Disclaimer: I started my keloid treatment journey on 4/13/2020 and will continue to update this post. Please come back for regular updates. Feel free to join my newsletter (sign-up form is below) as I will make updates via e-mail about my keloid treatment progress!
If you’ve been following along, head over to the ToCs for updates.
How Did I Get My Keloid?
I’ve had my most prominent keloid scar since I was 9 years old. It happened when my mom picked the chicken pox scar off my chest. It started as a small dime sized scar. Over the years, it grew into a 3″ wide scar resembling a chicken bone. I kept my scar hidden pretty well. I wore high-neck shirts and halter tops.
No one really knew about it until I decided to wear whatever TF I wanted, starting in 2011. Exposing my scar was a scary, vulnerable and at the same time very empowering experience. I was tired of hiding my imperfections and wanted to wear all the pretty things.
I let people assume what they wanted when they saw my scar.
Having a scar does not define my character and is such a minor part of who I am as a human being.
Have a read below if you want to see how I learned to love my scar!
What is a Keloid?
Keloids are healed wounds that do not know they’re healed. They are raised because they are inflamed due to the body’s healing process going into overdrive to treat the wound. Keloids typically occur on the chest, shoulders, backs, face or ears.
Keloids are not just unsightly, they often itch and sting. They’re can also cause some emotional pain depending on how a scar was formed or how someone or others perceives scars.
Keloids can form from a wound, pimple, or just randomly. They’re also very common in people of Asian or African descent.
What Are the Available Keloid Treatments?
Treating keloids is very tricky.
You can excise (cut out) the keloid, but they often grow back and larger than before.
You can get steroid injections, but they often hurt and require years of treatment (if not indefinite treatments) to maintain a flat scar.
You can opt for cryotherapy, which freezes the scar and sheds a layer of it through a scab. This process can take years and is often painful and can become infected if not cared for appropriately.
Some treatments combine ointments, creams, radiation therapy, silicone sheets, etc. to their keloid treatment to keep it flat.
The treatment process can be very expensive and take years to achieve the results you want.
Some Background Info On My Scar
Back in 2008, I started my keloid treatment journey with 5-FU (steroid) injections. My dermatologist was based in San Diego and I lived in Orange County, California. I couldn’t keep up with the injections because it would take 2 hours to get to the hospital and my insurance did not cover the procedures, so paying out of pocket was very expensive. I kept it up for 8 months and saw improvements in my scar, but they came back as soon as I stopped.
I moved to Seattle in 2013 and placed my keloid treatments on the back burner. I had bigger fish to fry. I also learned how to love my scar.
Fast forward to 2020, I decided to reinitiate my keloid treatments. I have a great insurance plan (Premera) and they cover the first $2,000 deductible on a negotiated rate for Kenalog injections.
I made this decision because I could finally afford it (with insurance) and I was curious to see how my 16 year old scars would react to steroid treatment. While I am committed to doing this for science, I would also love to know what it’s like to feel “normal.”
My Keloid Treatment Journey
Let’s get into what you’re here for! You want to know if steroid injections worked. Read my experience below to find out.
If you’ve been following along, here is a quick Table of Contents of my journey. Click on the injection session you want an update on.
- 1st Injection – April 13th, 2020
- 2nd Injection – May 19th, 2020
- 3rd Injection – July 21, 2020
- 4th Injection – August 24, 2020
- 5th Injection – September 30, 2020
- 6th Injection – TBD
1st Injection – April 13th, 2020
I visited the Modern Dermatology clinic (in Seattle, Wash.) during the coronavirus pandemic. They were observing social distancing rules and were very adamant about not admitting any patients diagnosed with COVID-19. They also had adequate signage reiterating social distancing rules within the waiting room.
I filled out my paperwork and within 3 minutes, a nurse invited me into the patient room and asked the number of keloid scars I was looking to treat. I told her 6; one on my chest, 3 on my right shoulder and 2 on the nape of my neck.
Dr. Carly J. Roman came in a few minutes after my consult and asked how the scars had formed and if I had had them treated before. She then went straight into injections. I received injections of Kenalog 10mg/cc (also referred to as Kenacort) into each of my scars.
Dr. Roman advised me to massage my largest scar (the one on my chest) to evenly distribute the steroid. She mentioned that it may take around 3 treatments for my smaller shoulder and neck scars to flatten. My chest scar would have to be ongoing because it is larger and may react much slower than the other scars.
The injections took no more than 4 minutes and I was on my way. She advised me to come back in 6-8 weeks for my second session. I was in and out of the clinic within 25 minutes.
I did not use any numbing cream and the injections were not painful as I had imagined. I do have a high pain tolerance. My injection areas were patched up with bandaids that I was required to wear for the day. My daily routine could go on as normal (ie. working out, showering, etc.).
After my first appointment, I removed my bandages and could see my scars looked puffier than normal (from the Kenalog injections), were a bit blanched (turned white) and felt taut. After a few days, the scars flattened to how they were when I first entered the clinic.
No immediate results yet, and that is normal. This process takes time.
2 Weeks After the 1st Injection – April 27, 2020
Two weeks after the initial injection, I noticed some softening of the scars and the smallest one on the back of my right shoulder flattened entirely. I also noticed there were less itching and irritation of my scars overall.
My neck scars had softened and were noticeably flatter than before.
I am looking forward to my second session!
