I was introduced to Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) at an early age by way of my mother and aunts. Only it was not called Hidradenitis Suppurativa or HS, it was simply called having “boils”.
I remember my mother experiencing agonizing pain from these large abscesses all over her body. I didn’t know how or why it happened to them. All I knew, was that I never wanted it to happen to me. The way the women in my family explained it to me, was that it was something that happened when you have very sensitive skin.
At the tender age of 16 the “boil disease” visited me for the first time. It was about the size of a quarter and of course in the most inopportune area known to a woman. Using home remedies, it left after about 3 days. I had a visitor or two every couple of months for the next two years. After I turned 18, I thought I had grown out of the boil phase. I did not have another one until I was in my late 20’s. The boils came back with vengeance. Not only were they in my private area, but my underarms as well. There was something different about them at this stage, they did not want to leave.
The pain and discomfort got so bad, that I ended up in the ER several times.
Each visit I would be sent away with antibiotics and told to make sure I keep the areas very clean. I felt so dirty and ashamed and as if my hygiene was coming into question. I honestly feel as if the ER doctors were tired of seeing me and during one of my last visits, I was referred to a specialist. To my surprise, the specialist was an Oncologist. Not only was I self-conscience about my hygiene, but now I had to worry about a possible cancer diagnosis. I was on antibiotics for more than year and nothing seemed to be helping me. My mental health began to decline because I was in a constant state of anxiety and depression.
One night I began to research these “boils” because I was becoming so overwhelmed with all of the uncertainty surrounding my condition. I ended up going to see a medical dermatologist here in Atlanta, Dr. Jaime Weisman. She changed my life. She told me I had Hidradenitis Suppurativa and I appeared to be in stage 2.
I was so happy to finally have an actual diagnosis. It was not my fault! Finally, someone who understood! My treatment began immediately and I continue my HS journey with Dr. Weisman to date. I am now in stage 3 and taking Humira on a weekly basis.
Before my diagnosis, my mental health suffered and I did not know which way to turn. As a therapist, I had to seek out my own therapy to assist me with coping. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I want to work with individuals with chronic illnesses not only because one’s mental health suffers as well as physical health, but because I too suffer from a chronic illness. I believe in working with an individual starting from the inside and working outward.