Dare to Show More of You: Profile of Olympic Swimmer Dara Torres
Millions of people have psoriasis, and most of the time you wouldn’t even know it. Why? Because a lot of people hide their disease due to stigma and misconception.
“Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease state. And it happens because there are faulty signals in your immune system internally,” says dermatologist Jennifer C. Cather, who has been in practice for more than 20 years.
Plaque psoriasis, the most common form of the disease, appears as red-to-purple, flaky, inflamed patches of dead skin. These can appear on any part of the body. Due to the visibility of the disease, a recent study reveals, “84 percent of people with moderate-to-severe psoriasis suffer discrimination and humiliation.”
To name a few of the issues, this could include the stigma of being thought to be contagious, unattractive, bullied, or teased, all of which I have personally encountered. Back in the early 1990s, 12-time Olympic winning swimmer Dara Torres discovered unexplained red, flaky patches on her skin. Soon after, she was diagnosed with psoriasis.
As a career swimmer and someone who was constantly showing her body in a swim suit, stigma was something Torres had to defeat. Fast. “I had to sort of overcome the possibility of people thinking ‘ohhh, what’s that on her skin? Am I going to catch it if I touch her? If I dive in the pool am I going to catch whatever she has?’”
Torres explains that in order to continue a career and remain an Olympic champion, she had to conquer those fears of what others might think. This is something that, for many with psoriasis, is difficult.
Two decades later and now retired, Torres’ goal is to raise awareness of the disease. She has teamed up with Otezla for the “Show More of You” campaign, which launched during Psoriasis Awareness Month in August.
The campaign allows psoriasis “conquerors” to upload pictures of themselves showing off their spots along with words of inspiration. The goal is to inspire others who may be struggling with the disease. “We really want to embrace healthy life styles,” Dr. Cather says. “The purpose [of this campaign] is to elevate the awareness of the disease state and know that you are not alone.”
Pictures of proud and smiling faces can be seen on this site, including a picture I submitted of my own self showing off my spots. “I think it’s really important that every person in the world can reach their potential. And there are some people with psoriasis who will never reach their potential because they are isolated,” says Dr. Cather. The hope of this campaign is that it will bring people out their shell so they know they are not alone.
Going to the website will hopefully elevate knowledge of this disease, allow everyone to gain a better understanding of it, and know that there are therapies out there, Dr. Cather concludes.
Alisha Bridges has battled with severe psoriasis for more than 20 years and is the face behind Being Me in My Own Skin, a blog which highlights her life with psoriasis. Her goals are to create empathy and compassion for those who are least understood, through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and healthcare. She is currently a student at Georgia State University pursuing a career as a Physician's Assistance. Her passions are dermatology and sexual health. Alisha also shares her passion as a Social Ambassador of the Psoriasis HealthCentral Facebook page where she shares timely tips, stories and insights on living with psoriasis. You can also find Alisha on Twitter.