* This is a personal account. It is not scientific. I make no guarantee. I will also not be sharing any contacts because my homeopath doesn’t know I am writing. There are also yucky pictures so SKIP if you cannot stand the sight of bad skin.
I won. With the help of homeopathy and whichever God is smiling down on me. Thank God.
Before I go on, this is a blog post started a year ago, modified over the months.
I didn’t dare to post it, as I was watching, waiting, dreading the return of the weeping eczema, ready to join the scientific legions who hammer a nail into the homeopathy coffin declaring it as quack medicine.
But as my skin has never been as good since I was 21, I think this is good to go. I write to add a positive note to the reams of negatives written about the homeopathic practice.
(On that note, disclaimers: Homeopathy didn’t work as well for Day and Lu, who ended up going back to the dermatologist. So maybe it is hit-and-miss. I don’t know. Homeopathy, if I am not wrong, is also not regulated in Singapore)
In October 2011, I took a leap of faith by visiting a homeopath.
My crisis: Skin. It has always been skin, since a Nepalese leech bite at the age of 21 triggered a dormant eczema gene and I became prone to weeping eczema patches, controlled with either steroid creams or a round of antibiotics maybe once or twice a year. I could live with it.
But in late 2011, a chronic inner ankle eczema patch which, perhaps fanned by stress and more germs, became a skin infection which bloomed all over my body from September. It was labeled discoid eczema, impetigo, ecthyma.
* The trail of pus flowing down from knee. These things were all over my body.
I had gone to my usual skin doctor, the one who did wonders for Lu before, but he pumped me with round after round of antibiotic. One panicky day, I turned to the National Skin Centre. More antibiotics.
After three rounds of Augmentin, one round of cephalexin, one round of doxycycline and one month of oral steroid prednisolone, all taken nearly consecutively in three months, the skin lesions showed no signs of abating. Some went away but more new ones sprung up on new sites all over my body. I had never taken so much antibiotic in my life.
There were new crazily-itchy pussy lesions erupting on my scalp, my eyes, my back, my chest, my arms, my hands, my butt, my legs, everywhere except the soles of my feet. They started out as small bumps, spread out and filled with pus. There were between 50-100 of them.
- · My eyelids were itchy and infected for a month. All I wanted to do in that month was close my eyes and sleep.
- · Yet, I could not sleep properly for five months. Falling asleep was a third-party exercise in which I saw myself unsuccessfully trying to sleep as I tried not to scratch, and staying asleep was even harder as I had psyched myself to spring up the moment I started scratching.
- · I bought new bedsheets because the white one kept getting stained with pus-drops, like rain, and sometimes blood, every morning, starting from my pillow down to where my feet were.
- · Any contact with water – bathing, washing hands – stung.
I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I could barely work, I couldn’t be a wife, I couldn’t be a mother, I barely functioned.
I went through the motions of life. I recall sitting at my desktop at night trying to work, but the corners of my eyes, where the red bumps were, would itch, pus and hurt badly. I couldn’t see to work. I tried hard to read stories for the kids. I tried even harder to do housework.
KK clucked all over me. He got even more scared when I started hugging him and tearing up for no reason.
The doxycycline finished in mid-December. I was still itching and pussing. I refused to go back to the Skin Centre for what might be another month of the doxycycline, for which I think I actually experienced side-effects (it made me very emotional and semi-depressive. I actually thought I was dying of skin cancer).
I turned to a recommended homeopath. Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine, still rare in Singapore.
And here I break it all down because I don’t think many people have ever gone to a homeopath.
And here I break it all down because I don’t think many people have ever gone to a homeopath.
Unlike any other medical experience I have had in my life, the clinic is always empty when I go. I have never seen any other patient and I have never had to wait. I go, I waltz straight in.
It could be that she has no business. Or that all her patients are carefully spaced out.
Every time I went, I spent two hours or more at the clinic.
Yes, unbelieveable, but I did.
The good doctor sometimes said things which I found unbelievable (more in “Say What?” below) but she also spent an inordinate amount of time talking to me. It often went beyond the medical. I ended up talking a lot about how the skin issue was getting me down emotionally.
It was therapeutic. Oftentimes, I would stop myself from whinge-ing to anyone because I hate self-pity and I catch myself: What is a small piddling skin issue compared to people who have terminal illnesses or bigger problems in their life? (many a time as I tried to 'un-stick' my clothes from my body - it had gotten stuck due to the pus - I tried to be thankful that my condition wasn't life-threatening)
Also, no Western doctor has ever given me the time of day. They glance at the lesions for about five seconds, they nod, they write the prescription and I’m out in five minutes.
But it was good having a doctor who actually listened to all the thoughts which had been festering in my mind. I let loose the hypochondriac in me.
A key part of homeopathy, if I am not wrong, is emotional. Fix the emotions and the body will fix itself. She tells me one of her modules dealt with psychology.
Because of the above, it is prohibitively expensive, for my skinny wallet anyway. Every time I went cost me $2-300 and I had to see her at least once a month in the initial months. The fee for seeing her the first time – not including medicines – cost me $180. But like I said, she gave me at least two hours of her time.
This is my understanding, not the Wikipedia one (which completely whacks homeopathy).
Each person is different.
While the same kind of fever medicine would be given to two different people having high temperatures in the world of Western medicine, a homeopath might give different medicines.
Because they treat the person, not the symptom.
My first session with the homeopath was all about finding out what kind of person I was, like a personality profile. It took two hours. I had to answer about 50 questions. I was diagnosed to be a Phosphorus lady.
The Phosphorus person has a radiant, bubbly, effusive energy but is easily physically and mentally exhausted. They are extremely sensitive on all levels: Physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Emotionally these people are very sympathetic. They are in creative, artistic professions. Etc. etc.
