YOUR BODY IS A HUGE AREA OF SKIN
Shortly after I started on Tamoxifen, I woke up to find my sheets covered in blood, and skin lesions (bloody skin blisters) had broken out overnight all over my body. So I made an appointment to see PD (Pompous Dermatologist).
Entering his consulting room, he asked if I minded being examined in front of students. Actually, I was pleased. I am not an exhibitionist, but was certain that Tamoxifen had caused my painful skin outbreak, and wanted to show trainee doctors what drugs could do to us.
Telling me to get undressed, he gave me a cursory examination – probably all of two minutes – then announced “it’s your age”.
I was shocked. I write about skincare for magazines, and had been on courses run by companies that wanted to explain the science behind the care, so even I knew enough to realise that age problems creep up gradually, not overnight.
So I disputed this diagnosis; behind me I could sense the students were on my side, and they too were questioning PD’s diagnosis.
“Go and get dressed”, he told me, and when I returned to his room he had swept out, refusing to answer any more of my questions. I did have the last laugh though – I had gone privately because I couldn’t afford to wait weeks for an appointment – so told PD’s secretary “don’t you dare send a bill, because I will see him in Court before I pay” – and to her credit she didn’t.
Next I went to see a private GP, who gave me a prescription for strong creams to close up the lesions and help my skin re-grow – then Clinique took over.
Clinique make a fabulous Deep Comfort Body Butter. Smoothing that all over my skin three times a day eventually bought my horrible peeling skin under control, and now I only use it once a day (unless I go swimming, and then use again after I have dried off).
This is the product I turn to when I want to buy a present for a friend with cancer – and both men and women have said it is fantastic. Clinique make a whole range of products, for men and women, that are researched by their team of doctors, so you will find them mentioned in other pages.
However, I could still feel ‘warts and bumps’ growing occasionally on my skin; was I doing the right thing for my body? To make sure this didn’t erupt again, I decided I should seek proper medical advice, and found out that La Roche Posay in France treated over 8,000 patients with skin problems a year – so went off there.
I could have chosen to go to Avene, or St. Gervais – both well-know French medical health spas specialising in skin disorders.
La Roche Posay it was, and arranging an appointment was very easy to do – I actually got the tourist board to make an appointment with a doctor. I didn’t think PD would supply a referral letter, so if your doctor hasn’t given you one you need an appointment with a ‘gatekeeper’ doctor, and they refer you on. I didn’t ask for an English speaking one (wanting to practice my French), but the doctor who met me spoke perfect English.
After examining me, he said “you need to see Dr. Lemoine” and my heart sank at the thought of the wait. But he lifted up the phone, told me Dr. Lemoine would see me in ten minutes, and he did.
I don’t know what language he spoke; but he examined my skin all over, took swabs, scrapings (not painful) blood samples – all the while grunting away to himself. Then he rang for a nurse, I heard her being told to give me a ‘massage sous l’eau’ and I was wafted off to have a dreamy treatment which got rid of the bumps and left my skin feeling fantastic.
The centre really got going during the war, when it made a name for itself dealing with terrible burns from bombing etc. And as I wandered from appointment to appointment I could see ‘classes’ going on, with other patients learning how to apply the special cover make-up for which the centre is famous.
Soon I was back with the doctor, who told me that my problems were the result of Tamoxifen, and he had written out a huge prescription for La Roche Posay products. I found out that these products had all had umpteen clinical trials, and were supplied as part of the French health service.
His nurse took me off, handed out lots and lots of creams and tubes, explained what they were all for – and I was outside – clutching my bag of goodies – and it hadn’t cost me a penny.
Am not sure about French system, but a friend who had a similar experience said she had paid about £90 – which must be the bargain of all times. But I suspect at the Roche Posay centre they thought that as someone locally had made my booking, I was included in the French system, and hadn’t asked for my papers.
Friends who have stayed with friends who live locally say the same. But even if I had had to pay – what a fantastic service. No waiting – one-stop shop – fantastic expert attention and products designed to help cancer skins. No wonder the French stay on their drugs and live longer.
Incidentally the EHIC card WON’T pay for this. Sorry!
Back home, when the lovely prescription products were finished, I did think I should try to see if the NHS could contribute to the cost, and was given several products to try, including Cetraben and Oilatum Cream; they are OK, but sadly not nearly as effective. I have since discovered that La Roche Posay products are sold in UK in large Boots stores, etc. and of course on the Internet.
