My earliest memories go back to a childhood of typical army life. Shifting base city to city every three years, making friends and bidding farewell, all with a smile. But Pune has always been the fondest memory, a city where we arrived and never left. I was a sports person right through high school, the never say die attitude a gift of the army background and resilient genetics. It was also in high school that I had my first diagnosis of vitiligo. Amidst medical treatment and other home remedies, I vowed to myself to never let a cosmetic condition hamper my spirit ever.
I juggle my life playing mom to two brats, running to realise and push my physical limits and being passionate about encouraging women to make fitness a part of their lives. As a mom, I have to shift between ninth std physics and nursery rhymes with equal enthusiasm. Running has added meaning to my life in a way that cannot be put in words. Whether it's cutting a few seconds in a half marathon or pushing my body to cross the finish line in a 50 km ultra..... It all translates to resilience in life in general. As a fitness trainer, I passionately advocate that women make fitness a part of their lives and start investing time in themselves in their busy schedules as homemakers and career women.
Vitiligo is more a mind game for a person to win and I hope to encourage those that I can.. To overcome inhibitions about their condition and achieve their personal goals. If I can have a positive influence on even one person, it would be achievement enough.
We are only bound by the limits we place on ourselves... If we feed positive uplifting thoughts to our mind, there exist no limits to talent and potential within us.
Dr. Maya Tulpule in 2010
It all started at the age of 10 years. I distinctly remember the severe illness of measles and chickenpox which grounded me for 21 days.
I missed my 5th standard final exam and was promoted to 6th standard. About 1 month later one small spot appeared on back which was noticed by my cousin sister. Within few days new spots started appearing all over. My father was in US for his PhD studies, so my uncle took me to a very senior dermatologist. He advised to check stools and blood. I had thread worm infestation, so de-worming was done, ointment meladinine and exposure to sunlight was advised along with 5 injections of b-plex forte. Within six months most of the spots vanished. Few spots on ankle and shin remained. Stronger treatment with tablets meladinine, tablet mexaform etc. was given which did not suit me. My complexion became very dark as if burnt and I used to develop acidity and giddiness. So the treatment was discontinued and intradermal injections (most probably bawachi oil) were given. They were very painful. I could not walk properly for a week after the injection. I used to bear the excruciating pain thinking that my family is doing so much for me so I must bear it for their sake and should not make them feel sad. Those five injections did not give any pigmentation and were stopped to my great relief.
My close relatives were very much concerned and used to suggest some medicines or doctors. After Allopathic treatment, one Ayurvedic treatment was started as per recommendations of my aunt. Some powder, lep (ointment / cream) with gomutra (Cows's urine) and kadha (syrup) were given. I was suggested to follow nirjali upawas (fasting for whole day without even having water) on Thursdays and to visit temple and do 101 pradakshinas(circumambulation). My cousin used to do the fast and pradakshinawith me just to make me comfortable. It didn't help much and to apply gomutra during school days was very difficult. The treatment got discontinued in a year. I was in 9th standard and had little time for time-consuming treatments. Instead, I started wearing long skirts and saree at the age of 13 years. 4 spots on my legs were stable and I was at peace for time being.
I went into depression around this period, got secluded, was irritable and cranky. My mother noticed it and advised me to read 'Ramayana' during school holidays. I borrowed the nine volumes of Ramayana from my uncle's library and read it all. I realised that everybody has to suffer in some form or the other. Even a king like Rama was no exception to it. We must look at people who are less fortunate than us in many aspects of life and yet live happily. Today I feel it was the day of acceptance.
During my medical graduation our dermatologist teacher suggested dermabrasion and plastic surgery. Dermabrasion under Ethyl Chloride spray was not a pleasant experience as pain of thawing was much more than expected and the patch became black but surrounding skin exposed to spray became depigmented. One small patch was cut and skin sutured as plastic surgery, which was not done properly leading to wound gaping and I was with bandage on my ankle for one full month.
I continued with something or the other like steroid creams, antimalarials, oral lactobacilli and what not. Ointment Ratino-a caused some sort of reaction reactivating stable Vitiligo. I fared badly to oral steroids, developed bleeding gums and so many problems leading to poor health.
One expert homeopathic doctor relieved me of all the side effects. 95% of my Vitiligo came under control. He used to give one dose if new patch appeared or existing patches start spreading and things used to come under control. His death made me feel like an orphan.
Six years later I decided that I must concentrate on treatment of few remaining patches and get cured. I was suggested PUVA therapy (Psoralen + UVA treatment for Eczema, Psoriasis, graft-versus-host disease, Vitiligo and Mycosis fungoides.) In second sitting I think exposure time was prolonged as the nurse who administered it forgot to switch off UVA light. By evening severe burning sensation developed. In the morning my right ear was white, next day left eye and so on and so forth. In next 6 months I was 95% depigmented. (Note: Everybody is not so sensitive to UVA but enough precaution should be taken.) It took me almost 2 years to depigment totally. It was tough time for me and my close ones. I did not dare to look in the mirror for those 2 years. Thus began my second inning of life as a 'foreigner'.
Over the years I have overcome the anxiety. After completing my medical graduation I started practicing as a General Surgeon and got associated with many social organizations holding honorable positions:
- Founder President, 'Shweta Association', a Vitiligo Self Help Support Group
- Founder, Sahawas Hospital, Karvenagar, Pune.
- President, 'Setu' Organization, a Self help Support Group
- Doctor's Cell Head, Vidarbhawasi Pune Niwasi, a organization for the former residents of Vidarbha who are currently living in Pune.
- Producer, Award Winning Feature Film 'Nital'
- Editor, Newsletter 'Rang Manache'
- Co-Editor of 'Shreeman' with Dr. D. B. Kulkarni
Living life with two colours and two identities is not so easy but I have learned to live happily with it.
-- Dr. Maya Tulpule