The International Writers Magazine: Trista And The Treatment

The Verdict
Trista Mrema consults with her Doctor - again!

ell, Wednesday finally came, which is more than I can say for sleep. In the morning, I cycled my itchy butt over to Prinsegracht to get checked out by a dermatologist. I stated my business to the ladies at reception. 'There is no dermatologist here today,' they responded casually. Ok, stay calm…find a happy place. 'No, see, my doctor told me to come here on this day and I called on Monday and they didn’t say anything about ‘no dermatologist’ on duty.'

'Sorry, there is no one here. It's not possible to see a dermatologist.' I almost lunged over the counter to grab the damn lady by her lapels and shake the shit out of her…I was that desperate. 'But you can go to the OLVG in Oosterpark to see a doctor,' she added quickly (lucky for her).

Onze Lieve Vrouwe Gasthuis was big and impressive and bore a resemblance to healthcare services back home; it looked like it was hiding some good ass drugs. I check in at dermatology and wait...and fucking wait, I stopped looking at the clock at some point. At last a nurse cried out, 'Mevrouw Mrema,' and I snapped to. She showed me to a room with two lab-coated young ladies waiting. I checked out the badge of the lady asking me the most questions. 'MED Student,' it read. Count to ten…breathe. I was hoping MED was one of those Dutch acronyms, Most Excellent Dermatological student. The only thing I remember the other chic saying was, 'try not to scratch.' Bitch, try not catching the back of my hand with your face (I’m a bit tense these days)! After MED exhausted her repertoire and still didn’t have a clue, she said she would call in her supervisor. The supervisor, a proper doctor with lab coat and many years of practice behind him.
After three visits with ole Doc Mulder sitting smacked behind his desk, this doctor in action was a sight to see; he's the man I’d been waiting for. He took one look at my sandpaper arms and concluded I have a severe form of eczema.

Eczema? That's it, nothing more exciting? I was thinking of some rare bug I caught while I was in Tanzania, something you'd have to quarantine me for, call in the CDC and order an evacuation. Atopic
dermatitis is the sexier name and it's found more in babies and children as a rash on the scalp and neck. I’ve got it all over my damn body: neck, shoulders, chest, back, arms, belly, thighs and legs. This is what's been keeping me up at night and looking like a feigning crackhead by day. The doctor prescribed this super duper steroid cream to help with the itching and another antihistamine (my fourth!) to help me sleep at night. He also advised UVB treatment wherein my Nubian self lays in a sun bed and catches some UV rays. I’m not sure how this works but it makes me laugh and I don’t mind taking in some artificial sun…who knows when the real thing will show up.

They don’t know what causes atopic dermatitis; it's a combination of genetics, environment and some weirdo immune system. There is no cure, it's one of those diseases where all you can do is treat and try to prevent the symptoms. Faaaaabulous! I had to get one of the difficult ones, with no beginning or end and seriously hampering my poolside bikini efforts.
I consider myself a sunny person but this shit is kicking my ass.

I’m cranky and grumpy and down right unpleasant at times, which I guess goes with my erupting skin but not with the true essence of me-ness that exists inside. It sucks because, if I wear the proper clothing, there's no sign of my ailment; I don’t have a limp, a cast or any blood pouring from any body part. Having 'eczema' doesn’t garner the type of sympathy I’m after. Nobody can see I’m not alright...unless they catch a glimpse of me, crouching in a corner, looking like a pervert, moaning 'ooooh' and scratching myself silly.

One Week Later

Last weekend was a shite weekend for me; I basically had a relapse of the itchies…covering the yet undiscovered parts of my body. The internet told me women can get flare-ups before/during their period and my ‘Aunt Flo’ was certainly due for a visit. I had fucking well had it, I needed something to change. I turned, again, to my new best friend, the internet.

There is no cure for eczema, it is only tolerated by dealing with the symptoms. The rashes and itching of eczema are symptoms of an underlying problem (to do with immune system) and are not diseases themselves. Symptoms are the body's natural way to let you know something's up and to investigate further. Dealing with a symptom is like turning off a fire alarm (I stole that one); there's still a fire blazing but at least you don’t have to hear that damn alarm anymore. Steroid creams are used to suppress eczema itching, steroids can jack you up. The steroid creams I used thinned my skin out making it more susceptible to bruising, made me more irritable and aggravated and increased my appetite like a wild fire. They eventually lost the effect of suppressing my damn itching. After reading all this nasty mess about steroids, I stopped using them. I had already chosen not to refill my prescription for the anti-histamine I was on…that too focuses on symptom control. So, what do we have left? Ah, yes, my sun bed, my UVB rays. For severe cases, artificial light is used to shut down overactive immune cells in the skin, again, addressing the result of an immune reaction, not the cause. On Wednesday, I was 12 treatments into a 21-treatment program. The side effects here are sunburn (owww!), more itching in some patients (me!), premature ageing, and increased risk of skin cancer. None of these treatments/medicines are guaranteed to stop the itching. You roll the dice but mostly crap out with the debilitating effects of drugs that treat symptoms.

