Tag Archives: Flexitol

What to do when skin itches from medical drug side effects

What to do if your skin itches or erupts

A friend has just posted a pic of her itchy, bubbly skin on a social website;  I hope she has better care from Dermatologists than I had.

Three days after starting Tamoxifen, I woke up bleeding all over from bloody blisters.  Had gone to bed with OK skin, but this overnight eruption frightened the living daylights out of me.

Rushed to hospital, where the Head Dermatologist told me”it’s your age”.  Tried to question his diagnosis, but he swept out, saying he didn’t have time to answer questions.

Tourism, holiday & travel in La Roche-PosayLuckily, the Head Chaplain suggested I go to La Roche Posay, (LRP), the French centre for these types of problems. Phoning to find out if they could help, they brushed aside my awful French, and in charming English said they would be delighted to see me, asked searching questions and fixed me up, appointments and all to investigate my problem. Continue reading

Cancer Survivors find out information for themselves – and where they find this


Survivors must help themselves

As UK has poor cancer survival rate compared with Europe
NHS has plans to help survivors – in the distant future    Continue reading

Update on “Is there anything else you can do to look after your skin?”

Adding a few simple rules to sensible care

=  younger-looking skin

A recent survey showed living in the countryside means less pollution – and concluded this is better for our skin. But what can those of us who have to live in towns58809_xl-2 and cities do to protect our skin?

Actually, looking at cousins who live in the country, I really don’t envy them their skin.  They may have less pollution, cleaner air, etc. but if  you don’t take care of your skin (and it seems often they don’t) you will end up with wrinkles, pasty skin etc. Continue reading

Doctors could be wrong – don’t worry if they can’t help with skin conditions

LP15122_bigCan’t work out why your skin itches?


When introduced to Tamoxifen, I woke up one morning to find I was bleeding all over from bloody  blisters.  This had been an extreme reaction to the drug, explained by doctors as “it’s your age”.  Luckily the hospital Chaplain suggested I went off to France, where they admitted this was a common side-effect from Tamoxifen – and gave me superb creams and balms to sort out the problem.

Continue reading

Cancer, Polio, Diabetes and other conditions

Polio and other conditions

can affect Cancer Treatment

Update on yesterday’s Post:  suddenly my visitor stats to the website went rocketing up – I never knew so many people had problems from other conditions, that impacted on cancer treatment.  I was even singled out by Chris Salter, who publishes a daily bulletin on Polio around the world, and made me feel very honoured to think he was reading my article.  But researching available information, it seems to those MDT teams don’t take in to account what else we have had,

English: President Franklin Roosevelt, himself...

President Franklin Roosevelt, polio survivor


It had taken me two months to get over problems because the anaesthetist for my cancer op. had disregarded the fact that I had had polio.  Next time I asked the British Polio Fellowship to send their pre-operation pack to my surgeon, and also my anaesthetist, and bless them – both read it from cover to cover, and I sailed through this op.

Grudgingly the Oncologists acknowledged that polio might impact on some of my treatment, and at last I made such a fuss that I was sent to see a Polio specialist, and from then onwards things improved. But it took visits to hospitals in Europe before I found doctors to treat the two conditions holistically. Continue reading

Welcome Spring with soft Skin

NHS needs to read report ‘Cured – but at what cost’

Highlights long-term side effects Tamoxifen 

Recently, cancer charities issued report on long-term side effects of just ONE drug: Tamoxifen.

Stick model of the tamoxifen molecule, as foun... 

Shockingly, it said HALF A MILLION cancer patients suffer major problems from long-term side effects of Tamoxifen – but had been ignored for a decade Some even report problems lasting years after they stopped taking the drug.  So it’s not just the effects of Winter`: research in US says patients could have side effects for 20 years or longer.

Yesterday, I tried to ask my GP for help in dealing with these – in particular my dry, itchy skin.  GP just looked blank.  ‘They’ blame us for surfing the net – but they could do some themselves and find out what is out there.

Continue reading

Cancer wellbeing day a hit with companies and patients.

