Changing Skin Color


Lee Thomas
Photo by Canton Public Library via Flickr

A man's skin color begins to change because of a disease. Adam Navis and Liz Waid tell the story of how it has changed the way he looks at life.

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Transcript


Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Adam Navis.

Voice 2

And I'm Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Lee Thomas was a television news reporter in New York City. For a news reporter, there was no better place to work. And Lee loved his work. He talked to famous actors from film and television. People recognized him on the street. He was not taking good care of his health, but he was still young. He knew his body could take the long days of work and eating bad food.

Voice 2

One day, Lee decided he needed a better hair cut. During the hair cut he noticed a mark on his head. He thought the man cutting his hair had made a mistake. But the man said it was a white mark on his skin. The white mark on Lee's dark brown skin showed clearly. Lee thought it had come from the pressure of his job. But when he noticed a second white mark on his hand he decided to go see a doctor.

Voice 1

The doctor made some tests on Lee's skin. He sat down with Lee and told him,

Voice 3

"You have vitiligo. It is a condition where your skin turns white for no reason. There is no cure. This disease cannot be spread to other people and is not life-threatening. There are some treatments, but they do not work for everyone. For some people, the disease takes over their body and they lose all the colour in their skin."

Voice 1

Lee Thomas could not believe what he was hearing. He had worked very hard to get on television. How would he keep his job if his skin began to change from brown to white? Now, he only had a few marks on his skin.  But what would happen in the future?

Voice 2

Television news reporting is a difficult field. For reasons not related to his disease, Lee lost his job. He decided that he was not going to give up on his dream of working on television. Vitiligo would not stop him. He would find another job. And he would work to find a cure for his vitiligo.

Voice 1

After a few difficult months, Lee was offered a new job in the city of Detroit. It was not as good as his job in New York, but he was back on television. By this time there were marks on his face, hands, feet, and arms. While at work he put on makeup to cover the white marks. This thick liquid made his face all brown again. But it was a lot of work to put on his face every day. When he was not at work, he did not want to wear makeup. But without his makeup he was afraid to go out because people would look at him. He says:

Voice 4

"I went to work in the public eye. But when I returned home I would debate the good and bad points of going out; even to the store. Sometimes I would not go out of the house for a few days. These were times of weakness. I promised myself to stay involved in life, no matter what happens. But I never thought I would turn white. I thought I looked like a monster, a frightening creature."

Voice 2

Lee had found a way to work with his condition in his job. But he had not found a way to live a normal life. He tried to meet women but could not forget about his skin. Every time it did not work out, Lee thought it was because of how he looked. He says:

Voice 4

"I know that rejection is a part of life. But my first thought was that every time that I was rejected, it was because of the vitiligo. I do not know if my look was the reason for the rejection. But every time someone treated me wrong, I believed that the shocking sight of me is what caused the problem. It just had to be the reason."

Voice 1

One day Lee was talking to a young boy who had recognized Lee at the hospital while getting treatment. The boy also had vitiligo. The boy said, "It would help me if people knew your story." So Lee decided to give the people of Detroit a look at his face without his makeup. He says:

Voice 4

"I broadcast my face and my story all over Detroit. I did not know how people would react. This was a long way from the man who used to stay home for fear of frightening children. Now, I was broadcasting my story to millions of people. And it was the best thing I have ever done."

Voice 2

Telling his story on television brought a larger reaction than any other story Lee had ever told. Today, he still wears makeup on his face, but not on his hands. He believes it is his job is too tell the news, not to be the news. He does not wear makeup because he is afraid or feels shame. Instead, he wears it because he does not want to take away from the story he is telling. He explains:

Voice 4

"This disease has given me times of great sadness. It has also lifted me into amazingly high levels of happiness and understanding. It has changed the way I look at life. For that reason, I share my story. I do this for myself and the many people who are living with vitiligo. The National Vitiligo Foundation says that one to two percent of the population of the United States has this disease - that is two to four million Americans. I believe there are a lot more people keeping their suffering a secret."

Voice 1

Lee Thomas is still looking for a cure for vitiligo, but he knows that he is more than what he looks like. He still sometimes sees himself and thinks he looks like a strange man. He still has times of struggle. He says:

Voice 4

"Even with all the struggle, life is wonderful. I will never stop. I am still working with a doctor who is giving me some great help in managing my health. We work together to find my way to a cure. Even though this is part of my journey in life, it is not the whole story of me. I will not let it be. I will not let it control or define me. For me, life is about getting out of bed and showing up - showing up at work, at parties, to meet a woman, and everywhere else life takes me. It is about making sure I can live the life that I want to live."

Voice 2

The writer and producer of this program was Adam Navis. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find more Spotlight programs on our website at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called "Changing Skin Color."

Voice 1

Thank you for listening. Goodbye.

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Question:

What would you do if your skin color began to change?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
allsoftware
said on August 05, 2010

hello my name is alejandro and I think that is a true story, we have to help people that have vitiligo…

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nature187_vn
said on August 24, 2011

Hope in future the scientist will find method for curing this disease…

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Narath
said on September 21, 2011

Dear all

I have finished reading this topic and I understand Lee Thomas’s situation and mind and If I were him , What should I do and how should I face it ? I am proud of him . You know one of my co-workers she has any sign like this disease so if she has this disease what should she do ? because she is female and single . Now I am feeling concern about her .

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Litz
said on June 23, 2015

acceptance and hope :)

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jmaia
said on June 25, 2015

I understand the shock that bad news caused in the life of Lee Thomas , and changed all your dreams.

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Sandro Queiroz
said on June 25, 2015

Hello my name is Sandro
I think the people that have this disease need the psychological support of a doctor.

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Angel_A
said on July 22, 2015

It is disaster..

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Honneur
said on January 31, 2019

I think I’ll be very sad. All men and women have the desire to look good to others and many marks spread on our faces, arms and hands will not be a good sight of us. Of course, I will continue to live my life as it shows me: day by day, moment by moment, but certainly with sadness and nonconformity.