When I started this blog, I had a thought.
Having HI is a rare event and along with living away from physical face to face support is sometimes tough when I want to find something out. Being in the older tier of sufferers, I'm up with, Nusrit Shaheen, Ryan Gonzales, Stephanie Turner, the Betts sisters and Hunter Steinitz. To have clung on for this long is a pretty cool thing to have achieved and I will brag about it! I sent a message to a few Ichthy mums with a plan to do a Q&A about Ichthyosis and life for me in general. If I can give a tiny insight into living a life with Ichthyosis, then I will try and tell it as truthfully as possible. I got lots of questions and I'm working my way through but here is Part 1. With permission from the mumsand friends, I have shared their questions along with a link to their own individual websites.
I was introduced to D.e. and Evan through Facebook a while back. We have a ton of mutual connections through Ichthyosis Support on Facebook. Truthfully, it's a little hard to remain incognito on Facebook, but here we are and she's sent me a couple of questions. D.e is from the States and has a son with HI called Evan and another little bub on the way. Their website is:
What is your skin routine like?
My skin care routine is actually really lacking in continuity and pattern. Each morning involves a quick(25 mins approx) bath in my Japanese inflatable bathtub. It's not common in Hong Kong to find a house with a built in bath tub due to lack of space. I have a removable bath tub in which I have my daily bath. After using either hospital-prescribed emulsifying ointment or regular shower gel or whatever happens to be on the window sil, I then follow that with a liberal smearing of paraffin ointment or if I'm feeling in the mood which is incredibly rare, urea cream. Then it's off to the bedroom to choose my clothes for work, typically jeans and a tshirt. I've found that most materials are okay on my skin, but one thing I prefer to avoid wearing are tights. I have a love hate relationship with them as I've found that my skin dries out faster when I wear them. I carry a couple of jars of paraffin ointment in my daily backpack and I try to make a habit of keeping a pot on my desk so that if my arms and face get a bit dry during the day, I have a supply on hand. Admittedly, I do not do full body creams more often than that one time in the morning and possibly after my evening bath (if I manage to not be lazy about it). I should probably do it more often, but since Hong Kong is incredibly humid pretty much all year long, except for maybe two months in winter, I certainly don't reapply as often as those in drier climates. Maybe I should. I should point out that I sometimes use Bodyshop or Lush products in the bath. I like these brands as the products are gentle on my skin and are made from mostly natural ingredients. They are not cheap though, but I do like to treat myself from time to time :)
Does your skin hurt when you get sick (fever, cold)?
I'm relatively healthy but like everyone, I do get sick and I've found that intend to suffer more if I overheat in the sun. Skin wise, I suppose I could liken the feeling to feeling sunburnt. If I have fevers, which still happen, either consciously or subconsciously, I have experienced something that's tantamount to being slapped with a brick wall of heat and it takes a thermometer, lots of ice water, fans, air conditioners and maybe some regular paracetamol and a cold bath dunk. Luckily, I get more sunburnt than fevers these days. But living in HK especially, the worry of getting sick is never far away.
Does the ocean water bother you?
Or did it when you first tried swimming in the salt water?
This is really interesting actually because up until about a year ago, I avoided going into sea water as I didn't enjoy the salt getting onto my skin. However, over time, I've realised that as long as there is clean water supply nearby, I'll be fine. You can't actually stop me going into the sea if the chance allows! I do stay away from super dirty water though, I'm fussy in that I will only go into clear waters!
Do you notice a difference in your skin in HK compared to UK visits?
Dry and more cream. The temperature is a pleasant change though! In all honesty, I haven't been over enough times to really give an opinion. Health wise, I suppose I'm breathing cleaner air than the polluted air of HK but skin, I've found the climate is drier and for someone who is acclimatised to the humidity of Asia, coming over to the states or Europe is a bit of a shock to the system. But as with all people, you get acclimatised to where you live and you just may be used to creaming more often that you don't really notice the dryness.
I've known of Lucy for a long time, way before Facebook came to the fore and if memory serves, the Betts and my folks used to communicate to learn more about dealing with the little terror that I am!
Do you find you have other health problems related to your skin?
