Elbow Dandruff

When I was little, my parents were happy to have money to put food on the table.  There wasn’t extra for luxuries.  Television was a luxury.  Our first TV set was a hand-me-down from a family friend who had just purchased a new color television; we got their cast-off black & white.  I was in the fifth grade.  Finally, my brothers and I got to see all the shows that our friends had been talking about.

We also got to see commercials.  What an education!  I still remember watching a commercial for an amazing product that claimed it would get rid of white flakes on a person’s head.  Turning to my mom, I asked if she thought dandruff shampoo would work on elbows, too.

Puzzled, she looked at my elbows and knees.  “Oh, that’s just dry skin.  Everyone has that.  Use hand lotion.”  Well, I had oily skin, not dry, but I tried hand lotion.  It didn’t make any difference, so I quit using it.  Eventually the elbow/knee dandruff went away and I forgot all about it.  Until recently…

Reading about different rashes, I keep coming back to psoriasis.  My rash doesn’t look like any of the psoriasis photos online, but psoriasis often begins on the elbows and knees.  It can go into remission.  I wonder.

Thinking back, I’m curious why my mom thought everyone  had white flakes on their knees and elbows.  I’ve never met anybody  with elbow dandruff, yet my mom (whose mother had psoriasis) thought that it was perfectly normal.  Did she – and all her siblings – experience this, too?

Unfortunately, I’ve developed more spots since seeing my rheumatologist.  Monday morning I’ll phone to ask if I’m supposed to see my family doctor or a dermatologist for the biopsy she wants me to get   :(

My rash doesn’t sound like any of the rashes I’ve read about.  The disconcerting new development is that the normal-appearing skin around the rash has started peeling off!  It’s multiple layers of skin – way deeper than a sunburn – and leaves the area feeling raw.  The little area on my hand wasn’t too bad, but it was alarming to rub my foot and have a 3×4 patch of skin fall off!

Then again, maybe it’s not even remotely like psoriasis.  This rash only appeared after I started taking Flexeril – one of the rarer side effects is a rash.  It would be nice to have such a simple solution.

One part of me is worried.  What has gone wrong now?  I found more blisters yesterday; today they’ve turned into more little bumpy patches.  How long until the skin falls off?  If this is related to the RA, then obviously my medicine isn’t working.  Has my third biologic failed?  That would be something worth swearing about.  The rheumy said we’d try a different class of medicine next, and it would be an IV.  “IV” should be spelled with many many many dollar signs.  There’s the time-loss to consider, too.  I don’t need this.  Maybe I don’t want to know what this rash is.

Another part of me is fascinated.  The more I learn about the body and the things that can go wrong, I wish I’d gone to medical school.  Not that I don’t love my life the way it is, but… what a privilege to study all the intricacies of how the body works and spend a lifetime keeping up-to-date on new discoveries.

I think of how childhood chicken-pox can show up decades later as shingles.  My elbow dandruff is but a faint memory; I’m really hoping that this new rash isn’t related.

Picking Up The Pieces

Near the Puget Sound, where I live, snow seldom falls.  On those rare occasions that cold, white precipitation makes an appearance, accumulation is generally less than two inches.  A few weeks ago, however, things changed.  It snowed, and snowed, and snowed some more.  We had a record-breaking TEN inches overnight, and the snow continued to fall.  It was beautiful!

The interesting thing about living where there is very little snow is that very few cities or counties own snowplows because it’s difficult to justify the expense. On those rare occasions that snow falls, everything comes to a grinding halt. My schedule instantly emptied. Swimming lessons were cancelled. Violin lessons were cancelled. Piano lessons were cancelled. Drum lessons were cancelled. The dishwasher installer phoned to say he couldn’t make it. The streets were impassable, and we enjoyed a peaceful week at home without having to drive anywhere. I loved it.

    

Not everything was perfect, though.  There’s a huge maple tree in my yard:

A few days after the snowstorm, we got hit with an ice storm.  Freezing rain coated everything.

