When it comes to coping with a highly visible condition like psoriasis, Kasi Burns borrowed a philosophy from a treasured children’s author.
“I firmly believe Dr. Seuss had it right when he said, ‘Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind,’” says the single mom from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
That mindset has guided Kasi, 30, through an 18-year struggle with the chronic autoimmune condition, which causes scaly red or silvery white patches on the skin. At its worst, psoriasis covered more than 98 percent of her body. She’s been turned away from dressing rooms by sales clerks who noticed her flaking skin, and subjected to rude comments from strangers.
“How I deal with it just depends on the day,” she says. “Most days I try to ignore it. Other days I explain it.”
Like many psoriasis patients, since being diagnosed at age 12, Kasi has struggled to find a treatment that worked consistently for a long period of time. She’s tried topical treatments and light therapy. Luckily, weekly Enbrel injections have lately helped her manage the condition fairly well, along with some lifestyle changes.
“The simplest change I’ve made is not to shower every day,” she says. “The water dries out psoriasis more and can make it painful. I also drink lots of water to stay hydrated.” Another key that Kasi discovered was that stress tended to trigger flare-ups. So she’s added regular exercise to her routine.
Kasi has also found emotional support through her work with the National Psoriasis Foundation, where she helps lobby on Capitol Hill on behalf of other patients to raise awareness about the realities of the condition. “Insurance companies seem to look at psoriasis like it’s a cosmetic disease,” she says. “They don’t know the damage it does to your mental and emotional state, as well as the physical pain it causes.”
Through NPF, Kasi has built a network of friends who know what she’s going through. Now, she’s glad to be that source of support for other people, and let her experiences inform their own.
“It took me almost 10 years of hiding in long sleeves and jeans to realize that I don’t care if others don’t like my skin,” she says. “Our polka dots make us unique and beautiful no matter what others may say. Wear it proud and don’t let it run your life! Psoriasis doesn’t define who you are.”