Friday, August 04, 2006

Things You'll Wish I Hadn't Told You, But For Which You'll Thank Me Later*

So, here's a quick little story during my lunch break. A few of you might know about this all ready:
A couple of months ago I noticed a very painful lump in my right armpit. It hurt like a son of a gun. I thought it must have been an ingrown hair or something, so I (stupidly) ignored it and it went away. Then last month, just before vacation, the same thing. I talked to Andrew about it and decided if it came back again, I'd go to the doctor.
One can't be too careful about lumps, especially considering my family history: My mom died after fighting breast cancer 9 years ago.
So, this month, another painful lump, but in my left armpit. It hurt really, really bad. It started on Tuesday night. Wednesday morning I got up, called the office and said, "Sorry, I won't be in until I see my doctor this morning."
I marched myself down to the clinic where my doctor was on duty. After about an hour in the waiting room (being entertained by cranky toddlers, a man with a bloody bandaged hand and Mr. Happy, who was falling asleep in the chair beside me) I got in to see the doctor. I'd like to preface this story by saying that my doctor has a weird sense of humour. It makes visits with him very interesting.
I described the situation, how the lumps had come back and were painful, etc. He felt it and asked,
"Do you wear antiperspirant?"
Me: Um, yeah.
Doc: Do you work out?
Me: Well, no, but I commute to work on my bicycle.
Doc: You need to sweat. You've got an inflamed sweat gland. No more antiperspirant. No one cares if you smell while you're working out! And shaving under your arms is aggravating it.
Me: *shock* It's a sweat gland?
Doc: Yes.
Me: Really? Oh. *thinking* I bet my backpack aggravates it too.
Doc: Probably.
Me: So, you're telling me that I should just ditch the antiperspirant, and let the hair grow in?
Doc: You could braid it. *laughing*
Me: ?
Doc: I saw it on TV. A man lifted his arms, *gestures with his own arms* and there was this long hair, all braided. It was a joke. *more laughter*
Me: Ok. Heh heh.
Doc: You'll be fine. Just sweat.
Me: Ok, but I'm going back to work and telling everyone I have a rash. I don't know that I want to tell them I'm going to be the smelly person in the office.
Doc: *laughing*
End scene
I've been antiperspirant free since Wednesday morning. The lump is completely gone. I've also been without deoderant since then too (haven't had time to get to the store), so I've been using my Bath and Body works cream (coconut lime verbena - yum) and, so far, everything is hunky dorey in the pit-stink department.
The doctor did tell me to keep an eye on the situation. And I definitely will. He mentioned the word "hydradenitis" (or hidradenitis) which is a condition that affects 1-2% of the population, mostly women. It's a apocrine (sweat) gland disorder that causes the glands to become inflamed and eventually form lesions and scars. I certainly hope it's not that, because it's painful and I don't like pain, but I'm mentioning it here for the sake of public awareness: this is a condition which is often undiagnosed because people are embarrassed by it.
This whole thing has made me more aware of just how nasty anti-perspirant is. As human beings we are meant to sweat, but as North American women every ad we see on TV tells us that we should strive to be delicate, dry, and fresh as flowers. I've never been a delicate flower in my life (ok, I pretend to be one so that Andrew will carry the laundry downstairs, but hey, that fall left me with a teensy phobia), so why am I smearing this stuff under my arms?
We'll just have to wait and see how long I can hold out this way before I can no longer stand the smell of my own body.
*It'll help you decide where to sit at KOL


  1. I stopped using anti-persperant 2 years ago, it never worked for me anyway. I highly reccommend the salt crystals and Jason deoderant. the Tea Tree scent is lovely!

    ps: You can sit with me in the stinky corner ;)

  2. i used to have the same problems, and got fed up with it. i've never been able to shave on a regular basis because my skin gets so irritated i would have to wait over a week before i could shave again anyway. i use deodorant from Lush. it's all natural, and as long as i'm not shaving (i use a little hair trimmer to keep it short without irritating the skin) i don't have any problems with my skin being irritated or sweat glands getting backed up.

  3. Yay! That makes me happy that you are merely stinky, not sick.
    That is a big scare. A few years ago, my sister had problems with her breast leaking. Blood. It was AWFUL; we all were really, really scared.
    After she was turned inside out from tests (by a doctor you know, uh, quite well...) it turned out she had an infected milk duct.
    She's fine now. Moral? Better to be safe than sorry.
    I'm glad you're ok.

  4. Good luck with this, Steph! I recommend Kiss My Face Liquid Rock deodorant; it smells nice and won't mess with your body. :)

  5. That must have been scary! Good thing it was only a sweat gland issue.

    I second frozenextremities on the deodorant crystal. You can still sweat, but the rock salts neutralize the smell. KMF is also good.

