June 26th, 2014: I grammed this gorgeous selfie of yours truly all dressed up for a date. Hair curled, cute sundress, makeup on point. I look amazing, BUT! For the itchy, scaly, oozy, red splotch of psoriasis under my armpit. You can tell I’ve tried my darnedest to filter the living F out of this photo to draw attention away from it, the area that I highlighted with purple arrows for your viewing pleasure. Damn, I tried everything to get rid of that psoriasis outbreak — short of actually see a doctor, because this was before I had health insurance. I never got that treated, it just sort of, went away before I got medical insurance.
…it came back.
And true to my own self-martyrdom form, I thought I could just wait it out. Never MIND the fact that I HAVE a dermatologist, who insists that I CAN CALL and come in if I ever NEED ANYTHING like, say, treatment for an outbreak of psoriasis that lasts for three months and doesn’t go away? And this time around, I remembered it being EVEN WORSE than before.
At this point, you may falsely assume that my concerns about a giant skin disease under my arms are purely superficial. And yes, it’s true, I definitely felt self-conscious about having an oozing, growing patch of scales in my ‘pits. But this also SUCKED in other ways. For Instance: I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, left arm over my head, grabbing the headboard while my right hand was — IN MY SLEEP — furiously digging my nails into an itch so strong that my unconscious self was compelled to scratch it. And once you START scratching, you CAN’T STOP. I found myself always gravitating towards it, like a caricature of a human imitating an ape, constantly rooting around in my armpit for just the right spot that would make the infernal itching finally end!
As summer temperatures rose and my pits got sweatier, the situation grew worse. I thought the dry desert of Burning Man would help, but this past year’s unprecedented humidity only exacerbated the situation. When the weather cooled down, it remained, AND began breaking out under my right arm. BUT STILL I WAITED, until my six-month routine dermatology checkup, which was scheduled for 3:30pm on October 2nd. Yeah, you read that right: October 2nd. Literally the DAY AFTER I got EPICALLY DUMPED. So my life was going really great.
So now it’s October 2nd, 2017. I’m sitting in the waiting room at Woodhull Hospital and I’m feeling like death. My heart is shattered, and every little bump in the road is magnified 1000% by my awful fucking mood. Basically, I’m so excited to show off my psoriatic armpits!!!
Funny story: I almost didn’t get a chance!
Now, it’s 3:30. I’m checked in, the nurse has taken my blood pressure and weighed me, I’m waiting to be called back to see the doctor. Now it’s 4:00. These things never happen on time, do they? Now it’s 4:30. Unsurprising. But when it’s quarter to 5 and the desk staff start packing it in for the day, I’m more than a little bit confused. The waiting room is empty, save for me, and I’ve only just realized. We all remember how I hate to make waves, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I cautiously approach the check-in desk.
“Um,” I don’t even know where to begin. “Am I going to be able to see the dermatologist today?”
The receptionist squints at me, the Only Person In The Entire Waiting Room, as if I’ve only just now materialized out of thin air, and she isn’t sure what to make of me.
“Do you have an appointment?” she asks.
No, I just wanted to hang out in the waiting room of Woodhull Hospital to catch up on daytime soaps and trash talk shows.
“Yes,” I say out loud.
“Have you seen a nurse to get your vitals taken?”
“Yes,” I respond. Like, two hours ago?
The receptionist expels a sigh of Ultimate Frustration. “Well, I don’t know why you haven’t seen the doctor then.” Oh, maybe it’s MY fault? “I’ll see if there’s anyone still back there.”
Twenty minutes later, a doctor emerges and calls my name. We sit down in an exam room and she appraises my face. She says it looks “Great,” I disagree, but she’s the doctor. She reminds me that I’m due for a full-body mole check in February, and I’m cool with that. She asks if there’s anything else she should know about. Armpits, this is your time.
“Actually, there is,” I swallow all of my pride and lift my arms up over my head. As if surrendering to the police. The Police of OhMyGodHowCouldMyLifeGetAnyWorse. Spoiler Alert: It’s about to.
“So, I’ve got this, like psoriasis under my arm?” I demur. I don’t know, you guys, she’s the medical professional here.
She – NO JOKE – she pulls out her iPhone and turns on the flashlight feature, shines the bright light into my pits, and sticks her WHOLE FACE in there to get a closer look.
“Oh no, you do have something in there!” she exclaims. OH YOU NOTICED! “Let me write you a prescription for some cream. Use this twice a day for the next 30 days, and come back in a month to show me how you’re healing.
OKAY! GREAT! FINALLY! RELIEF! I’ve been diagnosed by a doctor with the aid of iPhone flashlight feature. I fill my prescription and I’m confident that I’m going to get better!
