As told to Alexandra Benisek by Kaleigh Wan
I’m a 26 year old firefighter and senior EMT from Fayetteville, Georgia. In ninth grade, I found out I had psoriasis.
I was playing lacrosse one day and noticed that the back of my head was extremely itchy. I honestly thought it was a fungal infection or something like that because I was wearing a helmet. I have no other signs, no flaking or anything. Just itch.
I went to a dermatologist and it turned out to be a little difficult. Before psoriasis, they test you for a few other things. But after all the tests they ran, I was diagnosed with psoriasis. Since then, I’ve tried almost every treatment in the sun.
At first, I tried shampoo. Then I went for topical treatments. Then I tried oral medications and finally light therapy. After all of this, I tried biologics. I started taking secukinumab (Cosentyx) in 2015, around my sophomore year of college.
Advantages and disadvantages of biologics
Honestly, I really enjoy using biologics. I find them easier to remember to take because I only have to take it monthly instead of daily.
But they can be a little stressful at first. It can be hard to get used to the concept of having to inject yourself or have a family member help you. But it’s easier for me because I already work in healthcare. But I will say, it’s really helpful to have someone remind you.
my family plays a big role
I take my biologics at bedtime. I shower, do my nighttime routine, and go to bed. This helps me relax because when I first started I was very anxious before I had to take them. But doing this helped me create a routine. Then after I’m done with them, I can go straight to sleep. This helps me avoid side effects or things like that.
Another big thing is support. My parents learned how to shoot. So when I was really anxious at first, they would do it for me until I got used to it.
It is very helpful to have someone who is willing to give you the injection or remind you. I’m really bad at taking meds and keep forgetting. This causes my symptoms to get worse. For a while, it was almost debilitating.
But with the support that encouraged me to take my medication, I was on the right track. Even a simple compliment from my support team keeps me motivated. Comments like “Hey, your skin looks so good” or “Looks better than last time” are the nicest things to say.
Having multiple people involved is really helpful. My mom would text me and say, “Are you on your meds?” It’s important to have someone to keep you on track. It actually prompts you to have the injection.
Community support empowers me
Many biologics also have support groups that send text messages or reminders when your shot is coming. The medication I take has a program that can help. It connects you with a pharmacist or nurse to remind you to receive treatment.
It also allows you to chat about symptoms or other factors of the medication. It’s great to hear other people’s side effects and experiences. It makes you feel seen and heard.
Facebook is another great place to find support groups. One day I was googling different psoriasis treatment groups and found out that they had treatment groups for specific medications.
The support and motivation of these channels makes you want to get better. Because of this, they lead to better results. It is important to hear affirmations that the treatment is working. But sometimes you need to talk about it and it does take time and is frustrating.
For me, a lot is just understanding what psoriasis is. Because, yes, see a lot of psoriasis. But there is also an invisible side. It helps to have a support group who understands this and is willing to research and investigate other factors in psoriasis.
These groups also provide me with information on diet and different skin products. This really works and it shows that there is a lot of love and support out there.
My Advice for Getting Started with Biologics
If you’re considering trying biologics for psoriasis for the first time, it can certainly be nerve-wracking. Many people don’t like needles. Especially with this treatment, you may not want to inject yourself.
Not only that, but for people with psoriasis, we want to look good and we want to feel good too. All of this is difficult when we don’t feel like everyone else.
But having someone who is willing to learn and be with you can make a huge difference, even if they’re just offering you moral support during therapy. Because it’s not like we like to stick to ourselves. So just having someone there to provide support, understanding, oversight, or even just asking questions and getting involved really helps.
If there’s one thing I can tell you as you begin the process of using biologics, it’s to trust the process. Because it does take a second. It’s not a one-and-done thing. This does take a little while. But I know just having someone say, “Hey, that’s okay. It’s going to work” really helps.