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Life is for living

I contracted psoriasis at the age of 6 and have had it ever since (I am now 58). I remember it very clearly. I just woke up one morning and looked at my hands and feet and they were encrusted in this horrible scaly stuff. I screamed my head off. My parents were very distressed as well since they did not know what was wrong.

From that time on while I was young I was taken from one specialist to another in the hope of a 'cure'. But of course all that anyone could come up with was the old fashioned smelly coal tar and sun lamps. I can't remember whether the treatment helped really. All I do remember is having to learn at a very early age how to spread the 'gunge' on my body (the psoriasis had spread by then) and then put the dressings over followed by bandages. So I was a dab hand at doing arm and leg bandages, especially the joints. However, as children are very resilient, I just got on with things and didn't worry too much.

I did get a shock when I was about 11 and went with the rest of my school class to the local pool for my first swimming lesson. I had my costume and towel and was very excited. However that's as far as it went. As I was walking past the pool attendant he looked at my skin and said, "You can't go in that pool." I explained to him it was called psoriasis and was not contagious but he was adamant that I could not go into the pool "I don't want to risk it" were his words. So no swimming lessons for me. However there were compensations. I was given extra English lessons instead and ever since have had a great love for the English language.

The rest of my body I was able to cover with stockings and jumpers etc. but I could not hide my hands and as I grew up I just became hardened to any comments that were made when anyone saw my hands and asked questions. However, there were (and still are) often very well-meaning people who knew someone who had 'used such and such and was cured'. It became a way of life with me to trot out some answer such as "Well. I'll try it sometime." Psoriasis had an effect on my life when it came to boyfriends. Most of the boys I met took one look at my hands and turned the other way. In my teens when I was going to dances it was a nightmare for me because I knew that after I accepted a dance I would then be led back to my chair and left very quickly. That is not to say that every boy was like that, as I did meet some very nice ones. However, because my father was in the forces, as a family we moved about a lot and sometimes I would have to leave a nice boyfriend behind.

I think the one major set-back to me when I was younger was not being allowed to train to become a nurse. I had always wanted to be a nurse for as long as I could remember. However, I could quite understand that patients would not want to be treated by someone with 'sores' all over their hands. On top of which my feet often cracked and bled and sometimes I had trouble standing or walking. Well, nurses have to do most things at a run! So I set about taking a business training course and became a secretary. I really enjoyed doing shorthand and typing and was very good at it. However, here again, psoriasis reared its ugly head. When trying for promotion, comments would be made about my hands and I would not get the job. Although it was not stated, I knew it was because the job involved greeting clients and when shaking hands with anyone their eyes were like magnets honing in on my hands.

When I was 27 I was hospitalised for a period to try to clear up my psoriasis. I spent three weeks in Hospital as a 'skinny' patient. It really was an education. I thought I was bad until I saw some of the other skinny patients. They literally did not have any normal skin on their bodies at all. I felt so grateful that I was not like that and from then on I have always thought to myself that I am lucky only to have psoriasis mildly. When I left hospital my skin was almost clear apart from scalp and feet and I made the decision to work abroad in the sunshine. The sunshine also kept my psoriasis at bay. I was almost like a 'normal' person.

I returned to England after five years and I was lucky that my psoriasis did not come back to my hands. I eventually learned to swim and took sailing lessons and enjoyed my life very much. But in my forties I went through some traumatic times both at home and at work and it showed up by the "return of the psoriasis". However it was never as bad as it had been when I was younger, for which I was very grateful.

There are at present no cures for the condition, but who knows, with modern medicine, some time in the not too distant future there may be. So don't lose heart.

Life is for living in spite of this horrid thing we have. And, although it is not really a consolation, if you look far enough you can always find someone in a much worse situation than yourself.

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