Shawnee (N.J.) High senior basketball star Josh Borrelli is often the “MVP” of his team’s victories. He scores 20 or more points practically every time he steps on to the floor and has the kind of smooth shot from distance that can easily translate to the next level. In short, he has all the ingredients to be the Shawnee basketball team’s big man on campus.
Yet, as it turns out, Borrelli has yet to even celebrate one of his team’s victories with his teammates, for a rather compelling reason: He has to get to a tanning bed fast … on doctor’s orders.
As reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Borrelli suffers from a phenomenally rare skin disease called Mucha-Habermann, which is an auto-immune condition which causes his skin to break out in rashes and lesions. Mucha-Habermann is one of the nation’s most rare diseases – the Inquirer reported that when he was diagnosed, Borrelli was the only person in America who had the condition -- and so little is known about it that at the moment it has no known cause or cure.
Rather, all Borrelli can do is take medicine and spend eight minutes per day in an ultraviolet tanning booth. To ensure that the ultraviolet technique is effective, Borrelli can’t miss a single day.
Because the condition is so mercurial it can come and go for years at a time. For Borrelli, the adept scorer had to deal with bad outbreaks of Mucha-Habermann in the eighth grade, then had the disease go into remission until just weeks before the start of his senior season.
That’s when the lesions came back, and so did Borrelli’s trips to the tanning salon. Just to be safe, the high schooler forced his father to accompany him on his first few trips to get tanned, just so the elder Borrelli could dispel any concerns that his son was a teenage boy struggling with tanorexia.
"I was kind of embarrassed that they would think I was a guy who wanted to get tan," Josh Borrelli told the Inquirer.
It seems that the local tanning salons have all got the message that Borrelli is there for a greater reason, something that all of Shawnee’s opponents seem to realize now, too.
"It's just something he deals with," Shawnee senior guard Ryan Bodnar told the Inquirer. "We know what he's going through, but he doesn't let it bother him. It sure hasn't affected his play."
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