By Monica Wilcox
Dads and moms
Some fathers bring the gift of rule-stretching to their parenting: sneaking out for an ice cream before dinner, showing PG-13 movies if they feature hyper-space, sending the kids off to the park with a box of Twinkies and a four pack of Monsters. This conveniently elevates fathers into the “nice guy” role. But women, especially mothers, bring their own gifts. One of which is an intuition so acute the brokers on Wall Street dream of possessing it; preferably in a handy pocket inhaler.
At two months old my son developed a single, quarter-sized psoriasis patch on his cheek. If we didn’t cream it regularly it would crack like drying mud and bleed. When we moved from the dry climate of Colorado to the humid hill country of Texas the spot disappeared. We thought our days of psoriasis had come to an end.
One month before he entered his Kindergarten classroom it returned with a ferocious hunger, working its way over his skin like an oil spill over a naked coast. It circled his ankles, climbed over his backside, bubbled across his shins and forearms. We soaked the boy in so much Vaseline we could have safely floated him from Corpus to Cuba, but the crusty patches continued to spread across his body.
The worst was his scalp. I’d pull apart his thick sandy hair to find what looked like the flesh of a carp after a few days on a sunny bank. If I scraped at it, a thick layer would peel back revealing the tender blood fed inner layers of his skin. It took six weeks from that first blemish until he had spots puckered along his eyelids.
Of course we took him to his pediatrician, who immediately diagnosed it as psoriasis, prescribed two creams; one for the tender skin and one that was supposed to sandblast the spots from his body. He gave us the current medical rigamarole: drink lots of water, bath as little as possible and don’t use harsh soap. He assured us everything would be much better when summer returned and the long hours of sun exposure would force his outbreaks to consistently peel. Long hours in the sun? Were we jumping from the rooftop of psoriasis onto a truck bed of skin cancer?
We came home with a slim $300 tube of western medicine to begin the nightly routine of dabbing cream on a hundred sores. It was a thirty minute process and although it only cleared up 50% of them, I will say the boy learned a great deal of patience that winter. In February the school nurse called to ask why I was sending my child to school with chicken pox.
Summer came but the psoriasis stayed. An alarm began to go off in my gut; my intuition was churning. There were large portions of his arms and legs we could not clear up no matter what we tried. He was becoming self conscious of the way it looked and I began to wonder who was going to apply cream to his unreachable areas when he went to college. I also became concerned how the steroid in the prescriptive cream would impact his health over time. A life time of steroid cream sounded as promising as intense sun exposure.
So I took him to my dermatologist, who confirmed the diagnosis and the cream we were using. She offered us one other option: regular visits to a non-UV sunbed. This would alleviate the psoriasis but not cure it. The cream was starting to look affordable.
My intuition went from a drone to a scream. I started talking to other parents who had a child suffering from psoriasis only to find families as frustrated as ours. One exhausted mother, on her doctor’s advice, was giving her daughter a bleach bath twice a day to alleviate any bacteria irritating the sores.
I was unwilling to accept a lifetime of steroids and embarrassment for my son without a fight. Why did I think there was a fight to be had; a possibility of trumping a “genetic” skin disorder? Because try as it might, logic will never get past the intuition bouncer at club motherhood.
I kept turning back to the beginning. Why had he gone from absolutely healthy to a mistaken case of small pox in a few weeks? Could this possibly be a food allergy? Could it be a reaction to the stress of starting school? I decided the least I could do for him was open my own little investigation. I made an appointment with the central Texas pediatric dermatologist (a nine-month waiting list) who kindly informed me they had never heard of a food allergy connection.
My intuition had climbed up onto its high-horse and there was no pulling it down. It was yelling at me now, telling me it was foolish to wait nine months to meet the specialist while other avenues could be looked into. But where to turn? A nutritionist? Acupuncture? A herbalist?
Once you’ve stepped beyond the proverbial “medical box” you find there is quite a bit of room for exploration. I decided to make an appointment with Alyssa Alvord, a psychic medium, who came highly recommended and has an outstanding reputation. I’d pay $90 for a seat in the specialist’s office, so why not spend $70 for a bit of guidance in this new territory?
After I briefly explained to Alyssa how the psoriasis had exploded before kindergarten, she asked simply “What happened to his bed around this time?” I had been prepared for “whey allergy” or “emotional stress” but this question threw me. I explained that there had been no change to his bed but we had relocated it into a new home that July. “It’s the new carpet.” She stated, without validating that, yes, in fact we had installed new carpet. “Specifically, it’s the formaldehyde fuming off the backing of the carpet. Anything with formaldehyde: shampoo, detergent, dryer sheets, will inflame his system until he reaches an intolerance level which will trigger the psoriasis.” Alyssa went on to tell me exactly which store I needed to go to purchase an eco-safe carpet sealer and how to go about applying it.
Labor of love
I had a choice. I could either sacrifice my back to a full day of hand brushing this clear gel over my carpet or I could wait months to see what the medical specialist thought. It came down to this: If he was allergic to formaldehyde I could save him years of discomfort, embarrassment and expense. Was it worth some hard labor to find out? If you’re a parent, you already know I was sweeping my upgraded new carpet with an oversized bristled broom two days later.
One week; that’s all it took to receive our answer. One week and 90% of his breakouts were gone, two weeks and only a few spots were left on his scalp. We haven’t used a prescriptive cream on his body since I sealed the carpet. We came full circle when the psoriasis began to creep back onto his shins again seven months later; the carpet sealant wears off after six months. By all accounts an environmental contaminate had triggered a physical reaction in my son’s skin. Even more amazing was the power of my intuition, which I believe is connected to the same spiritual energy as Alyssa’s. A woman’s gut should never be ignored.
The necessity of intuition
I contacted both dermatologists to inform them that it appeared formaldehyde had triggered my son’s psoriasis. Since neither had heard of any connection between psoriasis and environmental contaminants I was met with skeptical interest by one and total disqualification by the other. This was incredibly frustrating since I’ve met so many children over the last year suffering with this ailment who may be responding to the overexposure of a chemical in their own environment. I wasn’t asking our local doctors to hold a press conference but I was hoping they would consider the possibility with their other patients.
As our environment becomes more entrenched with chemicals and higher levels of pollen, wouldn’t it be wise to question the body’s ability to handle exposure to these contaminants? If these concerns are not addressed by the medical profession than maybe they should be pushed by the intuition of millions of women.
Children have a strong intuition but do not possess the knowledge or language to follow it. This makes the intuition of their parents even more critical. Shouldn’t we stand as the primary expert of our child’s health? Shouldn’t we stand as the expert of our own health? When our gut begins to scream do we feel confidant enough to step up as a health advocate, and if need be, to go beyond the assumptions of western medicine for an explanation in the unproven?
Trusting my gut,