First, there were two marks on my inner leg, on the area where the skin graft had taken hold. They had been there for a little while, I wasn’t sure what they were and since I sometimes get a mysterious fungus on my skin, I figured that’s what it was. So I used a homeopathic remedy, which contained my go-to for fungal infections, calendula.
It seemed like it was helping, the afflicted area shrank. Then the weather warmed, the shorts came out, and my legs needed to no longer be hairy. I tried to shave around the mark as carefully, but as closely as I could, and then it spread.
It just kept getting worse, all over my inside calf, then spreading up my thigh, burning and itching, red hot and inflamed to the touch, like someone had held needles over a flame and was pressing them into my skin. It spread a little onto my other leg and seared my flesh there, too. It didn’t look like poison ivy or nettles, both I’ve had before, so my mind started racing with other possibilities: Scabies? Autoimmune disorder? Skin cancer??
One night, I decided to go for a run, the rubbing against my track pants only infuriating the rash and I spent the next few days moaning, hardly able to sleep, in agonizing pain. A few days later, I reluctantly went to the doctor.
“Well, that’s quite impressive!” he exclaimed upon seeing the inflamed red marks scaling up and down my thighs. He thought maybe it had been caused by poison hemlock, but was ultimately unsure. I was diagnosed with an “unspecified contact dermatitis” and prescribed a steroid.
Typically I resist any sort of “Western Medications”, choosing to rely instead on herbal and homeopathic medicines… both of which I’d tried. By that point, I was in such incredible, persistent pain I didn’t care anymore and just wanted to take whatever I could to make myself feel better. In that sense, thank god for Western Medicine!
I developed a whole new respect for people who suffer chronic pain. When you suffer pain so incredibly, it becomes your whole life, your every waking moment is consumed by it, you can’t hardly think of anything else. Prince man, Prince. David Bowie. My Aunt. How incredible that these people continued with their lives and passions, could muster a cheerful attitude even, though they were enduring such pain.
I hadn’t made cheese since. I’m in a bit of a lull, actually, because I will be attending a cheesemaking workshop later this week and have been anticipating the new things I will learn there. Perhaps making cheese would have helped me take my mind off the pain, but all I could do was lay and moan.
Then, the steroids hit. The inflammation went down as if by a miracle, would flare up incrementally, usually at night, but each day there would be less and less… I learned the steroid acts as an anti-inflammatory and on the first nights after I’d started taking the steroids when the pain was still present, I took some turmeric, which is an anti-inflammatory herb and it seemed to help… could I have done it all on turmeric? Which got me to thinking about when does going organic/natural make sense and when does it become excessive?
There are things that used to be such a big part of my life which now don’t seem to matter as much. Like, I used to be hard-core about eating everything organic, non-GMO, hormone-free, etc. etc. It was after I met my boyfriend, fell crazy in love and would mosey to the Hy-Vee supermarket with him in the mornings to get doughnuts and potatoes shaped like smiley faces we would fry in bacon grease that I realized life is too short to halt that moment because those potatoes might not be organic… and the bacon may not be nitrate-free, and who the fuck knows what’s in that doughnut? In the long-run, we’ll all die, we’ll all experience pain, does it really fucking matter?
There are things larger than ourselves, such as the planet. It matters for the planet. Right? I shouldn’t sacrifice the health of the planet so I can eat bacon on a whim… but yet it’s so good… and I’m having such a good time in that moment… is my enjoyment of the moment worth sacrificing my health or the health of the planet? It’s not… but it is… will it really all matter in the end? Like, really??
Today, I went to the supermarket to get ingredients for a meal I’m fixing for a friend and I tonight. For some reason I didn’t care that the Italian cheese mix I picked up pre-shredded in the little package wasn’t made with hormone free milk (though the thought of finding some did cross my mind, but in the end I was too lazy to seek it out), yet when I went to the meat counter, I insisted on buying grass-fed beef. Now, I’m home making Ricotta cheese for which to add to this meal using grass-fed cow’s milk and I’m on steroids. So it all equals out.