My UVB Light Therapy Experience: Like a First Date, but Worse

Being diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder is both relieving and frustrating. You’ve found an answer but, unfortunately, this one answer will only lead to a growing number of follow up questions. The most common question being, how do we treat this? If you live with an AD, treatments for your specific condition can range from prescriptions to diet restrictions to herbal supplements. Part of my treatment equation is UVB light therapy.

Simply put, UVB light therapy is medically-prescribed tanning. Unlike regular tanning beds, which give off both UVA and UVB lighting, UVB narrow-band light therapy is much safer but extremely intense on the skin. It consists of stepping into an upright tanning bed wearing nothing but your birthday suit, and hanging out for 30-90 seconds, three times a week. And even after such a short amount of time in the bed, I always walk away sunburnt.

Unlike some treatments, which are often very quick and very medical, light therapy always made me feel anxious and vulnerable. It’s not a simple medical transaction such as having your blood drawn or taking an X-ray. The only way I have been able to explain to people what light therapy is like for me is by comparing it to something most of us are very familiar with: a first date.

Nurses [Dates] Are Never On Time

No matter how many dates I’ve gone on, and no matter how many UVB appointments I’ve had, I’m always the first one there. I check in, find a seat, look at the clock, and find a cute Instagram puppy video to watch to pass the time. You would think I would learn my lesson, show up later or wait in my car. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask for our dates (and nurses) to show up on time. 7 o’clock is 7 o’clock, amrite?

Another Day, Another Nurse [Date]

You have to go through a lot of UVB treatments to find the right nurse. Over a year ago, I had a good thing going with my nurse, Nikki. We saw each other three times a week, talked about our families, weekend plans, and work week woes. It was always just so easy. But then it ended.

Now, I meet up with a new nurse every other day, and while it’s all exciting and new, I miss those sweet, comforting talks with Nikki. We run into each other now and then in the office and reminisce about old times. She’s found a new regular patient. I’m enjoying my new freedom, playing the medical field. I wish her nothing but the best.

Mastering Small Talk

No matter how many new people you meet, whether it’s in a doctor’s office or out for drinks, the script remains the same. You don’t get anywhere without crossing the river of Small Talk first. You know the drill:

“Wow, the weather’s been [insert descriptor here] lately.”

“How’s your week going so far? Any big weekend plans?”

“What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working?”

“What’s your family like? Do they have a history of diabetes?”

(Okay, the last part may be applicable only to doctors offices, but you get the point.)

After a dozen or more of these interactions, you’re a certified Small Talk Seasoned Professional.

They Always Want to Get Me Out of My Clothes

First dates are a crapshoot. You could wake up next to your date the next morning with a mild hangover and a missing clothing item, or you could end up at home the same night eating Ben and Jerry’s Tonight Dough ice cream looking at dog adoption websites and planning for spinsterhood.

Somehow, my myriad of nurses have all been able to get me naked, lotion me up, have their way with me, and send me on my way while both of us are completely sober…

Always Use Protection

I’m not here to tell anyone how they should or shouldn’t behave on a first date/UVB appointment. I’m only here to say this: use protection. One situation might call for a condom, IUD, or birth control. Another might require medical-grade CeraVe lotion, green-tinted swimming goggles, and a paper hood to cover your face. Mix and match however you see fit.

The Awkward Goodbye

The moment of truth: the goodbyes. Will you go home together? Kiss and walk separate ways? Schedule a follow up for two days later with the receptionist and hope for the best? I mean, how do you say goodbye to someone who you don’t know if you’ll ever see again?

My best answer? “It was nice meeting you. We should do this again sometime.”

It’s the perfect combination of gracious and vague. Can’t go wrong.

Anyone living with an AD knows how frustrating and, at times, infuriating it can be. For me, talking about it and making light of it helps keep me sane, and hopefully brings you a little joy and understanding at the same time.

Thanks for stopping by. We should do this again soon 😉

I'd love to hear from you!

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