Behind the statistics are Real People

Written by on April 2, 2010 in in the news with 6 Comments

A.D. 63.  Rome.  Public speaking is central to political and cultural life: an ordeal for most people; a nightmare for Roman rosaceans. The philosopher, Seneca, offers consolation to Lucilius, who is likely afflicted with ruddiness, flushing and blushing. ‘Certain people have ordinary blood,’ he says, ‘ and others just have an animated, lively sort of blood that comes to the face quickly.’

April 2010. Chicago. A young woman sits at her desk. Spring sunshine streams in through the window.  Her co-workers are complaining of being cold. It is 76 degrees. The report needs to be finished today.  Her job depends on it yet her mind is elsewhere: difficult to concentrate with a swelling, comically red face and pulsating pain.

October 1496.  The court of the Duke of Savoy. A gentlewoman falls to the feet of the physician Biarus and offers him all her worldly possessions  to be rid of her erythematotelangiectatic rosacea. Poor, poor woman.

April 2010. Edinburgh. A divorced, lonely, forty-something male scans the internet dating sites. He has no intention of initiating any contact just now: his rosacea is playing up. He has a face full of pustules but resolves to contact some of the lovely wee lasses when his face is better. His rosacea has been playing up for eight years.

May 1910. New York. JP Morgan is barely refrained from striking a photographer. He has rosacea: a bulbous nose, the full works. Morgan is the richest man on earth, has the self-assurance of ten men, and yet he still feels that way about having his photo taken.

Behind the statistics, there are stories and there is suffering. While the figures are perhaps debatable, and certainly depressing, they offer some crumbs of consolation. The greater and the wider the suffering, the greater becomes the pressure for things to be done about it. Or, if you are feeling especially contemplative this Easter, one might reflect that if everybody suffers, nobody suffers.

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6 Reader Comments

  1. Great post. As I read it, my mind slips between time periods, imagining internet dating in the Middle Ages, and modern people in togas.
    There’s a lot of suffering going on, for sure. Knowing about it keeps us from becoming the 90-year-old who complains, when given a diagnosis, “why me?” That’s the voluntary part of suffering, but the rosacea, ouch!

  2. David Pascoe says:

    I look at the detailed paintings (as collected in Dr. Powell’s book: Rosacea Diagnosis and Management) of people who suffered from rosacea in the 1800s and feel incredibly sorry for them. Antibiotics and skincare were still a long way away. All they had to look forward to was their rosacea gettting worse !

  3. andrew says:

    Brilliant post.
    As you mention David, thank god we live in this time period.We live in a period like no other.
    Hopefully new techniques in medicine, the study of genetics the ever increasing computing power, global sharing of information, the rise of the internet and more awareness can be the tipping point for a cure or atleast a comprehensive treatment that rids us all of that redness.
    Can you imagine the suffering in the days of yore?
    To think It’s only become accepted in the past 20years that men can wear moisturisers and cover up lotions. The progress made in the past ten years should raise the spirits

  4. E.L. Hodge says:

    Thanks, Gaelle. Thanks, Andrew.

    Rosaceans in days of yore had no treatment options to speak of but perhaps their suffering was mitigated a little – oh a sorry thing to say – by the profusion of other afflictions of the skin? Smallpox, scrofula etc etc and nutritional deficiencies meant, I suspect, that disfigurement was common.

    The physical beauty of a Clooney or Cruz is the result of genreations of robust health. If they provoke fluttering hearts today, yesterday they would have been worshipped (or eaten in some bizarre ritual). Simply put, I don’t think folk like that existed back then.

    And while it’s nice to have them, their (apparent) perfection, and the shallower aspects of our culture, perhaps put pressures on us today that Lucilius and our poor medieval gentlewomen felt only lightly.

    Anyway, let’s hope that their suffering wasn’t quite as great as we suppose.

  5. andrew says:

    You raise a great point E.L hodge. what with the plague and the fore-mentioned poxes, and relatively small life spans, you were lucky to get past the age of 30 in some cases. More than likely the rosacea never had any chance to take hold, rosacea was probably the least of our ancestors worries.
    I wouldn’t say we’re vastly more image conscious, because grooming and searching for clear skinned mates is something we’ve evolved to weed out unsuitable partners

  6. tessa says:

    I wonder if JP Morgan, “the richest man on earth” ever put money into to rosacea research.

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