Co Co Co! Atopic Dermatitis!

What would the holidays be for me if not a a time to relax with family and friends, hurriedly complete last minute shopping (thank you, Amazon Prime!), and scramble to finish holiday cards.  Typically, the largest hurdle in getting the greeting card assembly running is a satisfactory photograph of the five of us together.  This year, with time and patience running out and no great promise of cooperation from anyone, I opted for the far less preferable choice of individual photos.  When sufficiently coerced and bribed, all three children were actually fairly cooperative when they found out they didn’t have to pose with siblings in what experience guaranteed to have been a much longer and more painful process.

Earl, however, was an entirely different story. I tried cajoling and reasoning.  I finally wore him down after 3 days of entreaties and was granted a whopping 2 minutes on the porch with the two of us squished together, camera outstretched in my hand pointing back at us. I clicked the shutter button as quickly as possible, hoping to capture at least one decent shot.  When he said he’d had enough, I flipped the camera to replay and anxiously sought a single shot where both of us looked fairly presentable.  Some of the photos were flattering to neither of us but all of the rest had the same result.

He looked young and healthy and I did not.

I’ve been posting weekly Chemo ReCap pictures and have already commented on the sad state of the skin on my face, but my complexion’s true condition really shone in these closeup daylight pictures with Earl.  Blotches, pimples, multiple new prominent wrinkles, redness, puffiness, yuck, yuck, yuck.  I suppose I’ll take this chemo side effect over any of the other far more serious possible side effects which I have still not have experienced or experienced only minutely.  That doesn’t make the situation any less distressing to my underlying vanity, however, especially when I was photographing us for a card which will hang on more than one household’s refrigerator for the next 365 days.

At Earl’s suggestion, I visited my usual online site for new cancer questions, breastcancer.org, and found multiple suggestions for dealing with premature skin aging due to chemo treatment. While many women experienced healthier skin due to steroid medication (though usually accompanied by fluid retention and/or weight gain), several others experienced deleterious changes similar to mine.  Dishearteningly, of the latter group, most respondents admitted the damage was permanent.  A few managed to reverse some ill effects via Botox or plastic surgery (no thanks) and many more were experimenting with coconut oil as a moisturizer.

Although I couldn’t find any scholarly articles supporting the use of coconut oil as a satisfactory treatment for acne, eczema, and aging, I did read up on plenty of anecdotal support.  So on Monday, I stopped by Whole Foods and picked up a glass jar of cold-pressed, organic, extra virgin coconut oil.  Once home, I eagerly cut the outer plastic safety band, loosened the tightly shut lid, and twisted it off to release the pleasant aroma of coconut.  The oil is hard and white at cool temperatures, but after scooping out a small amount in a spoon and dumping onto my warm hand it melted to a clear liquid in seconds.  I gently smoothed it onto my face and neck and while initially very shiny, the liquid absorbed directly into my skin within 10 minutes.

I repeated the procedure Monday night and added my hands to the coconut oil application (topping them off with socks to hold in the moisture in overnight).  I awoke to softer, less irritated facial and hand skin on Tuesday.  Last night I did the same with my feet.  This morning, all 3 areas seemed to be smoother and happier.  Acne patches on my face (prior to chemo, something I hadn’t had significant problems with for many years) were clearing up.

I don’t know if the coconut oil will become a permanent substitute for my customary moisturizers, Aquaphor and Aveeno.  Only repeated applications and vigilance to watch for allergic reactions and assess restorative benefits will tell.  In the short term, the coconut oil does apply and absorb much more easily than the Aquaphor, lasts much longer than the Aveeno, and as an added bonus I smell like a macaroon!

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