Interview #11: Jen Hall

fullsizerenderJennifer Hall

Jacksonville, FL

“Nothing is wasted” I heard this from a T.D. Jakes sermon. It basically means that no matter what suffering you’re going through it won’t be wasted…it will be used in some way for your best benefit. It will make you a stronger, wiser, more resilient person who will be more appreciative for the little things in life. You can even use your pain and experience to help others. This saying held true & gave me faith through my healing process (and still does till this day), it kept me going and looking towards the future and how I can use my experience in some way.

1.When did you start using topical steroids? And why?

10 months old. At around 7 months old my parents noticed that I had spots of a skin rash, I was really itchy and the doctors told them to use over the counter creams to keep the symptoms at bay. When they noticed it was getting worse, to the point of wrapping my arms in gauze to prevent me from scratching my skin to bleeding, they took me to a dermatologist and they prescribed me topical steroids.

2. What was the name of the topical steroid?

.025% kenalog (triamcinolone ) cream

3. Were you ever prescribed more potent steroids? 

Yes, higher potencies of triamcinolone (the main steroid I used for 26 years of TS use) as well as Desonide for my face, a mixture of steroids and lubriderm, and steroid shots of (I believe) triamcinolone in my hands and feet.

4. How did you find out about RSS?

I didn’t know there was a name for it until I found itsan.org. I had been withdrawing from the topical steroids for a little while already just because I was fed up of being sick and looking into natural remedies to heal my skin. I had found eczema-natural-healing.com and followed the woman, Donia’s story and how she stopped using the creams (and worked on cleansing and diet) and healed her skin. I took the same approach she did and I believe it was months later I found out about itsan.org and that there were doctors who had a name for it: RSS and TSA (topical steroid addiction) and were promoting cessation of steroids to heal the skin.

Following Donia’s approach inspired me to share my own story on my blog eczemaholistichealing.wordpress.com and help others just as she has! I receive many emails from all over the world from eczema warriors and I assist them with advice with diet, supplements and essential oils. I also truly believe that my overuse of topical steroids for 26 years led me to have cancer: stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2008. This overuse of topical steroids has also lead me to have Keratoconus in both of my eyes (but worse in my right) which I will have to have treatment for soon to correct the misshaping of my cornea and poor vision.

5. What made you feel you had RSS?

All of the symptoms matched up to mine. I’m darker skinned but you can still see redness in my tone. I could never go a day without using some form of topical steroid on my skin, I was constantly itchy, if I would stop using the medication at any point in time my skin would revolt and flare up.

6. Were you diagnosed by a doctor? Did you have a supportive doctor?

When I found out about taking the steps to naturally heal my eczema I knew that no doctor would understand so I just grinned and bared it by myself. I did have a dermatologist at Duke University Hospital that I had before I started TSW (and whom I’d get prescriptions from). When I scheduled an appointment to see her and tell her about what I was going to do as far as cessation of the medications and taking a holistic approach, she flat out told me “well there is nothing we can do for you here, I prescribe medication, so… sorry.” She had no alternative treatments for me, no information about diet or any info on how it truly is possible to be addicted to topical steroids. I even believe that she had said “there’s no cure for eczema“. I still plan on one day showing up and showing her how I got through this and how I’m much better off than I ever was on any cream she wanted to prescribe me! The only doctor who supported me was my oncologist at Duke University. I even showed him horrific photos of the beginning stages of my TSW and he was so impressed by how far I had come (6 months in) and he praised me for taking such control of my health and choosing this route of healing. He even offered info for a holistic doctors that he knew, but I couldn’t afford it.

7. What were your first symptoms?

Hot red skin, raised bumps, intense itch, hot and cold feverish symptoms then came the ooze… the dreaded ooze with huge cracks in my skin. My legs and especially my feet looked like I had a flesh eating disease because the skin was so raw, open, bloody and oozy. The pain and leg spasms were insane, like ants crawling UNDER the skin, and tingles like pins and needles. Showering gave me anxiety as the water stung and burned like crazy, I ended up going months without showering and just washing up not only because of the pain but also because getting my raw legs and feet wet just made it worse.

8. Is your family supportive? Friends?

Yes, very much so. I’m so thankful for my mother for physically taking care of me for so long and for both of my parents for helping me out financially. My parents both felt so terrible and guilty that because of taking me to the dermatologists to use these meds all of this time had got me in this situation.

