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“Don’t tell me you are still itching,” a friend said yesterday. “That is just terrible! What’s been happening?”

I’d not seen her in a month, and while she was off gallivanting across the world, I was continuing my journey from one doctor to another.

As a retired nurse, I ask myself, every minute, What if I weren’t a nurse? How would I navigate the health care system with a more-than-annoying head-to-toe itch for nearly six months? An itch that started with contracting scabies last January while traveling. How would I deal with conflicting advice?

Close-up photo of a scabies burrow. The large ...

Close-up photo of a scabies burrow. The large scaly patch at the left is due to scratching. The scabies mite traveled toward the upper right and can be seen at the end of the burrow.

A person needs a sense of humor to live with a chronic itching sensation that one university site explained as enough to make the patient go berserk. I’ve repeated this information to each doctor I’ve seen. I tell them what the site says, then I add, for emphasis, “And I’m on the verge of going berserk.”

I do get pity, which is essential. I think any doctor dealing with someone in my situation has to be a psychotherapist in addition to his or her specialty. Because an itch problem takes up residence in one’s mind, body, and soul. It consumes your every waking and sleeping moment. I’m lucky that I have a great group of doctors: so far, one internist, two dermatologists, one rheumatologist, and one allergist. And this doesn’t include the array of cardiac folks I saw when I was hospitalized for an unrelated event around Easter.

I’ve even tried acupuncture. That doctor, educated for five years in China, asked me to stick my tongue out, then felt the quality of my radial pulse, and said in such a sweet and serious tone I had to laugh, “You look so calm, but you so stressed.”

Yes, doctor, you’d be stressed too if you itched for months on end, interrupting your sleep, driving your husband berserk with you, cluttering up your bathroom counter with anti-itch products, pushing you to shake globs of mentholated powder into your underwear—fearing you’ll  leave a white trail behind you on the sidewalk…bla bla bla.

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I also tried healing touch. It seems my chakras are shouting fire, so I came home and read up on chakras. This practitioner advised me, very kindly, that maybe I should consider just “being” instead of “doing” all the time. That was good advice then, because I’d just finished my studies in the Basic Program at the University of Chicago and already had a list going in my head of all I could do now that I was free from that weekly class and readings.

And I’ve gone to using all scent-free products. And no hair products except shampoo. I’ve not gone searching for scent-free hair gels or waxes.

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So, today, I’m just here to tell you that my doctor-visiting behavior continues. Luckily, the last one said, “Let’s try to get you comfortable first. Meanwhile, have all your records sent to me, and then we’ll decide what to do next.” So he gave me a strong medication that was supposed to paralyze my rapidly firing nerve endings (perhaps from also having fibromyalgia) that has turned out to give me no more relief than a glass of milk. I see him again later this week.

But I’m hopeful. Someone, some day, will have the answer. As I told my friend my saga, she offered to drive me to Mayo if necessary. Another friend offered to take me out to dinner to celebrate when my itching is gone. With great doctors here in Chicago and great friends like these, and maintaining a sense of humor, I just know I will conquer this affliction some day.

If you’ve ever experienced a chronic itch, feel free to give me your advice. If nothing else, we could form an itching support group! We could practice looking calm even though we so stressed!

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Scabies Photo Credit: Wikipedia

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