29 Jan 2013

GUEST POST: Have You Tried This, Have You Tried That

I know people are trying to be helpful but it becomes tiresome to keep reiterating myself to various different people. That was also the idea behind creating this blog so that I could just let people read for themselves about my condition.

My favourite is when random strangers ask you if you've tried [insert name of over the counter medicines] and when you sigh and say yes the smug look they beheld vanishes. Often these same people will be the ones who go "I know what that is, it's eczema" and you're like "yes, well done! Have a pat on the back, matey!" As I say, I know they're just trying to be helpful but it really isn't helpful for me. It's comparable to telling a person missing a limb that they're missing said limb. 10/10 for observation ;)

From this, I thought I'd talk about some of the conditions I do have and how they can sometimes conflict one another.

OK, so as the name of the blog suggests, I suffer from eczema. But not just one type, oh no, that would just be too simple for my body. No. I have a whole host of dermatitis conditions. I suffer from atopic eczema which as it suggests means I in turn suffer from atopy in general. Everything from hay fever to asthma to rhinitis comes under this heading.

I also have urticaria which manifests itself when heat is involved. This means exercise is usually out of the question, as well as being too hot generally whereby that meaning having too many layers of clothing on, or even on a summers day, I will, and do, suffer. It means for me that hot countries are completely out of the question. I went to Spain with my Mother one July and spent the whole time in sheer agony, covered in hives and not being able to get cool. It was a nightmare. Similarly, going to the gym and even walking up steep hill in Lincoln is somewhat of a task for me, whether it's a winter or summer's day because the heat will get me.

Allergies are another one of my pitfalls. I am severely allergic to dust mites. So much in fact that a proper reading couldn't be given because it was so high. This means that I find even household cleaning a chore and was even given a certificate by my dermatologist to say that I'm not allowed to do any household cleaning for 1 year. Jealous much? My asthma worsens and I come out in a rash, which then turns into eczema because I scratch it so much. It has also meant that I have had to reassess my career choice. My plan was to become a textile conservator, where I would clean and prevent long term damage to historical objects... Yes. You can see where this is going...

Cats, dogs and in fact any fur bearing animals are also out of bounds with my allergies. Annoyingly enough, I grew up with cats and looking back I did have a constant runny nose but that was all. Now, if I were to go to my Mum's house I would end up in A&E with an all-over body rash, an asthma attack and swollen eyes. It usually weeps too. Yum.

Patch testing also revealed an allergy to chromate but I don't appear to have had any problems with sitting on leather couches or wearing a leather jacket so I'm a bit skeptical. But it would make sense in terms of being a green dye within textiles, as I suffered A LOT when making a dark green dress for my Foundation Art year. I'm bloody proud of my efforts though!

Modelled by my lovely friend

Seborrheic dermatitis is another one. A lovely flakey one. And more recently I've developed hand eczema also known as dyshidrotic eczema. Apart from the soles of my feet, there is not one place that hasn't been affected by eczema. I also have Neurodermatitis in which I scratch all the time just because it has become a habit.

And as you can see from some of these conflicting conditions, it can make it hard to treat. I have found that steroid creams and slathering white soft paraffin all over is my best concoction to date. It REALLY helps me. Also sleep helps me too oddly enough. Even if it's just napping.

I hope this gives you all some more insight into some of what I go through. I could talk about it all day so I'll be sure to post about my coping mechanisms at a later date :)

26 Jan 2013

53.13 - 74.26km: Another Solo (Snow) Run

So this morning I completed the first month of my 1000km challenge with an impromptu Half Marathon. Originally I had only planned to run a 10K today, but after checking the weather and feeling reasonably fresh I decided to push my planned distance up to the next level. After a week or two of snow, the pavements and roads around my home had become sheets of ice, but a couple of cms of snow last night came to the rescue and made these areas runnable, although I still had to be careful.

With running to and from work most days this year, my body had been struggling a little bit with minor injuries to both my knees and hips, so I had planned to run my route this morning at quite a steady pace. The weather also was taking it's toll on my running style with the pavements varying from being completely clear, to slushy, to icy, to covered in deep snow and switching between them all at a moments notice.

The slush and ice made running up Lindum Road a massive challenge, what was already a difficult hill to run up with the seemingly never-ending incline, became ridiculous when the surface was working against you, trying to send you slipping back down the hill. The rest of the run was reasonably comfortable, taking a long loop around Lincoln and it was nice to see a few other fellow runners not being put off by the weather.

January was always going to be an interesting month for this challenge as there was a shortage of runs, so I would have to be reaching my target by braving the weather and getting out on the pavement by myself. The next few months look set to make up for this however, with a race lined up every weekend until May.