Just like thousands of parents just wanting to see their child better, they did the best that they knew how and what they thought was right, to take me to the doctor. My mother and grandma would always pray with me and encourage me to keep my faith, let me know that God is always in control and this suffering won’t be in vain. My friends were super supportive and so kind throughout all of my health issues. They never made me feel like an outcast, always encouraged me and spoke healing into me. Still to this day they tell me how much they admire my strength of all that I’ve been through. Hearing those words from them always keep me going.

9. Have you ever been to a hospital for this? Why?

I have never gone to a hospital for TSW as I already knew doctors wouldn’t understand and just want to give me steroids, antibiotics and pain meds. I also couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket for a holistic doctor or naturopath. The one time I went to a clinic for a signed doctors note to excuse me from work, the doctor looked at me as if I was a fool and flat out said that what I was doing “clearly wasn’t working” and I needed to immediately get back on the steroids.

 

10. What has been the hardest part of this condition?

Symptomatically the ooze for sure… the smell of it is so awful, the icky sticky feeling it leaves on your skin and when it sticks to your clothes is aggravating, the way it crusts and hardens and itches is maddening. With all of that I know that the symptoms are good things, they show that the body is cleansing properly and getting all of that gross toxic metabolic waste out, by any means necessary. Emotionally and mentally would be holding on to the faith and hope that this will end someday, and digging deep to continue fighting. Just not giving up and giving in to suicidal thoughts that would plague my mind from time to time.

11. How long have you been in withdrawal? 

Since March 2012. I still cannot believe that I will be 5 years topical steroid free in March 2017! I can honestly say that I’m about 90%-95% healed, with just some irritation still from my knees down. My legs are just flaky and itchy at times and my feet are the same but with small areas that can get ever so slightly oozy. I’ve been able to comfortably wear socks and sneakers more recently, which is a huge milestone! Some days I have to just wear sandals (thank goodness I’m in Florida lol). I just have discolouration and wrinkling that is really left to repair, but no intense symptoms like the years before thank God!

12. What do you use as comfort measures during this?

Always reminding myself that “this is temporary” also that, “this pain and struggle will take a fraction of your life to endure and heal”. Lots of prayer and listening to uplifting sermons and gospel music. Reading positive, inspirational books. Crying instead of holding it all in. Crying on the phone to my mom and hearing her encouraging words. Listening to dance music, watching lots of movies and getting crafty. Constantly staying educated about detoxification & healing with food and natural remedies. Seeing my friends and laughing my booty off. And always, always having gratitude, even when I was in the deepest darkest hole I gave thanks to God because I knew the the only way out was to battle through it and that each passing day was one day more without topical steroids… one step closer to full healing. I always tell my readers to give thanks for the good and bad, the breakthroughs and setbacks, because the body doesn’t take overnight to heal because it didn’t take overnight to accumulate toxicity… it will take time and to always trust its natural ability to heal. Have gratitude for the pain because it shows that your body is properly cleansing and that you are becoming the healthiest version of yourself, free from the dependency of topical steroids!

13. Are you employed? Has this affected your job status?

I’m currently looking for work, but with my eczemaholistichealing.wordpress.com site I make a small income from the supplements and essential oils that I use and recommend (feel free to reach out for more info: eczema.holistic.healing@gmail.com). I was able to work retail for 1/2 a year, but a TSW flare brought me to quit my job as it affected my legs and feet, making it impossible to put on shoes and stand for any long length of time.

14. Have you gone to therapy/wish to go to therapy because of this condition?

I have not, and I would’ve benefited from it for sure in the darkest of times. I found my therapy to be connecting with others through support groups as they knew the struggle first hand and we could all encourage one another, even if it was via the web. I found it amazing at how many people all over the world were suffering and feeling the exact same horrific symptoms as I was, especially when in the very early stages I felt like I was completely alone. It’s also wonderful to see so many doing much better and enjoying life to the fullest!

 

15. If there is one thing you could say to another sufferer, what would it be?

Don’t ever give up, you are a warrior and this pain and suffering you are feeling is temporary… it is literally a fraction of your life dedicated to repairing. It may seem like it’s dragging on forever but it WILL end, the body is so amazing at self healing! Always keep the faith and always have gratitude. Treat your body like the temple that it is with healing foods, lots of rest, exercise and loving thoughts. Focus on the future and the amazing things that you will do when you’re body is healthier, how you will live life fully, be more compassionate to others, share your story to encourage others and be of service in any way you can. Remember that this isn’t “happening to you” but it’s “happening FOR you” to be the healthiest version of you! Continuing the steroids for years and years would’ve only increased the toxicity in the body, and would’ve led to other health issues like myself with cancer and now Kerataconus. TSW is a huge battle to endure and embarking on it is the bravest thing you can do, commend yourself and keep on fighting!


