I was 14 years old just going through puberty when I hit my shin on the bottom of an old steel bed. I had a small cut that just wouldn’t heal or so I thought. It was itchy but that was nothing new in my world. I had a scratching brush to reach the parts of my arms I can’t reach!
After about three months mum took me our local GP and he referred me to a dermatologist just in case.
By this stage a small cut had turned into a 50 cent piece size lesion on my shin. He promptly cut out a biopsy and told me that he thought it might be psoriasis but most likely not.
The results came back positive.
Mamamia presents “Love Your Body”. Article continues after this video.
Life wasn’t so bad, he gave some cream and on my way I went. Remember these were the days before the internet; I had now way to check what the future held. You trusted what the specialist told you and it was gospel. Mum used to write down stuff to tell people as the neighbours and family friends whispered, ‘How’s Tanya’s skin?’ What did the doctor say?’
About six months after my diagnosis I was playing my beloved netball when my knee out of nowhere swelled up like a balloon. Back to the GP who decided to have a knee arthroscopy done.
Three days in hospital where I was put under general anaesthetic. The results were that I had arthritis. This changed the journey and I was diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis.
I was 15 years old.
Mum tried not to make a big deal about my skin and arthritis diagnosis. She treated me just like my brother. We went on overseas trips, to the beach every school holidays. It was only when I would try to go a little too far she would say, “Remember your knees aren’t the same as everyone else!” This would always play in the back of my mind and restrict me in doing certain sports etc.
It wasn’t until a traumatic event in Year 11 and then doing my VCE (Year 12) that my psoriasis started to appear in other places. Nails on my feet and hands, scalp in a few spots, a spot on my back. It was not long after then that the rapid expansion of psoriasis started all over my body and scalp. My nails on my hands and feet also became bad quickly. It then began the cycle of flare times and non-flare times.
I had never had any serious boyfriends growing up so explaining my skin was never an issue for me. In reflection I was shy to show my body in a sexual nature to the opposite sex. But life was busy and it didn’t seem to worry me.
I started my dream career working in travel. I travelled through most of Australia and Asia, and then moved to Western Australia when I was 22. I met a lovely guy who encouraged me to go to a rheumatologist for the first time as my knees were getting quite bad and now I could feel my hands and feet changing too.
My psoriasis did not seem to worry him and we had a great relationship until he came to the rheumatologist to understand my diseases better. This was the beginning of the end, my specialist decided to put me on a common arthritis medication. He then advised me that the research showed that I would most likely not have children due to medication side effects. That was what the research showed during this time. This changed my relationship and my partner decided that my medical issues were too much and ended the relationship. I was devastated.
I decided to sell everything and go on my dream year holiday to the UK and Middle East. I knew I would have to push myself to make new friends but I felt I needed the challenge. My skin was quite bad while in the Middle East but I had met a great travel buddy and he was not fussed by it. It allowed me to be myself and resort back to what I knew worked. Sun and Sea. Slowly the flare cleared up. Upon arrival in the UK and starting to work a full time job, the cold and stress got to me and I had one of the worse flare ups I have ever experienced. My skin would crack just by a slight movement.
I returned to Australia living in Melbourne and then Perth where I started a temping job with a company doing call centre work. We used to have to hot seat our computers which is basically you don’t have your own desk and you just use a certain desk for your shift. After about six weeks I was called into the office and told that the management and staff were worried as they thought I had the AIDS virus as they saw that my hands bled sometimes and I would be sent home until I could prove that I didn’t with a doctor’s note. I was equally devastated and defiant. I called Equal Opportunity and a case was built from then on which I eventually won.
My thirties presented new challenges in regards to skin and arthritis. I had a drastic decline in my heath from the age of 32. My hair fell out completely (I had to wear a wig for 6 months), my skin was out of control and my bone deformity became very severe very quickly.
I decided to take control of my illnesses. I researched everything I could about Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis. I went to the specialist fully armed and educated on the current medications but also the newest medications about to be approved by the PBS or in the trial stages. This made a difference as I feel in control of my illness.
By some lucky miracle in 2012 I became pregnant, it was a very exciting and a very nerve racking time. Thankfully at the 12 week scan everything came back perfect. But what few people have to deal with is knowing that you will pass on the gene to your children. You wonder, is that fair? Will he resent me like I resented my ancestors in the past? I could only reconcile my decision by the fact that I could give my child the tools to deal with this insidious disease.
I had the perfect pregnancy. I was monitored very closely and had amazing care. I was in remission through the whole 2nd half of the pregnancy. Bliss.Then I had a beautiful baby boy. He has a few skin issues which I watch closely and will for the rest of his life.
Life is still full of ups and downs and unfortunately it always reflects on my skin. We have to walk among people with our issues out in the open. Be subject to questions, ignorance and just plain nastiness. But it's the old cliché - What doesn't kill you makes you stronger!