Ron DenHollander was born in Holland and raised in Ontario, Canada. For most of his life, Ron has been living with psoriasis – now he’s hoping to create more awareness by sharing his struggles and triumphs while dealing with this chronic condition.
My psoriasis started when I was four or five years old. At that time, in the 1970’s, people didn’t know much about psoriasis but we accepted differences among people, so I didn’t experience bullying in school. Psoriasis never prevented me from dating or living life to the fullest and my father always encouraged me by saying “just don’t worry about it”.
In my twenties, I played city wide competitive football and, unfortunately, had a lot of injuries. That’s when psoriatic arthritis began to appear. I was diagnosed with psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis when I was just 25.
In the past, I used to work with my hands a lot, repairing washers and fridges, but my condition made it so difficult. Now, I work as a consultant, looking after restaurants and teaching them how to serve customers. Sometimes, up to 70% of my body gets covered with flare-ups, and I’ve turned down jobs in the past because I didn’t want my hands being exposed. Even on a hot summer day, I only wear long pants and sleeves to keep my skin from being exposed. But psoriasis and arthritis don’t stop me from doing what I like. People should realize that they can still do a lot of things when they have this chronic condition.
Arthritis doesn’t keep me from my hobbies – like crafting stained glass.
The changing perception of psoriasis
I believe that attitudes toward psoriasis are changing. We have celebrities like singer Cyndi Lauper talking about having the condition and it helps a lot in raising awareness.
I think it’s important to educate people. I once heard someone in a restaurant commenting on a girl who had psoriasis. I took them aside and explained what psoriasis is – that it’s not contagious, that it’s just a chronic condition that happens to some people.
A healthcare system that works
Psoriasis treatment can be expensive but luckily we have a great healthcare system in Canada. If you can’t afford medication, it’s covered by the system. There are some drugs that aren’t covered, but very few.
Itchiness, pain and lots of bleeding because you scratch are some of the worst symptoms, but I don’t think psoriasis is as bad physically as it is emotionally. In Canada, the impact of psoriasis on mental health is taken very seriously. I have a great relationship with healthcare professionals and my dermatologist always takes extra time to sit and listen to me. Psoriasis can lead to depression and every six months I fill out a survey about how I feel. But I don’t think people are always honest with their doctors or spouses about their condition. The people who can really sympathize with you and understand what you’re going through are the people who have it themselves.
Stress is a big trigger for psoriasis flare-ups, so reducing your stress level is important. My son was diagnosed with leukemia and, later, on Christmas Eve, I found my daughter unconscious in her room. I couldn’t wake her up. We rushed her to the hospital and she was diagnosed with a brain tumor – another hour and she would have died. Since then, she’s had five surgeries. It was a very stressful time for me and it caused flare-ups like crazy. Luckily, my family was there to help me get through it.
In Ontario, 20% of cancer patients cannot get to their hospital appointments. When my son and daughter were diagnosed, I could drive them back and forth. Now, I run a cycling event to raise funds and support a transportation program for cancer patients. It’s stressful not knowing how you will get to the doctor and I know a few cancer patients who also have psoriasis – it is very tough for them. This is our sixth year for the cycling event and my goal is to ensure that no cancer patients have to worry about getting to their treatment sessions.
Our next ride is in August.
Being positive is what gets you through the day, along with the support of your family. People tell me I was chosen because of my strength. I want to help people living with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis to know that they can live normal lives like anyone else, and that having a chronic disease is not the end of happy living.
PsoHappy explores how psoriasis affects happiness and well-being. Make your voice heard by taking our surveys about different aspects of living with psoriasis