How Rare is Rare?

When every medical diagnosis I have is considered rare, I want to know how rare is rare? Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Raynaud’s Syndrome, Celiac Sprue… the entire list is much longer than that and as of yesterday has a new contender. I found myself laughing when my doctor said, “Well, It is rare… but there is a name for the skin condition you have.”

I wasn’t even aware I had a skin condition. I always thought I was just dirtier than the other girls, and that my skin just sucked. I used to shower up to six times a day, though that made little to no difference in the quality of skin. I have lesions, blisters, boils and abscesses constantly. I thought this was normal, and that everyone got them at least sometimes. The name of this condition? Hidradenitis Supprativa. This condition is considered an actual disability according to the government.

I know why personally. For one, there are days when I can barely move my arms and walking, beyond the agony of the broken bones and hip issues I already have can be made worse by the damaged skin in my groin. Psychologically some of my most depressive days are the result of being infected, sweaty, and often worrying over spreading infection to others. Now that I know the name of the disease and have some knowledge I am aware that I am not going to infect anyone with it. It is rare. It is genetic.

I want to know what the mortality rate is with this disease. Some might say zero but I remember just wanting to die when I had my first really bad abscess. I was at work, and my nice shirt was ruined by the pus and blood because the boil burst before my break. I hid more shame, and beyond wanting to hide, run, or just cut my breasts off I considered killing myself. The never ending work of trying to get everything done, trying to be clean enough? That day I could not fathom selling anything, hefting the heavy boxes of dishes, and what about the smell?

Infection is not a clean smell. Neither is sweat. Being a teenager I never felt pretty. It took me becoming an adult to start seeing past the little things. Still, attending a friend’s wedding my thoughts were how to make certain my formal wear would not retain the odor of my sweat, on how to make sure that no one could tell. I am now entering the mourning stage of a new diagnosis. I mourn the times when I cut out my own abscesses. I did that last week. I have never once considered seeing a doctor when my breasts split open. It happens so often, that it is normal to me to self care.

This brings me to another point where I was accused of Self Mutilation as a teenager. Beyond having actual issues with that due to the severity of my depression, there were times when I was told I had to have cut myself in order for my body to be so gory. I was sent to a therapist for it. My body has scars, open wounds that have been around longer than some of my siblings, and my mind has been shaped by this disease.

The other effect of more rare diseases that are incurable is this. Can I escape being disabled? How inevitable is it for some of us to wind up with our bodies breaking us down? My body is out to get me. How can I function like this? What is next? Is breathing going to become a forbidden act because of something rare and genetic?

How can something like this really be rare too? Some of the research I did today indicates it is related to acne, though it is not acne. What if it is not as rare as all that? What if more people have it, undiagnosed and are losing out on their quality of life?

At this time there is no treatment. I will be updating my disabilities page, and I will find ways to help others like me. The more people who know, the more the odds of a treatment being created increase. I currently treat the breast area with a steroid cream, though, this is dangerous to do for your genitalia, and therefore half of my effected area is untreatable.

There is nothing that relieves the pressure, beyond bursting the abscesses. There is nothing that relieves the burning sensation, and there is nothing I can use to cut down on the sweat. Sometimes saline solution helps to dry me out, but, there is nothing that has a permanent or even reliable effect. Antibiotics have helped some, during the worst part of the cycle, yet not for me.

I am tired of being rare. I am tired of waking up in the middle of the night and squeezing puss out of my breasts. I am tired of denying myself sex, when I truly want it, because I fear being disgusting or the pain is too great. Sex is important to most people, me included, but my body is attacking itself and eventually my genetalia may be scarred so deeply that I can no longer function sexually.

In a long term relationship, this has an effect. It is not positive. As a woman, I have had a lot of challenges facing my femininity, partly because of this disease, but this adds another facet. If I cannot pleasure my partner, and vice versa, what are the long term side effects psychologically?

I am rare. I am one of the rarest people you will ever meet. My pain is rare. My skin is rare. My eyes and hair, and my entire body is a rare example of surviving despite it all. So is yours. So is the man on the street corner in the business suit. So is the single mother. Rare is not rare at all. For every diagnosis of a rare condition, countless others are never discovered. Statistics are faulty, when not every case is discovered, so how can we truly understand rare?

Info Links on Hidradenitis Supprativa:

http://www.hs-foundation.org

http://www.hs-usa.org

Isms, Hisms and Hersms

I read a few blogs on the internet circuit, some of them deal with feminism, some deal with racism, some deal with ableism, and others deal with Fatism. Isms of all shapes, sizes, colors, and one for each of us, sometimes two. Someone was having a sale on their isms when our culture was created, tossing them out like sprinkles on a cake. I am tired of isms today.

I have a great doctor. I will recommend her to just about anyone, for in her office there are no isms, just lists of things to get done. I now have an epipen, a referral for the dozens of undiagnosed whats its, and even a new diagnosis. I also was given the option of advocating for breast cancer awareness. The point was made that with my body being as it is, I have become acutely aware of risks and am in the perfect position to teach other disabled women about breast cancer.

I have thankfully never had breast cancer or even felt a strange lump but I do self exams weekly. I know it is recommended that you do monthly examinations, yet, this is not enough for me. I have relatives who have had cancer in all of their parts. Breast, brain, uterine, ovarian, liver, lung, you name it, and it has had cancer. I also have a lot of conditions, including one that effects my skin and therefore hypervigilance is necessary. Beyond this, what has made my doctor decide I am a great advocate? Self adaptation.

My breasts weigh a lot. Not only is the tissue very dense, making them pert and perky despite their size, but, it makes it harder to find lumps once you breach the FF quadrant. I left that a long time ago. I shared with her today my methods for a successful self examination. I have to adapt to the needs of my body and this means I may lay on my side, I may hang upside down, but, I always make certain to feel not just my breasts in a circular and consistent fashion, but my armpits and down my sides a bit.

I am lucky that I have had strong women in my life. I have an aunt who has had stage four Breast Cancer for longer than I have been alive. This woman has fought, and fought and thrives. She does at times worry her family for her life, but, she has dealt with cancer with no break for over twenty five years. In my mind she is the best teacher I can have about why cancer awareness is so important. Without knowing her, I might not have decided to live during one of the bouts with suicidal thoughts that I went through as a teenager. I might not have begun to battle with myself for proper medical care.

I have a lot of diagnosis, the list grows daily, but, my isms are mine. I am a short, fat, white girl in a wheelchair. I am also blessed with very rare breasts, the sort that women have painful surgery to mirror. I have great hair, great eyes (when they see) and a brain. I am facing daily challenges with ableism, fatism, and even some fetishism. Sexism is a consistent battle. I also face the blessings of people who are better than the isms. I face the knowledge given to me by my fellow females, and now I must learn to share.

Take stock of your isms, be you male or female. Take a look at what you are given by station in life, what you have fought for, and, if you have enough to share, reach out and help someone rise above. I will post about my chances to advocate for breast health. I am even going to start getting mammograms, a need I had hoped to put off for at least ten more years, but perhaps I can come up with a way to make them less painful.

This is hardly a new idea, I am merely following in the path of others who have taught me. This is not an area I had ever expected to be asked to advocate in, but, how can I deny the request when I know that even one person may become self aware?

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