Visitors queued to get in

For the first time in Britain, Cancer patients and carers had a complete event which was designed by them for them.

Cancer patients often complain that they are ignored – abandoned;  no-one pays attention what they want to know.  But  at the Kensington and Chelsea Cancer Wellbeing LINk event, patients and carers were going around with smiles on their faces.  At last they could find help with the ‘small’, often overLooked  problems they face day-to-day.  Here they could ask questions and be given informed advice on rough skin, nausea, applying for benefits, travel insurance,  etc.

Venue was packed

By 3 pm it was standing-room only to listen to Mark Davies‘ hilarious talk ‘Saving my A*’  (I leave you to supply the missing word!) talking about Bowel Cancer.

It is certain that everyone who was laughing their heads off at his delivery, will remember his talk!

After there was a marvellous demonstration of African Dance, then Elizabeth Crisp gave a factual and very interesting talk – this time about Easophageal cancer.  and Suresh Rambaran talked about Prostate Cancer.  Both talks demonstrated what the event was about – telling it like it is so that we all know what to look for.

The Organic Pharmacy had another packed audience for their talk, with numerous questions from members – who then stayed on for the Cook and Taste demonstration;  and many of us came away with recipe books handed out  giving details of easy ways of eating healthily.

Below, this was the Hall just before Mark Davies started his talk – and I can assure you those two seats were filled – and more – with over 200 people.  Are you in there?

Meanwhile, downstairs those queuing to get in almost couldn’t get in, there were so many people waiting.  But eventually everyone fitted in, and the event was buzzing.

Stall Holders

When the Mayor, Councillor Julie Mills, arrived, she was soon asking questions of Macmillan, who were the major sponsors of the event and had come primed with helpful leaflets – then she moved on to meet Les Girls at the Europa Donna table.  This is a European-wide charity that gets patients together with major surgeons and oncologists.   If anyone is interested in what is happening elsewhere, they have members in 44 countries.  Their meetings are a fascinating mix where we patients can genuinely quizz top medics, and get answers, and anyone interested can not only become a member for a small sum, but patients are treated equally with medical professionals.

Next door was Breast Cancer Care, who, as usual were inundated with enquiries, and next to Age Concern, Citizens Advice Bureau and Nucleus – all agencies who were ably fielding so many enquiries about the new regulations for benefits.

Companies had come laden down with free samples.  Flexitol makes Heel Balm (which cancer patients can get FREE on prescription) and there were plenty of visitors wanting samples, along with their Lip Balm, Nail Revitaliser Gel and other goodies.

Those carers looking after bed-bound people were crowding round the Synergy stand, whose Sharon King said  “As a supplier to the NHS and healthcare at home market, the Kensington and Chelsea Cancer Wellbeing Event was a superb opportunity to meet with many different customers and better understand their needs.  We were able to demonstrate our innovative Oasis Bed Bath System, comprising of wipes and shampoo caps. This  attracted lots of interest from cancer sufferers and their families, as well as healthcare professionals, who could see the advantages of  a quick and comfortable single-step bed bath, without the soap and water”.

Literally by popular demand, Krish Shastri was there from InsureCancer.  At a planning meeting the committee were asked whom to invite, and unanimously said “someone who can tell us about fair medical travel insurance”.  It is difficult to find a company that covers all the possibilities, but Krish even works out how long it takes to transfer a casualty to the nearest hospital – and advises against some popular venues as hospitals may not be up to scratch.

Another support centre answering loads of questions was Paul’s Cancer Support Centre;  probably the oldest in Britain.  There Petra, Beverley and Dani were inundated with questions, particularly about The Healing Journey programme.  Next door was Barrie ably answering questions about Rarer Cancers, and incidentally taking photographs – those you see on these pages were his.

Meanwhile at the back of the hall was a quiet, calm oasis with therapists giving mini-tasters of therapies, including massages.  We had wanted to have a bigger section, which would certainly have been warranted for all the interest there was – but maybe next time!

