I never really knew much about eczema growing up. The most I had ever been exposed to eczema was by watching my younger sister battle with itchy, red skin in the folds of her arms and legs.
I didn’t understand what she was going through. I would constantly tell her to stop scratching … as if she could control it. Little did I know that I would get to know eczema personally.
It all began about five years ago when I found out I was expecting my third child and first son. I should have been glowing, but instead I began to have a dry, red patch on my upper lip.
There was no moisturizer or product that I could use to make it go away. The more I attempted to make it go away, the more irritated and flaming red it got.
I was so embarrassed because at that time I was working for a well-known professional beauty product distributor. Having to work in an environment where your external appearance is so harshly judged was draining.
The beauty industry is all about beauty, and with my new friend eczema, it made it impossible for me to go about my day without feeling ashamed.
I recall working a beauty show one weekend and being asked incessantly what was wrong with my lip. Some asked if I had just waxed my upper lip. I took multiple trips to the bathroom to reapply Vaseline and makeup, but nothing helped.
It all took an emotional toll. I had always been confident, outgoing and loved my career. I had so many goals that I had yet to accomplish, but I no longer had confidence and cried all the time.
Eczema’s impact on my pregnancy
I felt guilty for thinking that maybe carrying a boy just didn’t sit well with my body. After all, I hadn’t experienced any of this with my two previous pregnancies and both were girls. I was depressed, but afraid to share that at my obstetrician visits for fear of being judged.
The stress of having to work looking the way I did led to anxiety and high blood pressure. I saw numerous dermatologists, but there was very little they could do since I was pregnant. I eventually was told I had preeclampsia, a pregnancy condition characterized by high blood pressure, and put on bed rest.
In a sense it was a relief to not have to see my colleagues or other beauty professionals anymore. I ended up never going back. I stepped away from my career and became a stay-at-home mom. The eczema slowly began to disappear, but it was never fully gone. It would appear randomly making my entire face red and swollen.
Taking a shower hurt my skin. My back was so scabby from all the scratching. I began seeking medical help again and had some biopsies done. I was put on topical and oral steroids, and although it didn’t make it go away, it did give me some temporary relief.
Finding solace in motherhood
The next couple of years went by, and I was never the same. I was quiet, reserved and did my best to avoid any gatherings with friends and family.
My only safe place was in my home where my kids made me forget what I looked like. They didn’t mind my gooey face or disfigured features from the swelling. To them I was just “Mom.”
It broke my heart to not be able to just hug and kiss them freely because my face was always lathered with steroids and I didn’t want to get it on them.
In 2016, I was expecting our fourth child – another boy. With that came the fear of not knowing how my eczema would react. My skin was much worse this time around. My whole face would be red and weeping.
It hurt to lay my head on a pillow, it felt hot to the touch, and my arms were all scabby. I was like a snake shedding skin everywhere. If I scratched, my nails would be filled with the skin. It was disgusting.
A doctor told me I needed an allergy test, and the results were that I am pretty much allergic to everything: seasonal, dander, dust mites, dyes, fragrance, etc.
He told me dust mites were a huge contributor to my skin issues, so my husband had all our carpeting pulled out. He hired a company to test the air quality in our home and had all the vents cleaned and purified.
We bought dust mite covers for all the pillows and mattresses. Unfortunately, none of it made much difference.
The commercial that changed my life
Then, one day, my daughters came running into the room. They had seen a commercial for Dupixent and thought I should try it. I brought it up at my next dermatologist, and sooner than later, I had it in my hands.
I was so scared to do the injection, but the thought of feeling free of the redness and itchiness overcame the fear.
I didn’t see a huge improvement with the loading dose, but my dermatologist assured me that everyone is different and to give it some time. Over the next few months, I was blown away by the results.
I was no longer looking in the mirror every five minutes to see how bad it was. The sadness began to disappear. I found a new desire to live life and make up for the time that I had missed out with family and friends.
I am so grateful for Dupixent and so blessed that my daughters saw that commercial. I believe there is something to take away from all of this. My faith is so much stronger, and I learned to break away from what society deems as acceptable or worthy of beauty.
Today, I love myself for me and for not giving up. That’s why I decided to share my story for those who may feel like there is no hope.
I understand your pain, your struggle and your insecurities. The answer to your eczema may or may not be Dupixent, but what I do know is that you can’t give up!
Wendy Chacon is a part-time cosmetologist who has been living with eczema for five-and-a-half years. She is a home-schooling mom to four beautiful children and currently resides with her family in Romeoville, Illinois.
Share your story with NEA!
Send written submissions to email@example.com