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Member Spotlight

Meet our member spotlight where vitiligo journeys are shared.

My Vitiligo journey started at the age of 45 when I noticed a white spot on my foot.  Initially, I didn’t think anything of it but as the spot began to get bigger, I went to the doctor and was subsequently diagnosed with vitiligo.  Over the years my vitiligo has spread and now covers about 60% of my body.  Dealing with vitiligo can be rather difficult at times, especially when people stare.  However, I have learned to be resilient, humble and grateful. I now feel comfortable with talking to and educating people about my condition.  I have come to the realization that the discoloration of my skin does not define me.  I have learned to live a fulfilling life despite being diagnosed with vitiligo.I enjoy skating, travelling, cars and spending time with family and friends. We are not promised anything in this life, so I’ve learned to take the good with the bad.  My advice to anyone who has been recently diagnosed with vitiligo is to educate yourself about the condition and to focus on what’s most important in life!

My journey with vitiligo began on June 18, 2019, at 11:15 in the morning.  I can be precise in my timeline because I was at an infusion center, receiving my 12th dose of drug designed to treat skin cancer.  Moments after the drip was started, I noticed perfectly round white polka dots appearing on my hands. None of the nurses there had seen this happen. We were informed that this was a very rare, but harmless side effect of the drug.  The “dots” continued to spread across my body, morphing into a variety of shapes.  The vitiligo currently covers approximately 60% of my skin. I have had difficulty adapting to vitiligo, but it’s been very helpful to get information from BUVSG. I remind myself to be thankful because the cancer treatment worked (!), and continue doing all the things that give me joy – bicycling, spending time with the people I love, and watching my SF Giants. Marta Williams

Tia-Renae Pommells was diagnosed with vitiligo at the young age of 6. When her first spot appeared, her mother automatically recognized what it was because vitiligo runs in her family. At this time, before her formal diagnosis, her mother began to teach her to recite affirmations that reinforced her positive self-image. One of Tia-Renae’s favorite affirmations is, “I am lovable, capable, valuable and special.” Tia-Renae often forgets that she has vitiligo and says that she doesn’t feel any different from other children. However, one of the issues she struggles with is getting sunburned on her spots. She says, “What makes it easier is that I am reminded by my mother almost every day that I am beautiful no matter what.”  Tia-Renae has embraced her skin and does not let it affect her quality of life. In fact, her attitude about vitiligo has opened many doors for her. This year she was given a very special opportunity. Her elementary school selected her to present a speech to all of the 5th grade students, teachers and parents. Her speech focused on vitiligo and how to overcome the challenges that children face with it. One thing Tia-Renae wants more people to know is that vitiligo is just a skin condition and that it cannot be spread from person to person. Tia-Renae is unique in that she was diagnosed at a young age, yet has not let her vitiligo stop her from doing anything she wants to do. She is surrounded by a strong support system, which is crucial for anyone coping with any condition. We are very lucky to have Tia-Renae and her mother as part of our support group, Beautifully Unblemished.

I was diagnosed with vitiligo in 2001 after a sunburn. It started on my feet and forearms.  Before long, it was wide spread.  I was very self conscious for a long time and would only wear clothes that would cover it.  Over the last 5 years I have become less self conscious and I wear whatever I think looks good. The people that knew before I had vitiligo know that while I am different on the outside, I am the same person on the inside.    My hobbies include indoor cycling, pickleball, exercise, travel and shopping.   Vitiligo is annoying for sure but it’s definitely not the worst thing that could happen.  When I meet new people I tell them about my skin so that they know what it is.   It is very important to protect your skin fromThe sun with sunscreen, protective clothing and regular check ups with a dermatologist.  

I was diagnosed with vitiligo when I was about 10 years old. At first it wasn’t very noticeable, only a few small spots, then around 35 it started to spread and with treatment has now been stable for the past 10 years. My hobbies are traveling, eating good food and spending time with my wonderful family. If there’s one thing I want people to know about vitiligo is don’t let vitiligo stop you from living your life. For those without vitiligo I’d say just say “Hi” if you’re unsure what to say to someone with vitiligo or ask if you have questions. Most people love to bring awareness about this disease.

My vitiligo journey started seemingly at birth but was not fully realized until I was a young child. I have segmentation vitiligo which is a localized vitiligo on the lower portion of my leg.  The effected area would often appear blue which is what caused my mother to initially seek guidance from the doctor. My doctors initially did not know why my one leg was lighter and more translucent which caused it to appear blue.As I aged and spent more time in the sun it was clear the leg with vitiligo would not tan and only burn and this is when my diagnosis was made.Growing up people would often assume my leg had just come out of a cast which caused the skin color to be so much lighter. People often assumed vitiligo was only spotted and since I did not have spots it was just thought to be a different reason.I am now 25 and finally comfortable in the skin I am in. I use the times that people bring it up as a time for education as it seems vitiligo is not very well known as other things.

