Saturday, April 04, 2009

To Cream or Not To Cream

Well I am officially diseased. Technically it may not be a disease, but its something with a name and I’ve got (because a doctor told me so). I’ve got Vitiligo. Some of you have known that for years, but this was the first time it has been told to me by a professional. Here is some background for the rest of you.

Ever since I can remember, I have had a migrating white spot. The first place I remember seeing it was my palm. Since then it has moved from there to the back of my hand, to a spot on my jawline, to my nostril, to under my chin, then it disappeared, and then reappeared on my other nostril. There may have been some that I missed, but typically I have had a spot and it stays put for a year or two. At times there have been no spots, and at others there have been two spots, all the while I had been mildly comfortable with it. Then recently the spot formed a new place on my neck (joining the one that was already on my nostril). This one worried me a bit, both because it was bigger than the previous spots and because I was sort of hoping that the spots were finally going away. Then I was feeling a bit panicky when a THIRD spot showed up on my jawline. One spot, ok, two spots, so be it, but three spots… something’s up. Around this time I saw my parents and after their many questions, I told them I would finally go see a dermatologist.

So in Houston, I look up a dermatologist and I go see the guy. As I sat in the waiting room, it became obvious that dermatology is 90% cosmetics (i.e. botox, collagen injections, wrinkle removal) and 10% medicinal where you actually cure somebody for something. Nevertheless, I walk into the office and talk to the doctor. The conversation goes something like:

Me: I’ve got spots and they move.
Doc: Interesting
Me: See here are the ones that are here now.
Doc: Oh yes, I see.
Me: I have been paranoid and done some research on my own. I think its Vitiligo.
Doc: [Shines a light on my face] Yep, that’s exactly what you’ve got. A mild form of it.
Me: Alrighty.

So he prescribes me some creams and sends me on my way. He basically reaffirms what my research had already told me, that doctors have no idea why Vitiligo happens and that there is really no effective cure. The creams rarely help but they are worth a shot.

As I leave the office with my prescription and samples, I began to realize that I am unsure if I want to use the creams or not. Which brings us to the question: to cream or not to cream? Let’s begin.

To Cream:

This is the easy argument to make. People typically want their bodies to work normally, and having spots of depigmentation is just not the way the body is supposed to work. Although there are no health issues with pigmentation loss, there are certainly cosmetic issues. White spots on a black person is not exactly flattering. My spots now are small and mostly out of the way, but there is no telling whether they would stay that way. Basically, if I want to get rid of these spots (and look completely normal) I should try the cream.

Not to Cream:

Maybe I don’t want to get rid of the spots. Don’t get me wrong, the spots make me very self-conscious (seeing someone and waiting for the inevitable, “what happened to your neck”) and I particularly worry about the unpredictability of them (what if I turn into MJ who claims vitiligo turned him white? Or worse, what if I end up half and half?). But is being a little scared or self-conscious a bad thing? It could very well be an opportunity, both to become more at peace with who I am and to deal with adversity. To be honest, I have never really used my good looks to their full advantage (I never was much of a player and I usually dress so poorly that no one quite looks long enough to tell if I am attractive), so losing them would not be so bad. More importantly is the fact that the people that matter to me in life would not really care. My family, my good friends and potentially a wife (depending on why she is with me) would love me for me and not because I am of one solid color, so there would be no loss there. But so far, I have only described reasons why I would not be losing anything, now let me tell you what it is to gain. I would learn how to conquer a fear. I would learn to see the world in a different way, both by the new way I would be treated and in the way I would see imperfections in others. I would be forced to get over my vanity, because although I may not use my good looks I do take pride in them. Lastly, I would feel like I am not fighting fate. I was given this condition for a reason, so should I try and fight it? Though this argument falters when you remember that if it is meant to be, it will be (i.e. if I am supposed to have spots the cream will just not work). It boils down to this, can you go through life chasing perfection or an image of yourself that is only superficial? Does that not degrade the value of who you are on the inside, the part that really matters? I feel like a guy who is slowly going bald, or a girl who sees she is losing the battle against controlling her weight. At some point you have to accept that you are who you are, and you are beautiful despite whatever “condition” you are afflicted with. Learning to do that will let that balding man, or the fat girl, or the spotted man walk into any situation (high school reunions, beach parties, first dates) and feel good about themselves. Maybe this wishful thinking, but it’s definitely an experiment I would be willing to take.


