Two weeks to go!

Yesterday I had a reasonable run in the Brading 10k on the Isle of Wight, which was the dress rehearsal for the Virgin Sport Westminster 10k (aka the British 10k) in two weeks time.

I found Brading’s undulating course a bit challenging – luckily I think the London course is flatter!

I have come a long way since Christmas. At New Year, I was plastered with nasty red raw spots, I couldn’t keep skin on my feet – even on a quarter-mile run – and my sinuses and lungs were absolutely full of rubbish.

Today, the only trace of the spots on most of my body are small purple blemishes and although I still have a fair amount of muck in my nose, ears and chest, plenty of steroid spray and nose-blowing will see me through a six-mile run – although I do experience a lot of ear-popping.

My left foot is still a mess, but I find that applying plenty of Vaseline or coconut oil before a race means I am less likely to blister.

Today my number for the Virgin Sport Westminster 10k has arrived in the post, so it is all go for London, where I will be wearing a purple t-shirt and doing my best to raise awareness and money for the Psoriasis Association, a registered charity which supports sufferers, funds research and raises awareness for this chronic auto-immune condition.

Please sponsor me if you can, see

http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/kate-young16teamPSO

 

 

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One month today….

It is one month today until my fundraising run for the Psoriasis Association…and I am counting down the days.

I will be travelling to London to take part in the Virgin Sport Westminster 10k on July 9 and I hope to raise £500 for the Psoriasis Association, a national charity which helps fund research into the condition, support sufferers and raise awareness.

At Christmas time, I was struck down with a flare-up of guttate psoriasis, which left me with nasty sore spots all over my body, including my feet and heels – this meant I could not run for around two months, because the skin kept coming off my feet.

Fortunately my skin is now a lot better and I am back up to running 10k races, so I am confident of completing the Westminster 10k.

You can learn more about my efforts – and sponsor me – on my JustGiving page at

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One step (or spot!) at a time…

Bit by bit, I have managed to successfully increase my running, so I am now able to do long runs of up to seven miles without having any problems with the skin on my feet.

I have even managed to do two 10km (6.2 mile) running events in the last couple of weeks – the ABP Southampton 10k road race and the Night Runner 10k off-road challenge in the dark.

Spot by spot, I am also managing to clear my skin, with a combination of a sunny Easter week in Tenerife with my husband and six-year-old son and light therapy three times a week.

The light therapy is particularly amusing, as you have to stand in a special light booth for a short amount of time and when the session is over, the machine goes ‘TING!’ just like a microwave!

It is working though, as I now only have spots on my face and from the waist down, rather than absolutely all over!

I have long since learned that the best achievements in life are gained little by little and with a lot of patience – I am a firm believer in the idea that good things come to those who wait!

I have had a new running magazine speak to me about my Virgin Sport Westminster 10k challenge in aid of the Psoriasis Association and you can sponsor me online via www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Kate-Young16TeamPSO

 

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Hurrah for poetry…

Once again I have been taking part in the annual IW Music, Dance and Drama Festival, where I won the cup for the best adult poetry composition – it’s the sixth time I have won this particular award in recent years, although I am a regular winner of the short story, one act play and article-writing cups too.

My winning poem was inspired by a piece of verse written by another Island writer, Joan Waddleton, and I was very much thinking of the cliffs at Compton Bay, here on the Isle of Wight, at the time. In writing it, I was also reminded of the fact that my father found a body washed up at Compton Bay in the early 1990s (it was a young woman who was thought to have jumped from the cliffs at nearby Tennyson Down).

Here is my winning poem:

GOOD ENOUGH 

Not the most breath-taking of cliffs –

Rust-stained crumbling sandstone,

Winter storms threaten dereliction –

Makeshift repairs forestall the inevitable.

 

Spring arrives: seabirds seek ancient nest-holes,

Drifts of pink thrift blur the cliff’s toothed edges,

A hare bounds and swathes of bold bluebells blaze –

Sandcastle flags make a mock of butterflies.

 

Summer hosts barbecues on the beach –

Cliff echoes with the sound of laughter,

Sailing dinghies skip through the surf,

Children squeal on discovering a crab.

 

Autumn brings mellow days for fishermen –

Mending lobster pots, pulling up boats for winter,

Dog-walkers, horse-riders and flying kites,

A nip in the air, as day fades to night.

 

Winter returns: short days of damp light,

Christmas Eve and a policeman is despatched

To close the record on one person’s despair –

One fact is clear: the cliff was good enough.

 

On looking through the various verses saved on my computer tonight, I discovered I had written two versions of this poem. In the second version, I had inserted another verse in between Autumn and Winter (verses four and five).

The new verse reads:

November gales bring howling winds,

Skirls of seashells shatter on the sands,

Pieces are torn from the ancient shipwreck

By a churning soup of seaweed and dead fish.

 

Which version do you think is better – with the new verse, or without?

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Another charity challenge…

Not quite on the scale of A Trans-Siberian Odyssey, but I have another escapade lined up.

As you know, I have recently had a flare-up of psoriasis – a perfectly irritating auto-immune condition, which not only brings you out in unsightly spots and patches, but normally manages to make you feel pretty self-conscious, if not thoroughly blue, as well.

It’s not contagious – although plenty of people automatically shy away from psoriasis sufferers, presuming they have got some sort of bizarre tropical disease.

It’s irritating in another sense – the spots/patches are itchy and flaky. In the simplest mechanical terms, it is caused by the immune system causing skin cells to multiply far faster than they should, resulting in red raised blotches, with silvery, flaky dead skin on top.