I wouldn't say I'm completely problem free as I have had a couple of situations with weak bones and my lungs aren't truly amazing as my skin was wrapped so tightly around my body when I was born which restricted some lung function, but so far so good. I'm very very lucky that I have a family doctor who looks after me incredibly well and I am forever grateful for her presence in my life as she has picked up on things my hospital doctors haven't. Not to say they suck, they're amazing people, but sometimes, time and clarity is compromised in a busy hospital environment. I've had a period of iron deficiency, solved with chocolate flavoured chewable tablets, I'm yearly monitored for bone density (now in great shape). I'm lucky that I'm relatively fit and my doctor reckons that with the activity I do during the sailing and rugby season, my immune system and overall well being has greatly improved. I hope it stays stable.
Do you find you have a lot of allergies?
Luckily, touchwood, I haven't experienced any allergies, yay me! I may have tried to fake an allergy to get out of eating a certain vegetable, but I'm sure we've all been there! And I still won't touch broccoli!
Can you go on the beach without it irritating?
I've answered this question already. As long as I'm cut free and there is clean water supply nearby, I'm absolutely fine.
Do you find being out in the sun hard?
I'd love to say I'm so used to hk and it's bright weather but truthfully, I find it difficult because heat is trapped in my body, which means sweating is not an easy thing. Although I may post pictures of me being out in the sun, I do try and stay in the shade as much as possible, I use wet shirts or if I'm out doing outdoor activities, I rinse my shirt under a cold tap before putting it back on. It keeps me cool for a bit and I sometimes do the same to my hat and maybe my shorts. Instead of just drinking cold water, I sometimes drink sports and electrolyte drinks because not only do they taste reasonable, they also give me a bit more energy as the sun does wear me out. A couple of time more than not, I have come back home sunburnt out of stupidity. I just deal with it with some ice and aircon and maybe some aloe Vera gel and I'm good to go. I'm lucky in that if I get sunburnt, the effects are pretty much gone by the next day.
I met Jennifer through Facebook as she helps try to connect sufferers and their carers. Like D.e, I saw her name floating about and resisted clicking the "accept button" because at that point in time, socialising with people with Ichthyosis was not on my agenda, I feared did be stereotyped. I wanted to pretend that I didn't have a condition. But sometimes, life doesn't pan out the way you want it. But I'm so glad to know Jennifer as she's a fabulous "ear" when I feel compelled to compare Asian cultures against Western cultures(Jennifer has a really awesome mixed race family!)
Her website is
What's the most bizarre thing anyone has ever said to you about your skin?
I was with a friend at her school fair (we went to different schools, though I very nearly moved there) and as we were about to grab a taxi to leave, I nearly knocked over a teacher carrying her camera. I apologised, she looked up and remarked, "wow, that's a pretty impressive face painting you got there! Can I take a photo?! (I rarely bother slapping paint on my face, it looks wrong!)". I was stunned, I turned away and climbed into the waiting taxi, shocked and the on the journey back, it hadn't really hit me that hard. My friend and I just laughed about the pathetic nature of it and to this day, we still giggle about the absurdity and innocent ignorance of that teacher.
How do you normally handle rude people?
I don't! It's incredibly irritating and I try not to waste my energy on the stupidity of certain people. Though it pisses me off to no end when mums shield their child's eyes, the best I can do is roll my eyes and be knowing that those people are narrow minded. I have done worse things in the past. But unfortunately, with life comes challenges and sadly, I will likely have to deal with arseholes for the rest of my life. It's a matter of finding a way forward. Knowing chinese cuss words helps...sometimes!
How does the culture in Hong Kong affect your ability to network with other affected people in the city?
I don't know what to make of HK culture, on one hand, it great that people are willing to share good moments, but when tragedy strikes, getting anything out of people is like prying open a stubborn mussel. Locals tend to keep bad news and misfortunes to themselves for fear of coming out as weak and shunned. I haven't really had the chance to meet any affected Ichthy sufferers in Hong Kong. I did try corresponding with a mother with a Nethertons baby but kept hitting brick walls to the pout where I just let things be and told her, if she wants to meet or know anything Ichthy related, I'm there. And I expressed that I do understand the nature of living in HK with a disfiguration. However, I have been lucky in that because of my nature and will to fight, I am more at ease about meeting other sufferers, just not sure if HK is really ready to tackle through like I am.
That's Part 1 done, I'll work on the next batch soon!