Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sick Girl Steppin’ Out

I think, especially at this age, there is an inherent need, even when ill, to attempt to keep things as normal as possible; to attempt to live the life that any other twenty-something would be living. For me, this means being able to do all the things my girlfriends do, and not have to give a second thought to it. But leave it to illness, there’s always something there to remind me…

It’s rare that I treat myself to being pampered. And it’s rare that I talk about the “lighter” side of illness. And since I got sick, it is an even rarer occurrence for me to put a lot of effort into my appearance, unless I have a reason to do so. Maybe my friends would say I’ve “let myself go.” And maybe I’ve got some issues to work through, but that’s not the point.

The point is, an interesting article was recently brought to my attention. I’m not even going to tell you what the article was about specifically. You can Google it. But the best line in the article is, “She [some doctor] advises people who have diabetes, chronic kidney or liver disease, skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis, or weakened immune systems to avoid waxing altogether.”

To be honest, I was a little stunned when I read this article, with it’s staunch warning to people with “weakened immune systems” (that is, unfortunately, me…). It isn’t something that would have ever crossed my mind. Why would anyone ever give a second thought to going to get a manicure, pedicure, or other salon/spa treatment? I’ve certainly heard of people getting fungal infections from unclean nail salons, but killer infections? Not so much.

I realized why this is. Sick people aren’t supposed to think about primping, let alone actually do it. It’s one thing if you’re a guest on Oprah and she rewards you with a day of luxury at a spa. It’s another to say, I’m going out of town this weekend and feel like getting a manicure and a pedicure. Or even to say, I feel like doing something nice and relaxing for myself today.

And the truth is, I’m not flexible enough to reach my toes, and my hands shake too much to really attempt a half-decent manicure on myself. So I’d rather shell out the money once in awhile to have it done by a professional…but certainly not at the expense of my health (what little I have of it, anyway).

And I’ll just go ahead and say it: I’m aware I have deformed toes. I have freakin’ arthritis people, get over it. (Now everywhere I go, everyone’s going to be looking at my feet) Oh well!

I’ve come to learn recently how important self-care can be, and no matter how selfish I may feel, that I have to be first on my list and treat myself well…or no one else will. But of course, leave it to illness to add another complication to this whole relaxation, self-care bit… I’m certainly not advocating that these kinds of activities, which might make us feel alive, human, “normal,” be thrown out the window. But…

My advice for the day? Unfortunately… Think before you primp. Because illness isn’t supposed to be fun, right? I think, in some ways, society still has yet to catch on to the fact that there are a hell of a lot of sick people in the country and the world who are attempting to live “normal” lives. There’s still that image of a “sick person” being unkempt, disheveled, miserable, and better kept out of sight, so as not to scare small children. Apparently, we’re never supposed to get out of bed in the morning, let alone get a little happy/fancy with ourselves...


  1. To them I say "bite me." I honestly don't see a problem with waxing unless you find it too painful-I don't see the harm in it for even cancer patients really (maybe if someone explained it to me?). My issues started out with a familial tremor. Not caused by anything and not meaning anything bad, but I shake a lot so I can't do my nails either and get lots of questions about it. I think you have to pamper yourself. There are so many other limits you have that there's no reason not to do it. I think about all the food I can't eat, the little range of things I can, and it's depressing. Things like pampering are good pick-me-ups for sickies. I mean, you can't dwell on it. I can't go out for drinks with girlfriends or enjoy a delicious meal (frankly, there aren't many delicious things with 4 grams of fat or less) or even eat butter. But I have to stay positive. So I treat myself to a pedicure sometimes because it makes my toes look pretty and I can't do it myself. I get my eyebrows waxed, and keep my hair nice. When you spend most of your time being sick or having flares, pampering is really a great way to take your mind off of it for a while. So rock your purple toes!

  2. Love the color hon! And I have to say that i'm considering a pedi for tomorrow myself. Some things make you feel more human, and give you a little boost, you know? I guess i'll try to do it until/unless I can't.

  3. You go, girl! I am the poster child for the t-shirt proclaiming, "This disease must do wonders for my appearance. Everyone keeps telling me how good I look!" Considering the fact that dizziness is not "visible," people often are unaware how miserable I'm feeling because I take the time to fix my hair, accessorize with jewelry, & (attempt to) keep my ever-present smile. Those of us with chronic illnesses feel bad enough about ourselves; if a little primping helps us feel better about ourselves, I say wholeheartedly, "Go for it!" :)

  4. I'm new to your blog, but I love reading it! This post struck a chord with me. I find I'm often too tired to do much with myself, but when I DO put a little extra time into my appearance, I feel so much better.

    I think it can be so rare that our bodies feel good that we forget there is more to them than illness. Treating ourselves to a little pampering can remind us that our bodies are still capable of more than pain.

  5. Leslie,

    I’m new to your blog but your honesty in this post really struck me. Many people I have spoken with who are living with RA have expressed the same feelings that have here and I agree with you - we have a long way to go in building public awareness of these conditions. That said, your efforts to educate and raise awareness through your blog are an important part in the process. Keep up the good work.



    Brian Kenney
    Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc.
    Corporate Communications

  6. Thanks, all, for your comments and encouragement!

  7. It really is hard to care for yourself while living with a chronic illness that over shadows so much of your life. I know I find it very hard some days just to look in the mirror. Its hard to even look past the illness. I'm working through it now. Recently, I had my hair cut short. Actually, Its been easier to care for and I can do more with it. Go figure.
    Chronic Chick Talk

  8. Never shave your legs before a pedi. You can end up with terrible fungal and bacterial infections - healthy, sick, green or blue. That is a no no. Your toes look great to me. One of my husbands had hammer toes, talk about ugly, and another had such bad fungus problems he was always losing his nails. Believe it or not soaks in salt water cured that. Your toes look just fine. Feet are not the greatest part of anyone's body except for little babies.
    As for sick people "primping' to me they are the ones who should primp and spoil themselves the most. But heh that is just me.