TSW: "The Last Dance" Of Eczema

This just in: Eczema is SERIOUS.

During the final two ESPN episodes of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls documentary, “The Last Dance.” I could not help but compare his battle for his sixth ring to TSW

Misconceptions about eczema

A National Basketball Association commentator once sarcastically announced, “This just in: Michael Jordan is human” after making a few mistakes on the court. I couldn’t help but connect this disbelief to what many, even patients, have that eczema could seriously threaten your life. People have set ways of looking at common patterns, leading to many wrong assumptions.

Eczema is always serious

Multiple mistakes in the arena MJ long dominated was an impossible thought, leading to the obnoxious statement of his being human. Similarly, eczema, well-known as a skin disease with no impact on non-surface areas of the body led many of us to believe that it is not that serious - and it could never kill you. But... this just in, eczema regardless of its severity is always serious. So is the use of topical steroid creams.

Finding inspiration

Finding inspiration is very important when facing trials such as severe eczema flares, or debilitating illnesses like topical steroid withdrawal (TSW) which heightens your eczema suffering to its greatest extremes.  One thing that I find helpful in making sense of my own two-year experience is connecting the suffering to more socially relatable pains and sicknesses.

Michael Jordan pushing through food poisoning

Jordan was struck with a mystery illness that appeared to be the flu during the championship playoffs. This was actually food poisoning, not the flu, maliciously given to him by fans of the Chicago Bulls opposing team. Jordan was now faced with an insurmountable task to lead his team to victory. His body gave signs of complete failure, but he muscled through the intensity, pulling from a will to win. His mind would carry him through way more than his physical body could.

The mind-body connection

With chronic asthma and eczema in my life, it was always a game of survival. When your body fails, then a strong mind is all you have to win. All-star teammate of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen said about Jordan, “A lot of times when you're sick, you're able to find something deep down inside that you didn't know was there." There was nothing that MJ wanted more than to advance to the next round towards a championship. Likewise, when we are deteriorating and there is nothing more that you want than to survive and go back to living your normal life, you dig as deep as you can. A strong mind will not allow your body to quit.

Fighting against TSW

Don't give up!

Fast forward to Jordan’s sixth championship with all the trials and hardships on and off-court. Jordan’s celebratory words spoke volumes, “I had faith. I never gave up. Even when it wasn’t looking up for us, I never gave up!   ...Y’all can say whatever you want. They can’t win until we quit!” Faith and belief of healing are key when dealing with TSW or unbearable eczema flares. MJ says, “It started with hope.” That is exactly what surviving TSW is about, first having hope you will win this fight, then sustaining a mental reasoning within, emotional intelligence beyond the pain of the moment.

Never giving up

Jordan was fighting against the simple science of his aging body for his “last dance” before retirement. He tapped into his mind way more than his physical ability in order to win and not give up. When giving advice to current TSW sufferers, my ultimate message always sums up to the simple words, "Don’t Give Up!" You will ultimately have your own personal championship, appreciating life in brand new ways, knowing your true strength mentally and physically.

Starting a new life: Processing TSW

Once the dust settles on your new high of health and being back on top again, it is important to digest all you went through, to limit the post-traumatic effects of fighting for your life. “The Last Dance” documentary ended with teammates and coaches leaving the Chicago Bulls dynasty franchise, doing an exercise to process their grief from this new loss of togetherness. Just like these players still played the game of basketball after that huge part of their story, the core of the great beast of TSW, which is eczema, will hang around.

Writing to process my experiences

One year post-TSW, still with lingering marks to heal

There will still be ups and downs. You will still have to manage life around eczema, but the trauma is, or will be over.  This is a positive thing for us compared to the Chicago Bulls’ grief, but it is still necessary to process that a precedence in your life has changed. The team was instructed to write down their emotions and then burn the letters. Writing has been a major assist in processing what I went through with TSW.

Winning the battle against TSW

It brings me great understanding and peace, also joy to share my point of view with others suffering similarly. I end this article with MJ’s words, summarizing my love note to winning the battle of TSW, “Thanks for the past. Enjoy the moment. Let’s end it right.”

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