Interview #15: Keina Sabay

Keina SabayKeina Sabay

Manila, Philippines

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

As far as I remember, I started using topical steroids in mid-2014. Unlike most people who started getting eczema as a kid, I only started to experience it when I was already 27 years old. It all started when I got insect bites from a trek that I did in December of 2013. The bites morphed into rashes that became eczema later on.

2.  What was the name of the topical steroid?

I can’t remember the exact kind, but it was a mixture of clobetasol and some other substance. The thing is, my dermatologist would just hand out the creams to me and tell me to apply them twice a day without discussing what they were and without warning that they should not be abused. I may have overused the steroids, as sometimes I would use them more than twice a day.

It was not until a few months later that I realized that these were actually steroids that I was putting on my skin. The same doctor also prescribed Iterax (I think it’s Aterax in the US) to help with the itching and sleeping problems.

3. Were you ever prescribed more potent steroids? 

Yes. I decided to stop steroids in November 2014 when I consulted a holistic doctor. But in March 2015, I experienced my first TSW flareup and I ended up going back to a dermatologist. My face was so red and swollen, so I was desperate to feel better. She prescribed a clobetasol cream plus Prednisone. It worked like magic, but my skin would just become worse later on.

4. How did you find out about RSS?

I was searching for natural remedies online and came across Briana’s story. Before I found out about RSS, my holistic doctor had already told me about the possibility of a healing crisis, where my skin would get worse before it starts to get better.

5. What made you feel you had RSS?

The eczema started from insect bites on my arms and legs, and that was where I’d get the rashes. But after stopping steroids, I started getting bumps on my face as well and after a while, my whole face had become one big rash. It was red, swollen, and weeping the whole time. Then my skin would crust over and I’ll have these flakes coming off.

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

My dermatologists would diagnose it as eczema or dermatitis and just give me medication for my symptoms. My holistic doctor, however, made me go through blood tests and assessed that what I was experiencing was chronic inflammation that stemmed from imbalances in my hormones. This doctor was very supportive in helping me overcome my condition with lifestyle changes, proper nutrition, and supplements.

7. What were your first symptoms?

Patches of red rashes on my face, arms and legs.

8. Is your family supportive? Friends?

I am so lucky to have supportive friends and family. My mom took care of me when I was at my worst and couldn’t take care of myself. She prepared my food, washed my clothes and helped me research natural remedies for my condition.

My friends would always consider my food restrictions when we go out for dinner. I appreciate the simple gestures such as letting me pick the restaurant so I’m sure there was something I could eat.

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

Thankfully no. There was just that one time when I went to the ER because the insect bites morphed overnight.

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

I’d say the hardest part was putting my life on hold to focus on healing. It affected so many factors in my life such as my overall disposition, my finances, and my self-esteem. I was used to being independent, so not being able to take care of myself was a painful blow.

11. How long have you been in withdrawal? 

I first stopped steroids in November 2014, but I went back around March 2015 before stopping them for good. That’s a little over 2 years.

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

Epsom salt baths helped a lot to dry up open sores. I also used VCO (virgin coconut oil) to moisturize dry patches. I also cut my hair short so it wouldn’t irritate my face. Early last year, I discovered hiking and it played a big part in my healing. Being tired from the hike helped me sleep better and the following day my skin would always exhibit a marked improvement. I’ve been hiking at least twice a month since and I am almost completely healed now.

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

I was working in TV when this happened. I had to take a leave for 1 month, which extended to 5 months. I quit my job eventually.

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

I didn’t go to therapy, but I did make major changes to my lifestyle.

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

Listen to your body. Whatever is happening to your skin is a manifestation of what is happening inside. My doctor also told me this, healing is marathon and not a sprint.


Thank you for such a wonderful interview, Keina!!!!!

Feature #32: Kirk

KIRKKirk Robertson

Age: 19

Career: Self employed Personal Trainer (currently on hiatus)

When did you cease using topical steroids: 29th of December 2016

What type did you use: Eumovate

What is your favorite product for comfort? Dead sea salts

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Not being able to build my business or build on my plan of becoming a professional natural bodybuilder

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Train with my girlfriend and go out for a meal with my family.  Followed by an overdue night out!

