PSORIASIS BLOG – Bits and bobs, scabs and spots…

posted: October 21st, 2014

Bits and bobs, scabs and spots…

I wanted to to an update in September entitled “Oh f*ck…” because after a year of being pretty clear I went on holiday, to the sun. By the time I came back, I knew that the tiny little flecks of colour on my skin, and the fact that I felt a bit itchy and uncomfortable, meant that my psoriasis was on the march again. I thought it might be useful to chronicle its unwelcome return to my too too unsullied flesh as it happened. But in a way, I felt that might aid it in its campaign to take root on my body again – plus I was a bit depressed about it – so I didn’t. Now, however, I have an approaching deadline for a play I am meant to be writing, so what better time to give you all an update…?

As we know, the sun can really help clear up the skin, so a week of Verona’s beautiful Vitamin E flavoured illumination, plus the resultant relaxation, would only be good.

It's when it spreads from the usual places like the arms and ankles to the less commonly afflicted parts like the back that you know you're in trouble.

It’s when it spreads from the usual places like the arms and ankles to the less commonly afflicted parts like the back that you know you’re in trouble.

Except…

I had been a bit worried by all the stuff I read in the papers about Doctors prescribing too many antibiotics and how bad that can be. So I asked Dr McBride of perhaps I should give my body a rest. She didn’t really think I should but said that if I was going to it would be safer over the summer when my likelihood of picking up a throat infection would be minimised. What she didn’t tell me to do was give up taking them just before gong on an aeroplane with all its recycled air and close proximity to other people’s germs. But I did. And so I piked up a bit of a streptococcal throat infection and despite the success I have had with my biologics, my arms, and gradually the rest of my body, started showing the tell tales signs of an outbreak. My body temperature also fluctuated and I was extremely agitated by the itchiness that dominoed with goose bumps all over my frame. At one point I thought that these metamorphoses would lead to a spell in hospital, as the last time I’d had a similar resurgence it didn’t abate until it totally wiped me out. I’m used to the odd period where the back of my arms or my elbows and knees have discolouration and dryness, but when the softer skin of the torso or that hardier suff on the back of the hands start showing signs of plaques I know I am in a bit of trouble.

This has been a bit of a bind. Just as there’s an argument that loving and losing is a hell of a lot more painful than never having loved at all, I was perhaps knocked sideways a little because I had started to take a pain free, smooth outer shell for granted. It looked like I was about to be plunged into a revisitation of the dark old days and so I got not a little distressed (which, of course, helps the condition to wage it’s war). Fortunatley, Doctor McBride wasn’t too concerned, reassuring me as ever that this was normal and that even if it turns out that the biologics aren’t strong enough to help me then there are other options and I mustn’t despair. For now though, the blame is firmly on the sore throat – so back on thsose antibiotics – and I’m continuing my treatment as before, but with a greater attention to the application of creams and lotions in order to manage this upsurge in plaques.

A couple of months later and I am still covered – but it is not as widespread nor painful as previous major outbreaks. It is a disappointment after such a period of fantastic progress, but it is certainly not as bad as it has been in the past. Everything is relative. I’m, mostly stricken on the back of my arms, my knees and the back of my ankles, but it is not too flaky nor is is cracked and raw. I didn’t have to do to hospital and the itching has abated. So while I don’t especially like what I see, I know all to well that I could be feeling a hell of a lot worse.

In the meantime, the other side effect of the holiday is a massive rise in my cholesterol (8.5 having been at a brilliant – for me – 5.2) which is cause for serious concern so I have had to employ the services of a personal trainer and am actively eating and supplementing myself with things specifically designed to make this high figure drop. My blood tests in Decemeber will indicate just how happy a Christmas I will be allowed to have.

Lessons learned - (i) Don’t stop taking prophylactic antibiotics before getting on a plane and (ii) the Italians may well have a relaxed attitude to the consumption of wine and ice cream, but you are not an Italian (iii) it could have been a lot worse.

I had a lovely holiday though. Sun, sea, sand … the scabs didn’t come till later!

Out Of The Unknown DVD Commentaries

posted: August 20th, 2014

I have had the privilege of working on the DVD commentaries for the forthcoming BFI box set of Classic BBC sci-fi anthology series Out Of The Unknown. With about 8 weeks to turn things round and a minuscule budget, producer John Kelly and I managed to accrue a pretty decent roster of talent which I am delighted to be able to reveal now.

All commentaries moderated by me.

No Place Like Earth
With Mark Ward (Out Of The Unknown expert) and Dan Rebellato (playwright, lecturer and John Wyndham expert).