I did have time for a quick chat with Liz Kirpatrick and Faye in the Nailtiques boutique;  Liz had literally saved my nails when they started crumbling into chalky dust from drug side effects.  She understands what drugs can do to nails, and can manage to trim crumbling ends so that they end up looking glamorous!

Urban Retreat and Vikki Ullah wigs were inundated with enquiries, especially as they are able to help and advise on what is best for us after treatment.  Each of the Goody Bags had a special voucher for £10 off – and some lucky person won a £500 voucher.  More about them later on.

Background Planning

The idea for the event had come out of a LINk Cancer Group meeting.  It involved inviting people and companies that provide help and support for cancer patients, to come and talk and to show off their products and services.  Ijeoma Igwume worked tirelessly getting it all together, aided by Paula Murphy, and Gaenor Holland Williams got the benefits agencies together to offer incredibly useful advice,

Patients, Carers and supporters were able to talk to support centres, benefits agencies, manufacturers and other patients under one roof  – all about the things they wanted to know, but never found whom to talk to.  And those ‘manning’ stalls said how useful it was to talk to other stallholders, as well as visitors.

More about the Raffle and Goody Bags later on – because those were a story in themselves;  everyone went away with lots of pressies, thanks to the generosity of the stall holders and many others.

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Fight cold winds with good skincare


Calendar Girls

Image via Wikipedia

Products that deliver care


It’s that time of year when we  need to make promises to look after ourselves, and in particular our skin.

The bitter cold weather that has hit Europe, Britain and North America is a reminder to protect – protect – and moisturise our skin.

As cancer patients, we have even more reason to do so;  if we don’t, we risk ending up with very dry, lined and peeling skin caused by side effect of our drugs, and in the worst scenario this causes splits, lesions and leaves us open to infection  – ughhh!

The Telegraph says the average British woman spends £483 per person on anti-ageing products (doesn’t mention men – but bet they are just as eager buyers).

Each day a new cream gets launched on the beauty counter,

But how do we know which and what to buy?

It’s all very well telling us how much we spend, but I bet a large amount of the £483 goes on products that promise the earth – but don’t deliver.  And unless you are a research chemist, it is difficult to know what is good for your skin and what is just advertising hype.

You have no idea what fantastic rubbish comes across my desk – whenever there is a launch of some ‘celeb’ product, suddenly I am the PR girl’s best friend.  But – I always insist on trying anything new on myself, knowing full well that if the product isn’t very good, the PR machine will do everything in its power to blind one with champagne and gifts, but never let you actually try out the product.

And now, with Valentine’s Day coming up, a lot of ‘cheap ‘companies are out to entice unsuspecting men into buying some very dubious ‘skincare’.  So if you are at all worried, I suggest you print out this page and ring round the products you think might suit you.

Here is a selection of the goodies that have been sent to me to try, and which I found actually did work on me.

REMEMBER – I am NOT medically qualified, so it is best to ask advice of your CNS, dermatologist or chemist first – and then do a test by rubbing a small amount on your arm – waiting 24 hours to see if your skin reacts – then if OK go ahead.


WELEDA Citrus Refreshing Bath Milk.  This is just the product to help counter winter winds.  Weleda are old and firm favourites with me, and I love their Bath Milk lotions.  Whenever I need a soak after a hard day’s work, or want to re-nourish my skin (or both), I pour in bath milk to replenish the moisture in my skin.  As its name says, this has a lovely Citrus scent (watch out the males don’t pinch it!) and first time I used it I just floated away.             £9.50  for 200 ml.


If Scotland is going to become a separate country, I do hope there aren’t going to be any stupid customs taxes.

Because if so, I would hate Arran Aromatics Angelica Body Lotion to cost any more!  Although for £12 for 300 mml it is very good value, especially as it is keeping my skin lovely and soft whilst the winter is doing its worst.

This company makes a lovely selection of goodies, all of which are reasonably priced.  And their products come in delightful soft, flowery scents, which shouldn’t upset any scent police!  www.arranaromatics.com


If you have a cold bathroom, or just find it too tiring to spread on cream, try body oils.  These are lighter, and easier to ‘spread’, but are just as good as creams and lotions.  There are two types:  1.  Shower oils to use for cleansing, and 2.  Body oils to use after a bath/shower.

