Revenge of the Sheep

Basic RGB

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.


To hurry or not to hurry…?


Since my hair began to make an appearance once more, lots of people have very kindly pointed me in the direction of all manner of hair products that pretty much promise to turn me into a Rapunzel lookalike in a matter of days.  Ok, I may be exaggerating a bit there.  Maybe.

However, it did get me thinking.  And googling.  You see, I tend to believe that most things are best left to nature.  But then again if I took that approach with cancer I would be dead.  So what do I know?  Obviously my guts cannot always be relied upon.  Instead, I decided research was the way to go.

Nioxin is mentioned a lot when it comes to hair regrowth.  You can buy it easily enough and many hair salons even offer it as a post chemo treatment.  So I looked it up on Google.  I typed ‘Nioxin’ into the search field and in the drop down menu that followed ‘Nioxin ingredients toxicity’ popped up.  Obviously I clicked it.  And this was the first hit.  Alarming, isn’t it?  Especially this bit:

Please Note: Friends of the Earth, Health Care Without Harm, the Environmental Working Group and the Breast Cancer Fund have formed a coalition in an effort to convince the cosmetics industry to stop using certain chemicals in everyday consumer products, chemicals known or suspected of causing cancer, birth defects and other negative health effects. 1,4-dioxane, often called dioxane is one of these chemicals. This a byproduct of the process (ethoxylation) used to convert sodium laurel sulfate into sodium laureth sulfate. There is a concern that the sodium laureth sulfate in some Nioxin products may be contaminated with dioxane. The manufacturer neither confirms nor denies the presence of this contaminant.’

There also seem to be quite a few dermatitis type side effects listed elsewhere which, given my propensity to such things, makes it seem like a really bad idea.  I do not much like the idea of DNA changing ingredients either.  So one to give a miss to, I think.

Another major contender in the encouraging regrowth is Regaine.  I found it very difficult to track down the ingredients to this product.  And I am always suspicious when companies are not upfront about what goes into their wares.  Eventually I did find them listed and while Regaine does not contain parabens – hurrah – it does contain Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT).  Which you just know is going to be another nasty, don’t you?  Well, a potential nasty at any rate.  Take a read of this:

‘Long-term exposure to high doses of BHT is toxic in mice and rats, causing liver, thyroid and kidney problems and affecting lung function and blood coagulation. BHT can act as a tumour promoter in certain situations. Limited evidence suggests that high doses of BHT may mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, and prevent expression of male sex hormones, resulting in adverse reproductive affects.’

Now, it is true that I am not a mouse.  Or a rat.  But I really do not like the sound of that.  Admittedly I found this quote on a website that is fairly unhelpful in listing its references so it was hard to check up on the quoted research.  However, this website lays out the case both for and against BHT as a carcinogen.  It is well referenced and clearly shows why there is controversy regarding this ingredient.  Personally, I will choose to avoid any product with BHT, or its close friend Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA), as I really do not want to put stuff either on my head or body that I am unsure of.

So on the whole, I think I am going down the au naturel route.  My hair will grow in its own sweet time.  It is true that the Captain has taken to calling me Stan.  As in Laurel.  He seems to think my fuzzy bits on top and lack around the sides give me a Laurel-esque look.  But if I am Laurel, that makes him the rather more rotund Hardy.  So that would be another nice mess I’ve gotten him into!

Look Good Feel Better


Today was a bit of a treat.  It is no secret that I am fond of a bit of lippy.  I have become fonder of it since my hair fell out, bizarrely.  I am not sure why that is.  A shift of focus perhaps?  Back to today.  I had a date.  With make up.  As in going to a workshop rather than lunch with a transvestite.  Not that that I wouldn’t enjoy that too.  There is a lovely organisation called Look Good Feel Better who organise skin care and make up sessions for women undergoing treatment for cancer.  It was set up in recognition that a cancer diagnosis can not only have devastating effects on one’s self confidence but also that new tips, tricks and skills may come in handy.  Skin dries out, dark circles arrive, rosacea or acne can make an appearance.  Then, of course, there is the whole How To Pretend Your Eyebrows And Lashes Still Exist.  A skill most make up tutorials do not cover, strangely.  All this is delivered by make up artists in the company of other women and each participant is given a substantial goody bag with which to work.

My session was at my treatment hospital and my biggest challenge was getting from the car park at one end of the hospital to the workshop room at the other end.  To say I was out of breath when I arrived would be an understatement.  Thankfully talking was not required.  In total there were seven of us.  Three more had been expected but had not arrived.  The two hour workshop was a mix of demonstration, hands on and DIY with as much or as little personal support as we wanted.  Over the time, we gradually went through a complete skin care routine followed by full make up application.  The transformation by the end was quite remarkable.

