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The Itch


Did you change your laundry detergent?                 Are you using a new lotion?                                     Are you taking any new medications?

No, no and no!

I went through a pretty thorough mental checklist as the itch began to persist. I have never had any major skin issues in my life.

Well, alright then, you do now.

I’m bringing focus to the topic of an itch that started about three weeks ago. The intense, nerve-wrecking, insatiable itch. Since my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis I have become very familiar with your basic everyday, run-of-the-mill, irritating itch.  It has become just another physical distraction joined together with other steadfast MS symptoms in my life. I acknowledge it and move along.

However, this itch bears no resemblance to my typical, mini-nuisance-with-a-quick-scratch kind-of-itch. This itch is extending it’s stay while inviting an unbearable burning sensation that was slowly wrapping itself around my midsection. There encroached a redness with little blister like spots across and around my stomach and back. This is when I went down my mental checklist to affirm any changes that might have taken place, but there was no culprit that came to mind. I knew all the right things to do, but there was no relief to be found. The itch persisted and insisted on getting worse. I began a myriad of cold showers, antihistamines and cold cloths to ward off the intensely disturbing itch. The loose clothing,  ice packs and meditation couldn’t make peace with this intrusion and I began to lose the struggle. This itch was beyond me and I couldn’t help but think that this was some new MS symptom carving it’s initials onto my skin.

I held out for about five days until I knew there was nothing I could do. This was worth exposing to a medical professional. Urgent care, here I come.

It was just 8am on a Saturday morning when I made the decision and we (my reliable hubby) and myself headed off to the clinic to get in line as they opened. Our wait was short, but I couldn’t resist turning my skin into hamburg at this point and I didn’t care who was watching. New blisters were still appearing and rearing their ugly little selves across the whitest skin in America heading into places beyond my reach. Tony wasnt as cooperative with assisting in the scratching of those hard to reach ones. I kept hearing him say something about making it worse and being contagious as the thought of shingles had meandered into a conversation we had while trying to self diagnose a few days before. However, I had placed the thought into the back of my mind and eventually  resigned to the fact that I was going to be prescribed something.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Medication has its place in my life, although I am resistant to the drugs used on MS patients. The risks outweigh the benefits, insurance plays Russian Roulette with what they will cover and what they won’t.

Since it took me longer than it should have to get to the doctor, little scabs started forming from the hellishly wacko itch that became harder and harder to resist. I wasn’t entertaining any thought of infection, but it was possible. I needed to take this a little more seriously. There were no more calming techniques to relieve me from this agony so when the nurse called us in I was ready to bare all.

The wait was short and I took a mental note to add that fact to my gratitude list when I got home. Enter the doctor.

Doc: “So…what’s going on?”

Me:  “I itch!”  Swiftly pulling up my shirt to expose the battlefield that was my skin so we could just get right down to the nitty gritty and from my stand point that’s exactly how I looked and felt. Gritty.

Doc:  “Oh my…well…I can honestly say that it is not shingles or chicken pox.  Did you change your laundry detergent?  Are you using any new lotions or soaps? Are you taking any new medications?”

Me: “No, no and no.”

Doc:  “Alright then. This appears to be Atopic Dermatitis.” (Then mumbled something about trying not to scratch). This is where I had envisioned a feather in my hand tickling her nose and telling her not to scratch it.

Did I mention that I may have been a wee bit annoyed? Well, not at her, just the insanity of the itch. Anyway, I put that thought aside with a deep breath and resumed listening to her instructions. She recommended using cool water in the shower,  unscented, dermatologist tested lotions and to wear loose clothing. I refrained from commenting that I was way ahead of her and accepted the prescription for Prednisone and made another note about me needing an attitude adjustment.

Prednisone is a cortisteroid that prevents the release of substances in the body that cause inflammation but also suppresses the immune system. It is used to treat different conditions such as skin disorders like I acquired.

Another deep breath. I could see the horizon, but there remained a cloud over my head as I heard her say that this could possibly return frequently for unexplained reasons or the simple confirmation of the amount of stress your body is under.

Me: “It is what it is.” This little piece of intelligence has been a mantra I lean on frequently. When used without sarcasm I find it truly helps me find the ability of acceptance.

A new day, a new challenge. (Not a mantra, just a fact). So we left the clinic and stepped out into the light of this brand new day and headed for the pharmacy.

I got the last scratch in (as far as Tony knows) and began the 10 day course of headaches, stomach upset and constipation. The itch didn’t take its leave immediately and then it just toned down to a dull roar. I stopped the aggravated scratching that secretly took place around each corner that I couldn’t be seen. There is a defiance about me, I understand this. Acknowledge; move on, right? What was a scratch here and there in comparison to what the prednisone was doing to my body.

Now, let’s talk about stress briefly, shall we? It exists and my past thoughts on the subject bare resemblance to that of someone who believes there is nothing you can do about stress. I believed that stress, in all its forms, was unavoidable. Suck it up buttercup.

I will stop right there and reclaim my stress status. I can’t always believe what I think. Proven fact. Through the down days of someone that lives in MS turmoil stress is a proven enemy. It’s flattened me when I overreact to it. My well being depends entirely on keeping stress at the lowest possible level. This no joke. I am not stronger than stress. My super powers lie elsewhere and knowing this I have become an accomplished research activist on relaxation, mindfulness and peace with God.

So all this over an itch? Not entirely, but a necessary admission in the process of growth toward a calmer me. I completed the 10 day course of prednisone two days ago briefly patting myself on the back for surviving, not as a warrior,  but as someone intent on maintaining the lowest level of stress possible and a more manageable itch.

Allyson Collins







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