One of my favoourite shower oils is made by the French company, L’Occitane.  Currently I  am using their Almond (Amande) oil, but they also make a dreamy Citrus Verbena scent.  Buy these from the QVC channel online shop, as they often have very good deals.  www.qvcuk.com


Nature’s Inspiration Lavender Body Scrub is a gorgeous treat that does one’s skin an incredible amount of good.  It smells nice (which helps) because it uses Lavender, used also for antiseptics;  comes with a dinky measuring scoop (which is ideal for cooking), and it really smoothes off those rough patches that skin gets in the winter – as well as nourishing and moisturing skin.

I am a great believer in simple packaging, so as to save the trees.  But this company goes one further and says all its jars and packaging are from ethical companies.  Not only that, but for once, when I have finished a beauty product, I can use the jar for storing herbs and other cooking ingredients.

Cost £14 and can be purchased on www.naturesinspiration.co.uk or on Amazon.





A very pretty slightly scented cleanser wash, scented with Jasmine which has healing properties.  It conditions at the same time, and hydrates skin, but doesn’t leave a residue.

The bottle is all the right ‘eco’ things, and I liked its design – eco-friendly products don’t have to look ‘goodie-goodie’!

And the bottle lasted a long time;  when I came near the end I opened it up, put in some water and had at least another week’s washes out of the bottle.

£16.99  www.keepimmaculate.com

From the same stable comes Clary Sage and Evening Primrose Oil contains what is says on the label, and both plants are good for skin.  It’s an anti-ageing facial oil, and works wonders in reducing those nasty signs of skin ageing.  With a clean herbie  scent,  the combined natural properties in the oils are powerful workers to help repair skin.  Use it every day, and you will soon find that your skin is much smoother.  £21.99  www.keepimmaculate.com

Tripping up the stairs to the local beauty salon, I noticed there were boxes of products from a firm called ENVIRON.  Talking to Joanne, as she gave me a massage, they said they were trying out Environ Advanced Skincare, and suggested I tried their Ionzyme C-Quence Cleanser.

As they say on their website,  “Environ® skin care products have been formulated to combat and relieve the harmful effects of the harsh climatic changes of today’s environment specifically pollution and ever-increasing doses of radiation from the sun due to the thinning of the protective ozone layer. Added to these are the modern-day effects of social and work stresses and poor diet”.

The cleanser certainly performed well, and not only cleanses my face, but leaves it soft and moist.  You need to have a personalised consultation with a trained Environ therapist before you can buy any environ products.  So call 0800 0433 365 for more information.

WEIL for Origins.

Part of the Estée Lauder giant group that does so much to help us, Weil have come up with Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief.

I did start to read the bumf – but was more interested that using this serum on my face twice a day, the ‘grey’ look disappeared from my skin, and it came alive.

The little bottle lasted a long time too – about three months –  so well worth the £56.

Once the mushrooms have done their best, you can change to a milder lotion, the Mega-Mushroom Soothing Treatment Lotion at £24.



If, like me, you dread washing your hair and having cold drips down your neck, there is a lovely ‘cheat’ product on the market:


Or you can use RICHARD WARD’S Couture Hair Optimiser Hair Reviver.  I spray this on my hair when my salon blow dry is starting to look past it’s sell-by date, and lo and behold, the waves bounce back. It’s a bit like a hair spray that gives my hair a lift, and saves my set for another day!

Richard Ward makes lots of different products, and all at reasonable prices under £20.  His website is worth looking at;  no hype, no false promises, just a lot of sensible wording to help you choose the right product for your hair.  And what’s even nicer, no mention that he does the Duchess of Cambridge’e gorgeous hair.  And the rest of the Middleton family.   www.richardward.com


Soap can be very drying, so I have tried out ‘soap in a dispenser’, that you just pump out – and am finding my hands are much less scratchy.  One of nicest I have come across is made by Neom;  Organic Handwash, in one of their lovely scents :  Moroccan Blush Rose.  I had thought that these handwashes would be better for my hands, but now I have come to the end of the first bottle, I wish I had discovered this before.  At this time of the year my hands were usually rought and sore, but now they are so much smoother.

