Interview #6: Maartje Francisco

maartje2016Maartje Francisco

Holland

“You will never get better until you stop trying to get better”

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

I started applying when I was 16, because the doctors said I had children-eczema that I would grow out of eventually. So we used it for my neck and nipples.

2. What was the name of the topical steroid?

Bethametasone (potent 3)

3. Were you ever prescribed more potent steroids? 

When I was 24 I took a allergy-test with the derm and nothing came out so they gave me potent 4, dermovate. To apply on my hands/wrists.

4. How did you find out about RSS?

I’m a typical case of Topical steroid addiction, one day I googled this in Dutch first but I couldn’t find anything. I had a feeling I really needed the TS to make it normal again. For a while. But then it would come back within 5 days or so. I stumbled on the itsan website, saw the animated clip and it was such an eye-opener!

5. What made you feel you had RSS?

My hands and arms would gradually worsen and it burned, was bright red and spreaded like fire. With the dryness after every flare.

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

No, I am a beautytherapist so this was a crazy but educational and inspiring ride for me! I found a great product for my company and skin and the manager in Holland of this product is Chinese and she knows a lot about TSW and the Chinese derms that dó treat this in different ways but without TS.

7. What were your first symptoms?

Itchiness, redness, and burning.

8. Is your family supportive? Friends?

YES! And it is oh so important, my mother is the strongest person I know and I couldn’t have done it without her. My husband, father, sister and kids have been by my side the whole ride. Some friends were interested and asked how it would go sometimes. But as we all know, if you don’t go through this you really don’t know what it is.

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

I made an appointment with a derm to get UVB Therapy. I got it at home! That was great for winter 2015.

Had a skin infection one time through TSW and I was on antibiotics for one week.

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

ITCHENESS! And the lack of sleep and almost no physical contact. But after all, the mental struggles on bad days are the hardest.

11. How long have you been in withdrawal? 

Im 31 months in now, but I stopped counting after 2 years, because it became bearable after that, and I got to do everything I wanted to do again. But I think I’m not healed yet.

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

Dermaviduals, my skinbarrier creams.

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

I have my own business. I worked throughout the whole process but of course it affected everything. But for the better…at the end.

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

For a while, and it was more in a coach/mindfulness-way than a psychologist.

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

One day at a time, and time will heal!


Amazing interview! Thank you tons, Maartje!

Feature #12: Carol & Bara

carol-arsenaultCarol Arsenault

Age: 67

Career: Graphic Artist part time

When did you cease using topical steroids: May 2015

What type did you use: I used Ultravate for hand eczema and  clobetasol for my lip

What is your favorite product for comfort? Favorite product was neem cream and dead sea salts

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Hardest part was the itching, not sleeping, clothes bothering me and the constant thinking about suicide.

What is the first thing you are going to do when you are healed? First thing I did since being almost cured – visit my sister.


Bara Křepínskábara-krepinska

Age: 15

Career: studying book culture in high school

When did you cease using topical steroids: 1/26/2016

What type did you use: I don’t remember what I first used as a baby, but my eczema disappeared, then reappeared with puberty – I used mild steroids like Advantan on and off for 3 years

What is your favorite product for comfort? Hairbrush for sratching, comfortable cotton hoodies and pajama pants

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? It happened the year I was finishing primary school. The hardest part was losing all the months I could have spent with my friends lying on sofa under blanket and eating ice cream. I lost time in my life I can never get back and I’m so sorry for it.

What is the first thing you are going to do when you are healed? I have lots of things on my bucket list! Get multiple tattoos, pierce my nose (and other body parts), cut my hair and dye it crazy colors, wear bold makeup, wear wool, lace etc, grow long nails and do different nail art every day, and take long showers and long baths !

FDA Reporting: Adverse Effects

Want to report adverse side effects? You don’t need to wait for your doctor. In fact, with Red Skin Syndrome, many adverse effects aren’t getting reported.

So let’s be proactive.

Visit the Food and Drug Administration page: FDA WEBSITE.

I apologize for this is only an American site, but others out of the country may be able to find your own government page to report adverse effects.

The papers you should fill out are the Consumer Voluntary Reporting Form

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-6-38-38-pm

When you go to mail or fax the pages, you can also attach a picture of the product you are reporting. Do not physically send them your product, but keep it in case they want to contact you for more information.

The FDA will reply to you so you know that your paperwork was received.

You want to fill out Sections A, B, D and E. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to answer every single question. Just fill it out as best you can.

Also, the FDA have the ability to share your name and contact information with the company that produced your product. If you want your information private, make sure to check the box in Section E.

