Written by: Mutshidzi Kwinda
In the early 2000s, I met a girl (Nandi) from a neighbouring village whose skin looked different from almost all other kids we’d play with. The first time I was in close vicinity with her, I feared so much to touch her because I thought she would feel pain from a slight poke or touch. Years later I found out that she had a skin condition called eczema.
I recently did some research on eczema, and Nandi was the first person that came to mind. I then reached out to her, and I was extremely honoured as she decided to share her remarkable story with me. What was even more remarkable was the fact that she was also willing to have her story stared with the rest of the world. Here is how it goes:
My name is Nandi and this is my story:
“When I asked my mother, she told me, I might have been about three years old when the skin on my forehead, cheeks, and forearms started to scale up. And of course, I don’t remember that. But what I do remember is those first days when I started junior primary school and began interacting with other kids from all kinds of backgrounds.
As someone from a poor background, my peers and even older people assumed that I was just a dirty, smelly pig. Some people thought that because I was lacking, I ate too much-tinned food. It was heartbreaking. In playgrounds, I was that kid that no one wanted to play with. I was called names like frog face, crocodile skin, among other hurtful insults.
At first, as the condition flared up all over my body, I would try to scrub the dry and dead scaly skin from my face and limbs, thinking that it would improve my appearance. I remember vividly, one time on a Sunday morning around the age of seven, I scrapped out a big chunk of dry skin from my upper lip. I bled so much I thought I was going to die, and I couldn’t tell my mother because she had told me multiple times not to do it. So that day, we went to church and back with my hand on my lips the whole time – and nobody even noticed.
To minimize the pain, itching, and the worsening of the condition as a whole, I had to be careful with almost everything I did and the places I visited, from the environmental temperature to the temperature of the water I used to bathe. Cool and cold days were better than hot days, and lukewarm water was better than hot and cold water for bathing. In addition, using unscented soaps and lotion such as sunlight original bar soap and aqueous cream brought a little bit of relief to my general skin health.
Now, at the age of 26, my advice to someone who is currently struggling with eczema or has a child with eczema is that it gets better. Be patient with the management and treatment process because that will be part of your whole life. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Follow all the advice and instructions that the doctors, dermatologists, and pharmacists give you on how to take care of your skin and how to avoid triggers and other things that can make the condition worse.”
(Disclaimer: The display picture is not a picture of Nandi)