Worse still, it can affect any part of you – I have it on my face, hands, feet and all over my body. I even suffer psoriasis of the nails – my fingernails have dents in them, so I can never wear coloured nail polish, while I am physically missing some of my toenails.

Luckily, there are some very helpful groups, including the Psoriasis Association, which was founded in the late 1960s.

As I am a keen runner, I have agreed to run the Virgin Sport Westminster 10k (formerly the London Vitality 10k) in London in July, in aid of the Psoriasis Association, which is a registered charity.

You can find out more here:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Kate-Young16TeamPSO

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Getting creative…

I was walking through the town the other day, when I saw a young mum struggling with a pushchair and three young children. You might think: ‘So what? Happens every day!’, but I was reminded of a poem I once wrote about a friend who seemed permanently frazzled.

It started me thinking about all the poems, plays, short stories, flash fiction and other things I have written during the past few decades.

Apart from my daily writing tasks as a journalist, I am actually quite a prolific writer, with a number of small prizes and awards to my name…as well as A Trans-Siberian Odyssey.

I started thinking about the fact my honours degree is in Writing and Publishing and actually included a lot of creative writing and I vowed that I really should be more creative once more!

Then I started hunting about in my bookcases for the poetry anthology which housed that poem about my frazzled friend.

The anthology was published in 1996 by Hilton House and was called Poetic Inspirations. I found it almost immediately and on reading the poem again, thanked my lucky stars for how wonderful and supportive my husband is (for sharing household tasks and childcare!)

Here is the poem:

 

I WAS…

I was that dancer

That you saw pirouetting in the park in Paris –

Flowing between the trees like liquid silk,

Graceful and feather-like,

That sparkle of spirit that you

Wanted to hold in your hand.

 

The problem was you always closed your fingers!

 

I was that girl

Who laughed in the face of the dawning sun

After a night spent in the company of the moon –

Full to burst with life, sidestepping,

Evading you and your grip of domesticity.

 

The problem was you caught me!

 

What I am now

Is tired, threadbare,

Worn with hours of your dirty washing

And kids screaming on my eardrums.

That vivacious girl

Is blunted under the weight of

The endless duties of

A good wife and mother.

 

You clenched the fist and entrapped the dancer

In the prison of your fingers –

Barring freedom with possession

Under the empty guise of partnership.

 

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Is beauty only skin deep?

Alas, I am covered in spots from head to toe again.

The dreaded psoriasis is back. For those who haven’t come across psoriasis before, there are a few things you should know…

Firstly, don’t shun a person with psoriasis. It is not contagious and you can’t catch it – even if you are very intimate with that person. By acting normally, you reassure them that they are still socially acceptable.

Secondly, many skin specialists now consider psoriasis to be a chronic mental health condition because it is closely linked to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. I personally know self-esteem is very easily affected, as it is hard to feel good about yourself when you are plastered in ugly-looking spots. Even events you were looking forward to become a minefield because you are worrying about how to dress and whether you should try to hide your spots, or let them show and hope people won’t be repulsed.

Thirdly, remember psoriasis is a chronic condition because there is no cure. It is possible to treat the spots themselves until they fade – which may take several months – but it is by no means easy to predict when sufferers may have another flare-up.

Many people ask me how psoriasis is caused. The simplest answer is that it is a genetic skin abnormality which causes the skin cells to grow at a vastly accelerated rate. You are born with psoriasis and you only discover it when you get your first flare-up. It does sometimes (but not always) run in families – my father has it and so do I. I hope my son hasn’t inherited it.

There are various types of psoriasis and different people have different triggers for their flare-ups. For some people, it’s stress, such as losing their job, or a trauma in their personal life, such as the death of someone close to them.

For other people, it is things in their diet – if you can pinpoint what your triggers are and remove them from your diet, you may remain spot-free for quite some time.

Unfortunately for me, mine is usually triggered by an assault to my immune system. It normally occurs when I have had an awful lot of things on my mind and then bang – a serious infection. I have pinpointed it to infections of the ears, nose, throat kind and the last two flare-ups in spring 2014 and now have both been caused by severe throat infections.

Sadly for me, I am allergic to penicillin, and many other antibiotics simply don’t work for me.

Despite trying to stay healthy – I eat well, I run, I go to the gym and I am fairly fit for a mum in her 40s – it is impossible for me predict when I might catch a cold, which then develops into an infection of the psoriasis-triggering kind.

I have had a few flare-ups in my life – some have stayed fairly localised on my legs, but this latest one is by far the worst yet, as I currently have spots on my face, ears, neck, shoulders, chest, stomach, back, arms, hands, legs, feet – well you get the picture!

It is also quite worrying that this is the second full-body flare-up in two years, when I had previously stayed spot-free for almost 15 years. So many things have happened to me in the past 12 months and it’s making me wonder if I should make some lifestyle changes.

I want to educate more people about psoriasis and I am not afraid to let my spots show. It’s a condition that affects between two and four per cent of the UK’s population, yet very few people ever realise how serious it can be.

While most normal people simply feel stressed, psoriasis sufferers see their problems emerge in the physical manifestation of spots, generally followed by a downward spiral into depression about their appearance and anxiety about their health in general.

Fortunately for me, I am a cheerful soul by my very nature. My husband married me while I was covered with spots – he realised that beauty is beyond skin deep and you simply have to see past the spots to admire the soul. I hope other people will realise this too.

 

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