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Hi, my name is Adrian. I am a 48 y/o Therapist, Health Advisor.
The Title of this page is not an exaggeration, nor is it a hook to get people interested in some far-fetched sales scam with a “Buy my Cream” or “Pay now while stocks last” Ending.
It is simply the truth of my illness and my journey in defeating it. Or put another way, What I did to not let it defeat me.
So let’s begin with the type of Eczema I had. Most not suffering from this debilitating illness will not be aware that it manifest’s in many different forms with varying degrees of aggression, pain and life crippling consequence.
The form of Eczema that I was eventually diagnosed after many years of pain and suffering is eloquently called Dyshidrotic Eczema or Pompholyx Eczema. It is a particularly nasty variant with symptoms of soreness and blistering appearing on the palms of the hand and in between fingers, on the soles of the feet and between the toes. The blisters are tiny at first but can grow and group to become a fluid sack, first clear then thick and filled with blood as the pressure grows. Because of its location the pain, especially around nerve endings is excruciating, and the psychological damage of not being able to wear shoes, walk normally, use hands and see yourself as having a form of leprosy is phenomenal. I say psychological damage with purpose because according to the Oxford Definition, Damage is:
(Physical harm that impairs the value, usefulness, or normal function of something. … ‘Instead of letting up, they exacerbate their injuries, potentially causing permanent damage.)
The result of having it and stressing, rubbing, scratching etc. Only makes it worse! You see the hot, itchy, painful, unsightly often weeping and sometimes infected and not very pleasant smelling eczema would only get worse with a multitude of factors. So many factors that it took me over six years just to get a definitive diagnosis of what the problem was, which didn’t come with a cure! My diagnosis came in desperation after I made an appointment with a private Practising Specialist Dermatologist, who was so very kind that he immediately sent my GP a letter and had me referred back to him as a consultant under the NHS. It was my first lucky break in 6 years of intermittent agony. Can you imagine suffering six years of creams, ointments, guesses and antibiotics of all shapes and colours?
This agony had begun while I was a serving soldier. I like to think I wasn’t the average soldier. I was above average for fitness levels. I was a member of the Regimental Boxing Team; I excelled in difficult environments, such as Courses in the Brecon Beacons or Operational / Exercises in extreme environments. So when the blisters started to appear on the soles of my feet, it had an immediate impact. I found myself making excuses why I couldn’t take part in fitness sessions. I’d constantly wrap my feet in Zinc Oxide tape to complete a particular exercise or training course. But above all else, I would not admit to being anything less than the perfect fighting machine I thought I was meant to be. As you can imagine, my daily stress levels went off the charts. I had been disciplined in a very Military way for my anger on a few occasions, and as a result, I was losing what I thought was a lifetime career as an Infantryman.
Then I had a break; my Officer Commanding decided I should spend two years on posting at the Infantry Training Centr, instructing recruits. For a short period, life got better, being away from Regental life resulted in less pressure and my blisters as they were known didn’t come so often and with the support of a lifelong friend I took up fishing in my spare time. But now and then, the blisters would come back. I would treat them with a needle and some disinfectant. Or wash with Hibiscrub from the med centre, explaining how good it was for getting my camouflage cream off and preventing spots. I extended my posting by six months and following this left the Armed Forces. I tried a few Jobs in Civie Street but as it is for all that leave the Armed Forces the transition was very stressful, and my hands and feet got pretty bad, pretty fast. The following years saw me in a mix of jobs where I was working for four days and off for four days. During the off days, I would nurse my skin and rest my feet as much as possible. Walking caused friction and irritation. I wasn’t aware that at the time my days off and the need to nurse was the 1st step in understanding and removal of the illness.
By the time I had come to the end of my tether and found a Consultant Dermatologist that could: a, recognise the illness. b, name the illness, and c, give me a method to treat the illness. By this stage, I had six years of utter pain under my belt. It was in Jamaica that the moment I couldn’t go on arrived. I was on an extended vacation and in great need of relaxation when I met a very beautiful local girl. We had gone for a meal in Ochi Rios at a very good Sea Food Restaurant. Within an hour my hands looked like a Sci-Fi scene from Total recall, where Arnold’s face is blowing up and about to explode. After a late night drive to Kingston, where a diagnosis of acute Allergic reaction to Shell Fish was provided. We drove back the next day and I with a pocket full of a drug called Prednisone. This drug in various forms became my staple diet along with AntiHistamines for the next few years.
Now for those that know Prednisone also known as Prednisolone, I can only sympathise. It is a drug that should be on a shelf, inside a glass case with a sign saying “break only in times of emergency”. The side effects are varied and quite strong especially when a larger dose is required. But they did help to manage the blisters. They also allowed me to work and even start a steady relationship. My partner was very sympathetic when my “Leprosy” came back intermittently, even when I was like a bear with a sore head. Some of the side effects can make you semi-psychotic!
I found myself living in Manchester and with a new Dermatologist. This Specialist who was amazingly knowledgeable had personal experience with my form of Eczema and prescribed a very expensive and still in “trial” drug called Alitretinoin, that had recently been found to help some Eczema sufferers. I was invited to join the trial program as a test case for six months. It was highly effective, had almost immediate results with almost zero side effects. After the six months, I was prescribed a lower dose for maintenance of the symptoms and reassessed every three months for the next several years. Every three months I would have blood tests, and try to convince the Doc that it was working and allowed me to live a healthy normal working life. And every three months they would remind me that it was never meant to be prescribed for so long, but as long as I had no adverse effects, I could continue. The adverse effects didn’t include the unknown and the greater risk of Cancer.
Throughout this time I had been studying. It had started with the interest of a Combat First Aid Instructor researching anatomy and physiology and afflictions of the skin but evolved into a deep interest in everything medical, and I became an Ambulance Technician and finally a Paramedic eventually leaving the Ambulance work and practising in high-risk environments. The work allowed for a higher level of income that I used for studies in Holistic Therapies. I was convinced that besides being “Triggered” by certain foods, and the inner workings of my body “Homeostasis” could be found in alternative medicine.
The more I learnt, the more I practised the teachings. And the more I practised, the better my hands and feet became. I had less and fewer outbreaks. And in 2017 after not taking the medication for a year, I was discharged from outpatient care. The Consultant which I had never seen before sat me down and said, “Well Mr Basford, could you tell us exactly what you did to stop needing the medication”? My answer was simply, “I changed my lifestyle Doc”.
Indeed I had. I was in the UK and had just given my resignation. I was still a bit in shock as I was giving up a 60k a year job. But the only reason I had taken that job was to continue studying and be able to pay my bills.
My lifestyle changes are not difficult for anyone to follow. They are not particularly complicated either. But they do have a cost. This cost is in time and effort. I had many trials and errors, but I succeeded! I should say I don’t expect everyone with a health issue to spend over a decade doing research and gaining qualifications in the hope they can become free from pharmaceuticals.
The number one lesson that I learnt is that the diseases and illnesses that are being diagnosed are only symptoms. You can not cure a symptom. The best we can hope for is that it is controlled. Unfortunately, the means that provide this control is researched and supplied by a profit motivated system headed by pharmaceutical companies.
My life today is not recognisable to what once was. I am healthier, at times fitter and I intend to help as many people as I can to do the same.
This is the first Blog I have put together; I struggled to find a topic that I thought would interest people, but was advised to “be real and make one about yourself” so here it is, I hope some find it interesting if not helpful.
Yours In Health
Adrian J Basford