Gloria Mokoana story

I grew up in the dusty village of Motsephiri, in the province of Limpopo in the northern part of South Africa. When I was fourteen, I noticed a spot on one leg; it looked like shingles. At first, I didn’t pay much attention to it. Then it started itching and I would scratch it. Before long I found spots appearing all over my body. My whole arms and feet became covered with the spots as well as my back. Then it also spread to my breasts. I felt relieved that it didn’t spread to the face; that was lucky for me.

Nobody knew what it was. I was advised to stop eating tinned food, which I did stop but nothing changed. I tried every herb that my parents could get access to. I went to different local doctors but with no success in getting the spots to disappear or relief from the constant itch.

A year later when I was fifteen and wanted to be a normal teenager like those around me, it become very difficult for me. My self esteem was negatively affected as people would point at me and start whispering about my skin. My parents didn’t know how to help me. Going to school was a daily chellenge. Irrespective of how hot it was, I would wear long sleeves shirts and long skirts just to cover myself. I couldn’t understand it all, and questioned that out of all the people in our village, why me. My parents didn’t know anyone from the family with this condition. There was a time when people didn’t want to sit close to me in class for fear of contamination. How do I explain to people that they cannot get psoriasis by sitting next to me?

After two years my parents took me to a hospital in Johannesburg and that’s when I was diagnosed with psoriasis. I had to travel to the hospital every month to get the prescription creams. Sometimes I would be given three months repeat meds which would then mean that I didn’t have to see the dermatologist during that period as I would just go to the dispensary to collect the medication. However, this still meant that every month I had to miss three days of school to travel 260 Km to the government hospital to collect the medication.

After two years of this topical treatment the doctors suggested that I get my tonsils taken out as they were too big and appeared to be making my condition worse. The operation went well. I continued with my treatment with the hope that things would be better, but nothing changed. In fact, my skin continued to get worse.

The change of seasons is most problematic for me. My skin just flares up and doesn’t respond to any cream that I use. When winter start my skin gets so dry to an extent that it becomes painful “inside”. Nothing seems to work to remedy that pain the season settles not  mid-winter. Summer is better although too much heat makes my skin flare up.

I recognize that psoriasis affects my social life negatively. I have to be careful in considering what to wear when going out. There are some fabrics that I cannot wear as my skin as it is very sensitive. It was very difficult to do sleep overs. My skin leaves flakes on the sheet and it is embarrassing at times. I don’t use winter sheets as my skin reacts badly on them.

The doctors always advise us not to stress. Yes, how do you not stress when you are living with a condition that is so difficult to manage and so costly? I used to consult one of the prominent dermatologists in Gauteng but due to the fact that psoriasis is not classified as a chronic condition by our government, by April each year, my medical aid was exhausted forcing me to pay up with cash. Therefore I only continued with that specialist for two years and I had to give it up. I once burst into tears in front of a pharmacist as my medical aid