Tip:  Keep a bottle or jar of hand cream by EVERY tap in your home.  And one by your front door next to the house keys, so you pop some on every time you go out.   You need this to protect your hands from cold winter winds and to re-moisturise whenever you wash your hands;  and it’s also useful in the summer if you choose one with an SPF number to protect from the sun.  Doing duty by my taps at the moment are:

Essie Intensive Recovery Hand Cream – which I love.  Not sticky, but I can feel it soaking in and doing my poor dry hands some good. It also repairs cuticles, so does double duty.  Essie make excellent hand care products, and I am about to try out some of their nail products to try and counter the damage that drugs do to them.  When I told them about the problems we face,  they came back with excellent advice, which showed their research chemists had looked into the harm that drugs do to our skin.  Nice people.   – if only the medical profession would work with Essie and similar companies to help find solutions to our problems, rather than the doctors looking down their noses.

Just under £20, and you can get it from umpteen websites, if it isn’t in your local store.

I now know why my girlfriends always want to ‘wash their hands’ when they visit:  they look to see what hand cream they can ‘borrow’.


Baileys Home

provides products for gardeners, one of which is their fabulour Citronella Handcream.  When you buy a jar, do get another one for anyone you know who is a keen gardener, because the quirky garden designs around the jar make it look less ‘girly’ than most.    They will love the list of ingredients, all written in the Latin names they are used to (in English as well!).  They also list ”not tested on animals’, whereupon a visiting dog immediately went to the jar I had opened to lick it!   Didn’t do him any harm though, but I snatched it back as it does my hands a lot of good.

And do have a look at their website:  it explains that “when we’re not rescuing and recycling, we design simple useful products with a subtle sense of humour and nice labels. We also source some things from small family run companies who have been making the same things for generations”.  www.baileyshome.com




Clinique has sent me a jar of their new REPAIRWEAR UPLIFTING FIRMING CREAM. This will be in the shops in a month or so, and well worth putting your name down to be the first to try this out.

As Clinique reminds us, as we age, natural processes in the skin begin to slow down. Skin begins to lose volume, collagen and elastin production decreases and the pull of gravity starts to show. All these factors lead to a loss of cushion that keeps the face looking plump and youthful.

But after trying out this Repairwear cream, my skin really is looking miles better.  It’s firmer;  its glow has returned and I can look at myself in the mirror without having to stare at lines and wrinkles.  Apparently the cream uses modern technology to help repair and rebuild the skin, and I was interested to see that the formula includes Mitostime, a botanical extract derived from brown algae harvested off the coast of France.  I have written elsewhere about the benefits that seaweed contains, and this is another product that is making use of age-old ingredients in a modern way. Clinique says it helps strengthen the foundation of the skin, providing the tension to support the collagen and elastin matrix.

Like all their products, this is Allergy Tested. 100% Fragrance Free. Oil-Free. Dermatologist Tested.
Ophthalmologist Tested.  For Stockist: 0870 034 2566. www.clinique.co.uk

RRP £ £50.00 / €68.0


Those helpful people at Flexitol have  come up with a ‘saver’ for our poor nails:  Nail Revitaliser Gel.  On the package it says it is ‘for discoloured and thickened nails’, but Flexitol suggested it might help with my nails that are literally crumbling away, thanks to side effects of one of my drugs (can’t find out which one).

I was having to file my nails two or three times a day, to get rid of crumbling and splitting tips, and use sharp nail scissors at least once a day to cut off split ends.   I have only used this Gel for two weeks, but so far I am down to filing my nails about every three days, and only once have I had a split I have had to cut off.

