Why am I the only one that has to look different from everybody else?

These were some of the questions I asked my mom before she tucked me into bed at night. My name is Victoria Stukas and I am diagnosed with vitiligo. Vitiligo is skin disorder, in which the melanocytes (skin cells that produce pigment) are destroyed by the immune system, leaving small or large white patches all over the body. Vitiligo is not a life threatening disease, it is more of a cosmetic and psychological problem. My parents started to notice that I was losing color pigment around my fingertips when I was just three years old. Over time, it spread all over my body to the point that I lost fifty percent of my color pigment. I had a difficult childhood, due to bullying, kids would point and stare, whisper behind my back, and name calling. I never engaged in activities that exposed my vitiligo as a child. My family could see I was struggling to accept my vitiligo and would try their best to cheer me up. Little by little, vitiligo was starting to brand who I was rather than being a part of me. In middle school I started to receive treatment to help improve my color.

I tried many different treatments such as PUVA, topical creams and the narrow band UVB phototherapy to get my color back. The best results were the Narrow Band UVB phototherapy, bringing back 75% of my color in an 8 month time period. Even though, the narrowband had the best results it was not lasting. I stopped treatment when I got into high school.

Looking back at my life journey with vitiligo, the key player to my acceptance of vitiligo were horses. I loved the barn because it was a free judgement zone. The horses did not care I had vitiligo. I especially connected with a horse named Splash who also had a form of vitiligo/pinto breed. Horses have gotten me through hard times, knowing I had their unconditional love was just enough for me. When people see a horse, cat, or dog with different color patterns, they are labeled as striking or beautiful. Why can’t we think of that about people?

I am proud to say that society has put a more positive outlook on vitiligo than it did 10 years ago, with supermodels walking the catwalk who have vitiligo. I think people see it more as an artistic look than an eye sore. The meaning of vitiligo to me, is a free body tattoo that I am proud to show off and call it my own.