Back in the summer of 2013, a small, painful, itchy lesion on my foot just would not go away. Within a year, it had spread to the soles of both my feet and the palms of both hands. A doctor said it was probably “an allergic reaction to laundry detergent or something.”
But I knew it was more than that, particularly after it spread to my elbows, as well as my shins. By then, I was also having a lot of swelling and joint pain.
That led to my diagnosis of psoriasis and then several months later, psoriatic arthritis.
I now call my diagnosis a blessing and a curse, but back then I only saw the curse. I was no longer able to work and just so angry that I couldn’t do what everyone else was doing. I was 26 and a new mother and I couldn’t even take my daughter to the park.
I was just too young to be so miserable.
One of the big challenges is overcoming the stigma of “but you don’t look sick.” I use that hashtag in every single blog post because just looking at me you would have no idea that I have chronic illnesses. Most people have a hard time believing what I go through on a daily basis, or that at times I need a wheelchair or cane just to get from my living room to the bathroom.
I still have to work at not feeling that I disappoint everyone. Often, I have to reschedule meetings with friends because every day is different. I could feel fine one day, but then be unable to leave my bed for the next three days.
I’ve missed six weddings and baby showers and other milestones for my best friends. The friends who have understood and stuck by me, they’re still here. The friends who couldn’t understand why I kept cancelling appointments, well, they’re not.
Without the constant support of my family and my husband, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My husband told me when I was at my worst point, “What do you do when you’re backed into a corner and everything around you is falling apart, do you curl up in a ball and let it consume you? No, you fight! And you won’t fight alone.”
And that’s when a light came on, that I could truly make a difference. So, I joined the National Psoriasis Foundation, first as a volunteer, then as a mentor. I’ve been fighting ever since. Fighting for adequate equal healthcare, fighting for those who feel they don’t’ have a voice, fighting for advocacy and awareness for anyone who feels they’re being discriminated against because they have an incurable chronic illness they didn’t ask to have.
My message to people with a chronic condition is to not give up…and don’t blame yourself. And, if you have a gut feeling about your health, go with it.
Do I wish I was in remission from my diseases? Of course.
Do I wish this never would’ve happened to me? Absolutely not.
I never knew my strengths until I accepted my weaknesses.