The nurse had said it would be a good idea to have a body scrub once a week; the sort with oil in it. It gets rid of rough patches, and feeds your skin, and sets it up to absorb and renew itself.
Elemis Recently I have been put on bisphosphonates (for osteoporosis – probably from Aromasin), and that is a real BxxxxR! However, Elemis happened to send me a lovely bottle of their Frangipani Monoi Moisture Melt – which arrived just in time to do exactly what the label says – melt into my skin. Bonviva (the drug I am taking) is particularly vicious, and has managed to destroy my nails (Evonail are working on this at the moment), so anything to counter its effects on body skin has to be strong to be effective, and this Frangipani oil certainly is.
It is an oil, so be careful if you rub it into your feet that you wipe them down before you set off across a polished floor – but the effects are superb.
Elemis, in their quiet way, produce some fantastic skin products, and of course their Spa just behind London’s Bond Street is the top place for superb treatments and massages. Whatever I try of theirs always seems to hit the right spot, and they really do understand what our skin is going through.
Finders Finders makes one of the best body scrubs, called Dead Sea Salt Scrub, and it costs under £10. Another excellent product is their Dead Sea Body Scrub with Frankincense oil (£6.99). The same company also makes Black mud mask soap which is excellent for hand washing (stops drying out hands) (£3.29). www.deadseabathcare.co.uk .
Then in your shower or bath use Finders Heavenly Hydration in your bath or shower, then gently smooth their Skin Softener all over your body (don’t forget the bit around your waist on your back, which often gets very dry). This product is excellent for an emergency ‘repair’ when your skin is really dry, or it reacts when you are put on a new drug.
However, do wipe your feet before you step on a polished floor, otherwise the cream may not have soaked in – and you will slide all over the place!. These products do what the name says on the package, and keep your skin soft,, smooth and – most important – healthy. I can’t understand how Finders manage to keep prices down, and still produce some of the best bath and moisturiser ranges – but they do.
When you start on drugs your skin may be so dry that you will need to use a body moisturiser at least twice a day, and if you go swimming use it again after you come out of the water.
In the bad old days perfumes were often harsh, and destroyed the body’s defence mechanism. Today, this has changed, and although many people like to use an unperfumed product, I love a bit of glamour, and find if I use a good product I can smell gorgeous without having any problems, and this gives me a lift!
iS Clinical If you prefer to go to America, or like American products that have been discovered and used by their celebrities! Then look for iS Clinical.
This range of skincare products is available from top Harley Street dermatologists, or on the web. Four years in the making at Washington Cancer Center, it has had every trial you can think of – but as NICE said it had to have more trials in Britain, you have go to looking for it, rather than have our local hospitals prescribe this incredibly helpful range. It makes me sick – how can NICE be so arrogant, when the US has a far better record for treating cancer – it beggars belief.
They make excellent products for body skin care, and are always putting out new ones.
Dr. Bragi. And if I have had an extra dose of pills – such as antibiotics that seem to be the standard treatment for just about everything today, I reach for products developed by Dr. Bragi. He comes from Iceland – and started to use his research to develop products using marine enzymes – plenty of them in Iceland. These products act like a serum, and I use the Face and Body Salvation (does what it says on the label) when I can feel those rough patches developing as a side-effect from antibiotics.
I spray this all over my body, and can use it on my face as well. It sinks in, and really gets the skin back on track.I don’t begin to understand it works – but the crystal-clear pump action bottles come with a warning. They are sensitive to lipid-based products, so wait at least 15 minutes before applying any other cream or lotion on top. www.drbragi.com
Products I have mentioned are fairly expensive – but if you spend £80 on a pair of trainers, doesn’t your skin deserve the same attention? Our body skin is vitally important, and yet there is so much of it to protect it can be an expensive exercise.
Floris I love the lightly perfumed bath gels, cleansers and gentle body lotion made by Floris. Founded in 1730, Floris products were good enough for Florence Nightingale. So what’s good enough for one of my heroines is good enough for me. Today, the company is run by the eighth generation of the family, and walking into their shop at 83, Jermyn Street, you are still given the same ‘old-fashioned’ service.
Floris make a range of sweet smelling products that don’t dry the skin, and are gentle. Not only that, but they also support the Cancerkin centre – so are well worth supporting themselves.
I had a marvellous friend who, knowing I loved jasmine, used to give me Floris products in their Jasmine range, including Body cream, and other bath products in same range. They also make ranges smelling of Roses, Lavender, Lily of the Valley, etc. and the evocative Edwardian bouquet.
