Ed's note to the Web reader:
started out as frustrated man's diary back in 1994. My psoriasis was worsening at
breakneck speed, I was disgruntled with my derms and p.o.'d about life in general.
Somehow, keeping the diary made me feel better about myself. It hastened that variety of
callous resolve that enables people to carry on in otherwise lose/lose situations. The
decision to turn it into something for public consumption didn't come until late 1995 and
the book finally hit the streets (so to speak) in the Fall of 1996.
[from:] "The Litany of Treatments"...
Intralesion Steroid Injections
After about two years and several thousand dollars worth
of potions and unguents, the usual waxing and waning of those lesions' activity, and some
enlargement of lesions, my derm finally decided to try direct intralesion injection of a
steroid. It worked almost overnight.
I thought I had been cured.
I was so ecstatic I wrote him a letter gushing with
thanksand in which I refrained from asking why he waited so long to share this
miracle cure with me.
I was nearly lesion-free for six weeks; felt like running
around town in my skivvies and shouting, "Hey people! Look at the beautiful skin on
this hunka-hunka-hunka man!"
The lesions were just beginning to redden again when it
was time for my next regularly scheduled visit to the derm. He thanked me for my kind
letter, expressed satisfaction with the way I had responded to the injections.
Then I blew it. "Doc, even my scalp stopped
flaking!" (There had been no injections into my scalp.)
Grinning stupidly, unaware of what was going on in my
derm's noggin, I went on: "And remember, you didn't inject my wrists or hands,
either." (He'd said there were too many blood vessels and nerves close to the surface
of the skin to "risk" intralesion injections in these areas.) "But look,
Doc! They cleared, too!"
I was so happy I could have kissed himor, well, more
likely the pretty nurse who was attending to me with him.
Doc and the nurse exchanged knowing glances. Finally, Doc
said, "Well, I guess we can't go doing that anymore."
I was flabbergasted. "Whatcha mean? It cured me for
six weeks! I'd gladly do the needles again. What's wrong?"
Then he explained to me that steroids can have very
sinister side effects if they spread beyond their intended area of the body. My scalp and
hands having cleared up indicated to himat least beyond a reasonable doubtthat
the steroid had spread throughout my body, or, as he called it, systematized.
"But gosh, Doc, I've had no side effects."
He said he was glad to hear that but, nonetheless, the
risks were too great.
I went home depressed all over again. Great! Here's the
one thing that works and I'm being cut off already.
He refused to give me any more intralesion injections for
six months. By that time I was flaming mightily. I had a business trip planned for the
east coast and was loathe to meet clients looking like a leper.
I went back to the derm and almost got down on my knees to
beg him for the injections. He sat there, reviewing my file and finally relenteda
little. He instructed the nurse to limit the injections to so-many CC's. "That won't
cover but maybe one arm and one leg," he said to me. "So I suggest you pick your
most egregious lesions and prioritize them; then we'll hit as many as we can within the
limits of this dosage."
Well, that was better than nothing. I picked the big ones
that were flaking the worst and drove me the most crazy with itching. There were twenty,
maybe thirty lesions that I would have liked to hit, but the prescribed dosage didn't get
us half that far.
Intralesion injections draw blood. Despite my limited
dosage, after fifteen minutes I was lying there in the examining room bleeding profusely.
Two nurses were dabbing at me with cotton balls. "Hold this one there.... Hold that
one over here.... You better wait a few minutes before you get dressed."
I evoked my Steven Segal voice and said, "Unless you
give me more dope, I'm going to run out into the receiving room and bleed all over your
For a moment they thought I was serious.
[from:] "The Litany of Treatments"...
I was in San Francisco, mixing business and pleasure,
having dinner with friendsa couple and their daughter. Somehow the subject of my
psoriasis came up.
"Have you tried acupuncture?" the lady of the
I admitted that I hadn't; never even thought about it, in
"You must see our Chinese doctor before you leave
I've since learned that Chinese and Western medicine are
formidably different and only now being seriously examined from a "comparative"
perspective. But at that moment in San Francisco I knew nothing and was more than willing
to experiment. You need a bit of background.
