[World’s cheesiest title after the world’s cheesiest movie (that I didn’t see…).]
For the past three and half years, my skin has been extremely sensitive to the sun. My face has been so sensitive, in fact, that even a thick application of SPF 60 and a wide-brimmed hat might not protect me from a sunny day spent outside. (SPF alone certainly would not, even on a cloudy day.)
And don’t even get my started on car rides! Do you know how much UV light makes its way through all those windows? I spent many-a-car-ride hiding under one of Charlotte’s blankets in the back seat. I did this out of necessity, folks, not because I wanted to look like a weirdo. I experienced too many burns post car ride before I figured out that was my problem.
When I say burn, a typical sunburn is not exactly what I mean. It’s more like an eruption. A bumpy, oozy red eruption on my chin and/or cheeks that took a day or two to calm down. It itched like crazy and took a heck of a lot of willpower not to claw my face off until the “burn” subsided.
Even though the doctors agreed the symptoms and severity I described to them were unlike a typical sun allergy, that is what they told me I had. They told me I developed an allergy, as anyone can to any thing at any time. I was told to load up on the SPF and cover up (Duh. I’d been doing that.), but that’s all the advice and interest they took in the matter.
For me, this was devestating. It was changing my entire life. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t take my daily walk or run (which I LOVED), but that I couldn’t walk around downtown, sit out in my back yard, go to festivals or football games, or even walk to my car without a nagging worry that I was going to pay for any of it later. And since I quickly learned that most often I did pay for it, I stopped doing pretty much anything outside for the most part.
This was the hardest part of it all – the realization that the simple things I enjoyed doing were slipping away from me. It wasn’t about feeling self-concious about the way my skin looked anymore, but rather how my skin was preventing me from living the life I wanted to live. I’ve spent a lot of time saying no to things, a lot of time indoors, a lot of time thinking that I won’t be able to ever to do this or that again. In the beginning, I mourned the loss of my former life with countless tears. As time has passed, I don’t cry as often. But I’ve never gotten used to it.
This brings me to the purpose of this post: My doctors were wrong.
Late Saturday afternoon I was feeling decent after an iffy morning. One thing I’ve learned through all this is that when I’m feeling okay, I better seize that and go do something. So I pulled on a hoodie, slapped a leash on Buddy, and walked him to a wooded nature park about a mile and a half up the road. Chris and Charlotte met us there, and we strolled along the path through the woods as a family of four. Charlotte walked the entire way, and we stopped to listen to the leaves rustling through the trees, dig our toes in loose gravel, and stomp across the bridges. (I even taught Charlotte how to do lunges, which I really should have gotten on video.) It was perfect.
Charlotte looked cuter than words bundled in her adorable winter coat, white mittins, and kitty hat. I almost couldn’t stand how happy I was. I was out without sunscreen. I wasn’t wearing a hat. And I wasn’t worrying about burning because I knew that, this time, I wouldn’t.
Here’s why: I have slowly been becoming less sun sensitive since June or July, thus proving that the reaction I was having was not a UV allergy after all. In July, when Dr. Rapaport told me that my sensitivity would go away, I hardly believed him. But another thing I’ve come to realize through all this is that I’ve got to trust any opportunity I have for hope, because it makes a difference. Once again, the medicine I was using to treat and prevent my “sunburns” had actually been causing them in the first place. Now that I’ve been off that particular cream since May, my skin is slowly reclaiming some of its normalcy. I still have a long way to go, but this one improvement has given me the hope and encouragement to keep going and have faith that I am doing the right thing.
Not me. But soon, I hope!
(Read more about Topical Steroid Addiction here and here.)