Tim Klumper said psoriatic arthritis sufferers can pinpoint the start of the disease to a single joint in their body.
The 49-year-old East Kildonan resident began suffering from symptoms of psoriasis, an autoimmune disorder that causes itchy, painful scaling of the skin, in his mid-20s. He wishes he’d done something about the symptoms sooner, as he was one of the 10% of psoriasis sufferers who also developed psoriatic arthritis.
"There was a little flaking on the elbows and knees, and then as it progressed, the arthritis kicked in more," Klumper said. "I had some surgery on my hand for a totally unrelated issue, and at the time, this one knuckle (on his middle finger on his right hand) was three times its normal size. I remember talking to the surgeon, saying ‘While you’re in there fixing what you’re fixing, could you do me a favour and look inside there?’"
The surgeon recommended Klumper see a rheumatologist, but still being a fairly young man, he disregarded the advice.
"Had I gone to see a rheumatologist right away, they would have started me on treatments, which would have prevented a lot of the damage," said Klumper, gesturing to his left thumb, which no longer straightens.
Klumper tried several medications with varying results, and sometimes woke up in tears because of arthritic pain. He was unable to work for approximately a year. He found out about a drug called Humira seven years ago, and was part of a campaign to get the drug covered by Manitoba Health. His biweekly shots run about $22,000 per year.
Klumper is speaking out in advance of World Psoriasis Day on Oct. 29 in order to raise awareness of the condition and to encourage those with it to seek treatment as quickly as possible.
One resource for people is the Canadian Psoriasis Network Facebook page.
He also hopes to dispel myths around the disease, as a public understanding will greatly improve the way of life for those with the condition.
As a result of getting his psoriasis under control, Klumper is no longer ashamed to take his shirt off in the context of swimming pools and cruises, where people may stare or gawk.
Klumper, who works with the Commissionaires at the 266 Graham Ave. site currently being converted into the Winnipeg Police Service headquarters, recalls a story from when he was working as the assistant paramedic co-ordinator at Shaw Park. A fan had been struck with a baseball during a Winnipeg Goldeyes game in the midst of summer’s heat, and noticed Klumper’s psoriasis on his legs, as he was wearing shorts.
"She was in tears and she was panicking, and the first thing she says is ‘What’s that?’" Klumper recalled. "I said ‘Relax, it’s psoriasis. It’s not contagious. You’re not going to catch it.’ She kind of felt silly afterward, but it’s understandable for somebody who doesn’t know what it is to have a concern."