You've probably seen or heard more of singer-songwriter/actress LeAnn Rimes lately, if not on the radio belting out one of her well-known country-music tunes in that amazing voice of hers, then on TV - she sang the National Anthem during the Final Four basketball game between Butler and UConn earlier this month. Or you've possibly read about her life in the tabloids given she's engaged to actor Eddie Cibrian. She's also one of the more active celebrity "tweeters" on Twitter.
What you may not know about LeAnn is that she's involved in helping educate others about psoriasis, which she personally has dealt with since early childhood. Awhile back I had the opportunity to interview LeAnn as she got involved with the awareness campaign called "Stop Hiding from Psoriasis." The campaign aimed to not only raise awareness of the disease to non-sufferers, but to help sufferers to better understand their disease and to be proactive about getting effective treatment.
The national awareness campaign was funded by the pharmaceutical company Abbott, and run by the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Psoriasis Foundation. Abbott makes Humira, a biologic approved for several diseases, including moderate-to-severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Having psoriasis myself and knowing what an emotional and physical toll it can take, I was curious to know how LeAnn managed the disease, particularly given her high-profile career in the spotlight.
"I definitely thought it would be the end of the world for anyone to know," LeAnn admitted to me. "But it's been quite the opposite. People come up to me all the time and thank me. They tell me they have it or know someone who does. There are so many people who don't know what it is. I just wanted to start educating the whole world about it."
LeAnn's skin has been clear for more than five years. Prior to that, psoriasis covered 80 percent of her body, she said.
"I felt like I found the right treatment," she said, adding that she had tried numerous other treatments, from coal tar body wraps and pills to ultra-violet light boxes and injections.
While she wouldn't divulge the exact kind of treatment that's cleared her - she believes that each psoriasis patient may respond differently to the various treatments available - she did express confidence in the array of medications now on the market.
"I encourage people to go out and find what works for them," she said. "Find a good doctor. I think that's the key part of the treatment - being honest with your doctor about what's working and what's not. The medicine I found gave me hope that there is a treatment for everyone out there."
Through our chat, we discover a shared passion for running. It's been my saving grace through the past several years, as a busy working mom of three and also when psoriasis has at times covered as much as 90 percent of my body. Running, as well as other forms of exercise, get LeAnn through her busy schedule of writing songs, recording (she released her latest album in the past year) and performing.
"Stress is a major trigger for me, and for others, too, I know," she said. "If I'm ever super depressed or stressed out, I just get moving. Like this morning, I woke up feeling like crap because I've been sick. But I told myself to go for a walk. Walking turned into running and 20 minutes of running turned into jumping rump. Then I rode a bike for 20 minutes."
LeAnn also tries to eat well. "I try to eat the right kind of foods, fruits and vegetables and stay away from things like spicy food - though trust me, I have my share of it when it's something I want!"
I think so many of us living with a chronic health condition can appreciate LeAnn's commitment to living as healthy a lifestyle as possible. It's not easy - we all have days we'd rather curl up on the bed, under the covers and simply check out for awhile - but taking that step to truly take care of ourselves, even if it means saying "no" to other seemingly important people and things in our life, is essential.
"I'm very regimented when it comes to working out and taking care of myself," she said. "I felt so much better after working out because I was able to clear my head. Getting into my own space really makes me feel better."
You can learn more about LeAnn at her web site. Follow her on Twitter: @leannrimes