Yesterday, I went for a little Sunday drive with Mrs P. First port of call was to a little patisserie in Sandbanks which had recently been featured on television. The tables were packed and the shelves low on products. Perhaps because it had recently been featured on television. So we went into a coffee shop a few doors Continue reading “The Republican, Translated”
Sometime in, I think, 1996 I developed a strange scabby rash on my scalp. It came out of the blue, for no apparent reason, and soon spread across my head to my hairline. It wasn’t painful, just a little itchy. But it didn’t go away, so a trip to the doctor was in order. First diagnosis was either a fungal infection or psoriasis. My GP leant towards fungus. She leant the wrong way – it was psoriasis. It has accompanied me for most of the last 16/17 years since.
It was a year before I was finally prescribed an effective treatment. There are no cures for psoriasis, only treatments. I went through a dozen bottles of potions and creams before I tried Cocois. It’s a thick coconut based compound that needed to be left on overnight and scratched off in the shower in the morning. But it was a relief to be, albeit temporarily, free of the scaling. For a few days.
When I went to Mexico in 2005 I took several tubes of Cocois with me. But it ran out and a new treatment was needed. Cocois wasn’t available in Mexico. My father in law turned up one day with an unlabeled plastic bottle with a strong smelling liquid in it. I gave it a go. It was much easier to apply than Cocois, and to my delight even more effective. What exactly was in the bottle was anyone’s guess. At the end of 2009 my psoriasis completely disappeared, and didn’t return.
Not until I got back to the UK anyway. Six months of British life later and the first scales appeared. It came back worse than ever. It even ventured on to my cheeks, although only mildly. Back to the doctor. Cocois is no longer made, but a new product called Sebco was identical to the last ingredient. On to my scalp it went. And in the morning I scratched it off, with all of the psoriasis. And layers of skin. My best guess is that the Mexican potion was full of steroids which had thinned the skin. This turned into a serious problem, as the wound became infected. It took five courses of different anti-biotics over several months to get shot of it.
Normally, a photo accompanies my posts. I had included a shot right here. But it’s not a terribly nice photo. Maybe not everyone really wants to see it. So I took it down. But if you are curious as to what an infection can do to a psoriasis plagued scalp – namely my scalp – then just click here and have your curiosity sated.
My head has recovered, you’ll be pleased to hear. You might be wondering what this has to do with Mexico, though. I’ll get to it. First of all, I should point out that there is no known scientific explanation for psoriasis, nor a real cure. There’s a million different treatments. I know if I tell someone I have psoriasis, there’s a fair chance they’ll me exactly what the cure is. There is a Mexican metaphor to this sort of information. It’s much like someone proudly announcing they know exactly what you need to get a Mexican residency visa. In other words, they’re probably about to spout a lot of rubbish. Like the infamous Mexican visa, everyone’s journey is different and what works for one person may well make things worse for someone else.
I’ve tried many potions, some prescribed, some natural. I’ve bought ointments in Sri Lanka – they did nothing. I’ve just bought a little pot of coal tar type oil in Morocco, which is working wonders on my cheeks. I’ll go so far as to say that, if you’re thinking of suggesting something, I’ve almost certainly already given it a go. And my opinions and suggestions are no more valid, if we’re going to be completely honest. But sometimes, hearing other people’s experiences and weighing them up against what you’ve tried and experienced can help. So while I can’t promise a cure, maybe it’ll work for someone out there.
There are two things that have really helped my psoriasis. Both of them entirely natural, and perfectly healthy even if it has no positive effect on the psoriasis. The first one is well known. Swimming in the sea. A couple of hours of splashing around, and I can feel the scales fizzing off. After a couple of days, it’s gone. And not a single medical potion needed. The saline content of the water has miraculous qualities that has helped almost everyone I know with psoriasis. This is no secret. But it has a drawback. Not everyone lives near the sea. And in the UK, most of us would rather put up with the psoriasis than swim in freezing British waters.
The second thing? I mentioned that my psoriasis completely disappeared in late 2009. It also disappeared in 1999 for a couple of months. Back then I had given up smoking and was getting fit, ready for entry into the Royal Air Force. I put it down to quitting smoking. But then in 2009, I didn’t quit smoking. Was there anything in my life that was similar in ’99 and ’09? Indeed there was.
Sweat. Lots of of it. In 1999 I was running a marathon a week, albeit split into chunks. In 2009 I started training for a marathon. I also got into cycling, riding my mountain bike up to 15 miles in day, several days a week. Under the hot Mexican sun. Boy, did I sweat. It dripped off my head by the bucketful. Little waterfalls of sweat. And, at a guess, it took my psoriasis with it. I reckon this is a pretty good guess. It makes sense. Sweat, just like sea water, is very salty. I kept up the cycling and running throughout 2010 and the beginning of 2011. And the psoriasis kept away. Completely. Not a scale in sight. Cured. I find it harder to sweat in the UK, even when I do go out and ride. In winter it’s just so cold, you never quite build up the temperature needed*.
