INside Story

‘Pet Pals,’ ‘Great Day TV’ host Patty Spitler opens up about autoimmune disease

News 8 is getting personal, sharing the stories of our teammates facing medical issues that challenge families throughout Indiana.

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Patty Spitler is an Indiana TV icon, a former longtime news anchor, the host of “Pet Pals” and “Great Day TV,” and a member of the Indiana Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.

But, what’s happening away from the camera is just as riveting. 

News 8 first reported on Spitler and her breast cancer battle in March. To this day, she remains cancer-free.

But, sometimes life hits us hard in many ways, and Patty is no exception. Once again, she welcomed News 8 into her home to share her latest health struggle.

“I have hyperphotosensitivity, which means, basically, I can’t go in the sun for an extended period of time. My bikini days are over,” Spitler said.

Hyperphotosensitivity, an auto immune disease, is when a person’s skin reacts abnormally to light from the sun or an artificial source of ultraviolet light, such as radiation in a tanning bed. When a person is exposed they get painful, pink itchy rashes that look like patches of eczema. The affected areas are also warm to the touch

Spitler says hyperphotosensitivity is typically genetic. Just like her breast cancer, she has no family history. Anyone can get it. 

“What happened back in June 2021, I went to the Indianapolis Zoo and I emceed an event called ‘Animals and All that Jazz,’ which I love, and my skin was showing from here and up here, and I noticed about a couple weeks later red marks all over.”

At first, Spitler and her doctor thought she might have lupus, but they soon made the connection that the rashes appeared only in places where she was exposed to the sun. The diagnosis became clear.

The difficulty with hyperphotosensitivity is there is no cure. It can only be managed. When Spitler experiences a flare up her only option is to layer her skin with creams to ease the pain and make the rashes disappear.

Now when she’s invited to speak at events or attend a gathering, her first question is “Is this going to be indoors or under a tent?” If the answer is “no,” she can’t go because unless she wears a hat, an outfit that covers her up from head to toe, and is armed with an umbrella for shade, Spitler knows what’ll happen. 

Unfortunately, having hyperphotosensitivity has taken away some of the things she loves. But, Spitler has never been the one to fall into victim mode.

“We all get older and we all have problems. We can either give into them and let them define you or you can push forward and I want to push forward.”

Spitler says staying positive is easy. She’s got the love of her pets, she has “Pet Pals” and her family at WISH-TV, and, by sharing her story, she wants to help others. 

“We all have a certain amount of time in this world and try to make the most of it and stay as positive as you can, and if you can make a joke about it, I find that helps, too.”