In 2004, Pooja Parikh had no idea she was developing symptoms of a very painful skin disease called hidradenitis supperativa and that her journey of recovery would end with 58 inches of scars from surgeries.
Parikh has always enjoyed staying active and has a love for running. At 15 she began having infected sweat glands that would leave open wounds. At this point the disease was manageable but the more active she was the more flare ups she would have.
The disease, which doctors weren’t able to properly diagnose at first, took up residence in her body after she ran the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in 2011 and she was hospitalized a month later. Hidradenitis supperativa is a rare skin disease that most commonly affects areas bearing apocrine sweat glands or sebaceous glands, such as the underarms, under the breasts, inner thighs, groin and buttocks and is often misdiagnosed.
“The infection just wasn’t having it and insisted upon being in my life. I had to pack up and go back to India, with less than 24 hours notice, where we saw nine doctors in eight days, desperate to find out what was going on. Finally, the very last doctor we saw, my knight in shining armor, correctly diagnosed my condition as hidradenitis suppurativa. It was a relief to Google the disease and find that each and every symptom checked out. Praise God and everything in between, I was no longer a mystery,” Parikh said.
In September 2011 Parikh came down with a common flu and had a fever that lasted until April 2012. She began visiting the doctor several times a month and they put her on strong medication but Parikh still had to visit the clinic frequently to drain a golf-ball-size infected cyst in her underarm. At this point Parikh spent most of her time in bed, could hardly walk and had a constant headache. Her doctor in Oklahoma City said that she was the worst case he has ever seen and that she needed to have surgery in the next six months.
“It’s very painful and it effects your self-esteem, you feel ugly and scarred,” Parikh said.
So Parikh made her second trip back to India where she had two major surgeries. The first surgery was on her breasts, lower back and underarms, a seven-hour procedure after which she spent 10 days in the hospital. The second surgery was on her upper thighs, a three-and-a-half-hour surgery, followed by 22 days in the hospital. At the end of that surgery she has 58 inches of scars.
Since surgery in April 2012 Parikh began to feel better and ran her first 5K race since being sick. Last week Parikh ran her first marathon in Kansas since her surgery.
“Throughout the past year and everything I have experienced, the people in my life are the reason I have managed to heal so quickly and turn my life around in such a short amount of time. I am going to make a list of 25 people and during the race, I am going to focus on one person for each mile. I will think of what the person has done for me or sacrificed for my well-being and our memories together, both good and bad, then say a prayer for each of them. They have carried me through the past year, and the thoughts of them will carry me through the marathon. I guess you could say I’m going to ‘borrow’ their legs for every mile of the marathon.
“Why 25? The last 1.2 miles I will focus on myself and what I have gone through to get this far. I will run on my own legs to cross the finish line with the strength of all the people who have supported me,” Parikh said.
TO LEARN MORE about Parikh, visit her blog at www.runningthebody.com.