A local woman with vitiligo has created a support group for those with the condition.
Shermel Renee Tillman Lewis, of Vine Grove, has started the Kentucky Vitiligo Awareness Campaign: E.Y.E. Believe, which stands for Embody Your Evolution.
Vitiligo is a condition that causes the loss of skin color in blotches. It can affect the skin, hair and inside of the mouth. Vitiligo occurs when the cells that produce melanin die or stop functioning. It can affect any person and usually is a lifelong condition, according to the American Vitiligo Research Foundation.
Lewis said living with the skin condition has changed her since she discovered it 29 years ago.
“Over these 29 years, I feel as a person that I have evolved,” she said. “I’m more compassionate. I try to listen to more but I will say I’m still a work in progress. I work on myself daily, but vitiligo will bring about changes that will make you re-evaluate your whole life. You just have no choice because you have everybody that something can see.”
Lewis was 21 and in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm during the onset of her condition. According to the American Vitiligo Research Foundation, some people have reported a single event, such as sunburn or emotional distress, to trigger the condition. However, none of these theories have proven to be a definite cause of vitiligo, the website said. Lewis said taking a shower in possibly contaminated water could have been her trigger.
“It was immediately after I took that shower that I started having skin irritations,” she said. “I was there for seven months. So about three months in I started noticing that my pigment was leaving my skin.”
Lewis said the group intends to provide support to those who may not have it otherwise.
“When I was going through this, I did not have any support. I didn’t know of anyone with vitiligo other than people were saying Michael Jackson had it,” she said.
Lewis said the group is open to everyone.
“The core group can be anyone. You can have vitiligo. You can care about someone who has vitiligo. You can know somebody who has vitiligo,” she said. “Or you can just want to support the vitiligo community.”
Lewis said meetings are held on the first Monday of every month at 6 p.m. at Radcliff Christian Church at 300 S. Logsdon Parkway in Radcliff. The next meeting is Nov. 4.