Talking To Doctors Or Why I Smell of Mettwurst

Today started with more bad news. Although bad is relative here. My mother was told she’d have to stay in hospital for at least two more weeks. The thing is that neither of us truly understands why. Something to do with an inflammation and bone marrow and…something else.

My family is looking back at a long tradition of holding a love-hate relationship with doctors. This is because I’ve come to realize that the majority of them like to speak in their own language while simultaneously assuming that everyone they meet is on the same professional level. For some reason, they seem to hold a firm believe that as soon as you fall ill, even before you know, before they know, what you have, you immediately know every small, dirty detail and meet them at eye level whenever they’re talking to you.

On the other hand, there is me and the rest of my family. We have a lot of good and at least as many bad traits, many skills and many flaws. But what really can’t be said about us is that we’re very persistent. Nor are we very confident. I personally suffer from enough self-loathing to always assume I am wrong, even when, deep inside, I know I’m right. So when I’m talking to a medical professional of some sorts, I find it difficult not only to question them but also to simply ask when something isn’t clear to me.

I thought of this on Saturday, when I was indulging in some an obscene amount of retail therapy to fight the depression that came with having to go and cancel our flight to Vienna, our hotel, and the restaurant reservation I had made as a birthday present for my mom. Having to find a substitute gift, I made my way to Lush to buy her a bottle of her favorite – obscenely expensive, sorry Lush! – shower gel. While there, I figured I could as well pick up a bar of their much loved shampoo. Several of my friends are huge fans of their solid shampoos and I had also heard that some of them work well when you have a medical condition. Which I do. About a decade ago, a doctor told me I have a mild case of neurodermitis on my scalp. I’ve suffered from an itchy scalp and dry, flaky skin for as long as I can remember. When I shared this information with a friend lately, I was once again told that people around me never really notice. But as with many things that bother you about yourself, what may be invisible to others seems like a huge issue to you. I always feel like everyone just looks at me and thinks ‘Eww!” So flash back again to that doctor some ten years ago. After announcing this to me, he gave me some gel-like substance which I was supposed to massage into my scalp and wear. It reeked like hell, turned the roots of my hair into a sticky mess, barely even touched my skin because it gathered in my hair and – worst of all – I wasn’t supposed to wash it out but leave it in for a day, then wash it out and reapply it right away. For weeks. I did this for about a week and apart from the itching getting worse, nothing happened, so I stopped using it. When I shared this with the doctor, he didn’t get my problem with it at all.

About five years later, I made another attempt at getting professional help. The diagnose was the same and this time, I was given a hellish concoction that smelled even worse, was completely liquid so most of it ended up dripping to the floor and itched even more. Needless to say, I stopped using that stuff pretty soon as well. Not after sharing my bad experience with my doctor and being laughed at again. Well, thanks!

So when I heard about the wonders Lush’s shampoo had worked for other people with skin conditions, I figured I’d give it a try. I was a little disheartened when I found out that there’s an army of wonderfully scented shampoos – flowers, fruit, lavender, cinnamon… – and the one suitable for me smells of a pile of good old German mettwurst (Soak and Float, in case you want to go for a sniff). Yuck! I wasn’t so sure if I should buy it because who wants to walk around smelling like that, right? But my hope a little bit of relief was bigger and I picked it up. I used it for the first time today and was relieved to find the smell vanishes after a few minutes. Okay, my hair doesn’t smell like lemongrass and wildflowers anymore but I guess I can live with that. Straight after washing I noticed that the usual itching wasn’t there. The worst usually happens during the night after washing, so let’s see what tonight will look like. So far, I’m pretty optimistic that there’ll be at least some improvement after a long term use.

So after this little venture into the history of my dermatologically problematic history of personal hygiene, let’s round this up with the current state: My mother is facing two more weeks in history (at least), we don’t know the details of what she has except that she is feeling fine (very!) but still needs infusions several times a day. She’s alright with it, except that she has to share the room with two other patients, one of which can’t talk, the other simply refuses to. So if something is gonna kill her in the near future, it’ll be boredom.

I’m somewhat okay with this (with her staying there longer than we thought, not with her dying of boredom). It puts more pressure on me but since we know (somewhat) what’s up and she’s feeling better, I’m not too worried anymore which is a relief. I’m also off work this week and the next. It’s annoying to always have to include a trip to the hospital in my plans but I can make that work. Except for tomorrow when I’ll take a day off to see a friend and finally go to see Guardians of the Galaxy at the theater (Rocket!!!!!!). I’m still mourning our trip to Vienna but, as I’ve told several people lately, with what happened, the outcome could have been way worse.

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