I was diagnosed with psoriasis in my mid-30s, in about 1984, in Cape Town, South Africa. I had never heard of this condition and asked the dermatologist to spell it so that I could research it for myself. There was no internet. I looked it up in an encyclopedia at the local library.
When first diagnosed, my psoriasis was very bad. It arrived with a fury that created lesions all over my body and a thick crust over my scalp. To treat it, I have used topical creams (hydrocortisone, tar preparations and moisturizers), sunshine and the sea (surfing and sailing), and diet (mostly vegetarian). The sun and saltwater helped my psoriasis most of the year. I don’t allow psoriasis to stop me from doing anything.
Breaking Out of My Shell
I had always been very shy and at a young age was not able to get up to talk in front of a group of people. At school I was too shy to talk in front of our class of only 35 to 40 students.
A few months after I was diagnosed, there was a program on local TV about a psoriasis support group forming in Cape Town. I went to one of the first public meetings and met the people on the organizing committee. I joined the new Cape Town Psoriasis Association and attended every meeting, but couldn’t stand up to tell my psoriasis story.
The following year I was invited to join a small committee within the association. Talking in a small group discussion was not a problem, so I agreed.
After a few years the chairman resigned and I reluctantly agreed to take over the position. My first few public meetings were nerve-wracking, with about 50 to 60 people. Then I settled into the position and my nervousness eased. I continued as chairman for many years.
As a member of three yacht clubs, I was doing a lot of sailing. While racing across the South Atlantic in 1993, I suggested to my watchmate, a committee chairman at one of the clubs, that he introduce a new racing regatta. He said that he would guarantee that the event would happen if I were to join his committee and run the event myself.
So I ended up running a committee and a racing event, and eventually served as chairman of the national body that controlled all ocean sailing around the nation. In those capacities I was required to speak at yacht club meetings around the country and also presented national sailing colors at an international event attended by 5,000 people.
The Unexpected Push
I participated in a psoriasis research group at a hospital in Cape Town. There, people said that they were surprised by how openly I was able to speak about my psoriasis and my life. I have never held back when talking to doctors.
My psoriasis fluctuates a bit, and I think of it as mild. It has probably become closer to moderate since we moved to Virginia because I benefit less from the sun. I recently found a good medical office with a nice nurse practitioner who is overseeing my health. She understands that I seek natural remedies.
I am never grateful for having psoriasis, but I accept it as part of everything that makes me as I am today. I have grown in ways that possibly would not have happened without the push I received from psoriasis.
Dudley Dix is a boat designer and surfer from Cape Town, South Africa. He has sailed since he was a toddler and has raced sailboats across the South Atlantic five times, four of them on a boat he built himself. He moved business and family to Virginia Beach, Virginia, in 2004, where he continues to surf and sail.