In this installment of Our Stories, University student Josiah Rainford shares how an autoimmune disease forced him to adopt good health practices… For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise – white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth, if the lens are focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you would find a sharper, richer and truer image of the Jamaican experience… this is Our Stories!

Sometimes life gives you lemons meaning you can be living your best life then out of the blue, here comes the sour taste of the unexpected. Imagine you are young, fit, and healthy. You eat right and exercise each week thinking, “yes this is enough to keep me going and I won’t fall ill”. Instead, you end up with an illness that completely caught you off-guard.

Meet Josiah Rainford – University student & Guitarist

Photo provided by Josiah Rainford

He is a young, vibrant, and musically inclined 21-year-old from Westmoreland. He is currently a student at university and music is his life. In his spare time, he works as a guitarist living out his passion. However, when he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, he began to consider if he was truly allowing himself to live his best life.

  1. Could you tell me a bit more about your condition and how it affects you?

Well, Lychen Planus is the autoimmune disease I was diagnosed with; it affects the skins, so I had some discoloration and dark spots all over. It also itches as well but it’s not contagious. Mentally it was a big hit. I thought why me because I lived and ate properly so I took it hard. It was all over my skin and it killed some of my self-esteem. I had friends who would try to cheer me up about it but that didn’t help. I initially didn’t go to the doctor until it got bad because I was like I can’t figure this out alone. So that’s a situation where I kinda didn’t medz medicine much until I couldn’t control it. My skin would burn and itch a lot as well. But once I went to the doctor my skin got sorted out and I was better. I currently have a little bit of scars left but I’m better and I’ve learned from this that it’s not all the time I can figure out what’s wrong on my own.

 2. You mentioned that you went to the doctor when it got bad.  Do you fear visiting the doctor?

Ah no I never had anything against going to the doctor. it’s great to go to the doctor because there are other health issues that could arise which aren’t caused by your lifestyle. Like there are things that are better for someone who is a trained health professional to look at. They were trained for that and can handle it better. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease myself and this had nothing to do with my lifestyle in terms of what I ate. Like going vegan helped a bit but going to the doctor and getting it checked out was far better. So yes, it’s important to go and get yourself checked out ’cause you never know. I also thought this way because my mother has an autoimmune disease as well, arthritis, but it wasn’t caused by what she ate because she ate well. I know a bit about her illness though, like the things you can do naturally and the medication you can take to make it better. She’s my mom so I learned about what’s wrong. Because of this, I have a bit of an understanding on some diseases like those that can be fixed by drugs but are caused by the lifestyle people choose. I learned all this because my mother is a wellness coach, so her degree is literally in eating to keep herself well so I kinda have a life hack right there.

  1. What kind of treatment did you receive for your condition?

At first, I was given a steroid cream and another steroid, but funny thing is the steroid cream I was given aggravated my skin and made my skin swell up even more than before and it burned and itched even worse. I was then put on some other steroids for a while. They gave me a heads up that too much of this put me at risk for developing diabetes, but I didn’t take it long enough for that to happen. It wasn’t even the doctor that told me this, it was the pharmacist. And then like they told me I had one thing at first, but it turns out it wasn’t that so that’s why the steroids didn’t work. And after a while my mother and I went to a naturalist doctor that told me to stay on the drug I was given called Prednisone at a reduced rate and to change my diet in conjunction with it and also rub some Aloe Vera crème my mother bought… that’s what eventually calmed it down.

  1. I’m happy to hear that you’ve passed that now. Looking back, how was the experience seeking medical advice for your condition?

My experience seeking advice wasn’t too bad. I’ve never been afraid of the doctor. It did leave a bitter taste in my mouth because of the bad reaction I had to one of the medications. But then again, I’ve never liked drugs.

5. How has this experience changed your mind about taking responsibility for your health? 

It has opened my eyes that I need to make sure that I do more and not end up like this again. And to not let anything get out of my control like this again. And I haven’t been to the doctor since I went to the naturopathic doctor and my condition has gotten under control but I’m not against going to the doctor.

Photo provided by Josiah Rainford
Photographer: keneil_skphotography

6. So, Josiah, I want to know what your lifestyle was like before you found out about your diagnosis. How much did you know about your health status?

I knew enough to keep myself healthy. I could tell the difference between me being sick and when I was at my best. I knew enough so that when I began to not feel my best, I could somewhat eat my way into, yuh nuh, getting myself better. I can tell when something is up with my immune system and that it needs a boost. I’m no doctor but I believe I know a good amount about health.

7. What do you mean when you say you “ate your way out of going to the doctor”?

Well, I ate a fairly balanced diet. I didn’t eat a lot of fry foods. I ate a lot less meat than the average person. I had more callaloo and peas in my food. Things like that, I ate some vegetarian stuff as well as I took a lot of vitamins and omega 3 combined with me starting my old habit of exercise again.

8. That’s great Josiah! I see that you try to maintain good health practices, but how often did you go to the doctor before?

I didn’t get check-ups often. I just went there if it’s something really bad. For the most part, I took a lot of vitamins as I said before, so I only went to the doctor if I was sick with a fever, and me getting fever sick wasn’t a thing that happened very often.

9. Do you believe young men like yourself have enough access to credible information about their health?

I don’t know if it’s so much access but more put it in our face. Guys are more visual so out of sight out of mind kind of thing. So if you find ways to make sure that health issues are in our face the same way condom ads are, then you know we’ll probably pay more attention to that kind of thing.

10. I agree with what you said about condom ads but give me an example. 

So for example at my school, I’ll be walking towards the stairs and see a likkle sign that says to ‘use pick2’ meaning to use some emergency pill or contraceptive kinda something to do with those pregnancy type a thing. There are ‘stop pinch leave an inch’ type of posters at my school to encourage the use of condoms. As well as condoms ads are funny, condom memes are funny, like Durex did one about protecting yourself going in and protecting yourself going out, going out with a mask, and going in with a face condom. So the importance of condoms are stressed, and they are done in funny ways that are obvious. You don’t see many ads on my school about general health like visit your doctor, have you worked out today get your check-ups. Questions like that aren’t put forth like get the amount of sleep you’re supposed to get stuff like that isn’t seen much around school because it’s not as pressing of an issue as university students having sex which you don’t wanna stop but you want to make sure they’re being safe. It’s like that so if we kinda equally valued it and did the same amount of posting as we do with condoms then it would be better.

Photo provided by Josiah Rainford

11. Are you saying more focused is placed on STDs awareness?

I feel like because the effect of an STD or a pregnancy is more in your face..these affect you for a lifetime, they are more advertised. I mean if we get sugar we take some medication for it and such but fi go and get a yute right  now na man that brings more problems like not being able to finish your degree, taking care of a child, etc… whole lot a problems while with sugar you can get pills or insulin shots. So just because it’s not treated in the same way and I guess we don’t think of it in the same way, so we don’t see it at the same level. So I think for me personally as a college yute there is more focus on sexual health.

12. I understand what you mean. So what is your advice to young men your age who do not like to visit the doctor?

…Take care of yourself. If you’re sick, do what you need to do to get better. If traditional stuff isn’t working, go to the doctor. If something is going wrong in your body and you don’t know what to do, head to the doctor or a clinic. You need to take care of your body. You only get one.

Thank you for letting us in on this Josiah thank you for sharing your story.