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-6-41-20-pm

Any questions, you can call their toll free number, 1-800-332-1088

Once the forms are complete, mail them to:

MedWatch, Food & Drug Administration 

5600 Fishers Lane

Rockville, MD 20857

If you’d rather fax, the toll free number is, 800- 332- 0178

Good luck, guys! Let your voices be heard! 

Prescription Without A Cause

It’s not the steroid itself I have a problem with in the medical community. No. It is the overprescription & the lack of detective work to see if the patient even NEEDS the steroid that can cause so much harm when abused. That is what I have a problem with…

Take this dentist for instance. Here is the article that surfaced about his intense struggle with facial eczema.

Link to full article about Dr. Frances Tavares 

This dentist, Dr. Frances Tavares, was not only misdiagnosed and mistreated, but then had to deal with Red Skin Syndrome because of his overprescription of topical steroids (on his face no less). We already know that the face is one of the most sensitive areas/high absorption spots on the body. To use topical steroids on the face is already a risk, but then for such a long period of time is extremely neglectful.

After countless different dermatologists giving him different brands of topical steroids, Dr. Tavares was finally allergy tested 2 YEARS after first being seen. That is an obscene amount of time for a dermatologist to wait when the patient is not responding well to the steroid. It even says on topical steroid inserts that doctors should reassess the situation if it doesn’t get better (… not 2 years later).

After he had the allergy test, he found out he had an allergy to propylene glycol, which is commonly found in lotions, toothpaste and other body care products. By getting rid of products with this ingredient, he was fine. Or was he?…

No, he wasn’t. He had to withdrawal from the topical steroids that he had been using for so long because dermatologists didn’t take the time to properly diagnosis him. If they found the root cause to begin with, there would not have been any need for steroids.

And the biggest problem I find about this article is the emphasis they put on tapering, as if to say tapering solves all your problems. There are many Red Skin Syndrome sufferers who have tapered down, just as their doctors have prescribed, and still flare badly. Could it help with adrenal fatigue? Sure, I can see that if they need it for their adrenals. But to say they will be fine once they taper is not accurate.

“The doctor who diagnosed Tavares’ allergy says there’s no problem with the prescription of corticosteroids, but it is a mistake for patients to come off them cold turkey.”

Yes, yes there is a problem. No, I am not a doctor, but YES there is a problem. These topical steroids should not be prescribed for long periods of time, especially not on the face. It is not only neglectful but shows a lack of education on the topic of steroids.

So, I beg of you. If you have a rash come up, anywhere, get it tested (allergy and or swabbed for infection) before you start slathering on topical steroids as a solution. They are not meant for a long term solution.

Interview #5: Caroline Langdon

caroline-langdonCaroline Langdon

Adelaide, South Australia

“You are the sky. Everything else – it’s just the weather.” ― Pema Chödrön

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

I was treated with steroid cream from infancy for atopic eczema.

 

2. What was the name of the topical steroid?

My mum thinks the first steroid cream was called Celestone.

3. Were you ever prescribed more potent steroids? 

Yes. All kinds. All strengths. For eczema.

As a young child I had severe eczema and was prescribed mild to strong steroid creams and ointments for different parts of my body. I think from around the age of twelve, I started using it on my face as I’d developed eczema there as well. Mostly around my eyes and mouth at that point. By the time I was a young adult I used steroid creams and ointments on and off, of varying potencies.  On my face and different parts of my body. By this time I knew steroids were not a great option long term and endeavoured to use them sparingly.

I tried all manner of things for managing my eczema naturally (without steroids), via nutrition, supplements, lifestyle, natural creams/potions etc…. but my skin would eventually become completely unmanageable after a few mths if not before. I would need to use steroids again to control my eczema, so that I was able to sleep, work, care for my children and function properly. They suppressed it, it worked temporarily/superficially, that is, until it didn’t. Such a vicious cycle.

4. How did you find out about RSS?

I typed into my computer something like: red, burning, severely itchy skin… and eventually stumbled onto ITSAN.

5. What made you feel you had RSS?

I was desperate to find out what was happening with my skin, it was not like the eczema of my past (though that was no walk in the park, this was much worse). It was often red, itching and burning. It didn’t matter how great my diet was or what else I tried, it kept getting worse and spreading to areas I’d never had eczema before. My asthma and hayfever were super bad on top of it. I’d always been an allergy prone person but I seemed to be allergic to everything! I was getting nowhere with the dermatologist I’d been seeing, except sicker and sicker. My skin was so unmanageable, it was affecting every facet of my life! He had me back on steroids telling me I had eczema urticaria and said, ‘Many people have to manage it with steroids the best they can the rest of their life, you’re not the only one!’ (I think this was meant to be comforting??). He put me on an immunosuppressant drug used for cancer and transplant recipients, which is what they give people with very bad skin conditions too I discovered but I agreed as was desperate.