When advised by a doctor that I needed to ‘bombard’ my skin with something extra strong, I used Floris’ scents to add to almond oil to make this smell nicer. However, you won’t find this type of product made commercially, as you have to be very, very careful. Firstly because it is so sticky it can be dangerous walking, and secondly it takes time for the oil to be absorbed into your skin, so you have to be careful what you touch and where you sit! But it is as useful remedy when drugs make your skin scaly.
Incidentally Floris also make a perfumed Hand Wash, which is a good idea as it doesn’t dry out hands, unlike soap. www.florislondon.com
Perfume What seems strange to me is that we pay homage to the science of Aromatherapy – as its name suggests, ‘therapy with scent’ – but shy from any product with a scent. Once I could have understood this. There were some shocking chemically-made scents used in products to make them smell better, but today the gentle aromatherapy basics such as rose, lavender, jasmine etc. not only lift the spirits, but make you feel better.
Bronnley are one company that use floral scents, and, they have come up with a Forever Rose Collection, that gives a donation to Breast Cancer Campaign.
Not only do the products smell gorgeous, but 10% from the sale of each product will be donated to the charity. There are Heart Shaped Soaps, with Shea butter, a Rose Eau De Parfum, Soothing Bath & Shower Gel and luscious Body Lotion.
The Bath & Shower Gel contains Witch Hazel Extract for soothing skin protection, and the Body Lotion is enriched with Evening Primrose Oil. Incidentally, rose scent is a well-known aphrodisiac, traditionally associated with Venus – the goddess of love and beauty!
Incidentally, Bronnley was founded in 1883 by Jimmy Bronnley and is one of the last solely British owned firms in its category. Breast Cancer Campaign’s mission is to beat breast cancer by funding innovative world-class research to understand how breast cancer develops, leading to improved diagnosis, treatment, prevention and cure. Over 45,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK every year. Thanks to ongoing research, survival rates are improving and on average 80% of women diagnosed today will be alive in five years time. Prices are Eau De Parfum 7.5ml £10.95; Forever Rose Luxury Soap (100g) £3.50; Forever Rose Moisturising Lotion (500ml) £6.95 and Bath & Shower Gel (500ml) £6.95
Hydrating Baths When skin is really dry, one of the best hydrating baths I have discovered is Moor Hydrating Herbal Bath. The makers say it is made up from hundreds of herbs and minerals, but the most interesting thing is that it contains black mineral mud, that turns the water black. I first had a mud bath at Klinik Bad Sulza, in Germany, and couldn’t believe how this thick gungy stuff could make my skin so soft – but it does.
Moor Bath has the same effect, you just have to be careful how you pour it into the bath, because the liquid is black. It washes off, but you don’t want to be mopping up splashes afterwards!
At least once a week I pour this into a warm (not hot) bath, lie back and relax, then pat myself dry afterwards – and end up with lovely soft skin. A large 500 ml bottle is £11.95, so it’s not an expensive treat. www.moorspa.co.uk
Barefoot Botanicals Homeopaths Jonathan Stallick and Hilery Dorrian have created Barefoot Botanicals to help people with problem skins, and they have a Rosa Fina body lotion using Rosa Mosqueta Oil from Chile. I mention their range elsewhere, as I am a great fan of their wonderful products.
Live Native If you are vegan, or just want to use shea butter but don’t want to have to warm it up, you would love Live Native’s Essential Woman organic body food, made on the Isle of Skye. I heard about it from a friend, liked it when I tried some, and wrote to Vicky Ewbank to ask if it had any uses for post cancer patients?
Her reply shows that people really do want to help: “as yet we have done no specific testing – it is something I would like to do. Funnily enough we did have a good chat with a Macmillan nurse just last week about the suitability of our Skin Foods for cancer patients – her attraction was more the freshness and purity of our creams, helping to lighten the toxic load on her patients.
“As I mentioned to you earlier, I would love to begin collecting anecdotal evidence of the successful use of our Skin Foods. It will help us considerably in launching and promoting our range. I myself am a homoeopath, nutritionist and living-foods coach, and developed the Skin Foods from my own knowledge and understanding of the inherent healing properties of the living ingredients. But, as yet, our company and resources are still in the ‘sprouting phase’ and conducting clinical trials is a little beyond our means just now. However, with the support of enthusiastic and aware campaigners like yourself, I’m sure that in the not too distant future we can really begin to explore all the benefits that living Skin Foods confer – to many skin suffers. ” (Not neglecting the immense benefits of good food, drink and company of course!)
What a sensible woman!