So there is my cure. Move to Mexico. Get on your bike. Sweat. Get fit and healthy at the same time to boot. And a tan. What’s not to love about this ‘cure’?
* I did recently go on a long bike ride wearing a thermal hat, which I kept on even as I felt my head reach boiling point. This was surprisingly effective, loosening up the psoriasis enough to remove quite a bit of it without Sebco. But I simply don’t have time to do this three times a week.
I am a serial quitter. I quit. Then I quit quitting. And repeat. I’ve written posts promising, threatening, suggesting I will quit many times before. The repetitive nature of my posts tells you that I haven’t quit. I am still a foul, filthy stinky smoker. I’ve tried patches, gum, electronic cigarettes. But I’m a resilient soul, not put off the real thing very easily. I’ve gotten into mountain climbing and marathon running to help me quit. But I just ran and climbed with a fag in my mouth.
It’s not that I don’t want to quit, which is the impression I might have given off. I do. Really, I do. There is the issue with the three of four smokes in the pack that I really enjoy though. Giving up the other 16 or 17 in the pack is easy peasy. But those few tasty, cherished smokes. They’re tougher. They’re old friends, and it’s hard to shut the door on such old friends. I tend to keep them around. But before you know it, though, they’ve invited their friends back into the room. And I’ve puffed my way through a whole pack again.
What to do? Keep trying. I’m going to take up some good advice this time. At least one occasional commenter has sung the praises of Champix. My sister used them and is off the baccy, and has been for a long time. So I took the stroll into my doctor’s surgery today. I got a prescription. And now I have a two week starter pack of Champix. I start tomorrow. It’s a two week pack. It’s easy to start. Real easy. A tablet in the morning, and I can even keep on smoking. Sweet!
I have to pick a stop day, sometime between 8 and 14 days. I pick 10 days. It’s a nice round number. Best of all, it’ll be a Saturday. I can curl up and take any suffering that there might be. Is there much? Champix users, your input is appreciated! How effective were they with the cravings for you? Share your experiences!
The Queen had her Diamond Jubilee. I have a more modest silver celebration coming up. It’s a celebration I’d rather avoid. It’ll be a quarter century of puffing on Virginia’s finest. Not an anniversary to be proud of, truth be told. But I’m a pretty hard core addict. Which isn’t surprising, given that I’ve been a smoker for more of my life than a non smoker.
I do try to give up. Every now and then I’ll post a little something about my latest attempt to quit. Be it through cold turkey or the use of an aid, such as nicotine gum. Sometimes I make it a few days. Last time I made it a few weeks. Once or twice I’ve made it a few months. But, needless to say, each effort so far has crashed. And burned. Literally. But one should never quit quitting. I remain convinced that my time will come.
I am having a new effort. With renewed enthusiasm and determination. And I have a new aid. The trendy, fashionable and – so I’m told – very effective electronic cigarette. I ordered a rechargeable battery unit online, with a whole bunch of cartomisers. It’s a pretty simple deal. The brown filter is a disposable unit that screws into the white battery section. The filter part is the equivalent of a pack of 20 cigarettes. You suck on it, and get a blast of nicotine. You exhale a soothing cloud of water vapour.
The pros are obvious. I’m not inhaling any of the 4,000 odd chemicals that accompany the nicotine on your average ciggy. There’s no stinky smoke polluting my environment and permeating my clothes. I can smoke anywhere I want. Although bus companies might be rolling out a ban soonish. It improves my performance at work – I’m sat am my desk happily puffing, instead of grouchily watching the clock wishing it was break time.
The cons are equally obvious. These electronic cigarettes haven’t really been through much in the way of testing for safety. Although I’m not convinced they could be worse than a real cigarette. And I’m not really giving up smoking. I’m not even breaking the hand to mouth association. But, you know what. Even if I ended up smoking these for the rest of my life, I’m saving a packet.
The cartomisers work out at about £2.25 a day. A cheap brand of real cigarettes costs a minimum of £5.50. If they’re on special offer. Usually they’re more like £6 a pack. Some people – exclusively non-smokers – whine how much us smokers cost the NHS. They have no idea what they’re talking about. Aside from the overlooked fact that an average smoker will cost the NHS less than a non-smoker over a lifetime, there’s also the small matter of the billions that smokers put into the taxman’s pockets each year.
I imagine these electronic cigarettes are going to become very popular. People are hard up. Really hard up. The poorest parts of society, where the biggest chunk of the smoking population belong, are suffering more than most. Bankruptcies, IVA’s and general difficulties in repaying debts are on the up and up. I think the first thing people who are looking to get help with debt management are going to be told is to quit the habit. That’s easier said that done. But this is the next best thing. There’s quite a correlation between smoking and debt, by the way. Or so some studies show, anyhow.