My immune system was at such a low ebb, I felt so sick and run down and I had skin that was red, burning and incessantly itchy most of the day/night.

I indeed wanted relief but I didn’t want to be taking these drugs for the rest of my life, especially when I seemed to be getting progressively worse, not better!!

There had to be a better answer.

I was in such despair. I started googling my symptoms, things like ‘burning, red skin/ hives/ rash spreading to new areas/ relentless itching/ palpitations/ severe anxiety/ no sleep etc’ and found other people who described EXACTLY what I was experiencing and going through, the common thread having been the use of topical steroids.

Then I stumbled across ITSAN which was such a relief.

I had finally found a site and support group (so many people going through exactly the same thing as me!) that talked about Red Skin Syndrome.   The site linked many studies and medical publications about how Topical steroids can cause this condition in the body …..and people were finding a way to overcome it!!

Stop using them!! Ha, sounds easy right? Not so. If it were easy to stop them, I guess there wouldn’t be so many using them. Hardest thing I’ve ever done!! Also the best thing I’ve ever done!!

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

No I wasn’t but my gp had seen me get progressively worse over time. When I told her that I believed it to be the steroids promoting the condition and shared info from ITSAN and others experiences with her, she found it to be very plausible, though she had never seen anybody else that was in the state I was in personally. She’s an Integrative Medicine GP so she was very supportive in monitoring me, etc. I don’t know what I would have done without her in those first 12 months, for moral support alone!

I had a great naturopath as well. Very lucky in this respect.

7. What were your first symptoms?

Spreading rashes, hives, red skin, burning sensation, crazy itchiness, sore eyes, poor sleep, heart palpitations, anxiety, depression.

8. Is your family supportive? Friends?

Yes, I’m so grateful to those who were/are.

I fell out of touch with many people though (or they with me). Mostly because I could no longer go out and socialise for quite a long time. It’s a very isolating experience in that sense.

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

In the early weeks of tsw, I was in a very severe state and had come up on the waiting list with the Dermatology Dept at the hospital.

After my previous experience with the dermatologist I wasn’t sure about going but was in such a bad way, thought I should keep the appointment because at that particular point, I felt like I was close to dying, no kidding! I had no idea how, or if the body could cope with this for much longer. Complete head to toe, burning, red, oozing and tremendous oedema. My face and entire body was filled with fluid and leaking it out everywhere at the same time. Nobody who knew me would have recognized me, I barely recognized myself. I walked in, in a knee length cotton night singlet, which was agony in itself. At home I couldn’t wear anything it was so painful. I looked like a maniac, itching insanely everywhere. The nurse at the counter got a cold, wet sheet and threw it over me, it was heaven for counteracting the heat in my body. By the time I was called in to see the dermatologist, I was shivering like crazy. I tried to explain that I had been reacting badly to steroid treatment and had ceased using any creams in the last few weeks.
They deemed me ‘critical’ and that I should be admitted immediately! I asked how they would treat me if this happened and they said with steroid wet wraps and oral cortisone.   I said that steroids were responsible for what had gotten me into this mess and so that was not an option really.

They basically said, ‘Oh well, if that’s not what you want we can’t help you today… but how do you think you will manage this by yourself at home’. I was gobsmacked, I thought they may have been able to provide some help or checking of vitals etc to make sure they weren’t sending me on my way if they were deeming me ‘critical’!

I said, ‘I don’t know, I guess I’ll go to my gp and get her to monitor me, make sure there is no infection, or something..’, to which they responded, ‘oh, your gp won’t be able to do anything for this’.

If you don’t want to be steroid tempted, hospital is not the place to go. I walked out and went home. It was truly the hardest yet best thing I could have ever done for myself.

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

The debilitating and painful nature of it, the fact that it unpredictably effects not only the skin but many aspects of the body’s internal and systemic functions. The continuous lack of sleep. The fact that it takes an undetermined length of time to recover from. Hmm, I guess there have been a few hard parts.

11. How long have you been in withdrawal? 

I’ve been in withdrawal since February 2014, so 33mths so far.

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

Tsw support groups have brought much comfort along the way.

Baths with Epsom and ACV (apple cider vinegar), icepacks, pressure bandaging, soft cotton clothes and bedding.

Sudocrem and Robertson’s skin repair ointment.