Thank you so much, Jen, for this phenomenal interview! 

Feature #21: Danny & Fleur

Danny Brooks.jpgDanny Brooks

Age: 24

Career: Was a sports staff member for RCCL

When did you cease using topical steroids: Oct 20th 2016

What type did you use: A large variety of tablets and creams over several years

What is your favorite product for comfort? Cetroben (heavy moisturizer)

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Around the 2 month mark I developed loads of tiny blisters all over my feet which burst when I walked making it incredibly painful to stand and walk until they eventually healed after about a week. (also happened on my hands)

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Reapply for my job as I loved my short time working on cruise ships!


Fleur Rose Blanchelorraine-blanche

Age: 10

Career: n/a

When did you cease using topical steroids: Nov. 13, 2016

What type did you use: Used Betnovate on and off since October 2015 for patches of eczema behind the knees and inside of elbows.

What is your favorite product for comfort? Calendula talc when skin won’t tolerate ointments. When it can, I like Egyptian Magic cream

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The flares with oozing, (they scare me), the itch is worst part now , also having to give up dancing and pulling out of a show in February. I miss my friends, school and gymnastics.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Playing my instruments and dance lessons.

In Our Shoes

I have been wanting to do something like this for awhile. It is just an extremely minuscule snapshot of what gets posted in support groups for Eczema, Red Skin Syndrome, or Topical Steroid Withdrawal.

Many professionals, who are meant to care for a patient, fall (very) short when it comes to speaking about adverse affects with steroids. It is egregious the way some patients are treated in a doctor’s office.

#1

yes

To be laughed at is already demeaning towards someone who is ACTUALLY trying to inform you of a very serious and highly factual condition, but then, as a professional, negate that it is real… this is where the problem lies. We are told to trust in our doctors and that whenever we have a question or concern, they are who we should be going to. BUT, what if our professionals don’t know it all? Red Skin Syndrome is not a joke and certainly isn’t a laughing matter. To be completely written off and spoken down to while the patient was the one who really knew the truth, is astounding. We should not be having to stick up for ourselves at any medical facility. We are going through enough physically and mentally. Most don’t even try to go to doctors anymore because they are tired of being made fun of when they should be getting the care they deserve and need.

Preventable: Protecting Our Largest Organ will help doctors understand the seriousness behind this condition and how they have it in their power to stop this from ever happening again. 

yes2

“They told me I would have to use this for life.” And we are called steroid phobic because…?

How outrageous to tell a patient that THIS is the only way to help them. It states it clearly on the inserts that this SHOULD NOT be used for long periods of time. To tell a patient that the health of their skin depends on this drug forever is not only an ill educated prescription, but a lack understanding of what these are truly capable of doing.

Preventable: Protecting Our Largest Organ will help disseminate correct information about topical steroids and what they are doing not only on the surface of our skin for long periods of time (even 2 weeks!), but what they are doing to the inside of our bodies as well. 

yes3

Here in lies the problem with Western medicine. They have ONE go to when it comes to skin ailments. Most will stick to that one trick. You most certainly have a chance of getting better without steroids. The problem is that they are taught that only one method, which is meant to help mask symptoms, not offer a healing change towards the cause of your symptoms, works. Now, we do have a few other options, but in my opinion, they are still either so new we don’t have any knowledge on the damage it could also be doing and/or we know the drug is dangerous and comes with risks just like steroids do. But I see in so many posts how doctors asks patients ‘why did you bother coming in if you weren’t going to take the steroids?’ We are paying for their services and care and yet are being treated as if we’ve wasted their time. Perhaps we were hoping for more than just ‘here are some steroids’. It just simply is not acceptable anymore for this to continue to happen.

Preventable: Protecting Our Largest Organ will shatter this opinion of topical steroids are the only method to treat eczema. We have so much new technology and medical advancements that we have the power to truly find out what is causing our skin to lose control. We can test for allergies, irritants, gut problems, stress issues, autoimmune disorders… we can’t go on just nonsensically masking our problems with a medication for long periods of time that can actually cause us detrimental harm in the long run. 

yes4

Again, this type of condescension is not helpful nor is it particularly kind.

