Sometimes things arrive in your life just when you need them. A parcel was delivered the week before last on a day that was insignificant in its busyness but hugely significant to me. A couple of weeks earlier I had attended a press launch at the gorgeous pharmacy John Bell & Croyden in Marylebone for my #1 fave beauty brand Korres who were launching a new skincare range Castanea Arcadia. These new anti-ageing creams are powered by halupeol which is a derivative of the chestnut tree patented by Korres. I was thrilled to be invited and even more thrilled to be invited to try out the range along with some cult beauty products from Know Cosmetics (who are Canadian like me!) and I had a manicure done with the amazing Butter London Patent Shine 10x Nail Lacquer in a gorgeous deep mauve shade called Toff (that’s British for Rich Snob!). But I digress. I was talking to you about timing…
The day after the press event that I was so grateful to attend I had a specialist appointment with a haematologist. We had a conversation about my health in general and then discussed some more specific things. She asked if I knew why I was there. I did: mastocytosis. She’s a specialist in this rare blood disorder and she’s pretty sure I don’t have it. If I don’t it’s likely to be a lesser known and worse understood condition called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, which means another referral and another wait list. Treatment is medications to treat the symptoms: pain, allergic reactions, hives, swelling and anxiety attacks. In the worst case scenario the treatment is chemotherapy. But I am lucky in a way. These conditions are rare and doctors are interested in them. The diagnostic criteria was only added to medical manuals last year.
I’m laughing at myself now. Of course I’ve got a trendy genetic disorder.
The doctor asks me if I’m willing to have the test to rule out mastocytosis. It’s a bone marrow biopsy which she describes in detail. I feel literally sick to my stomach and gag. I consider saying no and then I remember what it was like to be afraid these last 12 months every time I needed an antibiotic or even an over the counter pain killer. I’ve been keeping diaries for my children in case I die since the incident in the hospital last April which I’ve written about previously. This is no way to live, always looking over my shoulder, afraid of medical treatment. So I say yes. This is the NHS after all. It won’t be for aaaages. She walks me across the hall to book it. It’s in 1 week exactly. A lady in a beautiful Pucci-esque turban smiles at me whilst the receptionist fills out the form. She’s younger than me and bald from chemo.
So back to my parcel. On the day it arrives I’m bustling about with kids and work but I tear into it like it’s a hot cheese pizza (I’ve been dairy free 3 months now and cheese pizza is one thing I still crave). Inside the box are the Castanea Arcadia Day and Night creams plus the accompanying eye cream, a Basil and Lemon scrub, some dry body oils in Santorini Vine and Water Lily. Know Cosmetics have sent me the No Thin Lips, No Dark Shadows, and No Bare Brows too. I’m in heaven. This could not have come at a better time. I put it at the end of my bed that night. In the morning I use the scrub in the shower. The first thing I notice is the smell. It’s clean and fresh like laundry on the line and lemonade in your mom’s kitchen. The texture is soft bamboo and I’m so glad it’s not microbead exfoliators. I step out of her shower and spritz myself with the Water Lily dry oil. I love it. It’s like I’ve been to the spa. My skin feels nourished and firm and not at all greasy. It smells like Heaven. Next up is the Castanea Arcadia day cream. It has a richness to it that surprises me. It feels luxurious and decadent. My foundation glides on over it. I fix my brows with the Know Cosmetics No Bare Brows (I like this more than I expected on my already dark brows. They look Brook Shields-esque) and try the No Dark Shadows (amazing light bending concealer and highlighter) and No Thin Lips (deliciously minty and instant poutiness). I’m surprised how polished I look for so little effort. I get dressed in my favourite new tunic dress and softest tights. This the day they’re going to take a sample of my bone and bone marrow liquid. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
It was hard, much harder than I expected both physically and mentally. I want to say I was a warrior or stoic like Joan of Ark but I wasn’t. I cried like a baby. I mean I really went for it. I cried because it hurt and because I was scared. I cried because once I started I couldn’t stop and all the fear and anxiety I’d been bottling up had found a puncture in my armour to escape out of and there was just no stopping the tears.
I know that there is no way the lovely PR who sent me those things to try could have known how much they would mean. She couldn’t have known the delicious distraction they’d be on a morning where I had to find a bravery I didn’t feel. She had no way of knowing the dignity that the small act of self care gave me or how something so seemingly frivolous would become the axis around which my courage would swing. I got out of bed that morning to try my new scrub. I got out of the shower to try the dry oil. Then it was my face and brows and lips. Then dressed and breakfast and the mundane shuffle off to the the tube. That morning was pockets of minutes taking me from one place to the next without thinking about my destination.
It’s several weeks on now and I’m still waiting on my results. I’m not scared anymore because somehow I just know the worst is over. I’ll get a diagnosis and we will treat it. I’ve learned a valuable lesson though and that is that one must never underestimate the power of a well-timed gift. There’s no crisis big or small that can’t be made somehow more bearable with a drop of luxury and a bit of self-administered TLC.
And as for whether or not the creams are working, I’ll let you be the judge. I personally think my skin looks better than ever.
**all products in this story available from http://www.johnbellcroyden.co.uk