The gel comes in a small tube with a brush applicator at the end.  Very easy to apply to nails, and I have it sitting by my lap top so I can pick it up when waiting on the phone – then I am not wasting my time listening to so-called Helplines ringing.

It will take about two months before my nails grow out completely, so watch this space!

It’s available onliner or at most branches of Boots – and costs £6 – £10, depending on offers.

Enjoy – and let’s hope for warmer winds!



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Politicians blame patients – rather than poor NHS treatment


Image by Jenn Raynes via Flickr

They’re at it again –

saying we don’t take up screening for cancer

so it’s our fault we have poorer survival rates than most European Countries


We are constantly told it’s OUR fault that our post-cancer survival rates are worse than the French and other European nations – because we don’t take up invitations for screening.

Yet the World Health Organisation says we have one of the best rates in Europe for take-up of breast screening, etc.

It has to be something else.

Trying to get doctors to listen

And one reason could total lack of help to handle side effects of hormonal drugs.

Doctors hand out these packs of innocent-looking tablets, then sit back and ‘pretend’ they don’t know what to do when we present with side effects.  I was told of the benefits of Tamoxifen, and how statistical graphs showed that I could expect to live longer if I took them for five years.

When I turn up with horrendous side effects, doctors were in denial:  they’d never seen these symptoms;  my side effects weren’t caused by Tamoxifen;  did I want to come off the drugs?  etc. etc.


An NHS survey showed over 60% of us receive so little help from doctors to treat these side effectsd (temporary blindness, dreadful skin conditions, hot flushes, nausea – the list goes on) that we decide to ditch the drugs.  Even though Herceptin, Tamoxifen etc. are proven to extend a cancer patient’s survival.

Reports produced by Dr. Louise Atkins and Dr. Lesley Fallowfield in Sussex and Thomas I. Barron and others at Trinity College Dublin say the rate of non-persistence with therapy is higher than previously reported. ….. (raising) concerns about persistence with other oral hormonal therapies for breast cancer and oral antineoplastics in general. Oncologists need to identify those at risk of non-persistence and develop strategies to combat this barrier to treatment success.

The surveys on Early Discontinuation of Tamoxifen: A Lesson for Oncologists
Thomas I. Barron, MSc 1 *, Róisín Connolly, MB 2, Kathleen Bennett, PhD 1, John Fely, MD 1, M. John Kennedy, MB 2
1Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, St. James’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
Intentional and non-intentional non-adherence to medication amongst breast cancer patients.  Dr. Louise Atkins and Dr. Lesley Fallowfield, Psychosocial Oncology Group at Sussex University.

Should be required reading for ALL oncologists.

Both reports have been out for over five years, and indicated from 50-65% of patients may come off these drugs.  Side effects can cause problems, but leaflets produced by cancer charities etc.  don’t suggest possible solutions, and Oncology nurses are often unable to suggest ways to mitigate side effects, particularly concerning painful skin conditions.  So with no help,  patients come off drugs – either openly or covertly.

As a breast cancer patient, I was delighted with my treatment, until, a week after starting Tamoxifen, I woke with bloody sheets and blistering, peeling skin.  Creams suggested by the hospital were totally useless, but eventually, going to my private doctor, he prescribed steroids, which cleared this up.  Then another bout happened a month later. Side effects had targeted my skin, from hair to nails, and showing this to my Oncology Nurse she peeled off another skin layer, saying she couldn’t recommend any commercial products to help (and drugs aren’t commercial?!).

I was sitting stripped naked in front of a crowd of giggling students, when the senior Dermatologist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital told me, “it’s your age”, then swept out before I could ask “why?”

So I was forced to ‘fight’ for treatment if I didn’t want to be the one who crept into the corner and decided to hide from the world.  I went to France, where their hospitals are well versed in dealing with these problems, and possibly why  France has a far better post-cancer history.

The doctors sorted out my problems, said that the side effects I was showing were ‘classique’ when on Tamoxifen, and sent me how with sensible, clinically-trialled products that sorted out my peeling, bloody skin.

Now, nurses in Britain say “you do have lovely skin” – but it’s no thanks to their treatment.

