Long And Crazy Journey

My psoriasis started when I was 21 and pregnant with my oldest child in 1993. My GP just thought it was irritation from cleaning and washing dishes and to wear those awful latex gloves. Turns out I'm allergic to latex so that was a bad thing.

The impact of pregnancy

The spots on my hands disappeared shortly after I had my daughter, so I figured it was hormones or something like that. I eventually had 3 more children and each pregnancy saw my skin get progressively worse. In 2002, when my youngest was born, I went into overdrive. From the time of the breakout during the pregnancy until 14 years (YES, FOURTEEN YEARS!!!) I was in an active flare. So much so that when the nurses saw my legs prior to delivery they didn't really want to touch me even though they were wearing gloves.

The stigma of psoriasis

There were sooo many complaints about the appearance of my arms and hands at work where I was a restaurant manager/hostess/waitress/cook/bartender/whatever that I had to start wearing long sleeves. And those sleeves covered my arm for the next 15 years or so. And shorts? Forget about that too because the back of my legs was one giant sore, and since that time my legs STILL haven't seen the sun, but I think it's just a personal preference now.

The challenges of working with doctors who won't listen

When my youngest was little, we moved back to my small, very rural hometown. I needed to help take care of my grandparents, as they were getting older and having problems with various things as the elderly do sometime. The sores on my arms and legs were getting worse, my hair was falling out because of sores on my scalp, and I started getting sores on my face. I went to a dermatologist in the area. She gave me a medicine that made me sensitive to light and I did light therapy. At least it wasn’t more creams or ointments that the general practitioner had prescribed. Lo and behold it didn’t help because that’s just my luck.

I found another dermatologist, but he wouldn’t even listen to anything I had to say. I wanted to try biologics. He had no interest in that because I still could be pregnant, I could still get pregnant blah blah blah. I wasn’t going to have any more kids. I was done. I explained this to him, but he just wasn’t having it.

Finally finding doctors who will listen

I went to our rural health clinic months later for a checkup, just for refills of medication. The PA saw my psoriasis sores and asked what I had done. He was one of the best things that ever happened to me on this arduous journey. He prescribed a topical steroid cream, but added methotrexate! It made me sick to my stomach, but that was worth it because my skin was FINALLY healing! I was overjoyed! When he left for a bigger city and bigger practice I was so upset. But the PA that replaced him was even better. She decided that since I was on methotrexate therapy that I should see a rheumatologist.

Finally getting a psoriatic arthritis diagnosis

My rheumatologist is amazing! He has helped me so much. At the first appointment in 2011, he took x-rays. Judging from the images, I was FINALLY officially diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in my hips and lumbar spine. We began a regimen of biologics, switching to one or another as they either didn’t work, stopped working, or I developed allergies.

Remicade was for the first 3 years but eventually caused me to have allergy induced asthma attacks. The final straw for that drug was when they were afraid they would have to call EMS and take me to the hospital. I was able to breathe eventually so I didn’t have to take a ride on the Boo-boo Bus! I also taught my kids to wash their hands all the time because Mom could get sick if they didn’t. They did so well that I have never been in the hospital due to illness. (While teaching first aid and CPR I tell my classes this to emphasize how well just washing your hands prevents disease. I also wash my hands a bunch I got a henna tattoo and asked the lady how long it should last. She told me 20 days or so... mine lasted 7!)

Working with psoriatic arthritis

In 2012, I started taking classes to become an EMT. When I told my doctor, he was very concerned with me catching a communicable disease due to my immunocompromised status. He said, in his thick Indian accent, “You keep a bottle of hand sanitizer in this pocket, and in this pocket,” pointing to the front pockets on his pants. Slapping his thighs, he continued, “and this pocked and this pocket! And then you put hand sanitizer in your jacket pockets!”

The class was a ton of information crammed into my head in just a short time, but I passed the class. I also passed the state practical test and the written exam. For a year I worked as a volunteer, but when the billing clerk for our county’s ambulance service, I was asked if I wanted to work full time. I jumped at the chance! I discussed my arthritis, my psoriasis, and the treatment I was receiving with the director. She has made it possible for me to turn this into the career I had always wanted, since seeing “Emergency!” on the TV as a kid and having a crush on Randolph Mantooth, who played Paramedic/Firefighter John Gage.

Helping others in different ways

This year marks 12 years as an EMT and 11 as a full-time county employee. I don’t go on many ambulance runs these days, it is hard on me just getting in and out of the ambulance. Occasionally, I do, and I love helping my patients. I also do the insurance billing and have been told by members of my community that they appreciate how good I am at my job. I just want to help others and it is usually on one of the worst days of their lives. If I can’t be on scene, then I can help them financially by making sure their insurance pays.

Psoriatic arthritis won't stop me

I don’t let my psoriatic arthritis dictate what I can or can’t do. I’ve even wallpapered my bathroom, shocking the nurses at the rheumatologist’s office. Don’t ever give up and don’t ever back down. As I always told my kids when they were growing up, “I can’t never did anything”!

Do you have a story about living with psoriatic arthritis to share too?

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Psoriatic-Arthritis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.