Warning: I’m gross.
At some point in my life – and I really can’t recall when this started – I became an uber-sweater. It’s normal to sweat. It’s your body’s way of cooling itself off. It’s a function that’s necessary for you to survive. What isn’t normal is to sweat profusely from your hands, armpits and feet when you’re sitting inside a room that is also cold. It’s not normal to drip sweat from your hands at all times. It’s not normal to be able to fill a bucket with your sweat on an hourly basis.
Okay, that last one was a bit of an exaggeration…but you get it.
At about age 10 my mom started taking me to the dermatologist to get this treated. I was given cream after cream, soak after soak, treatment after treatment. Nothing worked.
Then the doctor suggested a trusted beauty tip from the stars: Botox! Doesn’t the idea of injecting botulism into your body sound like a healthy and smart way to go about life? Especially at the ripe age of 15? Yeah! It did to me!
I went through about 4 or 5 rounds of botox injections under my armpits before we realized it just was NOT working. I was still sweating. I was still a pariah. Or something less dramatic…
I wore all black or all white to try to make it less obvious that I was sweating constantly. I NEVER held hands with anyone. I never high fived anyone (except for Erin…we have a secret handshake based on this, actually…) I never could wear flip flops (even in the summer) because the sweat would pool and I’d slide out of them…imagine walking through rain puddles in those little $3 Old Navy flip flops constantly. It was frustrating – at the very least – and so embarrassing, but it was livable…basically.
Then one day I read an article in a magazine (possibly Cosmopolitan circa early 2003) where a woman had the same problem. She was always scared she’d slide out of a flip flop or down a tiled stair and get injured and it was worse when she got pregnant and then had kids. The fear was real and constant and immensely helpful to me.
My mom and I began talking about getting the same surgery this woman had done in order to stop the sweating: a sympathectomy.
The procedure isolates the sympathetic nerves in your back that carry the signal from your brain to your arms and cuts it in half. The procedure is highly effective at stopping hyperhydrosis – the real name for being a sweaty gross mess beyond any normal recognition – in the arm pits and hands and is 50% effective at also stopping the sweating of the feet. I also learned I had Raynaud’s… learn about it. There’s an episode of Grey’s Anatomy that covers this “illness.”
My mom found me the best two doctors for this and I met with them both and chose the one I felt most comfortable with and in December 2003, I did it. I voluntarily went under the knife to make my life better – emotionally.
If you’ll recall from this earlier post, I do not do anesthesia well. I learned that little tidbit about me from my sympathectomy procedure. I let them put the IV into my arm – no problem. I let them give me antibiotics through the IV (because I’m allergic to sulfa drugs they were testing it out before I was under to make sure I’d handle the antibiotics well…I did) – no problem. Then the anesthesiologist went to put “relaxing drugs” in my IV to pre-knock me out.
And I punched my anesthesiologist.
I do not remember doing it. I had a category 5 (second time using that phrase today, by the way) panic attack. My first one ever. Yay for firsts!
After they closed all the doors on my floor so I would stop scaring the fuck out of everyone else at the hospital, my mom made an attempt to calm me down. I reluctantly allowed them to give me “relaxing drugs.”
NEVER argue when someone wants to give you relaxing drugs. That shit is GOLD.
I woke up (some 4+ hours later) freezing cold, with some difficulty breathing, in a very bright white room where everything was blurry due to my lack of contacts or glasses.
They moved me to my room once I confirmed with the nurses that I was in fact alive and not in heaven somewhere and when I had had enough of “on a scale of 1-10, how is your pain?”
I was given a breathing machine thingy – you know the one with the ball that you have to get up to the top and then keep it there as you inhale “deeply?” Apparently to get to my spinal column they went through my sides, deflated my lungs one at a time, cut the nerves and clamped them, and then re-inflated me. Relearning to breathe is hard, you guys.
Eventually the doctor came in to tell me the procedure was considered successful. I was not, however, in the 50% of people whose feet respond to this procedure, but they were better. This was fine with me. Then my doctor shook my hand and left the room.
I lost my shit. I cried. A lot. My first handshake.
Then I cried in pain because the crying hurt my lungs like woah.
Now I sweat like a normal human being… you know, like when I am being athletic or when I am warm.
But I still do my sweaty-hands-handshake with Erin, because sometimes it’s nice to remember where you came from…