FLUSHING?!?!? Just call me the Human Torch!!!

This term bugs me greatly! FLUSHING. That is the term given to a specific symptom of the drug TECFIDERA – oral MS drug. I just woke up from a short nap because of the ‘Flushing’ and I was determined to sound off and see if I was the only one who felt this way.

For those who might not know,  TECFIDERA (dimethyl fumarate + other stuff) is a prescription medication, capsule form, prescribed for treating relapsing / remitting (it comes, it goes, maybe a symptom, maybe not, maybe a permanent plac mark on the myelin or not). The only thing I like about the drug is the beautiful Tiffany blue color! Tiffany & Co. is my favorite blue and favorite jewelry. Yes, I chose to be shallow even in my medication – LOL.

There are 3 possible side effects of TECFIDERA that all patients are warned and monitored for, (i) allergic reaction, (ii) PML – yes a rare brain virus, and (iii) decrease in white blood cell count. Having said that, the MOST COMMON SIDE EFFECTS include (i) FLUSHING, redness, itching, or rash, (ii) nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and/or indigestion. The manufacturer suggests that these MOST COMMON side effects should  decrease over time. I’ve been on TECFIDERA since October 2015 and I’m still waiting…

What is flushing? Well the first time it hit me, at my office in a meeting. In a big conference room with my whole legal team present. The paralegal who was sitting next me noticed me scratching violently on my hands and wrists. I didn’t really notice that I was doing it. But I remember that I was suddenly very itchy and I needed to scratch! My hands and arms were fire red with white scrapes due to my obsessive scratching. I put my hands on my lap so as not to bring further attention to myself. Let’s stop here for a moment. I’m an African-American woman with deep dark brown skin. So to see me fire red as you would imagine might frighten you and me! What they couldn’t see (happening simultaneously) was the fire that swept through my scalp – at least that is what it feels like.

What was happening? I was bright red and super itchy on my lower arms and hands, and my scalp was on fire! I had two thoughts at that moment the first time I experienced this… (i) scratch my skin off and (ii) rip my hair off my scalp! That is flushing! The desire to scratch off your skin and rip out your hair from your scalp. Sounds a bit problematic eh? My husband and I have code words and phrases for different things.  My code words for FLUSHING are ‘HAIR ON FIRE!’. lol I’ll excused myself from where ever we are and I’ll walk and breathe, walk and breathe all while trying NOT to scratch!

Now that first time was in October 2015. Today, when the FLUSHING hits, its not as dramatic. (Although I’m still miffed that it comes at all) I feel the surge of heat on forearms and hands and scalp. I’ve taught myself to deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques to engage when the feeling hits. Breathe deeply and relax instead of scratch what itches. Sounds crazy but that is how I manage.There is no doubt that IF I were hooked up to a power plant I could light up the city for at least 30 minutes!

Now, the problem with this is going through menopause and having hot flashes too! That’s another type of heat that goes surging through my body and until very recently went unchecked. Between FLUSHING and Hot Flashes, I am literally the real life Human Torch! I should be in the next Marvel Comics Avenger movie! No special effects needed. Just wait until a menopausal hot flash and just after I’ve taken my TECFIDERA capsule and I guarantee that I can out perform ANY stunt man or woman and I could light up the night!

So today when I got home, I could feel the heat rising and I didn’t feel like relaxing or deep breathing so I chose to lay down! For once in my life I just didn’t feel like fighting. Hot flash bring it on. FLUSHING come if you will. I’m just going to lay down and grab a power nap!

I’m up now, refreshed and good to continue with my day. But it did make me pause and wonder about my fellow MS patients. Are you suffering from the same FLUSHING? Am I crazy? (well yes, but besides that!) how do you power through?

Thanks Biogen for FLUSHING! Sincerely, The Human Torch…

Female human torch



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