Eczema Awareness Week has taken me back this week.
Eczema is a word I am familiar with and is one that does not conjure many fond memories.
Since I can remember, my childhood was filled with tears, blistered skin and stressful situations.
I can remember being bandaged from head to toe to prevent me from scratching, and that one spot below my knee where I could move the bandage and reach my skin.
I remember screaming from the bath because my skin was so raw the water would sting and having to be covered in Sorbolene cream once I got out.
I have been to countless allergy specialists and dermatologists and been bounced around from one GP to another.
I was allergy prick-tested for everything, resulting in red lumps and a list of items, foods and animals to stay away from.
Allergy injections were routine, visiting the doctors every two weeks to have test liquid injected into my arm to monitor my reaction.
But the injections never really worked.
Testing new creams was also a nightmare.
Every new cream on the market was the ‘‘eczema curer and lifesaver’’ for only a small percentage of people with eczema. And that never included me.
I always came back to the good old Hamilton bath oil and Sorbolene, not cures but moisturisers and small relief for my skin — the two products I continue to use today.
I have taken numerous medications to prevent break-outs that have offered small periods of relief but my ‘‘tough as old boots’’ skin always reverts back to its old ways.
Eczema Awareness Week spiked conversations in the office this week, and my colleagues were surprised to learn I am a sufferer.
It always surprises me when people don’t notice my skin, especially on the bad days.
Some days my skin can feel like it’s on fire, yet I look normal.
I have the usual spots that flare up, the folds in my arms and the back of my knees, my face and neck but I have eczema in unusual spots also. There are spots on my foot and wrist that for some reason are very sensitive and are difficult to heal after they flare up.
Eczema Association president Cheryl Talent has said people don’t realise that eczema isn’t just ‘‘skin dryness which affects the skin barrier leading to inflammation and infection’’.
She said eczema had a significant impact on quality of life, with negative impacts on sleep, education, healthy development and self-esteem.
When I was growing up, some days school wasn’t an option for me. If it wasn’t the humiliation I suffered due to the look of my skin, it was the lack of concentration due to every part of my body screaming at me.
Moving into the workforce, using make-up was not fun.
I finally found a product that agreed with my skin but then the local chemist took it off the shelf.
I have been unable to find it ever since.
Now, I have found using mineral make-up agrees with me better but I still need the weekend without it to give my skin a rest.
For the past two years, I have been on medication for my eczema, requiring regular dermatologist check-ups in Melbourne.
This has worked wonders for my skin, but my immune system has struggled, opening the door to all kinds of health issues.
Now off the medication for the past three months, I am waiting to see what my skin has in store for me next.
I know my skin will never be 100 per cent; I gave up hope on that dream a long time ago, but for the moment I am happy my skin is happy 50 per cent of the time.
Eczema has always been a disease you can try to cover up — making the plight of sufferers somewhat invisible.
So this week has been an important one to allow our stories to be told.
Madeleine Caccianiga is a News journalist.