Michael Jackson’s Disease

This is a post I’ve been avoiding.

And it’s not as though I have some fatal disease, or even suffer any real physical ill effects at all. Every summer, when it first gets hot, I’ve been getting a little heat rash on my forearms for the last decade and a half, which usually goes away when my body acclimates to the heat. But for about the last 18 months, instead of going away, it just blanched out. I know my primary care doctor noticed it last July.

As it spread to my neck, legs and trunk, I got a referral to a dermatologist. But, of course, actually getting to a dermatologist usually takes a while. Meanwhile, it became very noticeable, to me, on the back of my hands. And this was the worst, for one sees the back of one’s hands a LOT. The cliche became untrue: I no longer KNEW the back of my hands.

Anyway, a couple days before my last birthday in March, the dermatologist confirmed what I had long suspected: I have vitiligo. It is an ailment of the autoimmune system. It’s not contagious. Though there is some correlation with some certain ailments of the liver, it’s not causal, and in any case, I took a blood test to eliminate that possibility.

The dermatologist said if I were an 18-year-old girl, then there may be some aggressive topical treatments to suggest, but since I’m “mature”, this would not be the game plan. He said I was mature? Oh, he’s talking about my AGE, not my disposition.

And it’s spread to my face, which I’d been really worrying about. But it’s been more even there, with an almost complete lightening, except for some dark patches under my eyes, which are partially obscured by my glasses.

Here’s the thing: when I started losing my hair, I wasn’t that vain about it. Going gray didn’t bother me. In fact, a few months ago, I got a bread trim and a hair cut, and more than one person said I looked 10 years younger. Interestingly, I didn’t care, certainly not enough to change my behavior. That I weigh more than I did is largely under my own control.

This event, though, has gotten to me. It’s mostly because it isn’t a change that I was anticipating. Also, because of the patchiness, especially on the aforementioned back of my hands, I feel more than a little bit like a leper.

If you read the hyperlink above, you’ll notice “How Can People Cope With the Emotional and Psychological Aspects of Vitiligo”. This is relevant, because, for a while, and even now from time to time, it has really messed with my head. In part, it’s because this ailment has become associated with some wacko pop star. In part, it’s because I LIKE my brown skin, and it’s been part of my identity for so long.

There are ways to hide the effects with makeup, but, bottom line, some days, it’s really made me rather melancholy.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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