CellCept Ended My Love Affair With Pedicures

Lisa Weber avatar

by Lisa Weber |

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It had been years since I’d stepped foot in a nail salon. Yet the moment the doors opened, I was immediately reminded how much I missed those days of being pampered. The beautiful crystals on chandeliers danced above me. The water features and serene spa music soothed my soul. With envy, I stared way too long at the strangers being pampered with pedicures while seated in luxury massage chairs.

Thankfully, the nail tech interrupted my uncomfortable visual assault on those innocent customers when she directed my daughters to sit down for their manicures. Their excitement was the only thing keeping me from running away as I headed to the hard plastic chairs placed along a wall by the exit. That’s where I sat. In a corner next to a cobweb. Jealous.

Pedicures used to be fun

I was never one to routinely get pedicures, but I enjoyed the occasional treat. Soaking in the warm foot bath, leg massages, beautiful feet — what’s not to love? But thanks to my journey with scleroderma, I can no longer participate in such luxuries.

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My doctors explained to me how the medication CellCept (mycophenolate mofetil) makes me more susceptible to infections — viral, bacterial, and fungus. I was warned specifically not to go to nail salons. Even the cleanest ones are dangerous since so many people share tools. While most bodies can fight off a tiny invader, a body on immunosuppressants cannot.

Not only do immunosuppressive medications make it easier for infections to set up camp inside my body, but having Raynaud’s phenomenon also increases that risk. The lack of blood flow creates the perfect breeding ground for fungus and bacteria.

But I’ve always been a stubborn woman with a “scleroderma won’t stop me” attitude. And since I’ve always been a germaphobe, I was convinced that my go-to salon was exempt from this rule.

The nail techs have always sterilized and thoroughly sanitized everything. My thought was, “How dangerous could it be?” I would even bring my own nail polish, so it wasn’t shared.

It only takes one time

Things went fine for the first year as I continued to pamper myself with pedicures every now and again. Then one day, the fun stopped.

I was enjoying the pulsating back massage as my nail tech removed nail polish from my tootsies. As the light pink layers were wiped away, I saw the small white patch on my big toenail. A hard layer covered a small section of the nail close to the tip. In that moment, I knew I’d messed up. The doctors had warned me, and I ignorantly ignored them. It took only one pedicure to start a horrific battle against a fungus on my big toe.

That little patch grew quickly, and it got so bad that I ended up losing the entire nail three times. For over two years I had to be seen regularly by a podiatrist to rid my nail of that stubborn fungus. And to think, I was worried about missing out on professionally painted nails. Do you know what’s worse? No nail.

Treatment finally worked

After years of failed treatments, I finally have a healthy, attached nail growing back. It has taken me months of diligently applying a topical medication to the nail every morning, as well as sterilizing my shoes by washing and steam cleaning them regularly.

These days, I’m a much better patient. I listen to my doctors when they give me warnings. No more pedicures or manicures. Despite having the scleroderma signature cuticles — insanely overgrown and hard — I no longer visit nail salons for royal treatments. My immune system can’t handle it.

Of course, I’m angry I couldn’t be spoiled that day alongside my beautiful daughters. I hated sitting in that uncomfortable chair while watching other people enjoy their indulgent treatments. I definitely rolled my eyes more than I care to admit. Envy is a powerful and ugly emotion.

To some, it may seem like I’m being a crybaby. I know there are more important things to worry about than having to paint my own nails. I’m fully aware that I have so much to be grateful for and that I shouldn’t waste my time with this nonsense.

When I dig deeper to under-the-surface feelings, I can see that what bothers me is more than nail polish and foot rubs. It’s about having another limitation, another thing scleroderma stole from me. It’s crappy being forced to be a bystander in life.

Ah, to be blissfully unaware again. Carefree and healthy. I would love just one more day free from living a sick life. How’s that cure coming along? I’m so ready for another day of pampering while sipping on some Champagne.

Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.


Patricia Pedroza Gonzalez avatar

Patricia Pedroza Gonzalez

Thanks Lisa, you made feel, I am not alone

Shelley Graves avatar

Shelley Graves

You might buy a foot spa and nail clippers you can sterilize at home. Maybe you could ask a good friend or relative to help you soak and massage your feet and legs with lotion. A podiatrist may have a nurse who could do this for you and insurance may cover it as you are unable to trim your nails

Ellen Galione avatar

Ellen Galione

Hi Lisa

I have not had a pedicure in 3 years. Other health issues besides scleroderma. I was thinking about going for one this weekend, I used to go about once a month in the summer. Winter, never.
Well, you just cured me from that! Thanks for sharing your experiences, I know how difficult it is to have things taken away from us but somehow we get through it! Be well and stay strong!
You're a wonderful person raising awareness for autoimmune disease. Thank You Ellen

Dana Tuck avatar

Dana Tuck

wow, i take cel cept also, but my doctor has never warned me about going to nail salons. I don't go anyway and never have, but this is interesting that i was never told.

Marianne Howell avatar

Marianne Howell

Hey, I have Raynauds (an autoimmune disease), and went to a nail salon within the past few months. Tragic that the nail rep nicked my little finger which bled a great deal. She continued with the entire manicure and dipped her brush that had my blood on it back into her bottle. From then on, I have not gone back to a nail salon. I should have reported this to the Health Dept., but I didn't. When those of us that are aware of our immunity deficiencies think we can use these "luxurious services", we need to seriously think of the scary outcomes that can take place. This also applies to massages! How many people think of skin to skin treatments as dangerous?


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