JUNE is National Vitiligo Awareness Month in 9 states in the US–Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. As a high profile personality and sufferer of this rare skin disorder for 16 years, I wanted to dispel a few myths and share some fast facts.
What is Vitiligo? Vitiligo (vit-ill-EYE-go) is a disorder in which white patches of skin appear on different parts of the body. This happens because the cells that make pigment (color) in the skin are destroyed. These cells are called melanocytes (ma-LAN-o-sites). Vitiligo can also affect the mucous membranes (such as the tissue inside the mouth, nose and the eye). In the United States,1 to 2 million people have the disorder which affects ALL races and BOTH sexes EQUALLY.
It is very important to understand what Vitiligo is NOT: It is NOT a form of Leprosy. It is NOT a form of Cancer. It is NOT Terminal (fatal). It is NOT Contagious. It is NOT Harmful.
Michael Jackson was the first to bring attention to Vitiligo and suffered great emotional pains most of his life because of public disbelief. It was later discovered that many other celebrities suffer with Vitiligo. Entertainment Anchor Fox 2 News Lee Thomas is the most vocal today and has launched a personal campaign to combat the disorder. Mr. Thomas recently announced he believes he has discovered an extremely successful treatment. We are anxiously awaiting the results of his research.
I am personally excited about the coming season of America’s Next Top Model (Cycle 21), when the very brave and lovely Chantelle Brown-Young will represent women with Vitiligo before all America. Chantelle is as inspirational as she is beautiful and is sure to win the hearts of girls and women everywhere who are uncomfortable in their own skin.
Due to the high visibility of Vitiligo and the public’s lack of understanding of this rare skin disorder, Vitiligo can cause great emotional and psychological pain and many sufferers become “socially reclusive.” Several Vitiligo Support Groups are available for those interested: Vitiligo Support International.org, Vitiligo Support International.org (local support), Vitiligo Friends.org, American Vitiligo Research Foundation, Vitiligo Support International, and the latest (Vitiligo Bond.org) .
As a Minister and Substitute Teacher with this skin disorder, I have encountered interesting situations, received humorous comments, and have occasionally expressed personal feelings about Vitiligo here on my Blog. I pray my Posts have been helpful.
I have endured many losses in my lifetime–parents, grandparents (including the beloved grandmother who raised me), siblings, my husband, and most recently my beloved son. I have even lost jobs, finances, material possessions and more–making the loss of skin pigment insignificant in comparison. In the economy of Christian Stewardship “Loss” is “Gain” and following Christ requires self-denial and sacrifice.
Miraculously with every loss though painful, I have gained new strength (physically and spiritually). Whenever I look into the mirror, I see a woman who is “fearfully and wonderfully made,” and stronger for what she has been through. At the end of the day I can say, “It was good for me that I was afflicted” and I am not bitter–I am better.
God knows the way that I take and has placed me atop this very “public pinnacle” for a reason. Week after week, surrounded by stalwart Cancer sufferers and survivors, I am reminded whatever else Vitiligo IS—IT IS NOT TERMINAL. And by God’s Grace, am blessed ONCE MORE to gloriously proclaim, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.”