a woman standing in the shower with efudex on her face. She looks miserable.

Efudex: A Survivor's Guide to Showering

We all have that one thing that drains every ounce of our mental energy--that one menial task we still tend to dread with the whole of our hearts. I’m sure at one time or another you have found yourself psyching yourself up to clean the house, wash the car, or face the masses on a Saturday at the grocery store when you’d rather do anything else under the sun than shop. Everyone has at least one of these dreaded undertakings. Mine is showering. You don’t have to reread it. That’s right--a shower.

The reality of Efudex and showering

I never dreamed I would ever have to give myself a pep talk just to bathe. There are times when I’m treating my skin with Efudex that I have to psych myself up just to get clean. I don’t claim to be proud of my shower shyness, but the fear of a hygiene routine is real. In fact, I feel safe in saying I am far from alone in my phobia. Efudex users know all too well the sheer terror of having the water hit tender patches of skin only to send pain radiating through them like so many tiny lightning bolts. Efudex might be a cream, but it packs a punch like you wouldn’t believe. (We use it, and we still have a hard time believing it.)

Psyching myself up for showers

Finding a way to clean the treated area without a personal cheer is a true test. “C’mon! You’ve got this! It’s just a shower! You’re no wimp!” Realizing I’m pacing in front of the bathtub giving myself the side-eye in the mirror, I just shake my head at the absurdity of it all. I consider myself to be a fairly strong person, but the side effects of Efudex and the ordeal itself can practically bring me to my knees at times. Showering tops my list of frustrations as the days go by and my skin grows more red, inflamed, and begins to crack and peel.

Tips for showering with Efudex

Now is the time to clear this up. I do, indeed, shower. I just felt the need to emphasize the fact that I don’t let my fear get the best of me. It does take some strategizing:

  • To cope with the initial blast of water on tender skin, I try to ease into the water and dial back the heat keeping the water at a warm setting only.
  • Normal washing is a no-no. Instead of rubbing with a washrag, I douse the rag in warm water and press it onto the skin and allow the water to absorb into the skin. Rubbing would cause more harm than good.
  • To avoid transfer of the cream to other parts of the body, I use two separate rags. One is used exclusively on the treated area and the other for the rest of my body.
  • I don’t use my regular soaps, shower gels, and body washes on the irritated portion of my skin. After the first two or three days, I only use warm water for cleaning. If I am concerned about the area having been contaminated during the day, I use a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil.
  • I do find that once I get past the first couple minutes, the water feels quite nice and soothes the itch.
  • Tapping and pressing are the buzzwords when it’s time to dry. Never rub the area--just trust me on this one. I carefully press the towel against the skin and dab off any moisture then allow it to air dry.

Efudex hurts and helps

Efudex is complicated, however, I am grateful for the important part it plays in attacking and removing precancerous cells from my skin. My sun damage is plentiful, so I have been assured Efudex and I will be friends for a long time to come. Take something as simple as those showers--I don’t have to like them, but I realize I'll have to cheer myself on some days. When you think about it, it’s not all that different from our other burdens, is it? We could all use a little cheer now and then. “C’mon! You’ve got this!”

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