Most people don't give a second thought to walking up a staircase. But for Kristen D., it was such a cause for celebration that she called over her husband, Tom, to watch.
That was a year and a half ago, shortly after starting a new biologic medication for severe plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Today, Kristen, 43, a Midwest native, is fully mobile and chasing her 3-year-old son Keegan up the stairs—without having to stop on each step due to the pain.
With a full-time schedule that involves looking after two children and studying to become a medical assistant, Kristen is grateful her health has taken a turn for the better.
Below, Kristen shares her story:
Finding strength inside and out
I was 12 years old when I developed plaque psoriasis on my forehead, arms, back, legs and scalp. At one point it covered 50% of my body.
Being a teen, that was pretty traumatic. I wore pants and long sleeved shirts no matter how hot it was. And I always had long hair and bangs to try and cover my skin as much as I could. Most of my friends didn't even know I had psoriasis.
The turning point came during my sophomore year in high school. I was in a marching band and we had to wear skimpy outfits. I went to my instructor and showed her my skin. That's when she said, first of all it wouldn't show because we wore opaque tights and secondly it didn't matter. She said people who are your friends won't care and those who do care you don't need in your life. She was very good for my self-esteem, which helped me later in life.
Opening up to new treatments
When I was 40, I was referred to a rheumatologist for psoriatic arthritis. He opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me by working with me and explaining different options to help me treat my condition.
With his help, I began trying different treatments, including a chemotherapy drug that I was once reluctant to try. Before I began the treatment, he sat with me for 45 minutes and answered every question I had, calmed my fears and gave me handouts to read. I called and emailed him with questions and he answered them all. I was excited to be working closely with my doctor and trying new treatments.
Although the chemotherapy treatment didn't work, my doctor found another option. A year and a half ago, he started me on a biologic treatment, which I take by injection every other week. Within three weeks of my first dose, my psoriasis was 100 percent clear, my joints were feeling better and I could sit on the floor with my legs crossed.
Kristen explains the benefits of telling your doctor everything