Feature #31: Magda & Elspeth

Magda RoszMagda Lima

Age: 23

Career: Property Manager

When did you cease using topical steroids: April 2016

What type did you use: I’ve only used steroids topically: Hydrocortisone- eyelids, neck , Betamethasone valerate and many more but I can’t remember them all. Immunosuppressants : elidel, protopic

What is your favorite product for comfort? Dead sea salt + Himalayan salt baths, castor oil, calamine lotion- when oozing, tubular bandages

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The hardest part for me was first 9 months when I was red from head to toe, horrendously itchy and I could not sleep! I am now 12 months in and still having good and bad days, the worst areas now are face, neck and hands.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Put make up on! Enjoy my life again!


Elspeth JellisonElspeth

Age: 35

Career: Speech Language Pathology Grad Student (Finally graduating May 2017 – Woo-hoo!)

When did you cease using topical steroids: July 7, 2016

What type did you use: OTC hydrocortisone, Dermasmoothe, Clobetasol .05%. Also used Elidel and had 3 or 4 short bursts of oral steroids. This was all during a year and a half period.

What is your favorite product for comfort? Safe Soda (Pharmaceutical grade sodium bicarbonate). I started using this around 8 months TSW and it really changed my life. Funny Youtube videos also saved my sanity during my toughest periods of TSW.

What was the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The hardest part of TSW was the feeling that I wasn’t even me anymore. I was in so much pain and so sad all the time that living felt like a chore. I also hated how I felt I couldn’t be there for my husband and son the way I wanted to be.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? My skin has already improved enough to accomplish my first goal which is to enjoy a vacation with my family. This weekend I’m going to go get a dog, which I’ve wanted to do for ages but haven’t felt well enough to for a long time. I still have some left to go on my healing but I’m grateful to be able to enjoy life again.

 

Interview #14: Danae Kirtley

DanaeDanae Kirtley

Eureka, California

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

I started using topical steroids by recommendation from my family practitioner in an effort to treat my childhood eczema, starting at about age 10.

2.  What was the name of the topical steroid?

To begin with, my parents and I were advised to use over the counter Hydrocortisone cream (.5-1%) liberally, to any and all rashy areas of skin. Was also advised to apply like lotion after every bath or shower as a “prevention method” even if my skin was not affected by eczema.

3. Were you ever prescribed more potent steroids? 

Yes. After a few years of using Hydrocortisone cream and my problem areas had spread and become more vigilant; I was given a trial tube measuring a few ounces of Elidel. After that didn’t work and burned my skin, I was prescribed Triamcinalone ointment, which I rarely used because I hated the texture, greasines, and how much it burned my skin.

4. How did you find out about RSS?

I found out about RSS after researching online desperately for the cause of my worsening symptoms. After using Hydrocortisone cream twice daily to my face, and 3-4 times a week on my entire body like lotion for 10 years- My body had seemingly given up. I couldn’t suffer anymore, and I needed answers. I found ITSAN and there began my diligent research.

5. What made you feel you had RSS?

What had made me feel like I had RSS was that once the information was before me- I just knew. I had never thought that anyone else had suffered the same symptoms and had suffered so uniquely as I had. I read the many testimonials, medical documents, blogs, vlogs and more from people all over the world with the same story I have.

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

I was not diagnosed by a doctor, however- my General Practitioner was very supportive. She was just as baffled as I was at my chronic, increasingly debilitating symptoms. She agreed that the amount of exposure and absorption of steroids I had was alarming. We came up with a plan to taper down my usage and to meet more regularly so that she could monitor my symptoms and keep track of my progress. All the while, she had ordered many different blood tests to rule out any other autoimmune diseases, disorders, deficits in nutrition and more. Nothing of relevance to explain my symptoms came up with as many tests as we did.

7. What were your first symptoms?

My first symptoms of Eczema began as early as preschool years, between ages of 5-6 years old. My inner elbows and back of my knees were always dry, sensitive and itchy. After the first year of using Topical Steroids, my rashes had spread all over my arms, legs, and had begun manifesting on my face, neck and chest. My body would erupt into bright red, inflamed skin, that would burn like I had never experienced before and itch deep within my subdermis within one day of not using Topical Steroids. It had become a begrudging truth that my body NEEDED the application of Steroids daily, and for years, to maintain any semblance of normality. All the while, my health declining. What initially caused me to research the symptoms of long-term use of Steroids, was my rapid decrease in weight, my eyesight, worsening skin condition, and hairloss.