The Dead Past
With John Gorrie (director) and Brian Hodgson (Special Sounds).

Time In Advance
With Peter Sasdy (director), Wendy Gifford (Polly), Philip Voss (Police Officer) and Danvers Walker (Dan).

With Clive Endersby for Sucker Bait.

With Clive Endersby for Sucker Bait.

Sucker Bait
With Clive Endersby (Mark), Roger Croucher (Fawkes).

Some Lapse Of Time
With Roger Jenkins (director), John Glenister (PA), Jane Downs (Diana Harrow) and Delena Kidd (Dr Laura Denville).

The Midas Plague
With Peter Sasdy.

The Machine Stops
With Philip Saville (director), Kenneth Cavander (adaptor), Michael Imison (story editor).

With Philip Savile And Michael Imison for The Machine Stops.

With Philip Savile And Michael Imison for The Machine Stops.

Level 7
With Mordecai Roshwald (author), Michael Imison (story editor).

This Body Is Mine
With John Carson (Allen).

Welcome Home
With Moris Fahri (writer), Bernard Brown (Bowers Two).

The Man In My Head
With Peter Cregeen (director), Tom Chadbon (Brinson), Jeremy Davies (designer).

Some of the commentaries spend some time with one participant then switch over to another as it wasn’t always practical to get people at the same time: indeed Roshwald and Cavander (for example) live in the USA so we did them by Skype. Others we visited at home to minimise disruption to them. So some are a bit of a mix and match, but we wanted as many participants as possible.

We were asked to provide 7 commentaries. We aimed for 13 and managed, ultimately, to get 11 – over half of the available episodes. I’m very proud of what we did on a release originally planned to have no commentaries at all.

 

PSORIASIS BLOG: Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out 2

posted: August 2nd, 2014

Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out 2

Despite advice from a media savvy friend that one should do so, I’m not the type of person who reTweets anything that praises me. I just reply and say thank you. I am not sure what is to be achieved by yelling out to cyberspace that someone likes your work. It comes across as either needy or narcissistic and I don’t want to be either of those. You wouldn’t go up to somebody in a pub and say “Look, John from Doncaster thinks I rock and @twinkletoes says I’m hot and funny”.*

(*in the interests of full disclosure, those were made up names and comments – NO-ONE has ever Tweeted that I’m hot and funny).

 

Lots Of Highly Trained And Skilled Professionals From Salford Royal Hospital Dance Like Loons Just To Raise Awareness About Psoriasis.

Lots Of Highly Trained And Skilled Professionals From Salford Royal Hospital Dance Like Loons Just To Raise Awareness About Psoriasis.

So with that in mind, I post the words below NOT because they say once things about me but because the Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out was designed to highlight to people with this condition that they are not alone and that there are resources and methods that help. From the feedback below, it seems we did our job. So if anyone reading this does feel isolated or at the end of their tether with this horrible condition than please have a look. And then maybe drop me – or some of the groups I will link to underneath -a line.

I present it unedited…

 

Here’s how I feel about the psoriasis shout out and how it’s effected me since.

I first heard about the shout out back in April through Helen the Flaky Fashionista and Tony [sic] Hadoke. They both had reached out to me some weeks before via twitter when I was at a very low point with my psoriasis. I had searched the hash tag #psoriasis and came across Helen first. We started to chat about various treatments etc, and then she introduced Toby to the conversation. At that point, knowing there were two separate people outside of my family who knew and also suffered from the disease was somewhat comforting. It truly gave me hope, and actually brightened my day. After a few conversations, they both mentioned about the ‘Shout Out’ campaign being run. I knew I had to be a part of it, even by just attending. I was also asked to take part in Helens fashion show and initially I agreed, but soon bottled it as I was scared of standing there and people staring. Looking back, I truly wished I did take part as I’ve since learnt to embrace my P and no be embarrassed any longer. I came to the event at Salford Royal, just as the flash dance started. I immediately felt myself welling up, I couldn’t believe that all these people were getting up and dancing for psoriasis – it was amazing. I went over to the van and spoke to some amazing people. I was slightly overwhelmed, and had a lump in my throat the majority of the afternoon. At this point my P wasn’t as bad as it had been on my arms so I was able to wear short sleeves, but my whole mental state was a mess. I felt low, ugly, angry and quite hateful. All of which slowly went as the afternoon went on. I was introduced to Helen and Toby, and I was slightly nervous. I was nervous because in the few weeks id had spoken to them on twitter, I’d become slightly in awe of their work for raising awareness and the like. I couldn’t get my head round how accepting they both were (to a point) of the P. We sat down and had a chat, and it was nice to just be truly honest about how you feel etc. We also made a few jokes about P and leaving skin around. Which, if you’ve ever suffered from P, you’ll know you need to maintain some level of humour to keep you sane.