I am actually writing this in retrospect. I had all the thoughts a week or two ago, and I am trying to recount them now. In that week or two I decided I would use the stupid medicine, and actually got myself to start it this morning. So now that I have creamed, do I think I am giving in to vanity or fear. Yes and no. In those weeks I definitely realized that I will be okay with whatever happens but that it was silly to try and remove that fear of uncertainty. I just have to work with the fear, accept it, and move on (see Dune’s Litany Against Fear). While I will be ok with whatever happens, I do have the selfish desire to remain the pretty person that I am.

When I looked in the mirror the other day, and fretted over these inconvenient spots, I had a small daydream. Some guardian angel appeared with a big red button in his hand. He says “Push this button, and I will cure you of these spots forever” and immediately my hand goes for the button. But at the last minute I pause, and that’s where the story ends.

PS: I only will accept positive comments as I am still sensitive about the subject. That includes not saying things like “bummer” (Chisom!).


Blogger oogie said...

Oops. That "Bummer" comment was said in the driest possible tone, in the manner of "such is life, let's keep it moving". And you know, I really stand by that sentiment. Speaking as a friend, this doesn't change anything (Anthony before Vitiligo = Anthony after Vitiligo). BUT, we do tend to be our own greatest critics, so placing myself in your shoes, I can empathize. So I am sorry for making you feel bad with the bummer comment.

In a way, you're going through what all of us will go through as we age and our bodies start to fail us/go to the devil: You will battle with your vanity as well as having to accept that there's absolutely nothing you can do. And you know, it never mattered what you chose, for in the end you would be a wiser and better person for the experience :) Just think of this as a head start!

2:28 PM  
Blogger Tatamwari said...

You're a drama queen. This comment can be used in conjunction with the sauna post as well. ("Trauma"? Really?)

4:05 PM  
Blogger CJ Nichol said...

I say keep the spots... you should want your beauty to be accessible...without the spots, you're too intimidating :)

Give us not so pretty people a chance! Besides, if you're too pretty then all you will attract are pretty, dumb women.

Just a thought/theory.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Anthony Jackson said...

hooray, my ego has been sufficiantly re-inflated

4:25 AM  
Blogger Almas Kiran Shamim said...

Hey anthony :)
hope you are doin well. . . :) this is one of the best posts i have read in a long time. . . I was following the google searches that brought people to my blog. . And one of those was on vitiligo. . . In that search page. . . I found your blog .
well, am Almas, indian. . So have quite a pigmented skin. . I had two tiny white spots from as long as i can remember. . . But i thot twas a birth mark or somethin. . . Then in 2001 i got my vitiligo patch. . . On my nose bridge . . Centre of my face. . . . I was a 13 year old gal so you can imagine, twas tough for me. . . I went into a depression, kind of depression. . I stopped goin places. . . And yes, i started eating and so gainin weight. I took treatment too, but am not really a believer in medicine. . .
i believe in the Will of God. . And know that whatever God does has a meaning, a reason, a purpose. . Maybe we dont understand it, but the purpose is always there. . . I learnt to be comfortable with this gift from God, which has made me a stronger person. . ,
the turning point was when my mummy sent me to a beauty parlour and told the lady there (without tellin me) that i should be given some creams to camouflage it . . . It was then i decided that i wont do this to myself, i wont fight God. . . I love myself, and so do people who matter to me, and so does God. . . That was all i needed :)
today , im happy. . . And when someone asks me whats on my nose. . . It takes a moment to realize what they are talkin bout. . .
so my brother. . . Good going. . :) tc. . . god bless

8:40 AM  

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