Other posts I tend to see are heartbreaking, ones crying out in desperation as to why this is happening to them. They are losing their jobs, their relationships, their family… ALL from a preventable condition.

This has got to end. And we can do it. If anyone feels moved by this project and wants to help this type of suffering, please visit the sponsorship link above for a tax deductible contribution, or visit the donation link above if you do not need a tax receipt. 

Donate Here

 

Interview #9: Mattiel Brown

mattielMattiel Brown

Atlanta, GA

“All Things Must Pass” – George Harrison

1.When did you start using topical steroids? And why?

When I was about seven years old, I used Desonide cream very sparingly for eczema around my mouth and ears. This was not the period where I became addicted to steroids, though. I was fine as a teenager and only experienced very occasional, small spots of eczema.

2. What was the name of the topical steroid?

Desonide .05% cream (and I also used some Protopic)

3. Were you ever prescribed more potent steroids? 

Yes, but I didn’t use the whole tube and not for very long.
Triamcinolone cream. Used for small spots of eczema around mouth.

4. How did you find out about RSS?

Video of Dr.Rapaport’s interview on youtube.

5. What made you feel you had RSS?

My eczema was spreading to places that I’d never had it before – my neck started breaking out, my back… it was just a sign that something was NOT normal.

6. Were you diagnosed by a doctor? Did you have a supportive doctor?

Diagnosed with eczema, told that it was a very hard disease to treat. I did not have a supportive doctor until I met a “naturalist” doctor named Dr.Maziar Rezvani in Marietta, GA. He helped me through the later stages of my withdrawal after I explained the situation to him. Very supportive doc.

7. What were your first symptoms?

Rashes spreading to unfamiliar areas, very sensitive skin, burning, swelling eyes, yeast infections, and after using Protopic I started to get styes in my eyes and even a cyst in my arm. These were all very strange symptoms to me and a sign that something was not normal.

8. Is your family supportive? Friends?

Yes, my mother and boyfriend were extremely supportive and believed in TSW after I explained the situation thoroughly.

9. Have you ever been to a hospital for this? Why?

No.

10. What has been the hardest part of this condition?

Physically, it was very difficult. But mentally – I was really a wreck at about one year into my withdrawal and I had to see a counselor. I was in a very, very dark place and couldn’t sleep, hated having to go through the day, and was in a lot of pain – I was so depressed. Worst experience of my life was the mental toll this took on me.

11. How long have you been in withdrawal? 

April 2014 / August 2016. I would say it took 26-28 months for me to say I’m definitely healed.

12. What do you use as comfort measures during this?

I got a prescription for muscle relaxers to help me sleep.

13. Are you employed? Has this affected your job status?

I am employed and I stayed employed during my whole withdrawal. The only time I took off was two weeks last summer to collect myself mentally when it was getting really tough.

14. Have you gone to therapy/wish to go to therapy because of this condition?

Yes, I had to see a therapist. It helped me a lot – just to have someone to talk to and to see their outside perspective.

15. If there is one thing you could say to another sufferer, what would it be?

This will be one of the hardest things you will ever have to do in life. Period. It will end, but it is a long, difficult process and you will need support from friends and family (and hopefully a doctor). It’s a very hard situation to explain to other people (especially traditional dermatologists), and it’s even hard to understand what your body is going through when you’re suffering from it. And as hard as it is to believe, you will look back on this experience as a tiny fraction of your life. A period of your life that REALLY sucked but it ended. It DOES end.


Thank you for such a terrific interview, Mattiel!

The possible irreversible effects of antibiotics

We focus a lot on how chronic use of steroids can cause much damage to our body, inside and out. There are actually many drugs that can do this. One drug that most of us end up using (because of Red Skin Syndrome) is antibiotics. What many don’t know is that this drug can also cause much harm.

At first, some get very defensive on this subject because, if you are told you need antibiotics, you must need them for a reason. Many of us get staph on our skin and are immediately prescribed this drug to help. But we must take into consideration the pros and cons of this drug, not just on ourselves but others.

I think people see their own use of antibiotics as a solo consequence. That if they wish to use them as much as they want then they are the only ones who will suffer the consequences. However, that is not the case. If people begin to overuse this drug, it can change the microflora for the next generation. It is a domino effect that can change the world.