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It's about time that I made a blog about my eczema as I've been saying I'd do so for a long while now! So here we are... I have eczema.

Me on a very good day

My name is Jenny and I have had eczema, asthma and hay fever since birth. I had been able to mostly manage my conditions by taking a steroid inhaler and applying hydrocortisone when it flared up. However it wasn't until the beginning of  November 2005 that my life turned upside down and I developed a somewhat severe form of the condition. It was around this time that my Grandfather died and I met my Father for the first time. Certainly not a good time for any 16 year old girl that's for sure.

The day of the funeral my skin had become inflamed, covered in weeping sores. My eyes were incredibly swollen and my asthma had worsened rather dramatically. I was in so much pain, it was unbearable and everyone stared at me which didn't exactly help matters! That night I was rushed to A&E as I had an asthma attack and my skin looked and felt infected. They kept me in hospital after administering shots of antihistamines to try to relieve the skin and I have to admit, it was one of the most horrendous hospitals I've ever been to... but that's another story.

It took around 6 months to recover from that episode and it returned to a more manageable state up until January 2009. Since this time, there has barely been a day where I have had respite of the illness. I have tried everything from steroids, various moisturisers, antihistamines, wraps, protopic, immunosuppressants, hypnotherapy, and so on and so forth. We have however discovered that I don't only suffer from eczema but also urticaria, sebhorreic dermatitis, alongside a number of allergies including dust mites of which measured so highly that a precise measurement couldn't be obtained! I'm also severely allergic to fur bearing animals, especially cats with saddens me greatly as I grew up alongside them, and am now no longer able to visit my Mother's house.

So yep, there's a brief intro to my condition. I hope to help other's with their own illnesses and to raise more of an awareness of severe eczema!

GUEST POST: Eczema Herpeticum

I intend to write a series of posts on how I have been personally affected, what has helped me, and just general things relating to it.


Last year was horrible for me. I have no idea how I managed but I got through University, where I did a very hands-on course in Conservation & Restoration of Historic Objects... not exactly an eczema sufferers first choice, but alas, we all have our passions and hobbies - mine are just bad for my health!

In 2012 I developed the dreaded eczema herpeticum, not once, not twice, not even thrice but quadruple times!!! For those who aren't in the know, eczema herpeticum is essentially when the herpes simplex virus attacks and spreads throughout the eczema. It can be seen to be a dermatological nightmare and hospitalisation is often required if it is not caught at an early enough stage. In some cases it can even lead to death.

The first time I contracted it was after I'd taken a course of steroids to help with a severe bout of eczema, in April. So as you can see my skin is remarkably clear on that front (yay!) but not so great with the herpes simplex which you can note had reached my eye. 
This was the fourth time I got it, in October. One night I just had an excruciating pain behind my ear that hurt so badly I couldn't sleep. My lymph nodes were also rather prominent and I had just assumed it to be eczema at the time. But no, as you can see it has the characteristic blistered pustules. It stayed confined to my hair and neck that time thankfully!
As a consequence of having had the virus I am now on a permanent course of Aciclovir tablets, 400mg, twice a day. It also means that when my eczema becomes severe and infected I can no longer rely on steroids as a "quick fix" because the result will be this. As I have been infected with the virus I will probably have outbreaks from time to time which is just something that one has to kinda, well, get used to. Though I was rather upset by a remark from an ignorant woman who said under her breath with rather a lot of malice,  "oh God, I don't want what she's got!!!" which really annoyed me because all she'd get is ONE measly bloody cold sore. Not a whole face full of them.
But aside from that my advice is, if you suffer from severe eczema stay away from people with cold sores. Unluckily for me my partner bestowed this upon me as he gets coldsores from time to time. Tut. But I love him so I'll let it slide... xD

19 Jan 2013

32 - 53.13KM: Solo (Snow) Run

January was always going to be an interesting month for this challenge, as it marked the start, but also was devoid of races in comparison to other months. One of the main races I had identified for January was York's Brass Monkey Half Marathon, however by the time I had decided I was able to enter the race, the registration had already closed. The other factor making January a difficult month for this challenge was the weather, the heavy snowfall this weekend was going to make any run this weekend difficult and slightly dangerous, coincidently the Brass Monkey Half Marathon was cancelled due to the unsafe conditions.

As I had missed out on running the Brass Monkey, I had already convinced myself that I should be running a Half Marathon this weekend by myself to make up for it. With bad conditions on most roads and pavements, I opted to run along the River Water Way trail as I thought this would be the safest, flattest route available. Running a Half Marathon can be challenging in the best of conditions, so without much training for longer distances and in 6 inches of snow, today was always going to be hard.