I searched the internet for natural ways to deal with eczema. I read many accounts of patients who suffered their whole life with eczema, went through all the treatments but only found relief when using homeopathic methods. Hello, what's this? Homeopathy to traditional medicine is like modern-day voodoo, they consider it a joke. Hey, I like jokes, jokes make me laugh. Besides, I’m at a point where I would stick a candle up my ass, sacrifice a lamb or something to get me feeling right again.

Monday, I went to a homeopathic store that happens to be around the corner from where I’m staying. The lady there was so nice and concerned; she asked me more questions than my doctors. She also referred me to a homeopathic-type center that was a ten-minute walk away (I love this neighborhood). I walked over to IMC (Integraal Medisch Centrum) to have a kijk (look). Again, I was met with a friendly and helpful person (rare in these parts). The receptionist dude let me know of the free consultation hours held the very next day at 5pm; there I would be seen by an osteopath and a mesologist. I had no idea what they did but I had visions of high priests burning incense and shaking chicken bones over me…those visions didn’t bother me in the least.

From 5-6pm, every first Tuesday of the month, IMC allows patients to sign-up on a waiting list to be examined for free. I was there at 4:54pm. At 6pm, they saw their first patient (me!). I followed the two, a bad-hair-dyed lady mesologist and a damn fine, handsome male osteopath, upstairs to the office. The first thing I noticed, different than my other doctor visits, was the examining table, it was in the middle of the room and looked like it had actually been used recently. And wait, no desk with computer, but a table with chairs around it…hmmm. It was wonderful. They asked me loads of questions (based on a questionnaire I’d filled out earlier), showed shock and concern at what my previous doctors diagnosed and collaborated thoughtfully with each other. And then, do you know what they did? They told me to get on the examining table. WHAT?!??!?!?!?! Me? Really? I felt I just won the Miss You Get To Be Touched By Your Doctor pageant. I jumped on that table so damn fast you’d think it was a bed with a strapping 24 year-old Russian lad waiting in it…they told me to take my shoes off and lay on my back (much like what I’d hope the Russian would say).

The beautiful osteopath dude sat in a chair behind my head and gently cupped my head in his soft, wonderful fingertips. It felt so damn good, I was surprised. I realized it had been ages since last I was touched and I was desperate for it. I almost didn’t notice the lady mesologist and her weirdo instruments. I had to hold, in my right hand, this metal cylinder tube with wire attached while she sort of prodded my left hand at discreet points with another metal rod thing. When she touched each point, I heard a 50’s-esque, tune-in-Tokyo radio type sound that was totally ridiculous. No matter, my boyfriend, the osteopath, was now pressing down on my abdomen with his strong, capable hands. The mesologist put the metal cylinder in my other hand and repeated while my husband stayed focused on my abdomen…I didn’t want it to end.

But it did. and when it did, this is the story they fed me: I had lost a lot of weight fairly quickly, my fat tissue stored loads of toxins, those toxins were being released at a rate my kidneys couldn’t keep up with so my immune system was dumping out through my skin. I don’t actually have eczema. I’m not saying they are right, but I believed they believed they were right. They also addressed the interconnectedness of things; where my dermatologist disregarded the swelling I had experienced as out of his realm, these guys offered that it was a reaction to my immune system taking out the garbage. They also said something about my kidney being repositioned and out of wack due to the weight loss. They went into more detail but I can’t remember it all, I was just so pleased to be presented with an alternative. They told me to drink a liter and a half of water per day, stay away from chocolate (NOOOOO!!!!!) and refined sugar and come back for an osteopathic session (with my beloved?). I thanked them profusely, like they were the pope, and departed with a grande sourire.

I drink AT LEAST a liter and a half of water every day. I haven’t eaten chocolate since. I checked on the internet about this refined sugar thing. I was appalled. Very few things make me militant and want to start a revolution…I like laughing, dancing and cute boys. I had no idea about how the sugar industry had been pushing this poison on the human race for years. Basically, refined sugar (i.e. white sugar) is a complex carbohydrate, VOID of any nutrients, our bodies are not adept to deal with. It’s a poison our bodies have to work with and suffer from daily. It’s used as a preservative and therefore found in just about EVERYTHING. Do a Google, find out more, but please STAY AWAY FROM REFINED SUGARS.