Meditation and drawing.

Good food.

Reading .

Many things but these are the staples.

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

I have been unemployed throughout tsw. Was unable to work and fortunate to be able to take time to repair my body. Have been doing some volunteer work but am only just recently beginning to seek work again. It’s been a financial drain of the highest order.

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

Yes, I went to see a psychologist over the first 2 yrs. I found it to be really helpful in keeping me sane. Fortunately for me, he was very interested in nutrition and health, had a good comprehension of the impact prescriptive drugs can have on effecting body chemistry, health and well-being. It was an incredible support at a time when I really needed it, he provided good counselling space for me. He also used hypnotherapy in some sessions to help with pain and itch management. It made a dent.

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

The intensity subsides.

Time and perseverance definitely has its’ rewards, IT DOES GET BETTER!

Trust that your body has incredible ability to right itself.

Tsw is a lesson in loving patience, with oneself.

That was more like four!


Caroline, thank you! Such an in-depth interview!

Feature #9: Will & Ashlee

will-hannahWill Hannah

Age: 5 1/2

Career: Pre School

When did you cease using topical steroids: October 13, 2015

 

What type did you use: Advantan and Eleuphrat  (high potency)

What is your favorite product for comfort? First two months “Simply Natural Oils” chickweed ointment. Month 3-4 Natural Shae butter. Month four moisture withdrawal. Epsom salt baths and wet wraps soaked in coconut oil for first four months.

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? Will says sensitivity to the elements– wind, sun, rain etc. His mother says he hated zingers and the ‘fire ants’ feeling

What is the first thing you will do when healed? We went camping and swimming in the beach last weekend despite mild anniversary flare. IT WAS AMAZING!!! Living the dream already!!!


Ashlee Coxashlee-cox

Age: 26

Career: I’m currently unemployed due to TSW. I was a track rider/stablehand in a horse racing stable.

When did you cease using topical steroids: July 2016

What type did you use: I used various different types of TS, primarily Betamethesone, Diprosone and Prednisolone.

What is your favorite product for comfort? I find Dermeze Ointment has provided me some relief during TSW. Also cool baths.

What is the hardest thing to deal with during this condition? There are so many negative sides to TSW, it’s difficult to pick just one. For me it would be the utter destruction of my career and sense of living. Not being able to leave the house due to such severe skin for so long leaves its mark.

What is the first thing you will do when healed? The first thing I want to do when my skin is better is take up horse riding again! It’s painful not being able to spend any time doing the things I love.

Interview #4: Robin Winkler

screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-12-36-22-pmRobin Winkler

Sugar Hill, GA

“…and never could I have known the taste of heaven, had I not swallowed the pieces of hell, first.”

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

I was first prescribed topical steroids when I was 17 months old- I had an allergic reaction to detergent in some clothes my mom was trying on me.

2. What was the name of the topical steroid?

I started out using triamcinolone- the pharmacy would mix it into Aveeno or Eucerin for me. I remember that my parents would put it all over my arms and legs every night.

3. Were you ever prescribed more potent steroids? 

As I mentioned, I had a nightly routine with my triamcinolone. It never stopped once it started, and became a norm for me. When I was about 10, however, my face started showing signs of ‘eczema’ so I was prescribed a different steroid called desonide for my face. Over the years, my eczema slowly consumed my entire body, and I would keep it at bay with triamcinolone, desonide, fluocinonide, mometasone furoate- you name it, I have probably been prescribed it. I also tried alternatives to topical steroids, such as Protopic or Elidel.

4. How did you find out about RSS?

I found out about RSS in May of 2015. I had a one year old, was working full time, was stressed, and I had used oral steroids for my skin. I actually got the shingles and then of course, more steroids. After the shingle was gone, I had a particularly bad flare, and none of the steroid creams were helping- not even the really, really, strong ones. So I googled “the steroids don’t help my eczema anymore” and it led me to ITSAN.

5. What made you feel you had RSS?

I observed the TSW/ITSAN Facebook groups and researched for a long time before I was determined this was indeed my same affliction. What I couldn’t ignore was the obvious rebound effect after stopping steroid use- and it was classic, and my skin matched every picture on the ITSAN site. The Red Sleeves are not something I have ever had with my original eczema. On top of all of these things was the fact that my original eczema had never affected these areas of my body before

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

I was diagnosed by a dermatologist with ‘steroid dependent eczema’ – which at least meant she recognized that I needed to stop using them. She was key in helping me come off of the steroids, but the only way to do so was to use an immunosuppressant- basically, a drug that people take when they have organ transplants to keep their bodies from rejecting the new organ. I eventually sought, and am still working with, a naturopathic doctor. He has been immensely supportive, calls my condition TSA (topical steroid addiction), has helped me find the root cause of my original eczema, and has even helped me do research about topical steroid addiction.