The heavy snow fall and patches of ice had forced me to run into work every day this week and I had to run four miles to the start of the River Water Way trail, so I was not expecting my legs to have much left in them today. Fortunately for the first few miles I felt fresh, the snow wasn't slowing me down and I could barely feel the cold. After around seven miles, when I turned around to head back towards Lincoln I felt my legs and feet feel as if they were going numb with the cold, and I could tell the next half of the run was going to be punishin.

When I reached 21.13km I checked my watch to see that I had not finished within my two hour target, but forgave myself considering the conditions. The route was very quiet, unsurprising given the snow, but definitely a trail I'd run again, maybe when there is much less snow on the ground.


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13 Jan 2013

20 - 32km: Resolution Run

The second weekend in January saw my third run and second race with Eight Point Two's Resolution Run around Rother Valley Country Park. The race had two options, a 6KM route or the 12KM route with 'generally good paths but will have the occasional hill to contend with.', I opted for the latter.

We were warned beforehand that the weather had affected the route, although I wasn't prepared for it to be quite as wet and slippery as it was. Running up hills and through forests when the ground was as boggy as it was today was quite a challenge and at times I was locked in a battle between progressing forwards and not falling over.

When I crossed the line my watch had measured the race at 10.71KM, 1.29KM short of the 12KM advertised. Although my body was ready to stop running at that point, I knew that I would have to make that 1.3KM up later.

The key selling point of the race was the choice between Salad and Mince Pies as a memento, an easy choice as I don't like mince pies, with the idea being to start the year as you mean to go on. This choice was changed close to the race day to fruit or cake, a much tougher decision, but one I didn't get to make as I had already selected my option upon registration.  All in all it was a very enjoyable race, with a challenging course. With the registration full for York's Brass Monkey Half Marathon next weekend, I am now without a race for two weeks until the Rauceby Ripper on the 2nd February.

Distance: 10.71 km | 6.66 miles (+1.3 km | 0.82 miles)
Time: 0:52:34 (+ 06:23)
Average Pace: 04:54 min/km | 07:54 min/mi
Goodie Bag: Healthy Option (Banana and Satsuma)


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6 Jan 2013

10 - 20km: Solo Run

Fresh off the back of the Cleethorpes New Years Day 10K and a short three day week at work I found myself at the weekend and ready to clock up some more KM. This week is some what of an oddity as I am able to count two runs towards the challenge total. The rules I have set myself for this fundraising total is that I'm only counting kilometres run in organised races, if I'm unable to run in an organised race on a given weekend, then I have to run either a 10k, Half Marathon or Marathon on the streets to make up for it. This means that training runs, such as my daily runs to work do not count towards the total, allowing my body a period of recovery later in the year if necessary, whilst still having a realistic and challenging target.

I went out this morning on my run without a pre-determined route, opting instead to allow myself to go in whichever direction I fancied.  Whilst there definitely is something invigorating about making the route up as you go along, it has its downsides. It can be difficult to pace runs if you aren't familiar with the route and where the straights and corners are. It also means you can end up like I was today, faced with a 200ft climb in the last kilometre of your run. Fortunately I am more than familiar with the hill as I have to run up it most days on my way home from work.

Week one completed with 20km in the bank and all attention focussed on next weekend's Resolution Run 12KM race in Sheffield.


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1 Jan 2013

0 - 10km: Cleethorpes new years day 10k

The first day of 2013 also marked the first day of my challenge with the Cleethorpes New Years Day 10k. It was a weird feeling standing at the starting line, after months of planning and subsequent waiting that I was about to take my first steps towards 1000km and finally begin this journey.

After an abrupt start, with no countdown to the pistol or a starting line, I soon settled in to a comfortable pace that I had decided to run at. Having only just recovered from illness over Christmas, I had barely eaten in the 48 hours prior to the race, I was taking the a steady approach to the run.

The first few kilometres of the run included a loop around the same section of roads twice, which alongside inaccurate distance markers was a little confusing, but the support along these sections for New Years Day was very impressive. I had planned to take a few photos along my way to document this and future runs, however soon found out that trying to take a decent photo in focus whilst running is as difficult as it sounds.

The finish to the race was as sudden as its beginning, with the banner obscured by spectators, it wasn't until I had crossed the line that I realised it was over. A quick check of my watch showed that I had run in just over 46 minutes which was I a time I was more than happy with, especially when I was supposed to be taking it steady.

I would like to thank Tom for offering me a lift to this race, as I wouldn't have got there without him.

Distance: 10.01km | 6.2 miles
Time: 00:46:17
Official Time: 00:46:32
Average Pace: 04:38 min/km | 07:27 min/mi
Goodie Bag: T-Shirt


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