AS PLAIN as the nose on your face ...
The trouble is that my nose is anything but plain. It is red, raw, infected, enlarged, throbbing and painful. I have rosacea. I am in my mid-fifties and was not diagnosed until about five years ago after many years of having teenage-like acne over my nose. I can’t tell you the number of doctors I visited, as well as pharmacists, who smiled knowingly and said it was “to do with your time of life, dear”. An acquaintance was also suffering at the time and was told by her doctor there was nothing to be done and to start wearing green makeup.
In the meantime I suffered the indignity of a red nose often with pustules forming at the drop of a hat. Interestingly at the time I was doing a lot of work in Asia and each time I travelled away my symptoms left. But each time I returned to Australia my nose flared again. I pondered whether it had to do with the humidity or the heat. As it turned out, when my problem was finally diagnosed, it turned out that, through taking Doxycycline for the prevention of malaria, I was also treating rosacea as the anti-malarial is co-incidentally also a mild anti-biotic.
In the middle of last year, I travelled to Fiji for three months for our usual stint of volunteering. Only to get sunburned and so a recurrence of the rosacea.
This time it was particularly bad and even with prescribed pharmaceuticals the symptoms did not abate. My father’s response when I shared with him the cause of my pulsing nose was, “What, boozer’s nose?” Not one to mince words, he of course said what many were thinking. After all the most famous sufferer was W.C. Fields.
I am not vain by nature but I kept indoors. I hid from even the closest of friends. I didn’t want people thinking of me as a “boozer”. On the rare occasion that I did go out either people I knew would look at me with concern and ask me if it hurt, or those that I didn’t know would avert their eyes.
Last month was the worst. I was in tears as my nose extended and every day I faced more pustules.
I had tried to make an appointment with the doctors to get referrals to a dermatologist – but that is pretty well impossible in Wonthaggi over January. I thought that perhaps I could get some relief from a pharmacist. I went to a local pharmacist and told her that the treatments suggested by the doctors were not working and I had several layers of make-up on to cover my disfigurement. I gave her a list of suggested treatments that my internet search had provided me.
She told me that there was nothing on my list that was in stock. She said her best advice would be to get an appointment with a specialist and that I couldn’t expect that the problem would be fixed in the short term. Of course I know this only too well.
I left in tears. All I wanted was something that I could try as an alternative. Green makeup, acne products, skin cleaning products – anything to make me feel a bit more positive about myself.
By now you must be shaking your head in wonder and thinking how silly I am to be so distraught. After all, if this is the worst thing that can happen to me, then I should be so lucky. And yes I am lucky for so many reasons. After all, my affliction can be treated and symptoms will lessen and can be covered with makeup.
So many of us judge by first impressions. It is all about how we look or how we speak. Do others lock themselves away as I did because they fear the prejudice they will encounter, thereby making their re-entry into society when they had the courage to do so even more unusual?
The work done by Jane Elliott on blue eyes/brown eyes show what a small difference results in prejudice. It is 50 years this year since she conducted her first experiment to show her all white third graders the power of prejudice. I think we still have a long way to go.
Note: Rosacea is a chronic rash (not acne) and is common in varying degrees and tends to happen to those aged between 30 to 60 who have fair skin, blue eyes and Celtic origins. There are many theories as to the cause, but none of them suggest the origin is alcohol. You may also be interested in this from the Pharmacy Times website, “Pharmacists should be aware that rosacea can be psychologically distressing, and complete relief may not be possible.”