This is a very serious problem when it comes to newborns. One doctor, Martin Blaser, has been vital in this research and whom highlighted his immense concern for babies born from either C-seciton or from mothers who were given antibiotics during the pregnancy. These babies could have an insufficient amount of friendly guy flora, leaving them susceptible to health conditions and problems.

These health problems are often autoimmune related. Even just a one-time intravenous dose of antibiotics can alter our gut flora.

An unbalanced microbiota in the gut is also a contributing factor in autoimmunity. (13) Infection with certain microbial pathogens can trigger autoimmune reactions in joints and other organs. (14) The destruction of healthy gut flora can make the mucosal lining more susceptible to leakage, which some researchers believe is a precondition for developing autoimmunity. (1516) It is well-established that the balance of gut bacteria plays a key role in the formation of a proper immune response. (1718) A lack of healthy gut bacteria is associated with allergies, IBD, and general autoimmune reactions when this immune modulation goes awry.

Now, there are certain situations where we do need antibiotics. We can not always shy away from their services. But there are things we can do to help ourselves out.

Though antibiotics may be necessary in certain situations, it’s important to weigh the benefits of using them with the potential risks that may come from the permanent alteration of the gut flora. If antibiotics must be used (and there are certainly situations where this is the case), special care should be taken to not only restore their gut flora using probiotic foods and supplements, but to eat a diet that supports healthy gut microbiota with plenty of fermentable fibers from starch and the removal of food toxins.

For those instances where we can forgo oral antibiotics, there are other alternatives we can use to help us. You can find these alternatives here: Mark Sisson

We need to truly keep our minds open to these alternatives instead of jumping right into using antibiotics. Much like steroids, they can really hinder our health. And imagine using both at the same time for long periods of time. It can reek absolute havoc on our bodies.

Chris Kresser: High Price of Antibiotics

 

 

Feature #17: Mireya & Sara

mireya-pinedaMireya P.

Age: 25

Career: AR Retention Specialist

When did you cease using topical steroids: April 15th 2016

What type did you use: Triamcinolone ointment

What is your favorite product for comfort? I love the Aquaphor ointment, Shikai Tea tree shampoo and conditioner (cured my scalp), and garlic. I used to take baths with Dead Sea salt or Epsom salt, ACV, tea tree shampoo and garlic (gave me so much relief and prevented infections).

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The hardest part of TSW is how unpredictable it is and not knowing if or when it will be over. Missing time with my loved ones and not being able to sleep!

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Spend the day at the beach with my loved ones and eat my favorite food.


Sara Evanssara-evans

Age: 26

Career: I co-own a Kombucha & Dairy-Free Ice Cream shop with my partner, but haven’t worked since August due to TSW.

When did you cease using topical steroids: August 20 2016

What type did you use: Triamcinolone 0.5%

What is your favorite product for comfort? CBD oil & Hanna Andersson pajamas

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The hardest part of this journey is the time I have lost. The itch disappears, pain fades, skin heals, but time is something you can never get back.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? The first thing I want to do once I am healed is lay in the sun with my pets.

Feature #16: Paula & Jane

paula-pPaula Perris

Age: 30

Career: Mother, Wife, Health Care Assistant up until TSW. I was in collage studying social care.

When did you cease using topical steroids: 15th June 2016

What type did you use:  Methotrexate, UV light theraphy (hand PUVA) prednisolone, Dermovate, Bethnovate, immuovate, fucibet, protopic, Elcon…

What is your favorite product for comfort? I always go back to silcock’s base but also use coconut oil, dipolbase, and cotton gloves.

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Not been able to touch my children without being in pain and the long sleeplessness nights.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Take my children to the beach, hold their hands, LIVE and of course raise awareness!!


Jane Cavallajane-cavalla

Age: 43

Career: Art educator

When did you cease using topical steroids: March 2013

What type did you use: Mostly Betnovate RD, but have had orals and stronger ointments throughout my life.  Injections as a baby!

What is your favorite product for comfort? My own homemade shea butter and jojoba butter balm

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Itching, itching deep bone itching! Severe dryness/elephant skin, lack of sleep, no life outside of TSW, impact on family  and depression

What is the first thing you will do when healed? I am starting to have days of healing now, on good days – I can wear black!  Wear make-up, go out with friends and enjoy my life again, be more present as a mother, and consider the possibility of meeting someone.