law, son. I have cow stories, goat stories, dog stories and the occasional weird friend story but all of those humorous little things have fallen by the wayside, superseded by tree fungus skin.

You'll recall that I have had issues with toe bumps and the potentially fatal rash. My husband's adamant demand that I make a trip with him to Farm & Fleet in search of appropriate footwear has resolved the toe bump problem. Men's cow shit brown, size 12 farm boots with thinsulate type liners (rated to -30 deg) aren't terribly sexy and make me look like Bozo the Clown while walking but they've kept my perpetually cold feet warm even when it was -27 here at the old ranch. That's the good news.

The fatal rash which turned out to be neither fatal, nor a rash, was diagnosed by the somewhat disbelieving Nurse Practitioner as contact dermatitis. Hubby had changed the laundry soap, a major offense here in my environment where any introduction of perfume or even mild chemicals produce truly unpleasant effects to my skin and internal organs. If it smells nice, it's not getting through the door. If it makes your laundry really soft and has little teddie bears jumping onto the piles, keep that shit away from me or I'm liable to wake up with boils the size of kittens in places I don't even want to hint at.

I was relieved and not terribly surprised when the NP made her proclamation. She offered 3 tubes of innocuous cream to slather on the offending bumps and I made my relatively merry and relieved way home believing relief was in sight. Silly me; I really should know better by now. It seems very few things are easy when it comes to medical, dental or psych care and my body, teeth and brain (such that it is). I, being the true sister of an excellent nurse and a paranoid as well as distrusting patient, covered all the pertinent questions, understood fully what the NP told me and asked what I should do if the not so fatal rash didn't go away with use of the creamy stuff. She looked at me like I'm stupid, medical professionals often look at me like that, and said I should see a dermatologist. Fine. Lovely. I went home fully expecting to have my skin back within a matter of days. Didn't happen.

What did happen is the red, itchy bumps on the soles of my feet turned into scaly, itchy, welt looking things which spread to my ankles. A few days later, I had red, itchy bumps on the front of my calves, the leg kind, not the bovine kind. Then on my forearms, then in select places on my thighs, then on the base of my spine where my jean's tag tends to rub. I was beginning to look like I had mange and it wasn't a pretty picture.

I waited until all but a tiny bit of the creamy stuff was gone and called the only dermatologist out here in the provinces. The nearly incomprehensible receptionist finally figured out I needed an appointment, scheduled one - for two weeks later of course - and I waited apprehensively while worrying about what could possibly be causing this bizarre epithelial outrage.

Finally the appointment day arrived. I had a shrink appointment beforehand, because I like to double up on irritating events, so I toodled off, became annoyed yet again with the shrink and arrived at the derm's office 45 minutes early. Joy. If you know me, you know I don't wait well. And I'm understating just how much I don't wait well....I waited. I went into the office 3 minutes before my appointment, filled out the obligatory 500 page questionnaire and waited some more. And some more after that. In a completely full waiting room; one so full the receptionist, this one a fluent speaker of English, brought out a couple office chairs for people to sit on.

Finally I was called back, my name mispronounced as usual. Into the exam room I went with the very pleasant nursey person who asked me more questions, wrote them down, nodded cheerfully and said the doctor would be right in. I waited. I scratched a bit; I read several pages in my ubiquitous book and eventually the doctor came in, smirking. I wasn't sure if that meant he had a sense of humor (my preference in medical folks) or was an arrogant ass (the more common affliction of medical folks). He asked me the same questions as the nurse type person - doesn't anyone read the damned chart? He asked how long I'd had it. I told him 3 months to which he replied, "Well you rushed right in didn't you?" That annoyed me so in a slightly curt tone I told him I'd have been in sooner except I had to decide it wasn't going away on its own, it took a week to see the NP, three weeks of using the creamy stuff and another 2 weeks to get an appointment with him at which point he shut up and asked to see the rash type thing.

I showed him one of my arms, he nodded knowingly. Then I showed him my alligator/alien feet, told him the NP said contact dermatitis and he looked at me like I had three heads and said, "No, it's likeanplarlnafst" to which I responded, "What?" He repeated it. I repeated it back. The three heads popped out of my neck again. "Lichen planus", he said. I thought to myself, what the hell is that? Having thought it, I of course said it aloud. He raised an eyebrow and then chuckled. AHA! Sense of humor. Thank goodness because if I'm going to have some weird skin thing, the doctor had better have a sense of humor. He said because of its appearance, it's named for the stuff that grows on trees. You know, tree fungus. I asked how I got it. He asked if I was an IV drug user. Ut oh, this isn't good. He then asked if I associated with IV drug users. "Associated" must be code for did I sleep with junkies. Again, not my cup of tea. Had I had a blood transfusion? Nope. Did I donate blood? Nope. Did I have Hepatitis C? Um, not that I'm aware of, especially since I don't even know how a person contracts Hepatitis C. Did I have a tattoo? That one I have but the time period and place in which I got it precluded my having been exposed to aforementioned junkies, transfused persons, or persons with hepatitis C. At this point, I reached the point of sweating, my ears were ringing, hands were shaking and nausea settled in which normally precedes completely losing control of myself in an embarrassing way in a public place.

