Today marks my 3 year milestone of ceasing the use of topical steroids and other steroidal treatments. I won't say I'm healed... not by any means. But I am able to live life comfortably again and without much disruption.
My face and neck area are still my most problematic areas but they have been since the age of about 16. They were also the areas where I used the most creams and ointments so it makes sense really for it still to be over-sensitive and quick to react to potential triggers and allergens.
I'm still on Ciclosporin but I've dropped my dosage to 250mg, down from 350mg, and though my skin hasn't completely cleared up, as it did the very first time I used it, it's still helping me on the days where I do struggle.
I also had a cold sore this past week and decided not to take as much Aciclovir as I usually do, just to test the waters and see if it would spread and turn into eczema herpeticum. Luckily my prayers were answered and it didn't spread at all from my lip. It did however take longer to heal and I kept managing to knock off the scab, but my body finally seems to be helping itself out. My vegan diet still isn't perfect and there are still refined foods in there but I am choosing more whole food options where I can.
I've also started to exercise! This was a huge problem for me for years before I even discovered TSW. I mean I've never been into exercise as I was the fat, unfit kid at school who was self conscious and didn't care for getting hot and sweaty and then having to traipse around for the rest of the day feeling disgusting... but it got to a point where my skin just couldn't handle sweat. I had heat urticaria and it would sting, burn and itch like hell if I so much as became slightly too warm. So I'm pleased to say I can now sweat and do exercise. My skin does suffer sometimes, for example when I go out for a run, the elements are not usually in my favour and I find that the wind can cause my skin to flare and I then spend the next few days with a red blotchy face. This also seems to occur when I go to the gym and I'm wondering if the cause is because I'm being exposed to other people's skin bacteria? However exercising at home then jumping straight into the shower seems to be mostly fine for me. I'm hoping to improve on my skin tolerance the more I do it.
At the beginning of this whole saga, you may or may not remember that I became extremely allergic to cats, despite having grown up with them. This allergy has now diminished drastically and I don't think it's a coincidence that the lack of steroids has helped to rebuild and repair my broken skin barrier that was making me more susceptible to allergic reactions. I'm hoping in the not so distant future that I'll be able to get a cat. More time and exposure is required though me thinks.
Another thing that has happened, that I've talked about before - 3 years ago I had reached a point where I struggled to work my part time job. I struggled to put clothing on, let alone the ability to actually leave the house! I was a complete and utter mess. In July last year I built up my hours to 30 per week. In September I had upped them to 36 and I have managed to work a full time job without a skin sick day for well over a year now. It's staggering to see just how far I have managed to come. I no longer ooze. I believe the last time I had ooze was over a year ago too and that was actually because I had an infection.
This time in 2 weeks I will be at a festival in another country that is significantly hotter in temperature. I could only have dreamed of doing that this time 3 years ago, and finally it can be a reality. I am scared that my skin will relapse but I'll arm myself with antihistamines and the like, wear cooling clothing etc. and just have a bloody good time. I do deserve it after all. I'm not camping though. I think those days of being a smelly mess out of choice are well and truly over. No, we will be living it up in a 4* hotel, so if I do relapse then I'll have comfort. It is truly wondrous though to see how far my skin has come. When the weather became hotter here in the summer I struggled so much with my urticaria but thankfully now it seems to be something of the past. I can also eat spicy food now, stand in front of the cooker with the hobs blaring, and even wear layers of clothing! Miraculous!
I also generally have more energy - whether this is due to my vegan diet, my uptake of exercise or my body finally having a break from healing my skin, I can't say. But it's bloody good stuff. My hair has also gotten thicker. Back in January 2012 I took Methotrexate which resulted in the loss of my already fine hair which I put down to having scalp eczema. Right now it is the thickest it has been for a long time, though of course my hair has never been massively thick, but I'm no longer embarrassed for having the skinniest pony tail in the world.
I can't remember when I last had to hoover my bed. I used to have to hoover it every single day, multiple times a day, as well as lay on towels to stop the ooze from staining my bed sheets; soak off dried oozy tissues that had hardened onto my face; constantly endure the metallic and pungent rotting aroma of the ooze; the sleepless nights; running a bath at 3am and spending the next 6hrs topping up the water and falling asleep in it just to get some respite... I'm so glad those days are behind me.
Some photographs from my skin hell journey over these past years:
Weird triangle-nose face rash
Weird rash on thigh
Bruising on thigh from over-scratching
Same as 1st image but a different day
Allergic reaction to staying round mum's with the cats
All greased up with my arms covered to stop scratching and ooze, and red rashes on thighs
A mixture of TSW/ MRSA/ Elephant skin
During MRSA/ TSW period
The result of bad skin and skin picking compulsion (dermatillomania)
Eczema herpeticum and Cellulitis of the eye
Development of Pompholyx
Tight, hardened ooze and raw open wounds
The tissue nightmare of constant ooze
2014 - Thin hair
I have faith that my skin will get ever stronger. I fully accept that it will take years and that I may never truly heal because of the extensive damage that I have bestowed upon my skin, thanks to doctors and dermatologists who have misdirected me in terms of usage safety, but I will get there.
Hope everyone else isn't suffering too much. Happy healing!