I’d never seen anything like it.  Never heard anything like it, either.  It was too much for the trees.  All around, it sounded like gunshots as limbs succumbed to the cold and ice, snapping and plummeting to the ground.

The ground shook as our beloved maple lost its battle with the ice.

As we’ve been cleaning up the debris, I’ve been thinking that this storm was a little like receiving an RA diagnosis.  Storms can’t be prevented, and neither can RA.  Suddenly your entire world has changed, and there isn’t a thing you can do about it.  We just deal with the storms in our lives, and pick up the pieces so we can move on.

My poor maple tree.  On hot summer days, I’ll miss the shade.  My kids will miss their tire swing.  There’s no point in mourning forever, though.  We could pile everything in a heap and have a big bonfire, but then all we’d have left is a pile of ashes.  What a waste.  Instead, the smaller branches have all been carefully stacked; we’ll use them to heat the pool this summer.  My daughter will turn some of the wood on our lathe, and make beautiful pens – which she hopes to sell to fund a missions trip she wants to take this summer.  The larger limbs have been set aside to season, and will become beautiful salad bowls.  We’ll try to take a disaster and make something beautiful out of it.

I want that in my life, too.  A chronic diagnosis can seem like a disaster.  Maybe there’s a way, though, to pick up the pieces and turn them into something good.

Happy New Year

As I write this, December has just four hours left, and then we’ll be on to a brand new year.  2012 looks like it will start off well – that means no doctor appointments scheduled in January.  Don’t get me wrong, I have great doctors.  I’m just tired of needing to see them.

From a medical standpoint, 2011 was discouraging.  Despite the fact that I blog about living with an autoimmune disease, I really don’t want “patient” to be my full-time job.  I don’t even want it to be a part-time job.  Given that I have to deal with an incurable disease, I’d love to be well-controlled so that I could pop in for a quick check-up with my rheumatologist every six months and forget about it the rest of the time.  What a contrast when compared to 2011’s reality!

Adding up my office visits over this past year, I had many more than two simple rheumy appointments:

  • 6 Rheumatologist
  • 9 Family Physician
  • 3 Podiatrist
  • 1 ENT (I did not go for testing, and cancelled the follow-up appointment)
  • 4 GI
  • 3 Surgeon

Add in:

  • 1 outpatient x-ray
  • 1 outpatient CT
  • 1 outpatient ultrasound
  • 3 outpatient trips to the OR
  • 10 physical therapy session
  • 5 days inpatient (numerous tests and doctor consultations while in the hospital)

That’s twenty-six office visits to see physicians and sixteen other appointments, for a total of forty-two medical appointment in 2011 – plus five days in the hospital.  No wonder I felt like I was always seeing someone for medical care.

It’s exhausting.  I sincerely hope that 2012 is better, because I am D.O.N.E!

***

Believe it or not, I have a life apart from obtaining medical care.  On a happy note, our first calves of the season arrived on Christmas day.  Twins!

Unfortunately, the mother did not feed them.  For two days we took a bottle to the pasture to feed, but when it turned rainy and the calves were looking in sad shape, my son showed up in my kitchen with a calf in his arms and asked me to get some towels to warm and dry the calf.  While I rubbed the first one down, he went after the second calf.

One of the calves was strong enough to take a bottle, but we had to feed the other one with a stomach tube.

Unfortunately, the weaker calf didn’t make it, but the other is doing quite well.  She loved to get to her feet in the middle of the night and tap-dance so we’d know she was recovering nicely.

In my book, if a calf is healthy enough to take a bottle and clomp about at-will, it’s healthy enough to move outdoors.  Lest you worry that we tossed her back out in the pasture, never fear.  She’s warm and dry, out of the wind and rain.

It’s nice to have my kitchen back.  It’s nice to know that the calf is okay.

And I’m hopeful that 2012 will have many such happy outcomes.

Wishing you a Happy New Year