A man asked me about my vitiligo

an acquired depigmentation disorder

vitiligo-1I got vitiligo about 15 years ago, as I first talked about here, then here and here and most recently, here.

It is “an acquired depigmentation disorder, manifests as white macules on the skin and can cause significant psychological stress and stigmatization… [and] affects about 1% of people worldwide.”

What prompted my revisiting the topic was that a gentleman asked me about it a couple of months ago while we were waiting in a bus stop. He said, “Excuse me, but do you have that skin thing?” “Vitiligo.” “Yeah, that’s it.” This happens two or three times a year, conversations with people I did not know. It doesn’t bother me.

He was a black man, roughly my age, discussing his son who is in his thirties. He said that it really messed up his son’s head. And, as one sometimes does with a total stranger, I acknowledged that it did a number on me for a while.

Specifically, I’m still not all that great with looking at photographs of me from five or ten years ago. I was so cautious about staying out of the sun, that whatever melanin I had in my face seemed to have gone away altogether.

I look specifically at group shots which included me, and I cannot identify myself except that, well, that’s where I usually stand. In a black-and-white photo in my church newsletter from probably a half dozen years ago, there’s a guy wearing African garb, talking with his hands in the Rose Room of my church. I recognize the clothes but not the fellow wearing them.

Pretty much as a direct result of that specific photo, I became somewhat more bold in getting sunlight. I still avoid long exposure and use sunscreen. OK, I’m not as good with that in days that are cold and overcast as I should be.

So I related heavily to this man’s son’s trauma. In my experience, while white folks also vitiligo, black folks seem more weirded out. In retrospect, it messed with my psyche far more than I admitted, even to myself, at the time. It was OK for me to look older and grayer and heavier, but this was different. I probably should have seen a shrink.

I have this thrill seeing models in Glamour magazine with vitiligo. In some TV ad, the first image was a young woman with the condition and, implicitly, she was seen as beautiful. In ways you root for people that are on “our team”, this made me happier than I could have imagined.

For ABC Wednesday

April 2017 health report: Vitamin D3

Rickets is not a term I’ve heard literally in decades.

Beyond the things my primary care physician said when I got to see her on April – the usual “lose weight” and “raise your ‘good’ cholesterol – was my need to get more Vitamin D3. I’m supposed to take 2000 IU (international units). My vitamin D level was 20 this year, up from 16 (on what scale I have no idea). But it’s supposed to be at 30.

Here’s my problem. Even as a kid, I never much liked going out into the sun. I mean, I’m playing baseball, fine, but just sunbathing? No way.

And it’s worse since developing the vitiligo at age 51, which makes me prone to burn in certain areas, including the top of my head, my neck and the back of my hands. I’m rightly concerned about developing skin cancer. This is why I often wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, even in summer.

I just discovered something with the supplements I’ve been taking, off and on, for the last year. It offers 1200 mg of calcium and 1600 IU of vitamin D3 “in just two tablets.” TWO tablets! So I’ve been underdosing, and I need to take three tablets a day.

I must really be deficient, since only 400 IU is 100% of the daily value needed by the average person. Still, my doctor said I wasn’t likely to develop rickets. Rickets is not a term I’ve heard literally in decades. It is “a disease of children caused by vitamin D deficiency, characterized by imperfect calcification, softening, and distortion of the bones typically resulting in bow legs.”

But she did worry that I could be that old man who falls and breaks a bone. And most of us know that falls can be deadly to the elderly for that reason.

Speaking of falling, Dustbury linked to an article about how science shows why shoelaces come untied. This happens to me constantly; they’re ALWAYS untied. I am OK with it, but have tired of people telling me that they’re loose. I know, I know! And now I sort of know why.

Helmet head

I’ve discovered that, people with bike helmets are more visible.

Bicycle_HelmetThis is less a question than a statement by a guy who’s a Facebook friend, who I see seldom in real life, though he lives in the area:

I see you walking around with your bike helmet, even when you’re not riding.

To be clear, I DO have my bike with me. I responded, “You never know when some space debris might fall.”

The TRUTH of the matter, though, is that, sometimes, I forget, occasionally, that the helmet’s on. More likely, though, is that I’m afraid I WILL forget the helmet.
Continue reading “Helmet head”

The vitiligo update post

I’ll NEVER shave fully, because the beard offers protection for my upper neck.

vitiligo-1My spellcheck does NOT like the most prominent word in this post…

One of my ex-sisters-in-law wrote:

Hey Roger, I saw a recent photo of you and am wondering if you have vitiligo on your hands. I have it now and find that the sun stings me even with sunscreen. If you do have it, do you find that to be the same for you?

Yes, for over a decade. First posted about it here, and periodically since then.

This I can say: the lack of pigmentation, which is on my arms, legs, and face doesn’t bother me EMOTIONALLY as much as it once did. PHYSICALLY, though, it’s still a pain in the neck, sometimes literally so Continue reading “The vitiligo update post”

Beard, or no beard: that is the question

This picture from the May 2010 does not look like me to ME.


Jendy, who I’ve only known since 1987, asked:

If you were to shave your beard, would Lydia recognize you? Would I? ([Paul [her husband] says his kids would do a double take every spring when he used to shave his off!)

I don’t get to see Jendy as often, now that she has a new job. When she worked in a public setting, I’d see her once or twice a month. So she didn’t know that, in fact, I DID have my beard shaved off, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. It had become a scruffy mess, and I needed to get it trimmed. But once in the chair of a new barbershop, I let the whimsy of the moment carry me off, and had all the facial hair, save for the mustache, removed. Lydia seemed to recognize me, and I’m sure you would too.

Know who didn’t recognize me? Continue reading “Beard, or no beard: that is the question”