It sounds like some sort of horoscope.
My first consultation, I literally had to force myself to keep my mouth shut, lower my raised eyebrows, fling off my cynical journalist hat and try her out because she was my lifeline.
This is the weirdest part.
It all comes down to whether the medicine, or remedy as homeopaths call it, is effective.
I expected nothing and the doctor, for good reason, refused to tell me how I would feel.
In the beginning, I felt nothing. Unlike Western medicine which works immediately and dramatically, perhaps giving you some gastric or nausea in the process, there was absolutely nothing.
Then I realized that while there was no change in the lesions, I was not getting worse, which was a welcome change. Then I got better. This took months.
To skeptics, yes, it could be all in the mind. It does sound unbelievable. But to me, whatever works, man. Placebo? Sure. If a placebo can fix my skin, why the hell not?
What is the medicine?
The cynics describe homeopathic remedies as water and the tiniest of sugar-laced pills, which melt under the tongue, perfect for a cannot-swallow-pill person like me (and which all the kids, including eczema-free Jo, clamoured for because it really tastes good).
The homeopath says that in homeopathy, the strongest element is water, in which the curative elements have been diluted. The more diluted, the stronger it is. Yes, I know it is completely unscientific.
She is the first doctor who has, instead of creams for the skin, given me a bottle of water with some element in it to apply to my skin wounds.
Logical Jo, when she sees me drink my medicine, pipes up: But it’s just water, mama! It’s just water! Why can’t I drink it?
I also had to pound my bottle of phosphorus remedy, in a process which is known as succusion. Every night, I pound away before I sip 5ml, every 15 minutes, over 2 ½ hours.
Logical KK, who quietly saw me pounding and sipping away every night from January through to May last year without comment, suddenly asked at one point: Is this your witch-doctor ritual?
(I don’t tell him about homeopathy because he only believes in what he can understand.)
The ritual stopped once the homeopath deemed that I could taper off the remedy. Which I did, in June 2012.
As for the sugar pills, I think they are infused with a drop of the homeopathic remedy. Yes, a drop of diluted substance which I believe is one parts to a million. Or a few million. Completely unscientific, again.
* My homeopathic larder
Some of what she says still sounds like mumbo-jumbo to me and I am still highly skeptical, but like I say, whatever works, man.
- Antibiotics flatten and suppress lesions. But the toxins still in the body then manifest themselves elsewhere. So what happens is that after antibiotics, another set of symptoms come up which require a different sort of antibiotic, which then precede another problem.
- She gives me pills to take once a month which purportedly “cut off the genetic element” of eczema from my dad. This was the one statement from her which I found the hardest to swallow. But I’m a sucker.
- Western – or allopathic medicine as she calls it – poisons the body. She tells me: “It’s important for you to keep your body clean, that means staying away from drugs.”
It was slow. It took a few weeks before I noticed that the lesions were not getting worse.
I then went through a few cycles: The lesions receded, then popped back up in the same spots but less red, less itchy and less wet than before, receded, then popped up to an even lesser extent, sort of like waves on a beach at low tide, until one day (months later) they were gone leaving only scars which don’t bother me in the least.
I started eating properly and gaining back the weight I lost through stress in December, started sleeping through the night again in February and the itchiness also left in February. I stopped the medicine altogether in June.
I can now bathe and cook happily because my hands no longer hurt, sleep without scratching, and I have had happy skin for a year.
Does the eczema return?
Yes, it does. But nothing like what it was before. I now have two dry, scaly patches on my leg and two on my hands. But it is not wet, is nowhere as itchy as it ever was before, and I control it with my remedy. So as and when it returns, I go on it again and stop when its gone.
* Dry, scaly and red only. No problem, man.
It didn’t work so well.
* Day in 'therapy'
Day, the patch on his ankle which flared up angrily every now and then, to which I would desperately slap on some cream, did subside beautifully for a few months while he was on Sulphur. It was white, clean and dry. But then it flared up again, I didn’t manage it so well and when it got worse, I brought him back to the Western doctor for a quicker fix.
* Lu thoroughly enjoying her therapy. She is watching a DVD.
For Lu, too, I wasn’t sure if it was getting better. The wet areas dried up but she continued scratching and in the end, I brought her back to the Western doctor.
What does that mean? I’m not sure. Perhaps my own success was all in the mind. Perhaps I didn’t manage the kids well. Perhaps I didn’t think they could tolerate the long healing process. I don’t know.
As far as I know, the only danger from homeopathy is when it prevents people who believe too strongly in it, from seeking mainstream treatment which might save their lives.
If you go online, all there is are rants about how homeopathy is quack medicine for gullible idiots who think water and sugar can save them.
In my mind, nothing about homeopathy makes sense. Not the water drops, the sugar pills or the philosophy.
When I talk about it, people – especially the logical men – sneer “placebo” or “it’s psychological”.
I gave KK a homeopathic remedy for flu and he snorted: It’s just sugar lah! Are you wasting your money?
But it has worked for me. For that, I am eternally grateful. I haven’t consumed a drop of Western medicine or antibiotic since the end of 2011. I also fall sick far less often (two flus in 2012), although I refuse to draw any links here.
I don’t think it works for everyone though. For every success story, there are loads more failure stories out there. Why do those fail? No idea.
Do I think Western medicine sucks? No. I think it works brilliantly particularly in acute cases where surgery is required.
But at least I now know a gentler happier method of healing, which is more suitable for certain chronic diseases which Western medicine cannot comfortably manage without side-effects.
(I did not try other forms of alternative medicine. TCM would have been next on my list after homeopathy. It could well have worked, too.)
* My then-horrid pus-sy second finger knuckle (first picture in this post), and its condition now