Strange Rashes and Other Medical Mysteries

Here we go again. I was making one of my visits to see if Joe could help me put in a new toilet when he asked me to do him a favor.

“Would you go in and talk to Janet?” Joe was hunched over giving me a blank stare from his unshaven face. I knew his kidney cancer was cured and I would give him a break from dealing with Janet.

I slid the glass door open. “Hey Janet. How are you?” I gave my regular hello.

Feet Rash and Swelling

“Well, I don’t know. What do you think?” She pointed down to her feet on the floor. They were covered with a rash and really swollen. I almost couldn’t look.

“Wow! They’re really swollen. You should elevate them. Put them up on the couch so I can see them better. ” I was hoping that it was something simple but when I looked they seemed really wrong.

“What did the doctor say?” I asked.

“Well it started two weeks ago with the rash and I went to my regular doctor and she gave me this.” Janet handed me a Prednisone cream.

“It hasn’t helped at all. It’s actually worse now and they really hurt. I can barely walk. ” Janet’s words triggered a flash back to Joe dealing with his own kidney cancer’s side effects along with Janet’s issues. I pushed those thoughts out of my mind.

“I’m going back to her on Monday. ” Janet finished.

“Are you taking any pain medicine? Could it be the chemo?” Two weeks with medicine and getting worse?

“Am I on chemo? I can’t remember what I’m taking. Joe knows. You can ask him. I don’t remember what I had for lunch. I think I had lunch.” And Janet looked at me as she broke out in a giggle. A great side effect of no memory, she forgot to worry.

Joe had followed me into the house. “I’m taking her back to the doctor on Monday. I hope they figure it out.” Joe was moving towards the sink to get a glass of water.

Joe continued, “I think that doctors just see an old person and don’t even try. They just say let them die.” For a split second I imagined he was right.

We chatted for a minute about nothing and then I went home.

About a week later on Tuesday evening I walked over to Joe and Janet’s. “What happened at the doctor? Did she give you something new? Is it from chemo?” There was a pile of medicines on the coffee table next to Janet.

“I’m wondering if it isn’t a side effect of the cancer treatments.” said Joe ignoring everything I just said. It was a week later and Janet’s rash and swelling had gotten much worse. Her foot had a deep crack in it. And the pain was worse.

I said, “I hope they can figure out what it is. I know that as we get older all kinds of strange things happen to our bodies.”

“I’m taking her to a dermatologist Monday. If they don’t help I’m going to go to the hospital.” Joe seemed to shrink as he spoke.

“You know this is my vacation week. I will be gone to the beach so I’ll see you when I get back. If anything bad happens will you call me?” I turned and walked home under a cloudless night sky.

A week and a half later on Friday I walked back over to Joe and Janet’s to check on her and tell them about my week. I hoped Janet was better.

“How was the beach?” Joe asked.

“It was great. The kids came and the weather was perfect. How’s Janet?” I really wanted to know.

“She is doing better. They took her off chemo. They think it was a reaction to chemo. Go on in and say hello.” Joe was fiddling around in his tool room.

I knocked on the sliding door and walked in. “How are you?”

“My feet are still swollen and hurt to walk on. Where did you go? I haven’t seen you in a long time.” Janet could not remember so I retold her “I went to the beach with the kids.”

“Your rash is almost gone and your swelling looks much better. Joe said they took you off chemo.” I noticed her dead skin was peeling off in sheets.

“I don’t know but if Joe says so that’s probably right.” Janet seemed so comfortable with never knowing what was going on. She did always remember me and Joe so that was good.

Janet started picking at her feet and peeling skin off. “I’m going to find Joe.” I headed out the door so I didn’t have to watch.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Janet was happy because she couldn’t remember not to be. It was Joe that needed the help. I should have been asking Joe “How are you?” and worrying about how he was doing. Janet could not even remember if I asked how she was.

Joe, on the other hand, was fully there and saw a woman in his house that looked exactly like the wife he loved. Joe did everything for her because she couldn’t. Janet was still beautiful with the same figure as when they met 60 years ago. But she wasn’t home. And that was tragic.

Skin Conditions in the Elderly

14 Rashes You Need to Know: Common Dermatologic Diagnoses

Find an Old Persons (Geriatrician) Doctor Near You

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