Navigating the physical and emotional demands of a lifelong condition
A dermatologist collaborates with other specialists to manage Kimberly’s chronic hidradenitis suppurativa, a rare and debilitating disease.
Kimberly Meyer-Gamet's story
Nearly 10 years ago, I noticed small lumps on my skin that reappeared from time to time. I didn’t think much about them until they became excruciatingly painful and filled with fluid. My dermatologist diagnosed me with Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS), a chronic and debilitating skin disease that has no cure.
I was lucky to get a diagnosis early, since HS is rare — affecting an estimated 1 to 4% of the world’s population — and can be easily mistaken for ingrown hairs or cellulitis. That’s because people with HS often develop painful bumps or large abscesses in the armpit, groin and genital areas. While initial treatments helped in the short-term, the lumps reappeared with increased frequency and pain. My HS became so debilitating that I often went to the emergency room and missed work and family commitments. Even wearing clothes irritated my skin and caused severe discomfort.
My life changed in late 2016 when my family relocated to the Detroit area and I met Dr. Iltefat Hamzavi, the director of one of the largest HS clinics in the world at Henry Ford Hospital. In the years I’ve spent as his patient, I’ve undergone many treatments and surgeries, not to mention taken a myriad of medications. It’s a constant battle to find what works to reduce the number and severity of my flares, but it’s reassuring to have Dr. Hamzavi with me every step of the way.
Much of my progress is due to Dr. Hamzavi’s team-based care approach. He regularly collaborates with other specialists to treat and manage my case. For example, Dr. Hamzavi partnered with an infectious disease doctor for my antibiotic infusions and worked with a physician from the Netherlands on a new technique to precisely target areas of my affected skin. Just as important as my physical health, Dr. Hamzavi ensured that mental health therapy and emotional support systems were part of my treatment plan from the start. Now, I’m part of online and in-person support groups that remind me I’m not alone – and allow me to share my own experiences to help others.
I live with constant pain and exhaustion. It’s easy to feel hopeless with HS, especially when I think about the “what ifs” and the effect my disease has on my husband and children. I don’t want HS to define my life and Dr. Hamzavi makes sure it doesn’t.
The dermatologist's perspective
“Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS) remains one of the most challenging diseases in dermatology. Managing such a severe condition requires collaboration across many specialties to treat the physical symptoms and emotional burdens. I’m proud that our clinic regularly partners with other disciplines like infectious disease, plastic surgery, rheumatology, and endocrinology, among others, to address all aspects of HS. Kimberly is an excellent example of perseverance and goes above and beyond by sharing her personal story in support groups and at advocacy events to help others learn from her experience.”
─ Iltefat H Hamzavi, MD, FAAD, Henry Ford Health System and Hamzavi Dermatology | Dermatology Specialists
Patient & physician stories
Learn how board-certified dermatologists have helped patients with serious skin disease and collaborated with other doctors to enhance patient care.Browse all stories