Monday, June 23, 2008

cutaneous larva migrans

this past saturday night, my friend valerie and i went to go see david sedaris read from his new book, "when you are engulfed in flames" at barnes and noble. he was absolutely hilarious, as always. and, amazingly, he read my very favorite story of his called, "it's catching." i read it in the new yorker years back while waiting for something--rich, perhaps?--and i remember laughing so hard i almost peed my pants. the reason why is because he describes not only his battle with crabs (which i have not had the pleasure of contracting) but his boyfriend's mother's battle with a parasitic worm (which i have had the pleasure of contracting).

in 1994, between finishing my master's thesis, working temp jobs for lots of money, trying to comprehend being married to this man who worked 80 to 100 hours a week during medical school (that could be several blog posts in and of themselves), i thought it might be a good idea to give back to the cosmos. thus, i volunteered at a no-kill animal shelter (save-a-pet). it was around halloween and people around wabash avenue in houston had gone around and collected several all black kittens that they thought were at risk for abuse (black cats + halloween in houston = voodoo magic resulting in trauma for the kitties). so we had this whole area designated for the wabash kitties. the wabash kitties that i worked with were like 3 to 4 weeks old at best; i picked one of them up to snuggle with it and it stabbed me right on the side of my left breast with a tiny, hypodermic-needle-like claw, which hurt and itched like hell. damn cat.

skip forward to a week later...and i have a three-inch worm growing under my skin right along the inside to bottom curve of my boob. pretty! i went to a dermatologist in houston who was perplexed as to what it was but eventually figured it out and officially diagnosed me with cutaneous larva migrans. the only medicine that really works to kill this critter is topical and, at that time, was nowhere to be found in houston. so we had to wait a week for some to get shipped from miami, which meant that the worm had the opportunity to grow unabated around the boobie to about 6 or 8 inches total. it made a loving little serpentine around my breast and ran a little bit up my breastbone so you could see it when i wore a button-down shirt--so attractive! i went and showed the veternarians i was working with who a) were thrilled to be seeing a human female boobie and not a mangey, tick-ridden hide, and b) suggested that i cut a hole at one end, get a stick, and start wrapping the worm around it until it was pulled out. i passed on that.

this whole time rich was FREAKED out; i could especially unnerve him by pushing on it and making it move. then the dermatologist took pictures of me that i have convinced myself to believe were used for academic reasons. after about a week or two of the topical meds, the worm died; it was completely reabsorbed about a month later. and i hadn't thought about my worm at any great length until david sedaris brought it all back to me, 14 years later, on saturday night.

cutaneous larvae migrans (not me--my worm was fatter and much more beautifully positioned)


  1. Hi,

    I just came across your blog and found your story about Cutaneous Larva Migrans very interesting. I am working on the second season of a series about parasitic infections in humans for the Animal Planet and would welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your experience.

    I can be reached at 917-344-2831 or at

    Many thanks and I look forward to hearing from you soon!


  2. I have two in my feet, and they show no sign of dying even after 9 weeks. Does anyone know how long they could keep going?

  3. hi anonymous--bummer. at least you may have had a glorious, tropical, beach-filled vacation before contracting these parasites...?

    i would think that you're probably at the tail end of their life cycle this far out...however i am not a doctor, just a fellow sufferer. if there is any kind of infection going on or if you think they are getting redder or itchier or painful you should DEFINITELY go to a dermatologist as you'll need antibiotics for that.

    the producers of "monsters inside me" told me a horror story of a case that migrated to the lungs somehow--yuck. i'm not sure how that happened, but that alone would make me run to a dermatologist and start treating the worms, even 9 weeks out. good luck and welcome to the CLM club!