Complimentary massages were on offer, Which I heard were fab. But one of the things I was keen to see was the mindfulness session and the talks about the future for P. I went into the mindfulness session with a very open mind – I know my limits and I know sitting there nice and quiet is beyond me. But I did it, and initially I thought this isn’t for me at all. But the weeks after I would say I utilised some parts every now and again. It was wonderful to hear the talks from everyone, it’s lovely that people actually look at P and think I’m going to do something about this. It’s not the most glamorous disease there is after all.

A real highlight of my day was meeting another sufferer called Russ. He’s amazing. He has both P and PSA, but he was still smiling. He read me his poem, I can’t explain how I felt but he hit the nail right on it’s head. Again, I turned into a girl and started crying. It was at that point I told myself to wind my neck in and just accept what is and move on. When I left, I called my mum right away who is also a P sufferer. And she was gutted she couldn’t get the time off work to come. She said that she could hear a change in my voice and said I sounded more brighter then I had in months.

Unfortunately, I’ve since had a flare up and was admitted to the ward. I was on there for two weeks, and it felt like therapy. The nurses ask you upon admittance what’s most important to you? I looked round and most people had put things like go home or get better. Mine was to wear shorts – I’m a girl, and I’ve pretty good legs apart from the scabs. I felt that the admission was the ending I needed to finally accept my P and embrace it as part of me. With the help of all the wonderful staff and patients I feel I’ve done just that. I’ve been out of hospital two weeks now, and the weather is scorching, perfect time to get my legs out in a pair of shorts. Yes I’m flake free for the first time in over 10 years, and it feels amazing.

I truly believe that the Helen, Toby and the shoutout were my turning point and is love to be able to help others out. So sign me up for next years shout out xxx

My thanks to Rebecca for letting me share her feedback.

Links: Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out

See Psoriasis, Look Deeper

The Psoriasis Association

Helen Hanrahan – The Flaky Fashionista

Ray Lonnen RIP

posted: August 2nd, 2014

Ray Lonnen RIP

Ray LonnenA couple of weeks ago I was very sad to learn of the death of Ray Lonnen – a fine, understated actor who took part in a couple of television shows that deserve to be remembered for a very long time: namely Harry’s Game and The Sandbaggers. I had the good fortune of visiting Ray a couple of times – most recently an evening a couple of months ago of fish and chips a chatting about his good friend Richard Shaw. Ray had showed me some paintings he had which had been done by Richard and kindly offered to share his memories of the late Quatermass actor. Ray had a lot of empathy for others and behind the considered decency that emanated from him was a twinkle and a wry sense of humour.  He and his lovely wife Tara were extremely hospitable and I had kept in touch with them since I interviewed them both for my Who’s Round project last year. They, along with their good friend Bernard Holley, came to see my West End double bill in November despite Ray being in a lot of pain. I was flattered to have known him and pleased to have had the opportunity to provide Ray’s Guardian obituary here. I can’t thank Tara enough for her help with this – her positive attitude and encouragement for others even shining through at a most difficult time for her and the family. If the world is a bit of a struggle sometimes, following Tara on Twitter is recommended – she’s an empathic person with an infectious optimism : find her at @TaraWardBooks.

My Who’s Round interview with Ray and Tara can be found here.

It’s typical of the fellow that the last contact I had from him was after he found out my other half’s name: it’s unusual and he postulated that it might have been inspired by a film of the same name. I admitted that I thought that that was the case but that I didn’t know much about it. After a short time there was an email from Ray with a link to the movie and everything about it. He was  a thoughtful man for whom nothing was too much trouble.

Rest In peace Ray.

PSORIASIS BLOG – Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out 1

posted: May 7th, 2014

MANCHESTER PSORIASIS SHOUT OUT

SEE PSORIASIS, LOOK DEEPER CAMPAIGN LAUNCH

There’s been quite a build up to the Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out, which is a refreshingly upbeat campaign to get people talking about this most hidden of conditions. For the first time in my life, despite my long association with the city, I set foot inside Manchester town hall on Monday 28th April. I made sure that my larynx was in good shape for this was to be the day that the shout out began.

Psoriasis Blog 5

We have a new tree for the patient postcards. The old one has gone to the great forest in the sky.