Russ Hargreaves of Macmillan Cancer Centre at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital once gave an excellent talk on ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Breast Cancer Treatments’ and why we were getting problems; reassuring us we weren’t alone. His ten-minute presentation gave an intelligent and understandable insight into what was happening to our bodies, and why we were having problems with side effects.

But unless doctors in the UK pay attention to side effects, our survival rates may slip even further behind Europe.

European women get advice about side effects, and expect this as a matter of course.  We are left to find out what to do for ourselve.  No wonder so many of us take up herbal medicines and other non-proven products.  But it is the doctors’ fault if we do – where else is the average person to find help?

Surely we have the right to expect that if we are given drugs – the doctors are taught what are side effects, and how to handle them?

But of course – silly me! There is little money in solving drug side effects, only in making the drug in the first place.  And of course, the Oncologists have far too much to do – without taking time as they do in France, Germany, etc. to listen to the patient and carefully work through different clinically-trialled products that could help.

And when I discovered that the Australian product, Flexitol, was fantastic at handling the horrible rough, sore skin that covered my feet and made walking a misery, my local GP tried to cancel it from my prescription – saying it cost money!  He thought that wanting to prevent bloody blisters, etc. was ‘just cosmetic’.

But I hear that at last NICE are being asked to approve La Roche Posay products, developed in France to help our skins counter cancer drug side effects, etc.   Eighty countries around the world prescribe their products for those of us with skin problems from side effects, but we are so behind the rest of the world in dealing effectively with side effects, it makes one weep.



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7. Latest on Iditarod – what it means to man and dog


Stop Press

Latest – latest:  Ramey Smyth is now less than one hour behind John Baker.  You can’t take this totally as true standings – it all depends on how much time mushers need to allow their dogs to rest (by this time in the race they don’t think about resting themselves), but it is getting HOT!

Now, fresh from a lap top that somehow managed to pick up a signal along the trail:

The Iditarod Trail Race is currently shaping up to be a multi=probable winner situation as 5 mushers head into the Koyuk Checkpoint .  There are 6 Mushers within 36 miles of each other, led by John Baker with a 12 miles in first place.  Baker followed by Gatt, Smyth, Schnuelle, Neff and D. Seavey.  Expect a winner across the finish line in Nome sometime afternoon Tuesday.  LEOCurrently the leader isJohn Baker:  his team is going well, and he has been in the lead for some time. With Lance Mackey almost out of the running (currently he is in 10th place with only 9 dogs), it looks like Alaskan-born Baker might even be revenged for his bad luck last year.                                                      At one point the trail last year was was so hidden in a snow blizzard he thought he had taken a wrong turn, and wasted precious hours seeking out the ‘real’ trail.  At that point he was leading – but this delay cost him the race.He took part in his first Iditarod in 1996, and since then has been amongst the Top Ten finishers 11 times. 

The race has now reached Koyuk checkpoint, and following closely behind Baker were German-born Sebastian Schnuelle and Hugh Neff , Ramsey Smyth (who still has 15 dogs) and Hans Gatt and Dallas Seavey. 

Ramsey Smyth is running in honour of family members who had cancer – and asks people to drink moderately and give up smoking. 

Mastectomy survivor  DeeDee Jonrowe has moved up to 7th place.

Her pink-booted sled dogs are still going well, and she could be a contender.  Remember, she has twice been runner-up. 

How her bright pink outfit (seen here) is a familiar site on the trail.

So far 12 runners have made it in to Kaltag, with Martin Buser the latest to arrive.

Jamaicans will be sad to learn that their sole runner, Newton Marshall, has had to scratch.  He said his dogs were sick.  

And top woman musher Judy Currier has also scratched, along with seven others.

Looking at timings, it seems majority of mushers are running major part of race during night, to take advantage of colder temperatures – dogs like this.  They then rest up during ‘hotter’ time in day.