8. Is your family supportive? Friends?

For the most part- Yes. Once I had done about 3 months of personal research, and had already been to a multitude of appointments with my GP, and Ophthalmologist, I created a plan to introduce my and my doctor’s findings with closest family and friends. I asked for their support and provided opportunity to allow them to ask their own questions, express their concern and understanding. Several of them completely agreed that withdrawing from Topical Steroids would be in my best interest long-term. Many of them came to my aide in the best ways they could, be it care-packages of sterile gauze, feeding and helping me with personal care, or stopping by to spend time with me while I lay in bed for those many many months of disability.

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

I had been to the hospital for blood-tests, I had considered going to the ER multiple times when my symptoms were so severe that I was in and out of consciousness because of the extreme amount of pain I was in. Thankfully I was under the care of family and my Fiancee, who all did their best to comfort me and do everything they could to surround me with love and support. The possibility of being administered Steroids in addition to any much needed pain management medication had I gone to the ER- was too much of a gamble against my progress.

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

Besides the incomprehensible amount of pain that I endured(and endure still from time to time), is the decline of my mental health. Being suddenly thrust into Disability and not having a definite time-frame for healing and success is taxing to say the least. I was often alone, with my own thoughts, while being unable to move and bedridden. I became unable to look at my own reflection as the person I had always been and seen looking back at me was gone. I didn’t recognize myself, and being unable to function in a physical capacity only fed into a Dissociation type state even further. I was in a very deep Depression along with weeks of insomnia. To this day, my anxiety and difficulty relating to others in social activities still is of great difficulty for me. I continue to challenge myself in positive ways. However it feels as though I am forever changed, mentally, because of this illness.

11. How long have you been in withdrawal? 

I started tapering my usage of Steroids under my General Practitioner’s guidance in the very beginning of November 2014. I started my full withdrawal after my birthday in December 2015. On the day that I am writing this, it has been 817 days since my last application or administration of Steroids. I am not yet ‘healed’, however, I have made a tremendous amount of progress. I went from being completely unable to perform the smallest tasks for myself, like sitting up in bed. Brushing my teeth, or walking at times… to now being able to walk, work part-time, I do daily house chores, and even present as a normal person from day to day. I have bad days, but they don’t knock me down nearly as bad as they used to.

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

I listen to lots of music, I play music myself, I have been catching up on all the shows, and movies I have missed throughout the years. I drink tea and have many contemplative moments, writing, and lots of snuggles. Sometimes I am inconsolable, but the truth in those moments are that they are always temporary- as my best friend and beloved fiancee has said since day one of TSW, “Maybe Tomorrow…” Which to us, means: Tomorrow may be a better day, it may provide better or different opportunities to be fulfilled, or more able. It is a phrase that instills Hope, even when things feel or seem very dark, it will always get better.

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

I have now been employed after a 2 year absence in the workforce, for 5 months! This means a lot to me as I have always worked hard and enjoyed being employed. Being affected by TSW still provides interesting challenges at work for me. Thankfully my Manager and coworkers are all very understanding and are more than willing to make exceptions or take on tasks in order to keep me comfortable. I am very thankful and humbled by my ability to work with such supportive people. Sometimes I have to sit, while I am on shift, as I get very dizzy and disoriented after standing for hours. Sometimes I have to take an additional break to relax, or coworkers have had to come in as a replacement for my missed shift because of a ‘Flare-up’ that inhibits my ability to perform my duties. I am pleased to share that my strength and physical duress has improved over the past 5 months and I only hope to continue getting better.

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

Yes, I would very much like to go to Therapy because of TSW. I have all of the classic markers of PTSD from this condition, and because of the extreme amount of mental stress I endured. I have had a resurgence of mental symptoms and new ones (that I do not wish to share), that do get in the way of my daily activities because of TSW. The amount of trauma and pain that we all go through with this condition is absolutely extraordinary and severe.

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

IT GETS BETTER. It may feel like this pain will last forever, but it does not. I remember that hopeless feeling very very well- but we do get better and I am proof of that.


Thank you for such a terrific interview, Danae!!!!!