Earlier there had been a couple of flashmob dances but I absented myself from those of the grounds of an old war wound and the fact that there’s a line (one I won’t be crossing, even with a jig). My contribution to the day (purely verbal, thankfully) came during the Manchester launch of the See Psoriasis, Look Deeper campaign. I have blogged about this before, but since then we have acquired a new tree (the old one fell to bits) upon which to hang the postcards, and this time the Mayor Of Manchester was on hand to add a bit of officially sanctioned bling to proceedings.

Here’s a paraphrased summary of the things that were said and by whom:

Professor Chris GriffithsFoundation Professor of Dermatology, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, Manchester University – This eminent man provided a lot of stats. One in fifty people suffer from psoriasis. You could gather everyone in Manchester with psoriasis and they would fill Old Trafford. On a full tram four people contained within it will have psoriasis (and will therefore be twice as irritable as you are about possibly the least competent transport system since the infamous wax helicopter and jelly bicycle). It affects people’s confidence, employment options, and relationships.

Professor Chris Griffiths: a big hitter and senior psoriasis expert. He still danced in the video though.

Helen McAteerChief Executive, Psoriasis Association – Thanked everyone from the University Of Manchester who had helped with the Shout Out and contributed to research in psoriasis. Research has really developed in recent years. There remains a lack of dedicated services to manage the psychological impact of psoriasis.We need to raise the profile of psoriasis and the impact that it has. We need to listen to patients as they know the impact more than anyone. We are keen to collect people’s experiences. Healthcare has changed since the start of the campaign. We need help building services like those at The Royal Free.

Paul BristowCommunications Director, Mental Health Foundation – The Mental Health Foundation are a national charity committed to combat mental health issues. They research developing practical solutions to improve mental health services and campaign to reduce stigma and discrimination. We often hear about parity of esteem: it is important that we understand the relationship between mental health and physical health. Psoriasis is a physical health condition but has a major impact on quality of life and thus an inevitable effect on mental health. Plans for the future: continuing to raise awareness, academic research and direct patient support. We wanted to share the evidence from the postcards with doctors, patients and policy makers. Very excited about direct support for patients – helping patients understand their emotions and learn to cope with them better. Booklets documenting this will be released soon.

Dr Sandy McBrideConsultant Dermatologist, Royal Free Hospital – Shared a story about one of her patients who we will call Alan*. Ten years ago Alan checked himself in the mirror once an hour, checked his clothes for detritus, and went to hospital once a week demanding treatment. In terms of socialising he only ever went out to nightclubs because they were dark. His partner was on the verge of leaving him because he was hard to live with (not because of his psoriasis). Last week Alan was happy, he was working, was still with his partner and had an active social life. He still has some psoriasis but he is happy – he underwent 12 sessions with Doctor Mizara and that totally turned his life around. 93% of dermatology units don’t have that level of psychological support under the current system.

Dr Chris BundySenior Lecturer, Behavioural Medicine, University Of Manchester – Is very proud of the campaign. Her research unit are developing a very strong bond with people suffering from psoriasis. In our Western society we overemphasises the importance of physical features. You open any magazine and you see blemish free skin. That is the back drop with which psoriasis patients live their lives. Patients feel judged and people recoil from them thinking that the condition is contagious. These things happen on a daily basis and this affect how patients feel as an individual. Skin conditions rarely escape people’s notice and people make judgements about suffers as a result. People with psoriasis often don’t talk about it and spend time, money and energy hiding their psoriasis. Psoriasis patients talk about shame in a way that those with, say, diabetes do not. There are high levels of anxiety and distress amongst patients. This level of distress is comparable with that found in people with other long term conditions like heart disease and cancer – but people with those get first rate psychological treatment. People with psoriasis have repeatedly not been given access to the treatment they deserve. Those who have had access to these services recover better and quicker and become more productive individuals – back to work quicker and thus contributing to society with labour and tax. Therefore the treatment is cost effective.

MeProfessional Gobshite, No Medical Qualifications Whatsoever – Blah-de-blah, wordplay here, cheap laugh there, self derogatory aside, slight stutter, yaketty-yak. The End.

Links:
See Psoriasis Look Deeper
The Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out

* I am not Alan.

In relation to some queries about my post about psoriasis and mental health, a couple of you asked how the “1 in 10 psoriasis patients consider suicide” stat compared to that for non-psoriasis sufferers. Well, for those lucky folk it is 1 in 26 or 27 – so quite a marked difference I am sure you would agree.

 

(l to r) Dr Sandy McBride, A Man Who Was Once In An Episode Of Holby City, Dr Christine Bundy, The Mayor Of Manchester, Professor Chris Griffiths, Helen McAteer, Paul Bristow.