    A lot of people don't realize the difference, too, between antipersperant and deodorant. Antipersperant prevents sweat, which is unnatural and unhealthy, whereas deodorant lets you stay natural but doesn't make you stink :)

  6. My husband (!) is always after me about using anti-persperant because it contains Aluminum, which is linked to alzheimer's.
    You may also want to try the Kama Sutra Honey dust. It really helps to stay dry, I coat myself with it in summer. You can get it at Venus Envy, in a few different flavours!
    I am glad to hear that it's not more serious than that, and no worries, I'll sit next to you even if you reek to high heaven.


  8. It's hard to find a deodorant that doesn't also contain anti-perspirant, unless you want to use a men's brand and smell like Irish Spring soap. I used the crystal rock thing for years, but then I discovered that they make the crystal deodorant in a roll-on as well. You can get it at Shoppers.

    Also, hairy armpits on girls are way sexy. I gave up the hairy legs after my 20s after deciding that it was a feminist statement I no longer needed to make (and it looked ugly with fishnets), but won't touch the armpit hair. It doesn't get long enough to braid.

  9. Anonymous5:32 p.m.

    Do NOT buy Nature's Gate Organics Lavendar & Aloe deodourant. Smells good on the stick, like ass on the pits. No stink suppression whatsoever, I swear it made me smell worse.

    My BIL's GF swears by the salt stuff - she buys it in a spray scented with essential oils. Apparently they sell it at the market at Alderney Landing (I think).

    Glad your lump is just a pit clog. Lumps scare the hell outta me too due to the ol'family history.

  10. Glad to know it was something minor and easily fixable.

    I take some medication that makes me sweat, er, excessively. Maybe after I'm off it, I'll use some of these nice sounding/smelling options.

  11. I shave my pits about 3 times a year, maybe less. Actually, less. It's usually 1 or 2 times. It doesn't grow that fast, and I'm a redhead, so it's invisible until one day I put on a tank top, check, and see hair.

    Well, I'm not good at shaving my pits, so now I've gotta wait 4 or 5 days IN THIS WEATHER before I can apply anything to it because it looks like I've got measles.

    So here's the weird thing - I was checking out my bookmarks earlier this week, and your site was in there, but I don't know how it got there. Did I used to read your blog all the time? Do you read mine? My short-term memory is for shit lately, so maybe there's something to that aluminum-alzheimers link (but then again, it's genetic too, and Grandpa had it, so I'm screwed anyway).

    What was I talking about?

    I found your blog in my bookmarks and added it to my google reader because I can't be trusted to click on my bookmarks more often than every couple of months. Right when I find your blog, you have an anniversary and irritated armpits right in the same week as I do. Plus, you live in Canada and I'm moving there in two weeks.

    ISN'T IT COSMIC? Armpits and anniversaries!

    I'll shut up now.

  12. I'm so sorry I missed this post, Steph. I just wrote you an email about baking soda. It's almost free, and it works wonders! I do shave, but not very often. Mostly for yoga class aesthetics. :)

  13. My younger sister has similar problems (yeah-with the scars and such)-but she uses a crystal form of deodorant-from the health food store-it looks like a big white rock that you rub under your arms after your shower. Works for her, and is not aggravating. You could tell people you are on crystal crack.Hmmmmm.

  14. I agree with most of the comments above. I cannot go without shaving; I would recommend Exfoliating Gloves to prevent ingrown hairs.
    They work for me and they make your skin feel soft and smooth.
    I worked in a non-scent environment as most offices in Halifax are now. Therefore, deodorant was not an option as it is a scented product. I've used the Deodorant Stones with some success.
    Cornstarch is good for absorbing moisture, you can buy the Johnson's product (I don't mean Talc as that is a no-no)however the box of cornstarch in the baking aisle is same stuff and less $$$. Or if you want to be a bit fancy Baby Bees Dusting Powder.
    You can find most of this stuff at Lawtons or Shoppers, if not then check out Planet Organic, 6122 Quinpool Rd... just past The Ardmore Tea Room.

  15. oops I think I gave you the wrong address... according to their website it is Planet Organic Halifax
    6485 Quinpool Road
    Halifax, NS B3L 1B2
    Telephone: 902-425-7400

  16. stephanie-- come visit me at great ocean (planet organic)! lots of great deoderants, no aluminum. glad you shunned the antiperspirants. they're awful.

  17. Anonymous11:41 p.m.

    After surfing through 30 or more technical articles about hidradenitis suppurativa, I find your list of comments to be the most helpful. I have found some help by changing from a direct to spray application of the antiperspirant,and by minimizing the levels of aluminum (some products contain over 18%). Even with this, I'm continuing to have some problems so will go the deoderant route. I do have the cultural advantage that as a male I'm not expected by society to shave my underarms. But, the disadvantage is that I live in the tropics and sweating is a major part of life here.