Since she was a teenager, South African native Andrea Kemsley wondered why her hands and toes tended to change different colors in colder temperatures. The phenomenon got worse when she moved to a colder part of the country. “Things got really weird in winter. I would start changing from my normal skin tone to white to purple in a matter of minutes,” she recalled.
It was during a wintertime outing to a game farm with her family that Andrea became more concerned. “My hands became numb and very painful,” she recalls. A marketing coordinator for a cybersecurity company in Cape Town, Andrea resorted to an internet search to find the culprit. That’s when she discovered the probable cause of her symptoms was Raynaud’s phenomenon. Her hunch proved to be true after her podiatrist confirmed that she had the condition.
“Each time I visit a general practitioner, they look at my hands and instantly recognize Raynaud’s, but they really don’t take it seriously,” says the 34-year-old. “They just give me a pitying look.” Because it doesn’t get extremely cold in Cape Town, she says doctors don’t view her Raynaud’s as a life-threatening problem. “No doctor has offered to perform any tests to rule out a secondary cause,” she adds.
“I used to feel like a bit of a freak,” Andrea says. “It used to be embarrassing if I didn’t have my gloves and people saw these blue hands on a petite blonde. They would stare. I felt like I belonged in the circus.”
Fortunately, however, Andrea’s partner and her friends and family have been very supportive. “They get angry if I don’t do enough to keep warm,” she laughs.
The Raynaud’s Association, too, has been a great source of information and support. “I’ve learned about the best gloves, socks and other products such as Heat Holders and Hot Hands to keep me warm,” she says. “I’ve also learned from the Raynaud’s Association that Raynaud’s is more common than I originally thought.”
Now, she says, avoiding and minimizing painful episodes gets easier every year.
“Also, science is getting closer to curing a lot of diseases like Raynaud’s. I am confident that we will see some great advances soon.”
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of. I am proud to be a blonde smurf,” she smiles.
These profiles are part of our ongoing Member Spotlight series. For more information on our Member Spotlight feature and stories like this one from Andrea Kemsley, here’s the original post: IntroducingMember Spotlight!