Feature #30: Meghan & Kristen

Meghan PicklesMeaghan Pickles

Age: 13

Career: Student

When did you cease using topical steroids: Feb 2016

What type did you use: Hydrocortisone 1%, Betamethasone, Avantan fatty ointment

What is your favorite product for comfort?  Epiderm, Tubifast Wet Wraps, safe soda bicarb of the bath and the body, Queen Bee Balm (Bee Skin Recovery)

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Enduring the worst pain of my life, oozing skin, shivering and feeling freezing cold even in hot temperatures, the skin snowing and rejuvenating every three days to raw skin, the intense burning, constant dilated capillaries that leave the familiar red mask of TSW, the lack of support from specialists and then being threatened we would be reported to child services for refusing steroids! Losing most of my friends.

What was the first thing you did when healed? I went to a BBQ for 2 hours, I was free, I was out of the house without wet wraps, I went shopping and tried on new clothes instead of staring on in pain watching my friends do what I couldn’t do. I lost nearly a year out of school, but now I’m healed and it’s all over.


Kristen BKristen B

Age: 21

Career: ECE/ Nanny

When did you cease using topical steroids: Feb 19th, 2017

What type did you use: Hydrocortisone, Ellidel, Protopic

What is your favorite product for comfort?  Ice Packs, Aquaphor, burning my arms when itchy

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Having to re-home some of my pets, the draining of my self-esteem, having to go to bed with multiple ice packs and a fan since I can’t fall asleep otherwise, and the financial hardship having to spend tons on remedies.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? I plan on working out, eating whatever I want and not having to worry about a flare, go out with my friends, play with all my animals again that are making me flare up, and just enjoy life in general again.

Feature #29: Michelle & Laura

Miche;le Li.PNGMichelle Li 

Age: 25

Career: Data Scientist

When did you cease using topical steroids: July 2015

What type did you use: Elocon in childhood, other hydrocortisone creams of various strengths for eczema around eyelids and lips, and immunosuppressants (elidel, protopic) in my teens.

What is your favorite product for comfort? A balm I make using shea butter, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, peppermint essential oil and eucalyptus essential oil.  The essential oils are very cooling and help relieve the itch…sometimes.

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The hardest part about TSW is the roller coaster of flare-ups. Sometimes you think you’ve beat it, but another flare-up will come, in a different part of your body. It’s really hard to keep a positive attitude when that happens.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? I’m doing everything I want to be doing! I’ve made a big effort to keep chugging along, advancing in my career, traveling, and doing as much as I can without causing my body stress despite my flare-ups… But maybe, going camping and not having to worry about infections or having a good nights rest would be the first thing I do once I’m healed.


Laura MathiesonLaura Math.png

Age: 29

Career: Unemployed due to TSW and anxiety

When did you cease using topical steroids: 28th May 2014

What type did you use: I only ever used steroids topically, these include Hydrocortisone, Betnovate, Fucidin H, Fucibet and Elocon. There are many more but I can’t remember them all. Other treatments I have tried include Traditional Chinese Medicine, hypnotherapy, UVB light treatment, homeopathy. I was still using steroids when trying these other therapies in the past.

What is your favorite product for comfort? At the start of withdrawal i used tubs and tubs of 50/50 ointment. Later I found Dead Sea Salt baths very soothing. I’d use zinc infused bandages when oozing. Later into TWS (about the 2 year mark) I started using Elaj, and I still use it to this day.

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? The hardest part for me is the anxiety and depression; not wanting to be seen by anyone and shutting myself away from the world.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? The first thing I want to do when I’m healed from TSW is hold down a full time job long enough to save enough money to go travelling for a few months.

Feature #28: Kayla & Kleidy

Kayla.pngKayla Clarke 

Age: 26

Career: 3rd year resident of Naturopathic Medicine

When did you cease using topical steroids: Dec 19 2016

What type did you use: Betamethasone valerate 0.1% on and off for 18ish years

What is your favorite product for comfort? A big fuzzy blanket, a hot cup of tea, and cannabis salve

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Acceptance. For a long time I couldn’t accept what was happening to me. I thought (being in Naturopathic medicine), I would be able to find a quick fix. Not the case. I can support my body where it needs help, but in the end, I have to let it do its thing.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? Hike up a mountain and get all kinds of sweaty.


Kleidy Sevillakleidy sevilla

Age: 10

Career: Grade 4 student

When did you cease using topical steroids: June 2016

What type did you use: Prednisone, elidel, hydrocortisone in different strengths

What is your favorite product for comfort? Only product I can handle is vaseline, love icecream to keep me cold because I’m hot all the time. Also love to hear music to calm me down.

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Not being able to have a good night sleep. I’m always tired.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? I am going to wear a bathing suit and go to the swimming pool.