(l to r) Dr Sandy McBride, A Man Who Was Once In An Episode Of Holby City, Dr Christine Bundy, The Mayor Of Manchester, Professor Chris Griffiths, Helen McAteer, Paul Bristow.

Psoriasis Blog – Updates, Links, Articles and Events

posted: April 23rd, 2014

Updates, Links, Articles and Events

 

I have been a bit quiet online of late: apologies, but the outside world needs laughter and no one else in the universe could possibly help (apart from all the other comedians out there, some films, telly programmes and the odd feather).

 

OK then, I’ve been sloppy because frankly time has been flying by. It used to be – when I was a lad (Spangles, Kajagoogoo, affordable housing etc etc) – that Christmas seemed an age away and days at school were yawning chasms until the weekend and fun. Now all of a sudden my infant firstborn is 14 in a month, has hairy armpits and probably swears. What happened there? (That was your life mate, you should have been paying attention).

 

When Worlds Collide... Me With peter Mandleson At The Dermatrust Launch.

When Worlds Collide… Me With Peter Mandleson At The Dermatrust Launch.

So apologies for the brevity but here are some links that are quite useful, I hope. First up – on February 25th I attended this year’s launch of Dermatrust, a vitally important charity which is looking to raise money to help with the treatment of people with skin conditions. At the moment there is a target of £3.4 million to be gathered which will help to fund important research and implement initiatives which could lead to drastic improvements in the lives of dermatology patients. I zipped to London and arrived with minutes to spare in order to be (and I never thought I’d feature this on my CV) Peter Mandleson’s Warm-Up Man!! I hadn’t quite realised that there were many illustrious potential donors there, so sort of bumbled my way through an ill-prepared bit of blather before the man himself gave a much more measured and intelligent talk designed to get them to part with their cash. Did he do a joke about hoovering up dead skin though? I don’t bally well think so!! Eat that House Of Lords! Though not unaware of the faults of our political system I nonetheless think it is quite exciting to rub shoulders with someone present at key decision making and world defining moments in modern history. And to tell more jokes than they did. And he seemed very nice – and having someone heavyweight lending their support to such fund-raising ventures is not to be underestimated. I suspect there wouldn’t have been quite such a turnout had the only non-medical speaker been a man (me) who was once in an episode of Holby City (albeit a man who was once in an episode of Holby City who tells more jokes than everyone else). There is lots to read on the Dermatrust website, and details of the efforts of some non sufferers who have been kind enough to run the marathon in order to raise money (running a marathon is one thing, but can they tell jokes about itchy skin? I think not!).

 

In addition to that, I have contributed to an article which highlights the benefits of treating the mental health ramifications of this pesky condition. It was published in a paper who’s name I do not care to mention (but imagine a curtain twitcher with more certainty than facts and a dubiousness about anything that has occurred since 1955 mixed with a mean spiritedness combined with an unjustified level of moral outrage and you can probably guess the organ to which I refer). Still its health pages are actually pretty detailed but nonetheless I am happier to link to the article here as it doesn’t involve a hit on that particular website. Some may say it’s hypocritical of me to feature in a paper I despise – I disagree. I didn’t profit from the piece in any way, I am simply trying to spread awareness, even if that awareness stretches into a place I wouldn’t want to go myself. There is so much ignorance about (not least in that newspaper) that I am happy to combat it anywhere. Plus Grace, the freelancer who wrote the piece, was very nice and worked hard to do a good job. I was amused that when requested for the photoshoot I was told that the paper had certain rules for their subjects: apparently readers of that paper aren’t to be subjected to people wearing black (it’s a news paper that doesn’t like black – who’d have thunk it?). I also couldn’t be entirely black and white (unlike their reporting). And finally, apparently no-one in that newspaper’s universe wears jeans, so jeans were forbidden on the photoshoot. I wore jeans*. The article (and offending photos – which didn’t make the printed paper itself) is here in case you missed the link earlier in the paragraph because you were still trying to work out which paper I was being oblique about (in which case, you probably read it).

 

Finally, next week there are a load of events in the North between 28th April and 2nd May as past of the Manchester Psoriasis Shout Out. I am taking part in some, you can take part in others. Info, links, videos and a timetable of events can be found here.

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* I know, you’re thinking “What a maverick – he don’t play by no rules. He sticks it to da man”. Indeed I do. Especially when I accidentally lock myself out of my flat and have no choice but to go to the shot in what I’d be wearing all day.

 

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