I first learned about this impossibly hard to spell disease when I was a little girl. I had practiced ballet for years, a discipline where the body is key and scrutinized constantly. Though my parents did an excellent job finding a school where everyone was accepted and body image was not emphasized one might still notice differences between yourself and another girl simply because we wore only a simple leotard and tights.
I noticed that one of my dear friends, Courtney, had markings all over her arms. This was a type of rash I had never seen before – peculiar, red and raised. It look extremely uncomfortable so I asked about it being as empathetic as my own daughter, who when hearing another child scolded bursts into tears.
Courtney was unintimidated by my curiosity and quickly answered my question. She told me that it was a rash that she had constantly and was itchy and that she had a special lotion for. (pretty good for a 9 year old) I smiled and went back to goofing off. I never thought about it again.
That is until I met Andrew.
I was in love with Andrew from the moment I met him and the peculiar redness to his skin was something that was easily out-shined by his inner light and something I didn’t even see until we had known each other a few years.
We were sitting on an open lawn. I, with my browning skin, sat in a tank top and shorts and enjoyed the new beams of the spring sun as if gloating about my genetic make-up while Andrew sat as near as he could to the shade wearing a fleece and jeans and obviously sweating. I glanced at his hands and saw what looked like a massive 2nd degree burn all over his fingers and asked what the heck he had done to himself. He blushed under his freckles and looked away to tell me it was from his dark room chemicals.
I told him he should stop developing his own pictures, get a new hobby and then I moved on to another topic.
He got a bad sunburn that day.
Years later when we began dating Andrew was finally open with me about the rash that crept into his hair line, covered his arms and legs and inflamed his back. He told me he had Eczema, expecting that I had never heard of it. He was embarrassed I could tell and I saw him try not to scratch too much while he was around me. I was confused. Why was he content with his misery like there was nothing he could do about it? Though Courtney had told me about Eczema so long ago she had not explained how horribly uncomfortable it was. But Andrew seemed to have resigned himself to a disease without a cure and figured it wasn’t too bad because the prognosis didn’t lead to his death.
Two years ago I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, who Andrew and I named Clare, which means “light” or “clarity”. While were pregnant with her we thought only of how beautiful she would be and her personality and the life that we would get to see her live. She was three months old when we noticed something strange about her skin. It almost seemed as if she had boils on her skin. We tried different solutions for a month with our pediatrician and were in and out of the office almost every week. Finally she recommended us to a dermatologist, who after looking at Clare for a split second diagnosed her with Eczema. “Just like her daddy” she said with a smile as if that was cute or something we wanted to hear like “freckles” or “blue eyes”.
I was devastated not because I cared about the red blotches all over her little body but that it meant I had to see another loved one suffer through extreme itching (like that of poison ivy or chicken pox) for what could be her entire life.
We are now approaching the birth of our second daughter and with all the wonderful dreams about her we are also anxious about what the state of her skin might be.
I will be chronicling our experience with eczema as a part of my blog to encourage those who might come across it. Look for more articles in the future.