I’ve done my own maths. Normal cigarettes cost me about £6 a day. That’s £42 a week. Or £180 a month. The electronic variety is £2.25 a day. £15.75 a week. £67.50. A saving of more than £1300 over a year. No need for a degree to work out which option is best for my pocket. Of course, giving both the elbow would be the best result. But one step at a time.
If you’re interested in going down this route, by the by, I can offer the following tid bits from my limited experience so far. The instructions on usage were very vague. How often should you puff? Well, I puffed all day long as if I had a regular pack of cigarettes, with about 10 to twenty puffs per cig. And the cartomiser lasted about a day. So that seems the right way to use it. When you inhale, you do feel a satisfying blast of ‘smoke’ filling your lungs. It’s not quite the same, but it is so, so close. Surprisingly so.
My last memories of living in Mexico City? The photo below says it all. Bright lights and pain. Before I go back to rip-off Britain, I’m getting my dental work up to date. I’m typically British as far as having a sweet tooth is concerned. I have a bit of work to be done. It’s cheap here in Mexico, and there are some excellent dentists to be found. But it’s always worth asking around to see if there is a particularly good one that friends or family can recommend. The dentist you find round the corner might be fully qualified, but you want to make sure he’s a fully qualified dentist and not a fully qualified car mechanic who thought he’d try his hand at something new.
Hello. My name is Gary. I have psoriasis. Oh right, that’s my line down at A.A. I get confused sometimes, you know how it is. Still, they can both be pretty anti social conditions. It’s just one of them involves lumps of scab falling off your head and embarrassing yourself, and the other involves lumping someone on their bonce and embarrassing everyone else. But otherwise exactly the same…
Ok, that’s not my head. I’m a lot younger, bit more hair, and luckily my psoriasis isn’t quite so obvious. There are a million treatments, but it’s not a curable condition, and choosing the right lotion for you is just as much aggro as selecting the right mobile phone package. Well, you’ll get told that this or that secret/brand new/natural ointment or shampoo is the only one that will work by fellow afflicted, but of course we are all different. It took me 18 months before I found the Cocois lotion that did it for me, and have been using the stuff for almost a decade.
But alas! My stock from the UK is almost out, an what’s left is reserved for emergencies. So now I am trying out home made concoctions to see if I can shift the scaly crap without having to work out what Mexicans do for scabby diseases.
I worked out long ago that the very best treatment was in fact sea water. Yup, after 10 minutes of swimming in the sea, I can feel my scalp fizzing as the water does it’s job. An hour or two a day, and my head is clean and clear of all debris within 3 days.
So today I made a lotion out of about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of crushed sea salt crystals and a dose of herbal shampoo, with flour added to make it more like a paste. Too much flour I fear as it became too solid a paste and was difficult to apply to the scalp, most of it ending up stuck to my hair.
Still, I left it for about 6 hours to try and soften and loosen the scales, before soaking my head in hot, salty water for a couple of minutes before washing. I always have to scratch off the scales, but sadly today I had to do far more scratching than usual and have a far sorer head than usual. But still, I can report success to a certain degree as I removed at least 95% of the scales. But I think this recipe can be improved upon!
The verdict! Compared to Cocois, which gets 5 of 5…
Ease of application –
Scale removal –
Pain free experience –
Intestinal worms and parasites are a common affliction for the human population throughout Mexico, and the drug industry does a roaring trade flogging various treatments that we all take every six months to flush the baddies through the system. Well, I say ‘we’. Should have said ‘they’. Because I wasn’t let on to this secret until a couple of days ago.
I’ve been here well over a year now, so I dread to think just how many generations of the little wrigglers have made themselves at home in my belly. But the big Vermox 500 gram one dose tablet I just swallowed should put an early end to their fun, assuming they are there at all – I haven’t felt ill or had the tell tale embarrassing itch (you can guess where) which would normally suggest a Worm City in the guts….
After so many years of incident free travel, with barely a mistimed bottom burp to boast of, I have finally come a cropper.
Montezuma’s revenge is a bug that gives 40% or more of travellers to Mexico a few days of gut trouble, symptoms being nausea, tiredness, fever, stomach cramps and of course….constant desperate rushes to the toilet. Never pleasant.
The bug is a natural presence in Mexican food and water, one that natives have immunity from. But us poor foreigners…..there’s no escaping it. Sooner or later it gets you. It got me thanks almost certainly to a hot dog I bought at a street stall. So basically I broke rule number one, and am paying the price for it.
Jeez, I’d always been so proud of my cast iron gut and it’s ability to kill the most poisonous of poisonoue food bugs, but this time Mr Bacteria obviously came with plenty of reinforcements and won this round. Bastard….
I won’t be eating street food for a while anyway!