7. What were your first symptoms?

I had been on oral prednisone for the shingles and topical steroids for my eczema; as soon as I ceased using them, my skin peeled and cracked and was just so tight and dry. That was immediate too- within 24-48 hours of stopping. One week into stopping, and my skin was not only tight and dry and flakey but simultaneously oozy and waxy and hot – my face swelled, my entire face, neck, chest, arms, legs- all turned bright red and there was an unbearable nerve pain. Like a million razor cuts in every square inch of your skin, or a million fire ants biting all at once. It was basically a cycle of hot, red, oozy skin to the crusty, scabby, painful skin, then to flaky skin that fell off everywhere…and then back to square one with the intense inflammation.

8. Is your family supportive? Friends?

My mom and my brother have been amazing. I am a single mom, so when this started and I realized I wouldn’t be able to work, I moved in with my mother. She has paid for medical expenses, taken on the duty of caring for me when I couldn’t even take a shower. She has helped me with my son, and helped me financially as well. I know it has been a huge strain on every aspect of her life. Friends who have little knowledge of eczema or RSS in general are supportive, but wary. They don’t understand why I don’t use steroids or why I needed so much help from my mom, and can be quick to judge or criticize. I worry people will see me as entitled or lazy, since they have no idea what’s really going on.

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

I went to the ER on 1/29/2016. My scalp was green and yellow and bloody, my skin was peeling and cracked and bleeding from my scalp to my toes. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t shower. I couldn’t even think straight because the pain was unbearable. My brother says I’m a tough cookie, so he knew that this was serious when he saw me crying from pain. It takes a lot of pain to make me cry.

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

This is a tough question. Ask me the easiest part. HA. From one aspect, just not being able to LIVE in any measure of the word has probably been the most difficult part to adjust to. I was working full time, I took my son to daycare and picked him up-everything, on my own. Once RSS took over, I couldn’t even do the dishes. The other part that was/is infuriating is the lack of knowledge and research about RSS. I joke that everyone going through this is like a lab rat, because we have to find out what works for us since there are no medical guidelines, much less real recognition from the medical community. The stress is also a lot- there were days I wanted to crawl into a box and literally die. There was financial stress- I couldn’t contribute to my own life or my sons life, and living costs money. I tried to get on disability several times (temporarily) but was never able to. There was emotional stress- I vividly remember lying in bed, in a lot of pain, and thinking, why should I be still and do nothing if its STILL going to hurt?? Again, naming the hardest part of this isn’t easy.

11. How long have you been in withdrawal? 

I started my withdrawal 8/12/2015. I would say I am about 14 months in, but I have used oral steroids during this time though, for asthma, and an anaphylactic reaction I had. I would not say that I am completely healed, but I am now about 85-90% better.

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

In the early stages, apple cider vinegar baths and zinc oxide paste (like desitin for babies) were life savers. As time went on, I was able to tolerate sea salt baths, and oatmeal baths. I really liked hydrocolloid bandages for very raw and deep wounds, as well as elaj (a highly concentrated oatmeal cream). As far as mental measures, I actually sought a health coach who helped me with stress management and meditation.

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

I was. I stopped working as a medical assistant purposefully so I could start my withdrawal. As I mentioned, though, I am a single parent so I tried to hold down a couple different odd jobs in the beginning, and I couldn’t. I’m hoping to return to work soon…

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

As I mentioned, I did enlist a health coach for 10 weeks. Now that period is over, however, and I find myself wishing I could utilize her again. So, yes, I think therapy would be helpful. To be honest, I’m still scared that I will wake up one day, full flare, back at square one with no eyebrows and hot painful skin everywhere. It kind of keeps me from diving fully back into my life just yet.

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

It’s hard to narrow my advice down to one pointed piece. I would say, take pictures. Even if you don’t share them on social media; keep them for yourself. I wish I had taken more. Also, I think a lot of this journey is hard because we feel like we have lost ourselves and any sense of a ‘life by OUR design’- but please, remember, you are still there and you are still YOU. The most important thing during this journey is to truly invest in yourself, even if you cant take time off work- don’t’ obsess over what other people will think. Take it one day at a time, one minute at a time, or one second at a time. Get through it however you have to- remember no one’s journey is the same and the only real goal is to restore health to our bodies without steroids.


Thank you so much, Robin! You’re interview was inspiring!