High school senior Emme Rooney received two things when she was in seventh grade that changed her life: a diagnosis of psoriasis and a nickname.
It would be completely normal for a young person with a chronic, systemic disease to want to hide her psoriasis. It would also be typical that someone with an unsolicited nickname from middle school classmates would want to leave that in her past as quickly as possible. But not Rooney. When it came time to write her college admission essay last fall, she decided to write about how her nickname gave her strength and courage to overcome challenges on her journey with psoriasis.
You might be wondering, “What kind of nickname could do that?”
Well, her nickname was Wolverine. Let’s go back.
Rooney started showing signs of psoriasis at 7 years old. She believes it may have been after her newly pierced ears got infected. Her symptoms progressed, but it was not until age 12 that she was officially diagnosed.
Psoriasis made middle school a little bit harder for Rooney. She says there were as many kind classmates as mean classmates when it came to her psoriasis diagnosis. The kind ones seemed fascinated by it or did not comment, but the mean ones gave her the nickname Salt Shaker.
One classmate, however, saw Rooney’s distress about her psoriasis and asked her to explain what psoriasis was. After hearing her explanation, he blurted out, “Wolverine! You have the healing powers of Wolverine . . . kind of.”
Wolverine is a member of the X-Men, a team of superheroes with mutant superpowers that started as a Marvel Comics series and then was developed into the X-Men movie franchise. One of Wolverine's superpowers is an accelerated healing process that regenerates damaged or destroyed tissues of his body at rates far beyond those of normal humans. When someone experiences psoriasis, a dysfunction of the immune system leads to inflammation in the body and speeds up skin cell growth. Normally, skin cells completely grow and shed in about a month, but with psoriasis, skin cells do this in only three or four days. Instead of shedding, the skin cells pile up on the surface of the skin.