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26-06-2017

A problem shared….

Last week, I was amazed when my personal advisor at the bank told me that she suffers from compensatory sweating after an operation to stop hyperhidrosis (excess sweating) in her hands. She is a gorgeous girl, tall and slim with long blonde hair and an immaculate appearance. I would never have guessed that she is in the same situation as I am. Although I feel sorry that she is suffering like I do, I can’t tell you what a relief it was to finally meet someone with the same problem.

“Of course,” she said, “I’m complaining about my back, but at least my hands aren’t soaking wet all the time”. She’s right, but over the years I had become very good at hiding the fact that my hands were always wringing wet. For the next hour, there was no stopping us. We shared anecdotes on difficult it had been to sit exams, having to ball up handkerchiefs to stop the ink from running and the sweat from soaking the paper, the embarrassment of having to shake hands, not being able to dance with a man, destroying the leather steering wheel on my car and ruining a computer keyboard every week. When my son was little, I felt awful when I held his hand. I even had a boyfriend who said I was unaffectionate because I didn’t touch him, but I was too embarrassed to talk about my problem.

Years ago, I heard about a surgical operation called a sympathectomy, whereby the surgeon would go in through the chest and cut the sympathetic nerve by the spinal cord and block the sweat response to the hands, but it was a long time before I finally plucked up the courage and made an appointment to see a surgeon. He did mention that there was a risk of compensatory sweating, but if he had told me what this would mean to my life, then I am quite sure I wouldn’t have gone ahead.

He didn’t mention that they would be deflating my lungs to do the operation and he certainly didn’t mention the abominable post-operative pain that I would experience. I felt as though my chest and arms were being dipped in boiling water, and I had neuropathy in my arms and down my back for more than six months. My new friend was off work for two months and had to be hospitalised three times after her experience.

Now I have bone dry hands but my back runs with sweat winter and summer. I have to sit on towels, because when I stand up I leave a pool of sweat where I have been sitting.

My dear bank advisor has all the same problems and I feel bad for her, but I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have someone who understands what it is like. We are going to share tips on how to get through the summer, and at least I now have someone to talk to, because most people say, “Everyone sweats” or “You’d never notice it”, which I know is kind but untrue.

A problem shared might not be halved, but it is certainly easier to bear.

Juliet Allaway

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