I've had psoriasis since the age of thirteen when I left my Mother's home to move to Vermont to live with my Father, and my world was turned upside down. Scientists don't know exactly what causes psoriasis, but they know that the immune system and genetics play a role in its development. Usually, something triggers psoriasis to appear on the skin, like stress or an illness like strep. I don't remember being ill during that time in my life, but I know I was stressed.
The first spot appeared in my Freshman year. I was sitting on the gym floor in P.E., listening to the teacher outline the rules of dodgeball. I remember hugging my knees to my chest and noticing a small dry patch on my knee. At first, I tried to brush it off because I thought it was a sticker. After class, I put cream on it thinking it was dry skin. Then a spot appeared on my arm two days later. The two spots multiplied overnight, and several spots met, making an ugly red web that, unless you looked closely, you couldn't tell that healthy skin remained. Kids in my class noticed and asked questions, then scooted away. I was no longer just the new kid, but I was now the new kid with an ugly rash. I watched their faces morph from curious to disgusted, even though I explained it wasn't contagious.
My Father took me to the doctor. I sat on the table as the doctor ran his rubber-clad fingers over my arms and legs and explained that psoriasis happens because of an overactive immune system that speeds up skin cell growth. Normal skin grows and falls off in a month. With psoriasis, because of the over-active immune system, new skin cells develop every three to four days creating a pile-up of cells. I looked at the red and white scales that marked my arm; all kids want to be superheroes, but this was not the superpower I wanted. I went home with a prescription card for tar cream and no hope for future clear skin.
I smeared the slightly yellowed grease-like salve on my arms and legs with no improvement. I self-consciously went to school smelling like a tar pit and hid under long sleeves even though the salve ruined my clothes. My Father bought me a light therapy lamp. Twice a day for 20 minutes at 10 min increments was the prescription. This was a lot of sitting still under a little lamp with little to no results.
I never wanted to be on a medication with a long list of side effects. Still, after I had exhausted all other medication, I decided to try an injectable because I was tired of people shrinking away and asking, "Ewe, what happened?, Do you have poison ivy?"
Last year, at the age of 48, I tried my first injectable with amazing results. The patches started clearing up within the first week, and I had clear skin for the first time since age 13. But then the dreaded side effects began. A huge welt, swelling, heat, and itching at the injection sight. My glands swelled for a week after the injection making me snore loudly enough to disturb my own sleep. Then I was diagnosed with thrush and broke out with a cold sore. But the worst side effect was the cancer sores that broke out in my mouth, on my tonsils, down my throat, and into my Gi-tract. Numbing agents were only mildly effective. The pain was excruciating when I tried to eat and drink, and I lost my voice for a period of time. For a full weekend into the following week, the only thing that comforted me was sleep. I was done. I called my dermatologist and told her I was having an adverse reaction to the meditation. She wrote me a prescription for a different injectable. It's still at the pharmacy because I'm afraid to pick it up.
So, dear reader, here's my dilemma. Should I take another medication knowing that the side effects could be the same, different or worse? What would you do?