2nd Injection (5 weeks later) – May 19, 2020
I was slated to come in every 6-8 weeks and did not want time to lapse in between treatments, which might cause my scar to grow back. By May 10th, my scar had already started to feel uncomfortable again. I felt a stinging pain and this is typically indicative of the keloid scar reforming.
On my second appointment, I asked Dr. Roman for a stronger dose of Kenalog. I read online that most people go in a few times a month for Kenalog 10 mg/cc shots and less if the dosage were higher. She advised that she would administer 20 mg dose and I would come back in within 6 weeks. She stated that a higher dose (40 mg) could cause discoloration and she did not want to take any chances.
During this treatment session, she injected the areas that were most raised and left the flat ones untreated.
Here are photos of my scar 1 day after the second injection. You can see the scars are shrinking because they are more puckered (or wrinkled).
Between my first injection and second injections, I’ve lost 6 pounds. I’ve been eating healthy and exercising regularly (circuit training) with a friend Tim via Zoom. My goal is 130 lbs, which is only 10 more pounds to go!
I am super excited for my quarantine transformation! The “Stay Healthy” motto has been more than just trying to flatten the coronavirus curve. And I am for it! #quarantinebody #bodybyTim #TimWuWorkouts
3rd Injection – July 21, 2020
I went in for my third injection and mentioned to Dr. Roman that my scars are feeling like they’re growing back in between my 8 week sessions. She recommended I come in every 6 weeks so that we didn’t keep working backwards.
She gave my keloids a good amount of injections this time around. In the last session, she missed the front shoulder keloid and it definitely grew back and hardened.
My chest keloid has flattened a lot compared to previous sessions. Some parts of the scar also appear less puckered and puffy. The color has also changed. Some parts of the scar appear lighter and blend in with my skin tone. I am looking forward to my next session.
My neck keloids have subsided immensely. I can feel the scars faintly. They have also turned a lighter color. Hopefully, after this session of injections, the neck scars will be flush with the surrounding skin. The larger scars will still need work, especially my chest one.
4th Injection – August 24, 2020
I went in for my 4th injections today. Dr. Roman treated all my keloids, including the ones on my neck that are already very flat. The neck scars have flattened the most but are not completely flush to my normal skin yet. I was advised to massage my scars so that the steroid is distributed evenly.
Dr. Roman also suggested that I try laser treatments (on my chest scar) between November and March, when there is less sun and colder in Seattle, Washington. The treatments would lighten the scar to be closer to my actual skin tone. The second laser treatment she suggested would blend the edges of my scar and remove any pink color that develops from the steroid treatments. I may consider it when the time comes.
For now, we are focusing on flattening the scars as much as possible. As slow as it is, I am still seeing progress and excited for what’s to come.
Here are photo updates of my scars.
My chest scar definitely looks lighter and flatter than before.
The shoulder scars are stubborn. I notice them becoming lighter in color but they still feel hard and fibrous when I press down on them.
I am super happy with the progress of my neck scars. Even if the color remains, I am super glad they are no longer raised.
5th Injection – September 30, 2020
6th Injection – November 2020
7th Injection – December 2020
I hope that my story might help others who are currently suffering from keloids. Keloids can be disfiguring and emotionally distressing. I’ve been there and decided to take care of it because I am in a financial situation to do so. If my story gives you hope, I am glad you have found this little corner of my world.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love connecting with people who are interested in learning more about the keloid treatment process, have other questions or just want to share their story. Don’t forget to mention where you are from! I get visitors from all over the world who want to connect.
Glad our scars could bring us together!
What Kenalog dosage was used on your scars? My doctor used Kenalog 10mg/cc.
How much do kenalog injections cost? My insurance (Premera) completely covered 100% of the cost of my treatments. I didn’t pay anything out of pocket. I did not even have to explain why I was there to treat my scars. My doctor knew and went straight into treatment without giving me other options.
Will steroid injections last forever? Steroid injections are not a permanent fix. You will need to go in 1-2 times a year for touch ups. It’s best to keep an eye on your scar and go in as soon as you notice any itching, stinging or changes in the keloid shape and size.
Do steroid injections hurt? It really depends on the person. I have a high pain tolerance and the process is so quick that the pain typically subsides within minutes. I do not use any numbing cream during treatments.
For those who have a lower pain tolerance, you can ask for a numbing cream (lidocaine) that takes approximately 90 minutes to become effective and even then, it does not take the discomfort away 100%. There will still be a tiny amount of stinging.
What happens immediately after a steroid injection? The area will become puffy and feel taut (tight). You may need to massage the steroid into your scar to evenly distribute the chemicals. There may be slight bleeding but should clot within an hour. Over the next few weeks, the steroid will flatten the keloid and the color will look more even with your natural skin tone or a little darker.
Over time, the scar will begin to look like it’s “dissolving.” That is great news and means that the inflammation is going away and your scar will blend into your skin in no time. The scar will flatten and become flush with the surrounding skin.
Did you combine kenalog with other treatments? No. I was not advised by my dermatologist that I needed to.
Will Kenalog work for me? Injections are not a one treatment fits all situation. Some people will react differently to certain treatments and some will have success with procedures that have not been great for others. It’s best to consult with your dermatologist and get a second, third or even fourth opinion before committing to any treatment.
Is there a support group for people suffering from keloids? Yes! I love the Keloid and Hypertrophic Scars Support Group on Facebook. You’ll find a ton of member support and success stories there.
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