And then… I don’t.
Literally, NOTHING HAPPENS.
A month later, my follow-up appointment. It’s Halloween, I’m in the middle of my busiest season at work AND ALSO FUCKING MOVING HOUSE! I have no time for this, I’m dreading spending an entire day waiting around, and I’m pissed that the cream did FUCK-ALL to cure my itchy, oozy pits.
Miraculously, I get in to see the doctor within a couple of hours of my appointment, and I explain the situation.
“Look, I’ve got this psoriasis in my armpit. I’ve had this before, three years ago, and it just went away on its own, but this is way worse. It’s itchy all the time, then it secretes a clear, sticky substance that dries and makes my skin scaly, and when the scales flake off, it’s itchy again. I tried [X cream previous doctor prescribed], and it did NOTHING. Please help me,” I beg.
Doctor looks at me for a minute.
“Take off your shoes and show me the tops and bottoms of your feet,” she demands.
I slip off my rain boots and slide down my knee socks. Mmmkay.
“Do you have any itchy scales on your groin?” she asks.
What?!? NO! Where TF is this going?
“Yeah, I don’t know why you were prescribed an anti-fungal cream,” the doctor tsks. “That’s clearly psoriasis.”
YAH I KNOW?!?! THAT’S WHAT I SAID?!?
“You know what, the doctor you saw last time is here today. Let me call her in here and show her.”
OH LORD. Now my itchy, sticky pits are not only STILL fucked up, but they’re going to be used to make someone feel bad about making a mistake? I hate conflict. I don’t want my armpits to be complicit in this. I’m internally melting from embarrassment. Now there are TWO doctors sticking their heads in my vile, scaly armpits.
“Oh yeah!” Doctor Number One, the Cell Phone Doctor, exclaims. “That could be psoriasis.”
“I’m going to give you a steroid cream,” Doctor Number Two, the I Told You So Doctor, tells me. “Use this twice a day for two weeks, and then STOP abruptly. Do NOT continue to use it after two weeks, unless it continues to be irritated.”
“Okay, great!” I lower my arms and breathe a sigh of relief. “It really gets worse when I shave, to be honest.
Both Doctors are staring at me now like I’ve got two heads. Two heads and itchy, oozy armpits.
“You don’t…” Doctor Two is stunned. “You can’t shave your armpits.”
“Or wear deodorant. In fact, best to just avoid the area except to put the cream in there twice a day. Or you’ll make it worse.”
Whaaaaaaat theeeee fuuuuuuck?!?! Even Doctor Hold-On-Let-Me-Get-My-Phone-Out agrees. I’m like, cursed? Now I’m supposed to spend the first half of November with hairy, un-deodorized, itchy, scaly, oozy armpits? GREAT! I mean, THE REST OF MY LIFE is a dumpster fire, WHY NOT?!? I get my prescription and they tell me to come back in a month to check the progress. As if I have any faith in this treatment.
Surprisingly, after two weeks, things really clear up! My armpits look like…armpits again? And I’m able to start shaving and wearing deodorant by Thanksgiving, and I’m excited to finally put all this ordeal behind me.
Approximately one month later…
So I’m seeing Doctor Take-Your-Shoes-Off again, the one who correctly identified my psoriasis and prescribed the treatment that worked. I’m wearing multiple layers over a tank top, so as to make quick work of this appointment. My plan is this: I’m gonna roll up there, whip off my sweater, show my healed pits, and be on my merry way.
*brakes screech to a halt noise* Errrr, not so much.
“Hmm, that still looks a little red to me,” Doctor Buzzkill muses. “Maybe you should go back to using the cream, twice a day, for another two weeks, until it heals.
“Two more weeks of no shaving and no deodorant?” I whine. I can’t help but whine. I’m so over this whole thing.
“Oh, you can’t go back to using deodorant,” Doctor Buzzkill gapes at me with wide eyes, as if I’ve just suggested rubbing lemons on my psoriatic sores to make them better. “We don’t know what caused the outbreak. It might have been your deodorant all along. We could book you in for a three-day allergy test…”
Okay okay, I’ve had enough. This cream is working, and at a certain point, I have come to realize that I know my body better than this rotating cast of fallible doctors do. I’ve been the one saying from the beginning that it’s psoriasis. I’m the one who knows what’s worked and what hasn’t. I politely refuse the allergy test. And reader, I don’t even go back to using the cream.
Today my pits are normal and not even itchy, not even the slightest bit.
And you’ll be happy to hear that I defied doctors’ orders and am currently wearing deodorant.