By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
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.
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.