It was November 1994. I was coming off the biggest job of
my year. Nothing else of professional consequence was scheduled to happen to me that year.
My psoriasis was flaming. I was less than two months into a volatile separation from my
second wife. (In retrospect, I'm just glad these friends of mine hadn't recommended crack
cocaine. I was in the mood to try anything.)
One thing lead to another and the next morning I met the
Chinese doctor whom I'll call here Dr. Chung.
"I understand from our mutual friends that you have
psoriasis?" That's pretty much how Dr. Chung opened the conversation.
"That's right," I said. "Been having
problems with it for four or five years now."
"All right. Let me see the extent of its
I blinked a couple of times but finally figured out I was
being asked to strip, so I did.
"Oh my. Yes. We have a problem here."
Dr. Chung did a lot of "hmmm-ing" while
surveying my torso. The psoriatic lesions in the groin area were particularly
"Considerable sexual activity lately?" Dr. Chung
"Quite the contrary," I volunteered, wondering
if I should tell him about my wife's recent abandonment.
"Good," Dr. Chung offered. "Don't have sex
and don't eat shrimp."
Don't eat shrimp? Where the hell did that
"Okey dokey," I said. This was becoming quite
Dr. Chung dutifully noted that my problems went beyond the
psoriasis. "Major pathways in your body are blocked," the doctor said, "and
we must open them as first step."
I didn't then and don't now have the foggiest clue what a
"major pathway" is. But I knew I felt like hell, and that flaking was only the
surface of my problems (no pun intended). So I allowed the doctor to proceed to open my
major pathways "as a first step."
This involved sixteen needles, a maze of wires, and
something that looked to me like a Delco 12-volt car battery. Evidently,
"opening my major pathway" was going to require electro-shock therapy.
Once I had been stabbed and wired appropriately, the good
Doctor stepped away from my gurney to hum Chinese tunes and write my prescription for
future treatment. I lay there lurching every twenty seconds or so when the battery let
loose its volts into my needles hence into me. All the while I listened to the good Doctor
hum, wondering what prescription could take so long to write.
I also tried to sense whether or not my major pathway was
unclogging. I had this vision of an L.A. freeway on a Friday afternoon...
The prescriptionwritten in Chinese
characterswas for an herbal concoction. The good doctor took ten minutes to explain
to me, step-by-step, how to prepare my "tea." Problem was, I live in Kentucky
and the doctor's sources of herbs were in San Francisco.
"If you pay," the doctor told me, "they
I said "Sure." After all, I was sitting there on
the gurney, nearly buck naked, recently having had my major pathway cleared of traffic by
God knows how many doses of how many volts, and I was expecting a cure.
A week or so later, back at home in Lexington, the box of
herbs arrived. A box full of little sacks labeled "1," "2,"
"3," and so on. I referred to the notes Dr. Chung had given me. Oh yeah. Boil
water, add "1," boil for so many minutes, add "2," boil for so many
more minutes ... eventually it read, "steep" for so many minutes on low heat;
then, take off heat altogether. Let cool. Drink at room temperature. I did.... And then I
vomited until there was nothing more to throw up but pale yellow strands of bile.
I'm sorry, Dr. Chung, but what looked like dried sliced
mushrooms, bits of honeycomb, dead flowers, insect parts and ground bone meal did not do
me well. I went back to my room, sat on the edge of my bed, scratched my calves until the
psoriasis flakes formed little piles on the carpet next to my feet.
Oddly enough, I kept the little bags labeled
"1," "2," "3," and so on in my
recently-cleaned-out-by-former-wife cupboard for many months. Finally, a new main squeeze
happened to open the cupboard one evening and said something unpublishable.
Basically what she was getting at is that it didn't smell
I said, "Sorry, that's my herbal medicine."
She volunteered that herbs were much tastier when consumed
freshand then told me what she thought I should do with the not-so-fresh herbs I'd
been sent from San Francisco.
Subsequently, I followed her instructions.