Offering no additional information, said doctor informed me that I needed a biopsy and left the room. Hmmm. Didn't sound promising, especially since I still didn't know what the hell it was, what caused it or what to do about it. The nurse came back in, started pulling swabs and needles and odd looking torture devices out of miscellaneous drawers and smiling at me in a "gee, I feel really sorry for you" way. Reenter the doctor who drew a circle around one of the red, bumpy, scaly things on my arm, shot a big bubble of anesthetic into said arm, and, I kid you not, took a tool that looked like a leather punch, smirked at me and jabbed the thing about 1/2 an inch into my forearm. Yikes! It didn't hurt of course due to the pint of stuff he'd already shot into my arm but it was still rather alarming to have a flesh cork pulled out of an extremity. He put a couple stitches in and rolled his little roly chair back to the counter, smirking the whole time. I said the name of the mange type thing again and the three heads reappeared but he agreed that I had it right. I told him my goats were getting ready to kid and asked if they could catch it. He burst out with a snork and said, "You'd think you'd be more concerned about whether your husband could catch it, but no, it's not contagious". I replied that if my husband was going to catch it, he'd have it by now and the doc agreed. I asked how to get rid of it. He was vague. I asked how long it would take. He said, "about 2 years." TWO YEARS?? Not contagious but apparently having some correlation with junkies, transfusions, blood donation and hepatitis C. Not much to go on.

I headed for home, weeping along the way, called my step-daughter and asked her to look it up in her nursing school books. She instead immediately looked it up online and read what she found to me while I was driving. Autoimmune disease of the skin. No known cause. No known cure. Upon reaching home with a sinking and nauseous feeling in my gut, I logged into twitter and found my sister who immediately starting sending me helpful links all of which said the same thing and had lovely accompanying photos.

So the not so fatal rash has morphed into tree fungus skin. As of a few days ago, I can't use a razor to shave my legs so I'm beginning to resemble a yeti. I'm waiting for the biopsy results to come back so the doc can decide on a "treatment program". I don't even like the sound of that. I'm finding novel ways to avoid exposing skin, not terribly difficult given the weather, but spring is looming as is what I'm sure will prove to be a series of embarrassing public displays of human tree fungus. Stay tuned. More to come.


Marty said...

Dear fucking god! I saw those fungus Tweets between you and your sister but didn't think it appropriate to weigh in. Reading this post, however, I started yelling-- on your behalf -"What the fuck?!?" to the point that the dogs rushed over to see what I'm so upset about.
I want to scream at it for you and make it go away.
What does your sister say about getting a second opinion from someone in The City?

Sherry W said...

My heart goes out to you. My daughter, now 29 years old has had skin problems all her life. As a teenager she would develop a rash that would then dry out to the point it would crack open and bleed. Many mornings she got up apologizing to me because her sheets were bloody. She used to try to hide it but these days it spreads to her face and hands, sometimes swelling her eyes shut. I took her to countless doctors and followed all the instructions. None of it worked. A little over two years ago she was hit by a truck while riding her bike to work. After the surgeries her skin starting acting up really bad. Within three months it went all to hell. She did the acidopholus cleansing thing, twice. She was out of work for a year and then went to work in an organic vegetable warehouse because she couldn't return to her landscaping job due to the bum leg the son of a bitch with the truck left her. She had a horrible reaction to the so-called organic pesticide sprays on the vegetables and now cannot so much as touch a vegetable! That's a hard row to hoe for a vegetarian! She can't even use soap if it contains anything 'plant' in it. Now she uses soap a friend makes with lard and eats meat and that's about all she eats. Her skin looks like road kill. She's been to all kinds of doctors, modern and homeopathic, even an acupuncturist. She can get it healed to the point she isn't miserable and then it all comes back with a vengeance for seemingly no reason. It kills me to see her in such misery. I surely hope your skin clears up because even though I don't know first hand how it feels I've seen the suffering it can cause.

Jane Doe said...

Oh you poor thing!! I feel bad for laughing at your story, but only you could make such a horrible experience hilarious, you are rather gifted in that regard.

I hope that you find some resolution soon, I can't imagine how awful that is.

Anonymous said...

I am finding it easy to laugh at everyone's woes, today...I must be on the manic side...Hope your fungus improves...hmmmm....don't know if that came out quite right...If it improves, would it get worse or go away?? You'll have to start planning a party for the day you are fungus free, sounds like you have plenty of time. That sucks.

the upbeat pessimist said...

Hey, did you tell the derm about the drug you are taking? Seems like a no brainer, but you don't mention it in your visit... I ask because I just started taking the same drug (I think) and was just wondering what the hell a fatal rash could possibly look like. Good luck!

Naimhe said...

Yeah, derm knows my med list. The fatal rash is a normal looking, non-bumpy rash that comes out on a person's back while on Lamictal. It's extremely rare and is accompanied by flu-like symptoms.