World Psoriasis Day is today, Oct. 29. The focus this year is something near and dear to my heart: the challenge of childhood psoriasis.
While I may have been too old for teddy bears when I was first diagnosed with psoriasis, I was pretty young: about 14 or so years old, a freshman in high school.
I was lucky to have not been teased so much for the fact that I had psoriasis as much as I was for being Canadian, but it was still there. I was certainly luckier than some kids: 38 percent of kids who responded that they had been bullied in the last six months (in a National Psoriasis Foundation survey) said the bullying was the result of their psoriasis. When I first read those statistics, my heart broke a little. Sure, kids can be cruel, but this kind of ignorance is inexcusable.
What’s also devastating is this: There are no FDA-approved treatments for children with psoriasis. None. Zip. Nada. And every year, 20,000 children under the age of 10 are diagnosed with psoriasis. I know from experience that there wasn’t a lot offered to me when I was diagnosed. My dermatologist at the time didn’t tell my mum, who came to the appointment with me, and I that it was an autoimmune disease; in fact, he let us leave the appointment thinking it was a reaction to a new shampoo. I’m pretty sure the only thing he gave me was something tar-based that I was supposed to leave on my head all night long and rinse out in the morning. It smelled awful, it made my hair look and feel terrible and it didn’t do me a whole lot of good. I remember at subsequent follow-up appointments, he blamed me because my plaques hadn’t cleared up yet, saying I must have not bee using the topical properly. At the time, I believed him, even though I followed the prescription directions to a tee. Now, of course, I know that wasn’t the case. Psoriasis doesn’t always respond to medication and it certainly was not my fault the plaques were still there by the next time I saw Dr. Jerkface.
I don’t think kids or people of any age should have to go through that or the teasing or, yes, bullying of their peers. Enough is enough. Kids are being forced to grow up so damn fast these days and those with chronic illness have that extra burden on their shoulders. We should be doing all we can so that they can stay young and innocent and carefree as long as possible.