Category Archives: Psoriasis Blog

SHEDDING LIGHT AND SKIN – EPISODE ONE

EPISODE ONE : INTRODUCTION

A blog about psoriasis.

Please read the disclaimer for what this is and isn’t, if you haven’t already.

I Have This Thing …

I have recently come out of hospital. Actually, it was the first time I have been in one overnight. Whilst I have lived with this thing since I was about eleven, and whilst it has often broken out quite spectacularly and certainly caused me upset, physical pain and impairment, this latest occasion, but eight weeks ago, was the worst I can remember.

Maybe it was because I had been doing so well. I have an excellent consultant and am a regular outpatient of a Centre Of Excellence for the study and treatment of psoriasis. Thanks to the kind cajoling of my wife, I have timetabled regular treatment around my itinerant lifestyle. For too long I had simply lived with it: lived with large red patches on either side of my nose, with leaving a dusty layer of powdery skin imprinted on anything I sat or lay on, or looked in the mirror with a resigned sense of shame and self-pity. So a couple of years ago I went on the offensive, and have been given excellent care and, more importantly, time to ask questions and be appraised of the nature of the disease and the treatment I have been given. Prior to then, I had tried various herbs, needles and unguents, which, like my current regime, will be given plenty of coverage in future instalments of this blog.

This is what I was like when I came out of hospital. Those aren't my shoes.

One Tuesday morning, I went to see my consultant and as she perused my unusually smooth outer shell (knees and ankles excepted) she was pleased. I like it when my consultant is pleased, especially as I credited myself with the progress I had made: maybe I had thought positively, or was looking after myself, or had swallowed my medication in an especially effective manner. Consultants are clever people and I felt like I had handed some genius professor a splendid piece of homework when actually all I’d done was take off my shirt and trousers. Her verdict:  I was to go outside and not come back for quite some time … three months.

Extraordinary. I had been coming in pretty much every month since I had first thrown myself upon her mercy. I had remembered saying to the doctor who assessed me on my initial visit that it wasn’t “looking that great today”. When she examined me she gave me the impression that I was somewhat underestimating the severity of my condition. Either that or she just thought I had an especially horrible body irrespective of the flaky blight that covered about 65% of it. But that was then, this was “come back in three months, you’re doing very well, have a star on the blackboard and a flump.” OK, not those last two, but I bet the NHS would have a higher approval rating if they introduced a flump-based reward system for good health.

Anyway. I looked forward to three months of not having to pop across town before hiking all the way to Manchester, thus leaving the house at 7.30am with overnight bags and my laptop and lots of other annoying, luggable stuff, bedecked in extra layers anticipating the stiff northern inclemency but wholly unsuited to tube travel. The discomfort of psoriasis is active and palpable, and one has to consider what clothes one wears for reasons of comfort and visuals: a too dark jacket can lead those around you to think it’s snowing. The pain is a constant presence that we may become inured to, like engine noise is by slumberers under the Heathrow flight path, but it sours, distracts and tires us insidiously, and most of us resign ourselves to levels of physical and mental stress that many people would find unacceptable and probably only experience when punching the telly because Baroness Warsi is saying something thick on Question Time.

Three months. Gone! No, not so much, as it turns out, not three. Nor two. In fact, two weeks later I was back in, and this time I was admitted to hospital for a relatively lengthy spell, in order to control an onslaught perpetrated without prejudice or undue subtlety. And what had set off such a total (about 80% of the surface area of my skin) outbreak of this nasty affliction; a tarnish raw and sore, yet dry, cracked and painfully parched? A sore throat, that’s what. A little sore throat.

Next Episode: A Scar Is Born

SHEDDING LIGHT AND SKIN – DISCLAIMER

A personal blog about psoriasis.

DISCLAIMER

This is a personal blog by someone with no medical skills, knowledge or aptitude whatsoever (although I was once in an episode of Holby City, and I survived so, you know, just sayin’…). I am simply recounting my experiences as a sufferer of a disease I see discussed very rarely. I know that in the search to tackle this dreadful blight, there are all sorts of debates about homeopathy, diet, traditional medicine et cetera: I’ve explored various avenues and had my fair share of successes and failures. No-one has yet managed to wrest me from its grip, and I’m not especially interested in debating the merits or otherwise of refraining from cheese or bathing in tar. This isn’t a place for such arguments, so I’m unlikely to publish any feedback strongly advocating one approach over another. I don’t want this corner of the Internet to become another battleground between the stethoscope and the hedgerow. Interesting personal stories of triumph, disaster or a slightly embarrassing moment on a bus, however, I will cherish.  Otherwise: it’s just my story. It might be interesting, it might help, or it might have a good joke about The Singing Detective in it. That’s all. I’ll update it as regularly as I can, usually when I have a writing deadline elsewhere that I’m supposed to be meeting.

For those who have stumbled here by mistake, allow me to introduce myself, I am Toby, I am an actor and comedian, and I have suffered from psoriasis for the past 26 years. I don’t know if talking and writing about this unsightly and often irritating condition helps, but it’s so desperate for attention it seems rather churlish to deny it. It is such an individual disease though, that I can’t stress enough that anything I say or try here is purely subjective and unscientific and is in no way intended to be advisory. And I know it’s not as bad as cancer or amputation, but on its own terms and in isolation, it’s bad enough.

My leg, generally.

Psoriasis is a dermatological condition caused by the immune system reproducing skin cells at 8 times the rate that they should. It manifests as red, sometimes scaly patches on the skin (commonly on the elbows, knees and scalp), and afflicts about 4% of the population. I am one of the 4%, and these are my experiences. They will take the form of an on-going commentary on my treatment mixed with memories from the past and no small amount of trite wordplay.