We all worked from the goody bags: a leatherette bag the size of a substantial toilet bag stuffed with products and literature.  They did vary and were allocated to us based on skin tone.  Mine included the following:


  • Yves Saint Laurent Paris 125ml eau de toilette: £77 House of Fraser
  • Lancôme Eau Micellaire Douceur Express Cleansing Water 200mls: £23.50 Boots
  • Lancôme Tonique Douceur Softening Hydrating Toner 200mls: £23 Boots
  • Estée Lauder Take It Away Eye Make Up Remover 100mls: £20 Estée Lauder
  • Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturising Lotion 50mls: £18 Boots
  • No7 Colour Calming Primer 40mls: £10.50 Boots
  • Clinique Line Smoothing Concealer 8g: £17 Boots
  • Max Factor Colour Adapt Skin Tone Adapting Make Up Rose Beige 34ml: £9.99 Boots
  • No7 Translucent Perfect Light Loose Powder 20g: £10.50 Boots
  • No7 Pink Blush Natural Blush Cream 3g: £8 Boots
  • No7 Stay Perfect Trio Eye Shadow Palette Cappuccino 3g: £9.50 Boots – no ingredients list
  • No7 Stay Perfect Amazing Eyes Pencil Blackest Purple 1g: £4.48 Ebay – no ingredients list
  • Rimmel Eyebrow Pencil Dark Brown 1.4g: £3 Sainsbury’s – no ingredients list
  • L’Oreal Lash Architect False Lash Effect Mascara Midnight Black: £6.34 Extras
  • No7 Precision Lips Pencil Soft Blush: £6.75 Boots – no ingredients list
  •  Avon Colour Indulgence Lipstick Hibiscus: £8 Avon – no ingredients list
  • No7 Moisture Drench Lipstick Rose Blush: £9.95 Boots
  • Look Good Feel Better Eye Shading Brush: £6.99 Look Fantastic

The total cost, had I bought it all from the retailers listed, came to a staggering £275.50!  Of course, there is much that I would not have bought.  For instance, only the products in red text appear to be parabens free.  And I am trying to avoid parabens because of the potential link to hormone receptor positive breast cancer.  Being able to try all these products with the help of make up artists on hand was a fantastic experience though.  I am reasonably confident about applying make up generally but since starting chemo I have developed dark circles under my eyes, my eyelashes are thinning and while my eyebrows are holding up pretty well, I do not know how long they will continue to do so.  We were recommended Rapidlash serum to promote eyelash and brow regrowth but at £40 I may hold fire for now**.  For dark circles applying red lipstick as a correcting concealer is worth a try while rosacea responds well to green primer.

For me, the foundation was too heavy.  I prefer a tinted moisturiser rather than a full coverage cream but for dodgy chemo skin this works well.  I also found the eye liner too hard for use.  To get any kind of line I had to press so hard that my eyes became quite sore. Given that my eyes are sore much of the time, this is not as dramatic as it sounds but a softer liner would be my preference.  The Hibiscus lippy was fabulous though and may just sneak through my parabens ban!

I am delighted to have taken part and thrilled with my freebies.  My only wish would be that the many parabens free cosmetics companies springing up would get onboard with Look Good Feel Better and promote their products through the goody bags too.  If you are eligible but have any hesitation about going, I would thoroughly recommend it.

**UPDATE: Rookie mistake.  I should have checked Amazon.  Much cheaper there!


A Bit Breezy


We have been having a lot of weather in our house.  As in A Lot.  It is like we have our very own weather system.  And it revolves entirely around gusts of wind.  Seriously, hurricane warnings ought to be issued.  Along with gas masks.  The Captain swears things have been so bad that he has felt the ground shake.  We are thinking of renaming our house Trumpington Towers.  And of course that would make me Lady Trumper of Trumpington Towers which must no doubt be located in Trumpton.

Somewhat surprisingly, this was a side effect that I was not expecting.  I had done extensive research and all that I had discovered mentioned was ‘the occasional burp’.  Occasional my arse!  This has been in industrial strength proportions.  And less of the more socially acceptable burping.  What is more, those I have dared to mention it too have all guffawed in recognition and reported similar experiences.  Well, thank the Lord I have pretty much been in social isolation.  Apart from the Captain.  Pity him.  I have not been showering him in blessings this week.

