Treatment Update 11
General Notes March – July 2013
(Gravelly Voice): “Previously on Toby Hadoke’s Psoriasis Blog”: Skin. Ow. Red patches. Flakes. Poor mental health. Bad puns. Many attempts to make severe dermatological conditions vaguely amusing. One or two attempts to make serious dermatological conditions vaguely amusing that have actually worked. I have been seeing Dr McBride (dermatology consultant) every four weeks and Dr Mizara (dermo-psychologist) ever fortnight or so: both are based at The Royal Free Hospital Hamsptead. I have been injecting adalimumab, a biologic treatment, since just before Christmas.
“And now, the continuation”.
Bloods, cholesterol and liver were generally better last month but as with Norman Tebbit’s current application to join the human race here in the 21st Century, there’s still plenty of work to be done before anything can be signed off. Plus, I’ve not been as good or disciplined this month. The patterns of exercise, healthy eating and intelligent application of alcohol are pretty much what you’d expect (i.e everything I like doing is bad for me and everything I hate doing is good for me). My scalp is still the most stubborn area, and Dr McBride says that alcohol can really affect the scalp as it has various yeast-based side effects and that helps to maintain a healthy harvest of scurf across one’s cranial landscape. Essentially Nizoral Shampoo clears the yeast from the face and scalp and then the coal tar shampoo one uses more regularly keeps the psoriasis at bay: but the more yeasty you are, the harder that makes the coal tar’s job. Still, if anyone wants some bread that tastes of the road then gather up the powdery residue all over my head and shoulders; add water; prove; knead and bake ; et voila!
(I can’t believe I just typed that but it’s staying in).
“We haven’t quite cracked you yet have we?” said Dr McBride with as much ruefulness as someone whose glass is permanently half full could possibly muster. She’s very cheerful for some who has to look at bodies whose outer membranes look like they’ve been through a spaper shredder all day: there’s no doom and gloom at all in her assessment but rather an acknowledgement that there is still work to do. All things considered I am doing OK but not brilliantly: there are patches of bad skin on my arms and hands and a little on my sides. All things considered, she says, I am doing well, even if that “doing well” is relative (and in this case, it’s relative is a remorseless bastard).
In my other sessions Dr Mizara notes that my skin reacts very acutely to emotional stresses. I wasn’t aware that mine was especially sensitive but she suggests that it is. Part of me finds this really annoying (Pathetic skin, pull yourself together you big wuss!) whilst another sort of secretly quite chuffed (Oh, I am special am I? Like a poet or something?).
I filled in my last questionnaire for Nurse Annie about the effect that adalimumab has on my behaviour in certain carnal areas. Some things must remain a secret from even you dear reader, but all in all I am as sturdy/impotent, rampant/frigid and effective/disappointing as usual (delete as appropriate, depending on how you’ve found me to be). Quite what some anonymous boffin is going to do with my regular sex reports is anyone’s guess but I hope my candour is of use to medical science. Or at least provides them with a good laugh.
I put on weight in April/May. Dr McBride said I had to see how I’d respond if I did exercise and didn’t drink for a month – but no pressure, she said. It’s not a test and if I can’t manage it I mustn’t beat myself up. I reassured her that she’d not be disappointed with me and that I’d do my best.
Turns out, my best was shit.
Current Treatments: I am still splashing Dovonex (calciptrotriol) scalp application on my bonce, Silkis (a vitamin D cream, basically) to my arms and affected skin patches, and washing my hair with a mixture of Nizoral and coal tar shampoo (see above). There’s pro-topic for my face too but apart from some dryness underneath if I let my beard grow too long I’m remarkably unblemished on the old fizzog. I also take a massive Vitamin D booster every fortnight.
I’m overweight even though I have been eating as well as possible since June (bearing in mind I live out of a bag and am often reliant on fast food) so I need to do something about that fairly sharpish. I’ve not experienced the great breakthrough that I had hoped the biologics would be – it seems that there are no easy answers, and I certainly can’t expect to be given any until I’m in slightly better shape than I currently am. Psoriasis is a condition that requires some assistance from its host to give it its marching orders; I can’t really complain that I’m not healthy if I drink as much as I want, have a weakness for chilli peanuts and think that taking the stairs occasionally is a workout.
As I write this Dr McBride has asked to see me in a fortnight. I’ve gone from once a month to every two weeks now which should be an indication that things aren’t as good as they might be. And I’ll be honest, that’s a tough thing to bear … it’s an equal opportunities condition ; for every Stride Forward there has to be an all Two Steps Back shortlist. That said, she is seeing me because she is being very supportive at a difficult time: I went into my last appointment in the doldrums and emerged ameliorated and hopeful. Likewise, my latest session with Dr Mizara left me feeling emboldened and determined when I’d gone in full of self-doubt, self-recrimination and negativity.
Both doctors have provided reassurance and sympathy as well as medical insight. They’re convinced that the mental issues I had over Christmas were induced by acitretin and when I fretted that most people probably don’t need to be seen as often as I am by Dr Mizara, Dr McBride showed me figures that indicated many had had far more sessions, and that when everyone emerges from the derma-psychology tunnel the light is bright and warming (and probably ultra-violet too because it makes your skin better). Indeed, she even went to the extent of calling Dr Mizara (who was doubtless busy elsewhere) down to back up her figures and provide an extra ear; once again the call of duty was answered long ago and continues to soar so far above and beyond that I’m surprised I can still see it.
It may just be that I need a skin and brain transplant and I might finally get rid of this thing. I hadn’t done a blood test this week as I’ve been all over the place so I did one after seeing Dr McBride. I dread the results: she’s ordered a streptococcal test in case that’s been a contributor (I have had the odd throaty scare) but she’d be better off looking for traces of Sancerre. Since then though, it’s been healthy living, no booze, and plenty of exercise (bear in mind that “plenty” for me probably means a light bout for most, far more robust examples of humanity).
Dr McBride is right, we haven’t cracked it yet, but then I haven’t cracked either (apart from physically on various patches of my skin, but I’m used to that).