Absolute support, extensive awareness, enlightenment and advocate for those living with Vitiligo, for their Rights and well-being
Active Vitiligo Support in Africa

Tijani's Story

Life’s beauty is hidden so deep that the eyes of man must strain to see them. Life is just a series of events, the outcome lies in our hands.

My name is Tijani Osumah and I have vitiligo. I had the regular life of a random teenager from a well-to-do family, private school, posh friends; the works. To me life was just a process, a series of events taking place over time. Things were moving normally; nothing made much sense to me, I guess I was just as obscure as the average 12 year old. Yes, I was called handsome once, having inherited the visage of my mother, pink lips which tons craved for and yes there was a time when I was referred to as the “human checkerboard”.

I saw it as a random morning, I don’t know if it was a Tuesday, or a Monday. I don’t know if it was in January or in May. But I went to bed, that I can remember, and I know I woke up the following morning. It was a random breakfast, but I guess nothing could hide under the colorful chandelier that graced the dining table from the ceiling. I noticed it at first, but chose to be quiet; I saw it as a negligible defect, something to fade away as soon as I dibble in a little dirt later. Yes, I was just 12. There were tiny white patches across the back of my palms and my feet; it was until a shower later that morning that I discovered it was all over my calves as well. I didn’t care any less; fear was the last thing on my mind. I just assumed it was going to fade away anyways. But I was wrong.

Over time, these little fellas started spreading, they got wider and wider, and then I was like WHOA! But I guess, the damage was already done. I was taken to the hospital to see a doctor, something I should have done three weeks before. There, for the first time in my life, I heard the word vitiligo. In as much as I’d love to go into details of Vit, as I like to call it, you might as well just Google it. But, yes it was vitiligo, auto-immune, no probable cause or cure, blah blah blah. I mean, I was perfectly healthy, I didn’t fall sick, didn’t eat something that tasted like wrong or feel unimaginable pain in areas of my body I never knew I had, No, but all that was coming.

The hospital recommended prednisolone (or prednisone) and hydrocortisone cream, these were steroid based drugs. When I was given, I took out the pamphlet that came with it and read the three lines of what it was aimed at curing and the twenty lines of side effects. Now the fear was starting to kick in, but what could I do? School was still going normal, well at least I thought it did, before the whispers and the questions. I missed a couple of mornings, sometimes days from school because of appointments at the hospital. But I always caught up in an hour or less. This is where the sad part started.

My mother was told by only God knows whom that my ailment could be treated with herbs. When I heard it, what rushed through my mind was boiled leaves in a pot, I could handle that, but I was wrong. So wrong that if it was a test, I would have made a negative 100%. So, like any concerned mother, mine took me to get the herbs that were required. I was drinking cups of boiled leaves for weeks. I wasn’t getting any better, just fatter which was really weird.

Someone else, I have no idea who, also told my mother that my skin change was a spiritual affair. Now I was starting to get pissed. As a Muslim, I am strongly against any form of spiritual practices, underworld, satanic or whatever they claimed sort of crap, it was all BS to me. But what could I do, it was just my word against theirs. My mother on the other hand was really starting to get worried, after making and seeing her cry the first time, I was willing to succumb to anything. See how women get to you. But yes I was taken to the depth of bushes, areas that weren’t even marked on maps. I was fed the worst sort of only God knows what these people claimed to be medicine for me. Some made me sleep, some made me puke, some made me grow fat, some made me grow very thin, and some made it even worse. But yes, it was all for my mother, whose tears pierce my heart.

I missed so much school, this was JSS3 and JSCE was around the corner. My so-called traveling for treatment almost a year all put together but all of this was during vital school time. I went through Nigeria’s depths and seeing things that give me nightmares till this day. I cried myself to bed each night, saying to myself “it’s all for mom”. Sadly enough, some progress was made. It wasn’t the money-hungry liars working, it was prayers. I was the most confused child there was, it all started when I was 13 and ended when I was 15. That was the worst two years of my life. But what was I to do.

After that, my parents and I decided to stick with the hospital, for both our best interests. And by God’s grace that was where my solutions lied. After consistent visits, steady treatment and unwavering faith, I have made a lot of progress. And I am gradually repigmenting.

Yes I missed a lot of school; my grades did shake a bit. But all that was temporary, I stood on my own two feet, a good grade wasn’t going to come to me while I was sulking behind closed doors because I was black and white. My mother eventually stopped the water works even though she does get teary once a while. But I’m happy now, and that’s all that matters to her and my father. I grew stronger, happier, a greater zeal and even better grades, even the JSCE I was worried about was smashing, I made 9A’s from 12 classes. I went to top of my class, made student president and was an excellent debater. I wasn’t going to let some skin color stop me. Yes, I go home with the stares, whispers, and questions but after so long, I guess nothing gets to me anymore.

My life was a serious journey, a thorough experience, an eye-opener. I have done my share of the crying and no more shall be done. I am living positively with vitiligo, each day of my life is challenge, it isn’t going anywhere until I face it.

- Tijani Osumah