Before my diagnosis, I spent my time much like many other young Canadians; participating in sports, hanging out with friends and enjoying time at the cottage. But at 18, I started to notice red patches on my scalp, elbows and knees, which were appearing alongside scaly white skin. I felt embarrassed and wanted to cover-up. I was scared to go out in public, because I was afraid of what people would say or think of me.
I decided to go to my doctor and ask him what I could do. He told me I had a condition called psoriasis, when red, flaky patches appear on your skin. It's a chronic, auto-immune disease and will never go away. Obviously, I wanted to treat it; not only was it visibly unappealing, the patches hurt and were itchy.
My doctor sent me to a dermatologist, who prescribed a steroid topical cream, which seemed to work well for me. After the diagnosis, I spent years using this treatment, and if I forgot to apply it, or didn't use it consistently, I would itch and flake so much I felt as though I was leaving behind piles of skin everywhere I went.
Living with Psoriasis
Despite being on treatment that I felt was working, I usually wore pants and long sleeves when I went out to cover up the psoriasis. It was an easy solution that stopped people from asking me what it was. But as expected, constantly covering up made me hot most of the time and the sweat would only make the itching worse.
Instead of people asking what was on my skin, they were asking why I was scratching. Beyond the questions I would receive from friends or family when I was wearing t-shirts or shorts, little things like swimming would irritate my skin, making the pain unbearable, bringing me to tears while I tried to rub the ointment on.
A New Approach
About three years ago, I decided I'd had enough and wanted to take matters into my own hands. My nurse referred me to a local dermatologist, and it at was at her clinic that I started a new treatment for psoriasis. It was a trial drug, and worked well for the itch, but couldn't seem to clear the patches. After a few months on the trial, I was switched again to a treatment that I call my "saving grace."
For the first time in 15 years, I was able to stop fearing what people thought of me. More importantly, I don't feel self-conscious at all, mostly thanks to the fact you wouldn't be able to tell I am living with psoriasis unless you looked closely to see the blemishes left on my skin. Psoriasis no longer determines my wardrobe, either -- my mood and the weather do. And most importantly, I no longer feel as though I am trapped in my own skin.
Perseverance in finding the right treatment has returned my life to normalcy, despite living with a chronic, lifelong disease. I have been freed from the confines of my body, and couldn't be happier.
October is Psoriasis Awareness month, a time to help educate friends, family and all Canadians about the impact this disease can have -- beyond its physical symptoms. I would encourage anyone else who is living with an uncomfortable condition, like psoriasis, to have an honest conversation with their doctor about the impacts of the condition -- both physically and emotionally. Don't settle for a treatment that may not be right for you, and remember that you are your greatest advocate when it comes to your own health.
For more information, visit Living Well With Psoriasis.
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