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Grand Falls-Windsor woman tells her story of living with psoriasis for 23 years

Tammy Davis of Grand Falls-Windsor has been living with psoriasis for 23 years. She was diagnosed when she was just 20 years old.

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects approximately one million Canadians.

Davis first became concerned when she noticed little red dots on her body.

“Like chicken pox, that’s the way I would describe it,” she said.

Davis said it was on her shoulders and over the following days it spread over almost her entire body.

“It kept getting bigger and it was really, really itchy,” Davis said.

So she went to see her family doctor who sent her to a dermatologist where a biopsy determined it was psoriasis. Psoriasis causes an outbreak of red, itchy, scaly plaques on the skin.

When Davis was first diagnosed over 20 years ago there wasn’t a lot of research going into the disease and not a lot was known about it.

“Nobody really understood psoriasis,” she said. “I was angry when I got it, really angry with everybody.”

As most people would feel when facing a life-changing diagnosis, Davis wondered why this had happened to her.

When Davis was initially diagnosed, the treatment for psoriasis left a lot to be desired.

“They used to treat you with tar and you had to put this tar all over your body and it used to stink really bad,” Davis recalled. “I used to go to the mall and people used to stare at me and walk away because you stunk, you really stunk.”

People would stare at her all the time.

“It hurts, people don’t understand,” she said. “I felt like a creature, not a human. I didn’t want to be out in public anymore, I didn’t want to be seen (by) anybody.”

Both children and adults would stare at her when she would go out.

“Kids are just curious but some adults can be cruel when they stare at you,” she said.

For people suffering with psoriasis, everyday menial tasks can be difficult, not only because of the staring but because the disease creates physical limitations as well.

“When I was completely covered I had a hard time bending down to pick things up, the psoriasis was so tight it would crack when I would bend down,” Davis said.

The psoriasis covered 95 percent of Davis’ body.

“It hurts, sometimes you can crack and bleed. It’s difficult doing different things. I mean I had it in my hair, on my face, everywhere,” she said.

Dating was also an issue for Davis.

“Not too many people can look past it and see what’s inside,” she said. “It is really frustrating.”

When Davis first met her husband he knew that she had some type of condition but he didn’t know what it was. Davis said when she told him it was psoriasis he said, “So, everybody’s got something wrong with them.” 

She describes her husband as being protective over her and he would always try to cheer her up when she thought that people were staring at her. The stares of strangers took its toll on her husband as well when he started to notice that people really were staring at him.

“It doesn’t just affect the person with it, it affects their family too,” she said.

After years of unsuccessful treatments Davis eventually stopped seeing dermatologists all together. When she moved back to Newfoundland from Alberta she got in contact with Grand Falls-Windsor dermatologist Dr. Jay Coffey.

“He’s a godsend,” Davis said. “He actually understands the disease and he’s helping people understand it.”

Coffey started her on a new treatment.

“I can’t even describe it, when you first get the injections you wait, you watch the spots on your body and you just wait for them to disappear,” she described.

It took about a month and a half for the spots to really disappear from her body.

Davis’ life has completely changed since she started getting this new treatment. Her quality of life is better. She can now do things that she couldn’t when her psoriasis was visible. Meeting new people isn’t so hard and she can wear t-shirts and other types of clothing that before she was too embarrassed to wear.

“When I first saw Dr. Coffey I didn’t smile a whole lot. I smile now. I’m actually content with myself,” she said.

Information session

An information session with dermatologist Dr. Jay Coffey is planned to take place at the Classic Theatre at 10 High Street in Grand Falls-Windsor on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

This information session aims to raise awareness about psoriasis and offer ways for patients to cope.

The event is open to individuals dealing with psoriasis. Registration and refreshments at 6:30 p.m. with the session running from 7-8:30p.m.



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