Strong Independent Woman That Don’t Need No Armpits (Part 4)
Editor’s note: This post contains graphic images of Selina’s armpits before and after her surgeries.
Hey you! Welcome back! You have no idea how excited I am that you decided to read all four parts of my Hidradenitis tale. This part (spoiler alert) has a slightly happy ending so y’all can look forward to that!
At this point, I felt so defeated and my depression was getting worse. It was starting to hurt so badly to move both my arms and it was again starting to hurt to walk because of the feeling of my footsteps going straight to my armpits. I decided I couldn’t go back to that PCP and needed a new one. At this time, I was also luckily under new insurance so I had more options for PCPs to choose from. This time, I did my research and chose one and it was one of the best things I’ve done for my Hidradenitis.
Feeling more at ease
I went into her office thinking I would ask if she knew any good dermatologists and also of any solutions to try in the meantime until I can see the dermatologist. When I saw her, she too said she wanted to give me a full physical, but made sure to look at my armpits right away and ask me questions about them. I already felt a lot more at ease.
After the physical, she said she knew the perfect general surgeon to refer me to and my heart literally sank. I didn’t want to see a general surgeon! I wanted a dermatologist! The last time this exact thing happened, I was butchered! I wanted to cry.
She saw that I looked uneasy and she explained to me that he’s the perfect doctor for Hidradenitis Suppurativa and has experience with it. She said that he will definitely help me feel better.
I was hesitant, but this experience was so much better than the last one. I trusted her, and this was the best thing I could’ve ever done for my HS.
Enter: Dr. Homeboy
I scheduled an appointment with whom I will refer to as my Lord and Savior, Dr. Homeboy (or Dr. H for short). From the start, Dr. H was kind, gentle, knowledgeable, and actually cared. When he saw my armpits for the first time and how much pain I was in, you saw in his face how upset it made him. He made sure I knew everything that was going to happen before and after surgery and he wanted a plastic surgeon to be a part of it so my armpits wouldn’t look butchered afterward (!!!). He explained that he would be opening up my armpits to remove the HS sinus tracts that formed underneath the skin, along with my hair follicles, sweat glands, and lymph nodes. He explained to me these were what kept getting infected and causing me flares. He said after he was done removing these, the plastic surgeon would remove the damaged skin and rearrange the healthy tissue to try and “remake” an armpit. He said he wanted to perform surgery on one armpit at a time and that was fine with me after the last experience! This whole shebang sounded horrifying, but I trusted him and as long as I wasn’t awake, let’s give it a go!
Within 2 weeks, I was laying on the operating table. This time, the nurse got my IV in on the first try and I was already feeling calmer. When Dr. H walked into the OR (which was playing Michael Jackson which had the nurses already in there dancing along to the music), I looked up at him and asked him if he was going to shave me when I was awake? He looked shocked and asked me why he would ever do it when I was still awake and could feel it? Right answer, Doc. Right answer.
Eternally grateful for Dr. Homeboy
Dr. H and a plastic surgeon performed each armpit surgery a month apart. These surgeries were in the summer of 2018. Under my left armpit, I have flared maybe 3-4 times since. In my right armpit, I haven’t flared at all. I am so eternally grateful for Dr. H. He is the homeboy of the century.
Like I said above, I still have gotten flares in my surgery spot and also sporadically in my groin, on my face, and on my butt. When I get bad flares that start getting too painful, I call Dr. H and he opens, lances, and packs them right in his office within a few days of my call. He actually numbs the area completely and even if I start getting sad and scared, he has one of the nurse practitioners come in to hold my hand and distract me as he’s working on me.
There was one time I called his office just to ask a question and when I said who I was, the receptionist said, “Oh yes! I know exactly who you are. I feel so bad for you every time you come in!” So I mean there’s that, right?
While this is the end of the article, this isn’t the end of my Hidradenitis tale. Even with the 3 surgeries, I still live with this disease and suffer from painful flares. Hidradenitis is a lot of trial and error and hopefully, we can bring awareness to this disease so we can get more answers and hopefully make it a little easier. I was undiagnosed for over 5 years. I truly never want anyone to have to live with the pain, curiosity, and suffering that I did during those years. I also truly hope one day they’ll be a cure so no one has to deal with it at all.
What's in your self-care toolkit? (Choose all that apply)