In Which Trista Gets Pummelled

The repositioning
Oh my god I can’t believe it, I think Spring is here. Amsterdam Spring mind you. I’m sitting in Vondel Park under 4 layers of clothing and a moderately warm, bright sun (sipping on hot tea, no less). I have to type quickly, this might not last.

Friday morning, I had my appointment with the osteopaths. To cut costs, I agreed to be treated by students (always under the supervision of a…supervisor). These students were much more impressive than that other chic at the hospital; they looked older and they dressed nicer. Actually, these guys don’t wear those white lab coats I’ve be programmed to revere…I figure this makes them more approachable. I was seen by this little, cute chic Sascha and a typically bald Dutch dude Nils…the gorgeous osteopath from before wasn’t in sight. They went through a very thorough Q & A before they even touched me; what diseases, injuries, accidents I’ve had in my lifetime, what ails me now, how’s my mental health…I felt very important for them to be showing such concern.

And then came time for the exam. They told me to take my clothes off and get on the bed…not making any moves to leave the room. I’m shy and I’m used to doctors pulling the curtain or giving some sort of privacy. I stalled, taking my shoes of slowly, ‘do you want me to take off everything,’ like I was that cool with being naked in front of them. No, I was to keep bra and panties on (phew!)…I got over it, I didn’t go there to be shy and stupid, I went to get healed!

Sascha instructed me to stand with my back facing her, Nils was at the desk taking notes when she blurted something in Dutch at him. Sascha explained our bodies have fluid and organs moving around at all times and that by placing her hands in strategic places or shifting my body this way or that, she could determine whether everything was flowing in the right direction, with the correct motility and whether the organs were in their proper places. I have to admit, it looked pretty silly, like when the evangelists put their hands on your forehead and smack you down with the power of the lord…but less dramatic. An impression is in order here because it would be really easy to do…I couldn’t do an impression of, say, a triple bypass. None of this matters…I believed they believed in what they were doing; they were consulting and collaborating whenever they found something that struck them (Nils had a go at me too).

After about an hour, they left me to discuss treatment with their supervisor. They came back with the supervisor and he had a look-see too (I was very popular). The supervisor dude had clearly just smoked a cigarette and that didn’t go well with the whole holistic thing we had going. After final consideration, everyone agreed that my kidney needed repositioning. I love telling everyone, ‘I got my kidney repositioned,’ it gets a big laugh. The supervisor added that something was up with my pancreas and that I needed to eat every 2 hours (geen probleme!). I thought I’d have to come back to relocate my kidney but Sascha said that she’d be doing it right then.

The repositioning was the best bit; she was pushing down on my abdomen area and lifting my knee and pressing here and there, I wanted to laugh. I mean, how the hell do they teach each other this medicine? Again, I didn’t care, I spent 2 hours and 50 euro with them and felt far better than the 2 months (and 2000 euro!) with the quacks and their sun bed.

I drilled the osteopaths (psychopaths, we later dubbed them) more about this ‘no chocolate no sugar’ thing. Sascha had been off sugar for a couple of years now and Nils was just about weaned. Damn it! I was hoping they would tell me I was taking it too far and that I didn’t need to run scared from anything with an ‘ose’ in the ingredients (i.e. glucose). Ok, back to the reckoning…sorry, repositioning. Sascha completed her work and was pleased with the immediate results of whatever she had done; she had Nils come over for a look. He too marveled at the difference…in…kidney position (I guess). I nodded in agreement…I agreed they believed something had changed. While she was at it, Sascha also stimulated my kidney to help it do more work. This, she said, would probably make me more tired and possibly itch a bit more while my kidney sorted itself out. We made another appointment in a month’s time, just for a check up. I shook everyone’s hand like a proud immigrant who just passed he naturalization exam.

So, how do I feel? Better but, of course, I’m drinking at least 2 liters of water a day and staying completely away from sugar (except that found in alcohol)….that would do any body good.

In the beginning of the chocolate ban, I was plagued with nightmares about the sweet treat. They dreams subsided and I thought I was done with the choco-mares but last night I dreamt I ate chocolate cake and a muffin. Anytime I see anything processed I mutter ‘refined sugar’ in my head and envision a skull and crossbones. I want to take those green Mr. Yuck stickers from childhood and run through the supermarket tagging products. This behavior is annoying me…I feel like a tree hugger. I’m loosing a lot of vices with this ‘no sugar’ thing…that’s why I’m holding on, for dear life, to my pal alcohal.

© Trista Mrema May 2006

Link to the IMC Homeopathic Treatment Centre here (Dutch language)

Part One of 'The Treatment' here

Mother Africa
Trista Mrema discovering Arusha at election time

Part One of 'The Treatment' here

More Lifestyle Issues here


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