A young woman pastor shares her story on living with vitiligo

Florence Thato. (Photo: Supplied)
Florence Thato. (Photo: Supplied)

According to EverydayHealth, vitiligo is a skin condition which causes the skin to discolour or lose melanin in patches. Vitiligo affects between 0.2% and 1% of people around the world.

Having faced rejection and labelled various names which resulted in a lack of confidence, the 34-year-old pastor is now using her experience to encourage those who are living with the skin condition.

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This is her story.

“One day I was walking in town [and] a random lady walked up to me and rudely asked who had burned me on my face, although I tried explaining to the woman that I had a skin condition known as vitiligo she was persistent.

As she continued to bombard me with burn advice and various ways on how to ‘cover up’ the scarring, like make-up, she had this constant look of disgust on her face – even going as far as to call me ugly before she walked away.

This is only one of many experiences I have encountered in my 34 years of living with vitiligo.

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I have been living with this skin condition since I was three months old. What started as a small blotch of discolouration on the right side of my lip, soon spread to my chin, parts of my chest, areas on my back and at a later stage to my entire right hand.

Growing up I faced a lot of rejection and lacked self-confidence because I was often teased and labelled, so I became a very reserved child.

Not being able to wear what I wanted, due to areas of sensitivity on my skin, made me fear interaction with other children.

So I would regularly help the lady who sold food at our school during breaks to avoid playing with the other children. One day when a few were done buying, the lady reminded me of how all the children, just like me, had something they were ashamed of or desired to change.

“Everyone short child wishes they were tall, the stout ones wish they were slender and even those with dark complexions wish they were fairer,” the lady said to me.

So she said, “Your condition is not worse than anyone, stop feeling bad about yourself.”

READ MORE: "I’m not a vitiligo sufferer" – Winnie Harlow

Although I was only in Grade 7 at the time, I can truly say this was perhaps when my life changed forever. I thank God for that lady named Mme Mamaseko, she just passed away last month – may her soul rest in peace. Had it not been for her, I would’ve never had to be resilient.

Shortly after that I gained my confidence back, knowing that even if you don't tell me, you also have something you’re ashamed of. Even if it isn’t publicly visible like mine I know you have it somewhere in your life.

I now serve as a pastor where I make it my life’s mission to encourage people like myself, especially children, who are struggling to come to terms with the stereotypes of living with vitiligo.”

READ MORE: This exquisite photo collection celebrates that women with underarm hair, scarred chests, cellulite and vitiligo have always been beautiful

What advice would you give to someone who is currently living with the same skin condition?

“Never look down on yourself, it is important to realise you are beautiful and unique the way you are. I must also stress the point of loving yourself first and living your life like you are not different – in turn people will follow the love you give off. And, lastly, God never made any mistake when he created you – you are loved immensely by God when you feel like the world doesn’t.

This is my daily motto: I have two different skin colours on my body but when someone asks what happened to me, I ask simply ask where?”

Do you have an inspiring story you would like to share with us? Simply drop us an e-mail at MyStory@Drum.co.za

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