In 1996 I developed a skin condition called vitiligo I didn't get diagnosed until later in 2007. It was hard at the time I was the only person in my family to have it I never seen anyone else like me either. I have diabetes. About it I never let anyone see me weak but on the inside I was broken I didn't know why this was happening to me I was depressed. As I got older I realize we are not meant to be the same or look the same. I started gaining my confidence because I just stopped to take a look around me and noticed that we all go through things in life no one is made perfect you have to get up and keep moving don't worry about what people think of you. Just live!! 

I am Janet Pace, and I have vitiligo. I've had it since the age of three, with white spots on my eyelids. It has progressed over time to now I am 95% white all over. The blessing in my vitiligo journey is, I know who I am... I am NOT my skin.I love people and helping them see their value and self love.  I love music and singing anything has a great vibe!

My name is Madison Martins, and you are about to embark on a quick part of my life story. Let's go back to my freshman year of high school, for an update I'm now a sophomore at Florida Southern College, as a freshman I got “diagnosed” with a disease called Vitiligo. Hearing the words diagnosed with something was completely life changing. At first it was in the most negative way possible, then I realized that it's part of me and forever will be. This mindset did not change overnight, and believe me it still gets hard here and there. Vitiligo is now a huge part of me, I used it in the most extraordinary way I can. Many people give looks of curiosity, looks of pain, or so many others. Yes, these looks might seem very hurtful, but they no longer are! I learned how to embrace that I'm different and will be for the rest of my life. I try to teach people no matter what you look like you are loved and amazing. Believe it or not, people who may look “normal” still go through rough days, so Vitiligo has taught me that I may be different, but so is everyone in their unique way.

Jeremy Wooldridge is one of the newest members of our support group. Jeremy works for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and is also completing his Management Degree at the Kate Tiedemann College of Business at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.  Jeremy first noticed that his skin was different at the age of 7, however it was not until he was 20 years old that he was formally diagnosed with vitiligo. Growing up, he struggled with, “looking different. Clearly, I am white, so it is not as obvious as others with vitiligo. But at the same time, it is noticeable, especially up close. And it’s kind of awkward to have people just stop and look at you. There’s so much more to me, that I am proud of in my life, than my vitiligo. I think having it has made me the kind of person that looks beyond skin and appearances, because I never wanted that reflected back to me. It taught me how to look at humanity better, to see people for who they really are and to really get to know someone.” He says the biggest obstacle he’s had to overcome was, “the public response to my vitiligo, because I, myself, didn’t know what it was. Even today, I get people saying ‘how did you burn your face? Why are your eyes so much lighter?’ People aren’t educated about it.” He believes that educating the public about vitiligo is necessary to break the stigma behind it. He says he wants people to know, “It’s not contagious. That’s one of the first questions I always get. I have to educate them, so they can educate others.” There is not enough informational material in schools, hospitals, primary care offices, or even dermatology clinics about vitiligo. It is absolutely crucial for medical professionals to do a better job of educating the public. Jeremy agrees and says, “There are enough people that have this condition…I know Michael Jackson had it, but there are a lot of everyday, normal people that struggle with it. And those are the people that I want to connect with, build friendships with, and support.” As one of the newest members to our support group, we hope Jeremy can find this. This is the first support group Jeremy has joined, but he knows it will not be his last.

Nikki Bryan diagnosed with Vitiligo at the early age of 17.  She became involved with Beautifully Unblemished Vitiligo Support Group in order to accomplish her own personal goal of supporting others with Vitiligo.  Ms. Bryan earned her Master's Degree in Mental Health Counseling from Palm Beach Atlantic University.  She believes that there is a need for a broader conversation to educate others on the social impact that vitiligo has on those who develop it.  Ms. Bryan supports the Beautifully Unblemished mission by empowering others to tell their stories in order to impact social awareness, as they also learn to embrace the physical and emotional changes caused by Vitiligo.

I began to notice small white patches on my fingers  around 15 years ago.  A dermatologist diagnosed it as Vitiligo, told me there was no known cause or cure, and nonchalantly handed me a prescription for a topical steroid (which didn’t work). That was the start of my Vitiligo journey, consisting of more than a decade of hopes and disappointments. On the surface, Vitiligo affects our physical appearance.  It is not contagious, and is not a terminal disease.  However, for those of us with Vitiligo, it can weigh heavily on our mental health and self-esteem. I am thankful for BUVSG and similar organizations that offer support services for those affected by Vitiligo through education, healthcare and outreach. My message to our fellow Vitiligans is that “it’s OK to feel vulnerable, but please don’t be a victim of our circumstances.  Rise above it, and you will be a better person for it.”

Hi my name is Stephanie Bailey.  I’ve had vitiligo for the past 14 years.  Vitiligo is not hereditary in my family, so it was a bit of a shock to see my pigment gradually fade. My unique spots, started around my lips and fingers and gradually progressed over time.  I am currently in the process of truly loving my spots.  If individuals stop and stare, I use that opportunity to teach them about vitiligo.  This is ME! Happy vitiligo awareness month

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