The UK is currently celebrating something of a rare phenomenon: the skies are blue, the temperatures are up and, for the first time in an eternity, the bank holiday weekend isn’t a total washout.
I love this weather, I really do. Everything always seems so much easier to achieve when the sun’s out. Sadly, however, this weather doesn’t really love me. Aside from the heat making me feel triply sluggish, going out in the sun can be an incredibly risky business indeed.
One of the many annoyances of having Lupus is being extremely sensitive to sunlight; this is called photosensitivity. For many, exposure to sunlight can make symptoms – such as rashes – much worse. In my case, the pigmentation on my face darkens with lightening quick speed. A quick, unprotected trip outside and I look like I’ve been stamped on the forehead with a triangular branding iron.
The strange shape of this pigmentation is something of a mystery, both to me and the dermatologist who checked it out. I’m guessing that either I fell to earth from Krypton and have undiscovered superpowers, or it’s some sort of magic inner eye. Either option would be acceptable and more than welcome.
Unusual markings aside, if my ridiculously sensitive skin is exposed to the sun it soon starts to tingle and feel like it’s on fire. Well, I say fire, but actually, it’s more like a freezing cold case of prickly pins and needles. I imagine this is how vampires feel – or at least it’s how they are portrayed in the Twilight films, when their skin glows and sparkles in the sunlight.
Spending too much time in the sun can also bring on a Lupus ‘flare up’ and make me feel downright grotty. This can be accompanied by full-on flu-like symptoms that can knock me out for days.
Taking Azathioprine makes me that much more sensitive still. I reckon my skin now starts to burn before I’ve even put my shoes on and headed outside. Take this morning for example. I walked around the garden once and sat down for 5 minutes with a cup of tea. Now that I’m back inside, my arms are already cold, tingling and decidedly sore. This is both frustrating, annoying and painful, in equal measures.
Yes, it’s safe to say the days of dousing myself in tanning oil and sizzling like a sausage on the beach are long gone. I shudder at the thought of all the damage I must have caused my young skin in those heady, uneducated days of the 80’s and 90’s, when everyone smelt like Hawaiian Tropic and looked like overcooked bacon.
These days it’s all about finding a fake tanning product that gives me the right colour. I’m aiming for a ‘realistically sunkissed’ shade rather than a ‘baked in a tandoor’ Trump toxic glow.
The pluses of being so sun sensitive are that I have no choice but to stay out of the sun as much as possible; this helps to keep the crows feet at bay. On the negative side, however, the additional sensitivity brought on by taking Azathioprine increases the risk of skin cancer. A pretty major ‘negative’ I know, but one I really have no choice but to take. These toxic drugs I pop every day are helping to make life much more bearable and relatively pain-free. It’s all swings and roundabouts, as they say.
When living the life of a vampire, all you can really do is be sensible, resist the urge to top up your tan and make sure you protect yourself any which way…