I love animal skin prints. I have dresses, skirts, shoes, scarves, ear rings, sarongs, bathers, underwear and a gorgeous 50 year old handbag, made of the real thing, zebra skin. I never use it because I can't bear to think of the poor zebra who gave his life for it. I also have a fifty year old real leopard skin - it too, made the long journey from Africa,. My parents left it to me in their will, it is draped now across our sofa after decades on the wall of my parents home. I have stopped making excuses to other animal lovers like me when they visit. Fifty years ago in Africa where we lived, when we were stupid and knew no better, they were as everyday as a woven mat from Ikea.

And now, I am becoming, Leopard Lady.

Overnight it seemed, and then over the last few months, my arms, hands, chest, back and feet - and now my face has begun too - have blossomed with white confetti like spots. Interestingly, the confetti on my left side closely matches the confetti on my right side. I am a symmetrical Leopard Lady.

This is vitiligo.

I had a raft of blood tests to ensure some nasty disease - Lupus was mentioned - was not lurking unawares, and it isn't, for which I am profoundly grateful.

You don't die from vitiligo, it's thought to be associated with the thyroid, which I no longer even have, but 'they' don't really know, it is an auto immune disease. They do not know how it happens or how to cure it, but certain things are 'worth trying, no guarantees'. Like climbing into a UV Box three times a week for four months may reduce the spots. But they could come back. Steroid creams, too, are worth trying, but don't seem to have much effect.

Not life threatening but ugly, and sometimes people wrinkle their noses, and ask if it's contagious. It isn't.

I realise now how vain I have been all my life, despite years of ugly scarring - the boiling oil on my face at 18 months old, the teeth I smashed out in my teens, and the car accident which wiped my face out in my twenties. So I have liked my slender arms and feet. also my tanned skin and have spent my life in the sun. Sun does not cause vitiligo, but now its best to keep out of the sun, as my skin tans fast which makes the confetti spots all the more noticeable. So I am keeping out of the sun, and reassessing my wardrobe. Long sleeved blouses with high necklines will disguise the confetti and keep the sun away.

So if you see a tanned, spotty, Leopard Lady out and about, avoiding the sun, it may be me. Just remember it's not contagious.

Sandra Groom3 Comments