Best Christmas Present. Ever.

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Tis the Season for giving and jollity and all things festive, is it not?  I have to confess that I have found it a bit tricky to enter into the spirit this year.  My personal festivities have taken a few hits in the recent past: family crisis one year, horrific accident another and then two years ago my Dad died on the 20th December.  Nothing like that to make the whole thing a bit dodgy.  However, Christmas for me is more than a time of family togetherness and sharing.  It is a spiritual festival of deep personal significance.  And this faith was something my Dad shared.  So, as we embarked on Advent two years ago, knowing that it would be his last, we waited.  We waited for the coming of God as a tiny baby; we waited for Emanuel, for God was with us; we waited for the fulfilment of Dad’s faith, for the moment he could hear ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ (Matt 25 vs 23).  Did this make it easier to say goodbye to him?  Or to miss him any less?  I do not know for I did not experience it any other way.  It was intensely painful.  I missed him then.  I miss him still.

What I do know is that joint faith has made me determined not to miss out on the joy of Christmas.  So I have worked on forging new traditions, creating new memories, savouring new experiences.  But like I said, this year took another hit.  I mentioned earlier that I had been referred for an MRI and a bone scan.  All on account of a bit of back ache and bone pain.  The reality of this is that I was being investigated for secondary breast cancer.  The appointment for getting my results was today.  One day after the anniversary of my Dad’s death and four days before Christmas.  It would be lie to say this did not worry me.  Rationally I knew the odds were in my favour.  But the odds were in my favour last time.

But I can officially declare that joy can be unconfined!  Christmas bells can be rung!  Champagne may be uncorked!  Today I received my results and my bone scan says: ‘no evidence of osteoblastic bone metastases’ and my MRI says: ‘no evidence of bony metastatic disease’.  It is, quite simply, the best Christmas present I could have wished for.  And definitely one for my Jar of Joy!

Christmas may now begin.

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Revenge of the Sheep

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There is a story in my family about our ancestors.  One relative tried to trace our family tree back in the day before t’interweb and whatnot.  She tried for some time using parish records.  We hail from Cumbria, land of sheep, but this we knew.  She managed to get one generation back from living memory but then could go no further.  The church records dried up.  It seems our ancestors were not baptised nor buried on consecrated ground.  Obviously there was only one conclusion to draw.  They were all hung for sheep stealing.

Now I am confronted by this once again.  You see, having endured a week of irritation, I returned to the Patch Testing Clinic on Friday for my results.  I am not as allergic as it first appeared.  Or at least, I did not test positive to as many substances as was anticipated.  But it turns out I am allergic to Amerchol L 101.  When they gave me that snippet of information I was devastated.  I mean, Amerchol L 101!  That has to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue when it comes to allergies, hasn’t it?  Slight rash?  ‘Oh, did you brush up again a bit of Amerchol L 101?’  Bit of itching?  ‘You must have reacted to that Amerchol L 101 I left out on the side!’  In other words, no, I had never heard of it either.

But I bet you have heard of lanolin?  Amerchol L 101 is part of that.  And lanolin is from sheep.  So who’s laughing now?  Revenge of the sheep …

Actually, so far, lanolin is not proving too difficult to avoid.  I have long suspected it makes me itch so have naturally avoided it.  It is in vast ranges of things  including medicated ointments, furniture polish, waxes, textiles, inks, hair products, lipsticks, moisturisers, furs, cutting oils, leather and paper.  But avoiding parabens seems to have meant that I have also escaped lanolin.  Not that the two are necessarily linked.

However, the other allergy identified has caused all sorts of issues.  Hydroperoxides of Linalool.  Another new one on me.  Initially, I thought, how much of a problem can that be?  And then I started to look at ingredients.  Oh my.  Linalool is used for its fragrance, added to food and drinks, to perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, detergents, and waxes.  It autoxidises on air exposure at room temperature forming hydroperoxides, which are far more allergenic than straightforward linalool.  But all products containing linalool will form hydroperoxides so the only way to avoid contact with them is to avoid products containing linalool.  Which is basically my entire bathroom.  Oh goody.

My main aim in getting patch tested was to sort out my ‘allergy’ to dressings and metals prior to my next lot of surgery.  Did I achieve that?  Not exactly.  None of the dressings or tapes I was tested for provoked an allergic reaction.  However, thanks to the tape used to hold the patches down, I was diagnosed with Contact Urticaria.  Whether this is good, bad or indifferent news, I am unsure.  It is not simply a matter of avoiding particularly adhesives or dressings.  But it may just be a matter of treating with antihistamines.  The part of me that remains concerned does so because I am well acquainted with antihistamines.  So I rather think the dermatology team are telling me there is not a lot that can be done *sigh*.  I was also diagnosed with Dermatographia which was a bit more fun.  The Consultant drew gently on my arm with the wrong end of a pen.  She chatted to me for about five minutes then took a look.  Red weals had risen everywhere she had marked.  If my tit twitching act ever pales, I could look at developing this as my party piece as it was really quite impressive.

As for the metals?  I am a mystery.  Bizarre.