It’s Movember, and as a 30-something male who has suffered with eczema, I decided to pen a candid response about my health and well-being…As I’ve glided through my 30’s I’ve become increasingly aware of my appearance and my health: that which remains (teeth & tight skin fighting crows feet are ever valuable) and that which changes (grey hairs in my post-marriage beard, the slight arc on what was a six-pack stomach and even one or two sneaky white hairs in the nostrils). Even now when I sit with male friends and we discuss such topics as testicular cancer it becomes more off the cuff and a little jokey with none of us wanting to admit the real dread we feel because, as men we have to keep these feelings locked up to save our emotional embarrassment among our peers…
I feel like I’ve been pick pocketed of my youth during sleep – every morning I wake to another aspect vanished – stolen away without a mutter of ‘goodbye’ or ‘thanks for having me!’.
The truth is that during my years living alone – 8 all told – my diet sucked and while my lifestyle appeared OK on the outside, it was considerably less considered than it should have been.
My evening activity was split between eating pizza, watching TV, seeing friends and smoking a few cigarettes. If I wasn’t at home I’d be headed to a bar for cocktails, lager and several more cigarettes. After a hard day at work I felt I had neither the energy nor desire cook for myself or head to the gym alone.
Don’t get me wrong, I attempted cooking healthy food – fish pie with veg was a favourite (OK, it was the frozen kind of veg that came from a packet). I took fruit and salad more seriously and lunches went from pasties to low-cal wraps with carrot sticks and humus. I also played 5-a-side football once a week. But at best this could only be classed as a noncommittal nod to a balanced lifestyle. Overall, my health and well-being was left to get on with it, with a sort of Dunkirk spirit.
One thing led to another and in 2011, my skin rebelled – I had the worst attack of eczema I had suffered in thirty years. This got worse over several months and a few half-hearted attempts at sorting things (in classic bloke style). It culminated in waking up at my parents’ house in Bristol one Saturday looking more like a cross between a victim of severe sunburn and Freddie, leaving me in a nightmare on Elm Street – or on any street really!
My lifestyle, twinned with the stresses of work and my personal life, had conspired against me and I’d never felt so low. I couldn’t look in a mirror without feeling embarrassed or depressed. After a spell of sick-leave (due to pain caused by my skin and depression caused by my appearance and discomfort), I was admitted to a private hospital for treatment with a skin specialist.
Following this, my lifestyle and attitude changed. This was mostly encouraged by my now-wife who, as a nurse and health fanatic, saw first-hand the damage caused by what I ate and how I lived.
Nowadays, my diet is 80% plant based. I drink alcohol maybe once a month; otherwise it is water or decaf-coffee, rooibos tea and not a lot else. Caffeine in any guise, whether coffee or coke, is out the window. Beer, wine and spirits have been relegated to the bench with milk chocolate, fast food, and a kaleidoscope of processed goods…
My skin is now clear of eczema 99% of the time and the many creams I had such as Eumovate, Betnovate, Dermovate & Fucidin have been replaced with non-perfumed shower gel and a cocoa butter moisturiser. That’s it! Nothing else. All other ointments, tablets and potions have gone.
Presently, my only issue is exercise. I recently suffered an injury while playing football – my ACL/MCL tore and have not repaired fully in my knee. This has left me with a hole that our rowing machine doesn’t quite fill. (Though this would possibly more enjoyable if it was in the heat of Rio and a gold medal was on offer…)
So where does this leave me as I head towards the grand age of 37, and my body continues to rebel against the memories of my more youthful self?
I am more pro-active about looking for any signs that something might not be right.. I check myself for lumps as any other person should and don’t shy away from talking about the signs for cancer whether it is skin, testicular or otherwise. My level of maturity is enough to appreciate what I have, and accept that I am not that 22-year-old with boyish looks and charm on his side anymore… Don’t get me wrong, I occasionally enjoy those naughty foods and lazy nights on the sofa, but I have a whole new chapter of life ahead of me where choosing the right meals, keeping the body fit and taking the right path in life will bring me all the health, wealth, happiness and healing (both mentally and spiritually) that I need…
And if that doesn’t work I am sure our new puppy Buddy will keep me busy..!