THAT DAMN NEW YORKER ARTICLE!
After reading the article, The Itch, in the NEW YORKER, you just won’t be able to get it out of your head. In fact, everyone I know who’s read it, cannot forget it. To summarize, it’s a depressing report about a woman who can stop scratching, and I mean can’t stop, so much so that she scratches through to her brain. Who knew this was even possible?
Thanks to the Hodgkin’s (which I did not know I had – see ABOUT ME), I have been itchy for almost two years now with an eczema-like rash all over my body. In that time, I have been inconsolable. I had seen two skin doctors as well as my GP. No steroid cream, UV treatment, special diet, hypnosis, yoga, could stop the itch. At night, I would wake up scratching, ripping my poor skin to shreds. I’ve had to wear cotton shirts everyday next to my skin. It’s really exhausting. No wonder I have not been in the mood to wear my Louboutins!
Well, I was told that as soon as the chemo kicked in, it would all be over. The itch would subside and the healing could begin. I couldn’t even imagine a world without itch…
SURPRISE! The Sunday after my first session of chemo, I broke out with something that was way worse than what I had been suffering through before. Big red blotches, long deep scratch-like gashes were all over my body – it looked like I had a fight with a rabid cat. AND IT WAS ITCHY!!! (It’s actually called Flagellate Erythema because it looks like you’ve been whipped with a cat-o-nine-tails.)
The question was how could I bare to live with it until the next time I saw the doctor – in two weeks? They did say to call if something changed. Did I want to complain and be the annoying patient? No, I would man up and suffer through.
Wrong choice. It got so bad in the following days that people on the street were asking if I were OK. Was it Poison Ivy? My Mom and co-workers demanded that I ring the doctor straight away. I was really lucky he could see me that afternoon.
Thank goodness, I did, as this was no eczema…it was an allergic reaction to Bleomycin, one of my chemo drugs. Only a small percentage of people taking this is affected and I was a lucky one. The good news was this is the only chemo drug, of the four, that can be dropped from the regimen.
Although that was relatively good news, I was left with one ugly looking rash that can take weeks to months to disappear. So I go out there, head held high ignoring the looks, bearing with the itch as it slowly subsides and hope all eyes go straight to the Louboutins!
I hope no one has to suffer through this like I am, but if you do, below are my suggestions for easing the itch.
1. DIVERT YOUR ATTENTION: The itch was at its worst after 5pm. As soon as the sun went down, my nails went into action. Keep yourself busy! Do anything you can to not laze around. See a film, go to the theatre, drinks (non-alcoholic, of course), run…whatever it is, do it!
2. CREAMS & POTIONS: I bought everything for eczema-ridden skin: cream, ointment, oils, over-the-counter, under the counter, behind the counter, etc. A few helped but mostly they didn’t work for me. Of all the stuff I slathered on, the over the counter 1% Hydrocortisone creams are great in a pinch. The prescription Triamcinolone acetonide helped but only because my doctor had added menthol to it. Make sure you check with your doctor before you use any of these!
3. THE SAVIORS!
a. FROZEN PEAS AND ICE CUBES:
The itch starts and before you know it, you have scratched your skin to buggery. Well, if you can catch yourself, not easy, before it gets too bad, throw a bag of frozen peas or a paper-towel wrapped ice cube on the itch. It stops almost immediately.
b. AESOP PETITGRAIN HYDRATING BODY GEL & 99% ALOE VERA GEL
Two gels have saved my life. At first, I used Witch Hazel gel from Boots but that is so drying. By an act of God, I was sent a random spam about a new product by Aesop called Petitgrain Hydrating Body Gel. It mixes Aloe Vera with Witch Hazel and other stuff to cool and refresh the skin. It smells good too! Not cheap at £23, but for me, desperate after suffering for two years, I decided to try it. Thank goodness I did. Unfortunately, as of now, it is only sold in the UK. I ran out of it here but bought it from the Mount Street store in London (who generously threw in a few extra products for me to try) and had a friend who was coming to the USA bring it it to me – a rather complicated journey. They might send it to the USA but I am sure it will cost you. Keep checking the Aesop stores or retail outlets where you are to see when it is available. I will do the same and tweet what I find out!
If you can’t get that or can’t afford it, find 99% Aloe Vera gel in a health food store. The ones at CVS and Rite-Aid are more gel substance than Aloe Vera. I think the Lily of the Desert Aloe Gelly is fantastic and only $5.
Throw whatever you buy in the fridge and the cold gel stops the itch and moisturizes at the same time.
Boys, you can stop reading here.
4. FEMININE STUFF
One of the itchiest places is in my private parts. 1% Hydrocortisone cream has been good but I do hate to use it a lot. Going to the gynecologist next week to find out what is going on down there! Will report back.
Chemo messes with a woman, no doubt. Itching, sores, yeast infections (really fun stuff). I’m glad to hear you finally contacted the doctor. For some reason we all worry about being annoying, but don’t forget that while in chemo, they basically want to be informed about everything.
Good luck, hope it clears soon
YES! They do! Don’t be shy. Thanks, Catherine.
I went to Aesop today, and Wow, I am hoping for the best. Also was recommended the Geranium body scrub which is divine as a softener, which they claim improves the petit grain’s potency. Fingers crossed! Love to you gorgeous. Xxx