After a week of being glued to the bed, Long Beach State student Cameron Forgey had a close call with death.
The 21-year-old history major sat in a weakened state, reclining in the backseat of an Uber as they headed toward urgent care. What started as a sore throat in September 2021 led to the inflammation of tonsils which almost halted his breathing as it was making its way to the lungs.
“As the man I am, I didn’t tell anyone,” said Forgey who, out of fear of humiliation, had calling an ambulance last on his list. “I didn’t go to the doctor and I just toughened up.”
Forgey said he was consistently accompanied by excruciating pain from tonsillitis and a fever for the past seven days and water bottles were his life sustenance. He never left his dormitory and missed his classes.
For two nights, Forgey was in an intensive care unit. He said he was considered lucky by the doctor as he was a few days away from death if left unattended for longer.
Questions ran through his mind on what was exactly happening to him until all were answered by the diagnosis, a hereditary autoimmune disease. Forgey has psoriasis where scaly and inflamed patches of skin would be found on his scalp, elbows, knees and other parts of the body due to the cells’ rapid multiplication.
Because his immune system is overactive, psoriasis has come along with psoriatic arthritis where his joints would swell and ache, he explained. At the same time, he also has gastrointestinal issues, specifically internal bleeding in his digestive tract. There was no cure for it besides maintenance.
Forgey’s college journey was ambushed during his junior year at 20 years old by a disease that later wrote his life purpose, he said.
He became a walking testament to overcoming psoriasis and gave hope to others in the same boat. He recalled being approached by a man in Target in January 2023 who pointed out Forgey’s exposed arms covered with skin lesions. The man, who was in his mid-20s, told him that he also had psoriasis and he had been figuring out the right treatment for a long time.
Despite Forgey’s condition, his positive outlook on life mostly remained unbroken. He began making an impact on several lives, especially those who were still navigating through the disease.
“I think health is something that affects a lot of folks in a way that is completely unseen, especially students whether that’s mental health or physical health,” Forgey said. “I wanna destigmatize it. It’s no big deal to be struggling. There’s no shame in it.”
Forgey was approached more than three times in public and most of the conversations he had were with people seeking his advice, he said. In every discussion he had, Forgey would always have a Duchenne smile projected on his face where his eyes would also smile.
But behind his cheerful character is a college student who, at the end of the day, is still trying to battle his disease like others.
“He did have some times where he was really discouraged because everything was harder,” his mom Chavaleh Forgey said. “Getting up out of bed was harder. Taking a shower when this skin stuff all hurts was harder.”
According to Forgey, an unidentified woman came up to him on the CSULB campus once and told him that remission is attainable with the disease. Although there is no cure, he explained that it is possible to almost entirely eradicate the signs and symptoms of psoriasis through treatment and a healthy diet.
The road to his recovery began with a strict diet that eliminated his consumption of bread, sugar and processed foods and a consistent workout which included his 40-minute walk from the Student Recreation and Wellness Center to Beachside, the off-campus housing where he resides.
In September 2022, Forgey took Methotrexate, an oral chemotherapy for three months. However, since it did not give the best results, he had to wait for his doctor’s recommended treatment, which was reckoned more effective, he said.
That same year in December, he switched to Humira, a biologic treatment that treats psoriasis and reduces the pain and swelling caused by arthritis, where he would inject himself once every two weeks.
Forgey’s insurance demanded justifications and a strong rationale that he needed Humira for the reason that the injection costs thousands of dollars, which is why the procurement took almost a year and caused him to live with the same excruciating pain for weeks after he stopped oral chemotherapy.
“One time he called, he was like, ‘I don’t know how I’m gonna finish this semester. I don’t know if I can do it,’” said his mom who FaceTimes him at least once a week.
The struggles he went through encouraged him to become more involved on campus to create connections and help more people in a way he can as a college student.
Forgey was the community government president at Beachside during his junior year and in his senior year, he was part of the Residence Hall Association as the Vice President of Administration and Finance.
For the whole duration of his position, no one knew how heavy the burdens were on his shoulders for it was all concealed with his buoyancy.
“He always goes for a drive and tries to work it out,” said engineering major Craig Malech, his roommate who said he cannot recall seeing Forgey during his worst days. “So that when he comes into the room after a long day, he’s always in a good mindset.”
Forgey said he seeks to enter law school in the fall of 2024, a year following his graduation. After what he has been through, he aspires to become an attorney and advocate for better healthcare and access to medicine.
“Although a lot of my life experiences were very challenging, I feel like I’m such a positive person because I’ve seen it all. I’ve lived it,” Forgey said. “I’m ready to chase what I’m passionate about and to navigate the world.”