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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 8, 2010

Feeling fierce


By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Trisha Lagaso Goldberg models the jacket she wore in last year's Addressing Psoriasis fashion show, organized by Tim Gunn. The jacket was designed by Alexa D'Amico, a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

DEBORAH BOOKER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Tim Gunn

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ADDRESSING PSORIASIS CONTEST

What it is: An awareness program designed to help people with psoriasis get more information about their condition and feel more confident with everyday style.

Who qualifies: People 18 and older with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.

What you win: An all-expenses-paid four-day trip to New York City, and a one-on-one style consultation with Tim Gunn.

Deadline: April 30

How to enter: Submit a photo and essay at www.AddressPsoriasis.com. Tell about the personal challenges of your psoriasis, and give ideas on how Gunn could help you present your best self to the world.

Five winners will be announced in July.

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WHAT IS PSORIASIS?

A chronic disease of the immune system that causes itchy, flaking skin. Symptoms vary from person to person, both in severity and how the condition responds to treatments.

Is psoriasis contagious?

No. It is not something you can "catch" or that others can catch from you. Psoriasis lesions are not infectious.

What causes psoriasis?

The exact causes have not been determined yet, but the immune system and genetics play major roles in its development. The immune system is somehow mistakenly triggered, speeding up the growth cycle of skin cells.

How is psoriasis diagnosed?

No special diagnostic tests exist. A dermatologist usually examines the affected skin, or places it under a microscope, and determines if it is psoriasis.

Is there a cure?

No, but many different treatments, both topical (on the skin) and systemic (throughout the body) can clear it for periods of time. Patients often need to try out different treatments before they find one that works for them.

Can psoriasis affect all parts of the body?

It most commonly occurs on the scalp, knees, elbows and torso, but can develop anywhere, including nails, palms, soles, genitals and, very infrequently, on the face.

Can psoriasis appear at any age?

Yes. It often appears between the ages of 15 and 35, but can develop at any age.

Source: National Psoriasis Foundation

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LEARN MORE

Find out more about diagnosis and treatment of psoriasis at www.psoriasis.org.

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It took a few words of encouragement and a hug from Tim Gunn to help Trisha Lagaso Goldberg get her mojo back.

Last year, Lagaso Goldberg, 39, artist, curator of the art gallery at thirtyninehotel in Chinatown and project director at the Hawai'i State Art Museum, was one of five winners of the first national Addressing Psoriasis contest, bringing her to New York to model up-to-date clothing suitable for a woman who lives with the skin condition.

Psoriasis often causes self-consciousness that inhibits clothing choices. Tim Gunn, whose sister suffers from psoriasis, has made it a mission to help people with the disease continue to live a stylish life.

Last year he coordinated a fashion show for the organization, and Lagaso Goldberg participated.

This year, another contest is under way for psoriasis sufferers (see box). The prize: A trip to New York to consult directly with Gunn.

TRYING TREATMENTS

Lagaso Goldberg, an 'Aiea resident, was diagnosed with plaque psoriasis by Honolulu dermatologist Todd Bessinger in 2007.

Bessinger describes psoriasis as a disease of inflammation , affecting the skin and sometimes joints, too.

"We don't know what causes it, but there is a genetic predisposition to it," Bessinger said. "Likely an environmental stimulus starts the process in susceptible individuals."

According to a release from the Addressing Psoriasis organization, approximately 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis. It's a chronic disease of the immune system that causes skin cells to regenerate too quickly every three to four days instead of the usual 28- to 30-day cycle. These extra skin cells build up on the skin's surface, forming red, flaky, scaly and inflamed lesions.

The most common form of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, accounting for about 80 percent of psoriasis patients.

Lagaso Goldberg says she tried everything to remedy the condition, from traditional Western medical methods to Eastern approaches.

"I worked with Dr. Bessinger closely to monitor and try different treatments. Some would work well, and then I would react to it and have to stop taking it," she notes.

She has also incorporated "intense Eastern medicine," including weekly visits to accupuncturist and tai chi teacher Shereen Kanehisa.

Lagaso Goldberg has a long family history of psoriasis. Her grandfather, mother and two uncles all suffered from the disease.

However, the condition will no longer have her hiding out in yoga pants.

"I have good days and bad days, but I have tools now to deal with it," she said.

'I WASN'T ALONE'

As the often unsightly disease progressed, Lagaso Goldberg says she essentially became a recluse.

"I felt like people were judging me. I'm really social and love going out, and especially to art-show openings, but I just couldn't get dressed in the morning. Nothing felt good to me," Lagaso Goldberg explained.

Patients with psoriasis typically withdraw from social situations "and everything that draws attention to them," she explained.

However, when Gunn asked her to walk a runway, along with others who suffer from psoriasis, she found her self-consciousness falling away.

"There was a common thread of fierceness in the group," Lagaso Goldberg said. "The disease really tests your limits of your inner strength."

The artist learned that she had what it takes to triumph in adversity, she said.

One important lesson: "I didn't have to apologize for my condition, so my stress levels have gone down. I felt I wasn't alone or isolated."

Lagaso Goldberg says the contest gave her back her self-confidence.

"You feel like a freak and an alien, and suddenly you're thrown together with people who have the same challenges and understand what you're going through. I wasn't alone," Lagaso Goldberg said.