A woman waves off a hand presenting a steroid bottle.

My Doc Recommended Topical Steroids, Why I Said "No"

Grab some tea ladies and gents! It's storytime!

When a staph infection wasn’t healing around my mouth after a few weeks, I knew it was time to set up a doctor’s appointment. At this point, I had not been to the doctors for nearly two years because I was doing so well with my eczema and traveling monthly for work.

A snowstorm, wedding, and a staph infection

I remember the day like it was yesterday. The first week of December. It was about 20 degrees outside and New Jersey was in the middle of a snowstorm. Many businesses were either closing or about to close earlier than normal hours. I had just got back from my brother's wedding with my family, where I proudly wore a silver decked out mouth mask to match my outfit and protect the staph infection.

An impromptu doctor's appointment

I called up the doctor's office.

Receptionist: “We can take you for right now if you come in the next 20 minutes.”

Me: “I’m on my way.”

Dealing with the staph infection was becoming annoying at this point and I just wanted to smile and speak normally again, so I rushed out the door. Fortunately, I only lived 5 minutes away. It was so last minute that I ended up going with an entourage of people: my boyfriend, brother, and sister-in-law.

We were the only ones at the doctor's office beside the two receptionists and the doctor, so they took me in right away. My boyfriend came in with me for support.

A prescription of topical steroids

The doctor put some gloves on, examined the infection for about 5 seconds, took off her gloves, and said, “So it looks like you have some eczema combined in there with a staph infection. I can prescribe you antibiotics and topical steroids and that should clear it up in a few days.” My heart sank to my stomach. I hadn’t applied steroids onto my skin since 2014. I was bedridden from what I know to be TSW between 2014 and 2016. The LAST thing I wanted to do was apply topical steroids on my skin again.

Trying to avoid topical steroids

Humbly, I told her of my journey with topical steroids and TSW, and asked her if there was anything else she can give me besides topical steroids. Her answer: “No, that’s the only thing that will take it away.” Out of concern and verification, my boyfriend even jumped in to ask the doctor again, “Are you sure there’s nothing else she can do or take besides the steroids?”

“No, I’m sorry,” she replied with a sense of annoyance and urgency.

A tough decision to make

We ended up taking both prescriptions of the antibiotics and steroids to pick up at the pharmacy immediately after. This meant that I had about 5 minutes until we get to the pharmacy to decide if I wanted the steroid cream or not.

Weighing the pros and cons of topical steroids

Throughout the ride to the pharmacy, I was weighing out the pros and the cons. I kept thinking, "Do I really HAVE to apply steroids in order for this thing to go away? Or is there another way?"

Pros:

  • The staph will probably clear up much quicker than if I tried an alternative method.
  • I'll be able to smile and speak again without pain sooner than I can imagine. This would be so awesome!

Cons:

  • I'll be going against my own promise of only using steroids in an emergency (like "I'm-about-to-die") situation.
  • Will the staph infection re-occur after the steroids wear out?
  • Will using topical steroids spark my eczema to come back with a vengeance?

The final decision: Topical steroids or not?

Although I was close to desperate in just wanting the staph infection to clear up, my situation wasn't an emergency or an "I'm-about-to-die" type of case. The uncertainties of what would happen after I use the steroids caused me more fear. Sure I know it'll clear me up quickly, but what will happen afterward?

And most importantly, I remembered at that moment, why I chose TSW back in 2014. Why I chose to become bedridden. Why I went through all of those traumatic experiences during that time.

There's a choice in treatment

My answer was clear. "No, thank you topical steroids. I've been healing just fine without you for 6 years and I know I can heal without you from this too. Hope you understand."

...I fully healed a month later. :)

**NOTE: I share with you this story not to influence your decision to stray away from a particular drug that your doctor has prescribed you, but to understand that you have a choice. And whatever choice you choose, will be the right choice for you.

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