Imagine if suddenly it felt like you were allergic to the 21st century.
This has been the traumatic experience of a local hairdresser and DJ Jenny Harrison.
Revive Magazine talks to Jenny about the challenges of living with an extreme allergy, and how she is coping with it.
“It first happened in the early noughties. At first, it was a reaction to having my nails done with acrylic. So I then switched to gel nails, but after a couple of months, I had an even more severe reaction to them.”
Back then, Jenny was a DJ, AKA, TwistedSista, and en route to a gig in Dubai, she had such a bad allergic reaction, she had to be stretchered off the plane when she got there.
“Eventually I left DJing behind, and five years ago I opened a hair salon in Alderley Edge. But then I started feeling really ill, with puffy eyes, wheezing and a croaky voice.”
These reactions also included spots, bumps and severely swollen lips, eyes and ears. Eventually, Jenny spent a week in the hospital trying to get her condition under control.
“I’d recover, but then once I was back at work a whole cycle of reaction and breakout would start again, until it got so bad I reached a breaking point.”
TESTS AND ANSWERS
Jenny was eventually referred to a specialist unit at Salford Royal Hospital. Here they examined her extensively, before applying test patches to see what her body’s reactions would be. The results were dramatic.
“It was so severe, they called the hospital photographer in to take pictures of me for future research purposes. But at least I found out what I was allergic to.”
Jenny is allergic to MMA, or Methyl Methacrylate. It is one of the most dangerous types of allergies because Methacrylates are substances that are widely used in different, everyday polymer plastics.
In other words, although Jenny now knows what she is allergic to, she has to also try and find out where she will encounter it and then avoid it.
LIVING WITH AN ALLERGY
“It’s like a minefield. It’s all around me and I can’t get away from it.”
In fact, Methacrylates are also used as setting agents in creams and lotions and many of the things Jenny would routinely come into contact with as a hairdressing professional.
“There’s also frustration in not knowing when it will next happen, together with the fact that the only thing that seems to work, a steroid medication, isn’t good for my heart.”
What Jenny is doing, however, is learning to live with her condition.
“There isn’t an alternative. I’ve got to always try and plan ahead, especially where events and occasions are involved.”
She comes across as remarkably resilient, in the face of something so relentless and uncomfortable to have to cope with.
“It’s hard a lot of the time, but it’s also to do with how you feel on the inside, and we’ve all got things we’re unhappy with.”
As someone who has had to face such an unfair set of circumstances, and continues to do so, Jenny is drawing on considerable inner resources of strength.
We love you Jenny for such bravery and hope you find a cure very soon. XXXX