Hiding no more

Laycee Hyde, who has suffered from psoriasis for 10 years, works as a youth ambassador to try to find a cure for the disease

When Washougal graduate Laycee Hyde was in elementary school, 80 percent of her body was covered in scaly, itchy patches of skin — a condition known as psoriasis.

She wore long sleeves to school every day to hide the lesions and endured teasing and questions from her peers.

“It was really hard,” she said. “Kids can be mean.”

Now an 18-year-old, less than two percent of her body is covered with psoriasis and she works as a youth ambassador with the National Psoriasis Foundation to raise awareness of the disease.

She will lead a team in the Walk to Cure Psoriasis in Portland on Sept. 24.

Psoriasis is an auto-immune disease that makes the body produce too many skin cells and makes it difficult to fight off infections.

Hyde was diagnosed in second grade when she got a cut on her arm that healed with an excess of tough skin.

“It got bad really fast,” she said.

And psoriasis isn’t just an eyesore.

“Sometimes it can crack and bleed and that really hurts,” she said.

Hyde and her parents tried every treatment they could think of: creams, ointments, light treatments and even a tar serum that she would rub on her skin before bed.

Her skin was so itchy that it would come off in flakes and cover her clothes. One time, a teacher told her she had cracker crumbs all over her shirt. Hyde was too embarrassed to say what the “crumbs” really were.

She was enrolled in an experimental drug study at age 12 at the Oregon Medical Research Center for the drug Enbrel. Fortunately, the drug worked well and after about three years, her body was almost completely free of psoriasis.

“I got this magical drug and it was wonderful,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

She administers the medication into her thigh once a week.

She doesn’t like needles, she said, but the drug works, so every shot is worth it.

“I have no room to complain, it’s been so much better,” she said.

Hyde, who is also legally blind, overcame many of the challenges of her youth to become Washougal class president for her sophomore, junior and senior years. The honor student was also a member of the golf and cross country teams in high school.

She will attend the University of Washington this fall.

Hyde was approached last spring by the National Psoriasis Foundation to be a youth ambassador. As an ambassador, she coordinates community events and approaches businesses for donations to the foundation, which works to find a cure.

“The more kids that don’t have to go through what I did, the better,” she said.

She hopes to continue working for the foundation from the Seattle-area while attending college.

“I’d like to keep going because it makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile,” she said.

Her goal for her walking team, Laycee’s Dawg Den, made up of eight family members and friends, is to raise $1,000.

She held a garage sale on Saturday, and is planning a Burgerville fundraising night in the near future.

Her team received a $250 donation from the Vancouver Police Officers’ Guild toward the walk.

Hyde is excited for the event, partly because she will get to be around other people who know exactly what she has gone through.

“It will be really supportive,” she said.

The Walk to Cure Psoriasis will be held at Oaks Amusement Park, 1 S.E. Spokane St. Registration begins at 8 a.m. and the walk begins at 9 a.m. The event, with a choice of a one kilometer or 5 kilometer walk, is free and open to anyone.

For more information, visit www.psoriasis.org/portland-walk.

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