Imagine that you lived for 33 years as one race. Now imagine that your appearance changes so much that your race is not identifiable. This is what happened to me. I lived for 33 years as a dark-skinned African American woman. At age 33, white spots on my hands were diagnosed as Vitiligo. By the time I was 37 years old, I had lost all pigment in my skin due to Vitiligo. I now have white skin all over.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Vitiligo consists of white patches of skin that are caused by the loss of melanin, the pigment that is a major contributor to skin. Melanin is produced by special cells called melanocytes, which are destroyed in people who have vitiligo. The cause of vitiligo is not known but evidence strongly suggests that vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system mistakenly targets and injures these specific cells.”
I love the beach. Anyone who knows me knows that if I’m on vacation, I’m at the beach. I always reserve an oceanfront room due to the fact that I get sunburnt so easily. Having clothes that have UV protection allows me to spend more time out in the sun in order to get much-needed vitamin D, which is so important for people with vitiligo because we also suffer from low levels. I have personally had difficulty with vitamin D deficiency. I am on a constant quest to find aids to combat underlying conditions of vitiligo. Coolibar’s clothing and hats are medicine for a number of conditions that require extra sun protection.
I am currently a retired teacher. I taught students with cognitive and physical disabilities for 20 years. My goal is to share my journey with vitiligo to inspire others like me. Each journey is different but I believe that by sharing, we don’t have to feel alone. I was not prepared for the responses I got about the changes in my skin due to vitiligo. I soon discovered that some attributed my white skin to race. This started a journey for me to reclaim my identity from within. I had to do the work to understand who I am was as an African American woman.
On this World Vitiligo Day, I am happy to share my journey in celebration. There are as many vitiligo stories as there are people with vitiligo. Whatever your journey, take a moment on this day to reflect and let your light shine.
Link to my book on Amazon: Vitiligo Black to White: My Personal Journey (Volume 1)