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Patient empowerment

Finding an effective treatment for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis can change lives

  • Name: Josie Prog
  • Age when diagnosed: 36 (psoriasis), 46 (psoriatic arthritis)
  • Age now: 47
  • Diagnosis: Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis
  • Past treatments: Dietary changes, various topicals
  • Current treatment: Humira
  • Status: Mostly clear, significant improvement of joint pain

Josie Prog was terrified.

It was 2003, and Prog, then 36, was a mom of three kids trying to escape an abusive relationship. That's when psoriasis first flared.

"I went through a nervous breakdown," Prog said. "The psoriasis was the outcome of the nervous breakdown."

But Prog was too scared to treat with anything other than the creams her doctor in Guam prescribed her. She tweaked her diet, hoping it would help. It didn't, and the creams simply turned her skin white.

When she moved to Oregon in 2008, she searched for doctors in Portland and Hood River who could help her. She tried methotrexate, but it affected her liver, so she stopped and relied on organic oils and ointments instead, without much success.

Longtime readers of Psoriasis Advance may recall seeing Prog on the cover of the Winter 2010 issue focusing on the impact of psoriasis on women. Psoriasis covered her nearly head to toe.

"I want people to know what (living with psoriasis) is like," she said then.

Several readers commended Prog for allowing herself to be photographed.

"My admiration for Josie's courage in allowing her photo to appear as a 'cover girl.' She is indeed a brave soul," wrote Shel Bernstein, of Santa Rosa, Calif.

Meanwhile, though, Prog continued to struggle.

"I experienced depression, anxiety, I mean, all the negative things you can think of," she said. "I was just in my own little shelter."

She developed diabetes and a heart murmur. Then, last year, she was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. Her doctor urged her to consider stronger treatments, warning her that her risk for a stroke or heart attack was increasing.

He suggested she try Humira (adalimumab). Still, Prog expressed concern.

"He said, 'I have been treating patients with Humira, and if I thought these medications were wrong for them and not doing well for them, I would be home so depressed.'"

"That opened my eyes,"

Prog said. In 2013, she decided to give Humira a try, and by her third treatment, she was completely clear.

"I couldn't believe it," she said.

The impact of her successful treatment has gone far more than skin deep.

Prog's daughter, Melissa, 24, remembers how difficult her mother's psoriasis was on the family. As a child, she had to defend her mom when others made fun of her skin. Prog rarely left the house and had difficulty finding clothes she felt comfortable in.

Today, her mother is much more outgoing, Melissa said. Prog feels comfortable wearing shorts and spending the summer months outside, tending her garden.

"Before, she would do things and stop, and now, she follows through more," Melissa said. "I also think she deals with stress a little bit better. She has better coping skills."

Prog said she is consciously working on stress management. And while Humira has mostly cleared her skin and has helped her joints, she still needs to eat well and reduce stress to keep her glucose and blood pressure down.

"A lot of people have seen a lot of difference in me," she said. "I still go through a little bit of depression, and I'm seeking counseling for that. I just want to forgive."

She'll never forget the outpouring of support she received after her 2010 cover photo.

"I don't know who donated money because of my story, but I did get a lot of cards," she said. "I just want to thank each and every one of them."

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