Hi, my name is Shelley-Marie Sumner
I am 26 years old and suffer from Eczema. I have suffered from the skin condition from just a few months old and were told by doctors that “it is a spot of baby eczema, she will grow out of it”. I’m sure a lot of you will relate to this… However, 26 years later and I am still suffering today. I’d like to share my Eczema Blog and my story to help others who are going through similar issues that I am with eczema.
During my childhood
My eczema was around the usual areas such as the creases of my neck, arms, legs, and patches around my face. I remember going through bottles of various different moisturizers such as E45, Aveeno, Aqueous and used things like Johnsons Baby and Oilatum in the bath. None of these worked, however, I continued using them. As I got older and was in year 5/6 at near to leaving Primary School was when I think my eczema started to not only affect me physically but mentally too as children would ask why my skin was so red and dry which made me feel like the odd child out of my class. I didn’t let this bother me until I was in year 8 and settled into Secondary School.
In Secondary School I was bullied
Secondary school is where the bullying began. “Snakeskin” and “Scabby” were amongst other names were usually used and being very tiny I also got the odd “Skinny” and “Anorexic Annie” too. I ignored this and it helped that I had a nice little group of friends who I used to hang around with at school that could see beyond my eczema and were very supportive.
PE was always my most hated subject at school because we would all have to change in front of each other in the changing rooms and felt like I was always being looked at for the marks on my skin. I would say I was a late bloomer as the other girls would all wear bra’s and fancy pants whereas I still wore vests and boxer shorts as they were less irritating on my skin, so alongside my eczema, this didn’t help my self-esteem. As the years went on in Secondary School people knew I had eczema and it wasn’t such a bad deal, however there was one episode where the doctor took me off Betnovate Steroid Cream as it was thinning my skin too much and swapped it to Doublebase Ointment the day before our GCSE Dance class where we were having our photo’s taken for our GCSE performance programme.
I woke up that morning after applying the cream the night before with an allergic reaction causing my body to be red and on fire and my eyes to swell up like golf balls. This set my skin back a lot and took a while for it to calm down, then we were back to square 1.
My life at Uni
In 2009 I spent 3 years at the University of Wolverhampton in order to pursue a career in Performing Arts. Considering that Stress and Anxiety flares up skin conditions and I was under a lot of stress my skin was under control and I was only using my go-to Betnovate Cream during flare-ups and Palmers Cocoa Butter as a daily moisturizer. It wasn’t until I entered the Miss England Beauty Pageant in a bid to overcome my lack of confidence and try something new when I started to notice my skin deteriorate. In February 2014 I won the title of Miss Black Country and was preparing to represent my region in the Finals of Miss England 2014/15 in Torquay that June.
Race for life
After completing the Race for Life raising money for Cancer Research I came down with what I thought was an eye infection… This then spread to my face and after returning to New Cross Eye Infirmary for the 4th time was admitted into the hospital with Shingles in the eye socket. I was put on a drip of Anti Viral medications and steroids to help clear the virus which did flare my eczema up.
Luckily I made a slight recovery allowing me to be discharged and not letting the virus affect my chances of winning the Miss England title and crown I got back on my feet and gave it my best shot. I came 2nd in the Talent Round in which I performed a dance routine live on the Miss England stage and although I didn’t win the title of Miss England 2014 I came 21st out of the 60 Finalists that competed.
The Miss England Beauty Pageant involves a lot of work with charities and whilst I was in the hospital recovering from shingles I started to document my story battling eczema and got some connections. I always try and turn a negative into a positive!
Shortly after the Miss England finals, I was admitted back into hospital with another bout of shingles but this time around my right-hand side of my face and neck. This caused my immune system to take quite a bit of a beating and I haven’t really been 100% since.
I was diagnosed with Erythrodermic Eczema
In September 2016 I was diagnosed with Erythrodermic Eczema. Meaning my skin condition had been neglected by my GP and was allowed to get into a severe state to the point my immune system shut down. To look at my skin you would have thought I was a burns victim. My skin was red raw, flaking off in sheets and my coloring was discolored. I experienced cold sweats, shakes and palpitations. I went o the accident and emergency around 6 times in that month in order to seek help only to be given more antibiotic and antiviral tablets alongside tubs of the same moisturizers I had tried before. After battling with doctors and my own GP I was advised to go private in which we met Dr Halpern at Little Aston who diagnosed me with Erythrodermic Eczema. I was immediately put on a high dose of steroid tablets, steroid creams and antibiotics to fight off an infection I had caught alongside applying a thick paraffin ointment cream called Epaderm 4 times a day to rehydrate my skin.
Dr. Halpern is my hero
I am very lucky that Dr Halpern is on the NHS and is able to see me under his practice. Once I had recovered and finished the course of medications I was given I then went back to Dr Halpern to discuss more treatment to keep my condition under control. Since turning 18 I have tried all kinds of treatments from UV light therapy, to salt baths and many allergy tests. I am currently on a 100mg dose of an immune suppressant Cyclosporine alongside a low dose of Acyclovir to keep the virus I had in 2014 at bay.
I am just finishing a course of Prednisone steroids and Erythromycin Antibiotics after having another bad flare up of Erythrodermic Eczema in which my immune suppressants failed to control. I have a check-up appointment later this month to discuss a more long-term treatment for my skin.
Whilst suffering from eczema both physically and mentally I have always tried and continue to keep a positive attitude and use this to my advantage and help spread the awareness of skin conditions and comfort those suffering like myself. Not only that but help educate those that think eczema and psoriasis conditions can’t be cured by “put some cream on, it’s just dry skin”.
My Blogging Journey
I am extremely lucky to have a loving and supportive family who have comforted me and supported me through the hardest of times and I would like to dedicate my blogging journey to them because without them I would not be where I am today.
I am trying to eczema blog regularly using my Tumblr account which I will link below. Keep your eyes peeled for a ‘makeup routine’ blog coming this weekend. Please also feel free to let me know what kind of things you would like to hear about.
We would like to thank Shelley-Marie for sharing her amazing story. Please follow her on Tumblr and share her story.
Carl & Lindsey x