I wish I had something more soothing to write for you today. But last Monday, after a three-day hissy fit of prickly-burning body-wide itching, a dermatologist looked at the tan line on my back and asked, “Where’s this tan from? And how long ago did you get it?”
“Aruba. Three weeks ago,” I said.
“Then I think you have scabies,” he said. “With the intense itching, that’s my best bet.”
Gads! In my distant past, in nurses’ training, I recalled learning about scabies, only I thought they only occurred in a third-world country. I wanted to disinfect myself immediately.
“The time’s right for the incubation period,” he added. “Hotel linens, maybe.”
As I sat obediently on the exam table, my mind buzzing with my recent history, I thought, “Is this really happening, Lois?”
A few days before, while having coffee with a friend, my left hand had turned blue. For no reason, and had stayed that way for a few hours. The next morning I called to see my internist. By that afternoon when I saw him, I had developed a rash over much of my body. And it was starting to itch.
Blue hand and rash and itching. Connection? “We better do some tests,” he said. “With your autoimmune history, there may be something going on.”
When I got home, I sat at my computer and Googled blue hand and rashes and intense itching. What I read about made me want to plan for my final days. As a nurse, I always plan on the worst thing. Liver failure, maybe. But my bathroom mirror said the whites of my eyes were still white. Not jaundiced.
Calm down, I told myself that evening while I searched the shelves at Walgreen’s, coming home with $36.00 worth of anti-itch products. To say I was merely being attacked by a colony of ants picking and scratching their way over and through my body does not give them nearly enough credit for the massive destruction these creatures, whatever they claimed to be, were rendering on my sanity as well as my body.
When the blood tests came back normal (thank goodness!), I called a dermatologist, pleading with the receptionist that I get in stat! She gave me an appointment in one hour. I was there twenty minutes early, and now I sat with a most probable diagnosis of scabies.
Never mind the blue hand episode.
Have you ever seen scabies? Gross, is my best word. But to think they were burrowing their ugly prickly bodies under my skin was a thought I tried to suppress. But suppression was not possible when my mind was consumed with relentless itching from their chaotic tunneling activity.
That evening, with $28.00 more of products, I covered my entire body from hairline to soles of feet (well, I had a little help from my ever-forbearing husband) with this prescription scabicide cream that was supposed to kill my new enemies. Envisioning, that by using this cream, I was murdering the creepy mites threw out any thoughts of pacifism and threw in gratitude for research and development and pharmaceuticals.
The next morning, per directions, I showered. Ideally, the murdered mites had surfaced somehow and would disappear down the drain. Since they are too small to see with the naked eye, I did not have the pleasure of visually wishing them a stinky sewer burial.
But here’s the thing. Scabies don’t leave that easily. With the rash now mostly gone, the itching continues with intense waves of discomfort. And, in this hot-water-wash-everything era of my life, I’ve read that scabies can stick around for several weeks or more, leaving their eggs and, of all things, their excrement under my skin. Don’t their parents have any manners? You’d think they’d teach their kids about the use of restrooms.
I see the dermatologist again this morning. On my visit a week ago, he did a biopsy also, so I’m hoping nothing more serious shows up in that sample. If not, I may just have to adjust to accommodating my unwelcome visitors while I do my utmost to encourage them to make their final exit ASAP. Like, here’s your hat, now please hurry.
I’ll give you an update next week. Meanwhile, I sincerely hope you don’t start to itch. This is no fun. No fun at all!
Want a hug?