Judy Currier scratches

The official report explains a lot about why Judy scratched, and just what is is really like running the Iditarod:

Musher Judy Courier could see the end of her Iditarod coming for the last two hundred miles.  Courier dropped her “main, main leader” back in McGrath a couple of days ago.  That left her with 3 leaders; last night, her current “main leader” decided that leading the team up the Yukon River was not something that he was interested in doing.  Race over.

Courier arrived at the Anvik Checkpoint with her 13 dogs at 12:04 Saturday morning.  She stayed 5 minutes and left with all 13 dogs.  Took the trail down through the village, dropped onto the river and headed up to Grayling.  She didn’t go far.  Her leaders balked at the idea of continuing northward.  None of them would go out front.  Instead of tight lines, it was end of the line.

Judy turned around and by 2:00a.m. she was back in Anvik.  She parked the team and decided to stay 8 hours and see how the team was in the morning.  The team, all 13 of the dogs are in good shape physically but with no front end, no dog that wants to go lead the team wherever the musher wants to go, without leaders, there is no team.  There can be no racing.  During the mid-morning in Anvik, Courier decided to pull out of the race.  She scratched.

It was 10:30 and in the background you could hear the popular public radio program “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”.  She said it was her husband’s favorite program; she’d wait to call home with the news until 11 when the program ended.

This was Courier’s 6th Iditarod.  Last year she scratched on the Yukon River also.  Last year she had a bad back and couldn’t go on.   Courier has completed 4 Iditarods, scratching does not come easy.  Going home short of the goal was not on her list of things to do in March.  Courier is one of those mushers who love the race but also has a career totally unrelated to dog mushing.  She’s an accountant with a fair sized Alaskan general contractor; she commutes 45 minutes each way, each day.  Her boss is supportive of her mushing endeavors and is very flexible with her work schedule.  But still, her career interferes with her training.  She has a handler run the dogs during the week and she runs weekends.  She knows that to succeed, to be a frontrunner, you have to make a commitment that is total, without hesitation, without question.  Courier, and there are others like her on the trail, knows that the relationship with the dogs that is required is at a level that only comes with much more time, much more training than her life allows for.

You can’t make leaders go.  The musher is there to help them go, to let them go, and to encourage them to go.  If they don’t want to go, nobody is going anywhere.

Jus’ Stuff

Ask any macho musher what they put on their face to counter icy winds and below freezing temperatures – and back comes the embarrassed reply:  “jus’ stuff”.

But ask them what they are rubbing into their dogs’ paws every night, and out comes names of  all sorts of creams and remedies, from home-made products to Flexitol and other well-known brand names.  Seems they are not so shy when it comes to telling what man’s best friend gets for pampering their paws.

Dogs were often used to test skincare in the bad old days, because their skins are akin to ours.  So I have been listening to gossip – and asking good skincare companies what they would recommend – if ever a musher hid their blushes long enough to ask!

Incidentally the women are a bit more forthcoming – but no-one yet (as far as I know) is sponsored by a skincare company – nearest I can find is Cain Carter, who wears a tag ‘Grandma’ as she paid his entry fee.

But look at the way snow covers their faces, and you see what extreme conditions mushers are facing.  This might be Ally Zirkle, top woman musher (she is known to carry a camera on her hood) – but who can tell!!  She is muffled up against the weather!

But names that are mentioned frequently when anyone owns up to using skin creams are Clinique, Living Nature etc.  So I have asked major companies what they would recommend – and will add a posting on ‘Jus stuff’ every time I hear gossip.  What’s good for musher’s skins at minus degrees, must help cancer skins!
Clinique immediately came up with their Moisture Surge Cream – and slap it on every time you think about it. 
Another invaluable ‘comforter’ is Comfort on Call Cream – does exactly what it says on the label.
They also recommended Super City Block, which was designed to counter pollution in cities, but it’s suitable for all conditions, suits men as it is oil-free, and has a very high 40 SPF.  And this is extremely important as the sun bounces off snow, and can easily give mushers burnt faces. 
I also use Deep Comfort Body Butter, and can think of nothing better when the winds have cut through your clothing layers and managed to rough up body skin. 

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