Unrelated to the excessive wind, unless it really has been bad enough to blast my skin off, my feet are suffering.  I knew my skin would dry out and I have been slapping on copious quantities of parabens free moisturiser.  This week the skin on my feet is beginning to slough off.  At the moment it is just the hard dry skin.  I am hoping it stays that way.

A Bit of Slap – Day 10

make up

I am not known for piling on the slap.  It is a bit of a high days and holidays affair for me.  For that I blame my 2010 accident.  Up until then I was quite happy wearing make up pretty much whenever I got out of bed.  But a close encounter with a pile of railway sleepers and our drive left me more in need of make up than ever but less able to use it.  Six years and five surgeries later (facial that is, we won’t count my boob jobs.  I’ve never been inclined to slap the cosmetics around there anyway), I have permanent nerve damage and chronic neuralgia.  For these reasons, I tend to avoid touching my face.  Which means I have favoured the Au Naturel look of late.

This is all very well when it is possible to get away with it.  But once my hair has taken the kamikaze plunge, my eyebrows & lashes have followed suit and my skin is looking more Morticia Adams than Nigella Lawson, I rather think I may have to take all the help I can get.  As with the suncream and toiletries, I am choosing to avoid make up with parabens to minimise the risk of absorbing these oestrogen disrupting chemicals.  This has not been easy, especially as I am on something of a budget and parabens are cheap.  However, today I got my act together and went shopping.

This is actually big news.  Mainly because it is the first day since chemo one that I have felt well enough to do something that was not absolutely essential.  The original plan for the day had been to visit a National Trust property and wander around splendid gardens enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  But the air today is a little too fresh and the sunshine notable by its absence.  So our thoughts turned indoors.  Given that I am likely to be neutropenic at the moment the Captain vetoed my suggestion of visiting the big city indoor shopping metropolis.  I was all gung ho with enthusiasm.  He was not.  It has more to do with his aversion to shopping than with any infection risk methinks.  He still took me shopping.  Just to more of a high street than a mall.  And I found good ol’ M&S!  Why they do not trumpet this, I will never understand but much of their Autograph make up range is parabens free.  And currently on offer.  Hurrah!

This little venture has not poleaxed me either, which is very pleasing.  I am a tad on the lightheaded side and I woke with a dull headache.  The indigestion has been kicked into touch by the adjustment of my meds and the explosions in the bottom department seem to have settled down.  All in all, day ten is proving to be the best day yet.

FEC-ing Sun!

*Updated 18th June – see bottom paragraph*

Beach Shade Lady Kid

One of the less unpleasant side effects of the chemo regime I will be subjected to, is an increase in sensitivity to sunlight.  I have it on good authority that factor 50 is the SPF to go for and much to my surprise, this does not actually mean white emulsion.  In fact, I am rather pleased that I have ended up with one of the Independent’s best suncream recommendations for 2016!

I have bought Neals Yard Organics Lemongrass Moisturising Sun Lotion SPF 50 in readiness for those days I am up to sitting in the garden.  I have a large hat too.  I wanted Neals Yard because they do not use chemicals in any of their products that can disrupt or cause overproduction of oestrogen.  This is especially important to me as my cancer was/is oestrogen receptor positive meaning oestrogen feeds it.  Suncreams are particularly good at including chemicals that do this so I am choosing to avoid such products as much as possible.  I am gradually working through my toiletries and sifting out those that include harmful ingredients.  Nothing like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

More information on Neals Yard is here but this is a summary of what they avoid when making their products:

Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 21.55.57


I am sorry to report that the Neals Yard Lemongrass Sun Lotion was something of a disaster.  Well, maybe this isn’t entirely fair as it worked brilliantly as sun protection and smelt fantastic.  However, everything, and I mean EVERYTHING that came into contact with it was stained a virulent yellow.  All suncreams stain a bit so the disclaimer on the packaging warning to keep out of contact with fabrics, did not unduly concern me.  Nothing could have prepared me for the amount of staining.  My lovely new (expensive) mastectomy swimsuit was ruined, so were several towels and some clothes.  It is fair to say that this product is not fit for purpose.  Unless you are a naturist.  With a fabric aversion.  In that case, it is the suncream for you.  In fairness to Neals Yard, I wrote and told them of my problems and they gave me a ‘good will’ payment of £75 which more than refunded the cost of my creams.  Since then I have ordered an SPF 30 from The Green People on the understanding that the jump from 30 to SPF 50 only affords a further 1% of sun protection.  Here’s hoping.