When Matt Mercier was in college, he ended his day by slathering his scalp with a steroid cream for his psoriasis. He then trapped that cream under a shower cap so it could “bake” through the night. “In case you’re wondering, this has never been cool,” he says.
Mercier, who is from Maine, somehow survived this indignity. When he graduated from college in 1992, he moved to Portland, Oregon, after discovering the city while interning there the summer before his senior year. By the time he was 29, he had started his own data analysis company. Running his own company meant a huge increase in his daily workload.
“My stress level went up and my sleep level went down and pretty soon the psoriasis had kicked into high gear,” he recalls. “I had flaming red plaques on my torso and legs, my armpits, and other places to the point where I was in constant pain. I was scared. I needed help. But for the most part, I was resigned. I thought, this is my life.”
That was Mercier’s state of mind until his first daughter was born in 2006. “At that point it hit me that psoriasis was not about me anymore,” he says. “My children could inherit it from me. Of course, as a father, the last thing you want to think about is your kids having to go through what you went through. That’s when I knew I had to do something.”
What Mercier did was to connect with the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). He was surprised to learn that he was living in the same city as NPF. He became a volunteer, beginning with forming his own Walk to Cure Psoriasis team in 2010. (Team NPF had not yet been invented.) Mercier’s team raised money, but there was an additional, unexpected benefit.
“It was my coming out to people in my life,” he says. “I was looking to get support for the walk, but I had people in my immediate family that I had never really opened up to about what was going on. That was a turning point for me. I wasn’t suffering silently anymore.”
Since that start, Mercier has participated in many more events, recruiting family and friends along the way. He serves as an NPF division chair for the Portland area. He has donated more than $12,000 to NPF, including $500 to launch a Team NPF DIY event, Psuperheroes and Psidekicks.
Why Does He Support NPF?
Mercier can tell you why in one word: outreach. “I think what really locked me in and made me a fan of NPF for life is that I was volunteering at a More Than Skin Deep here in Portland and one of the doctors was talking about a treatment I had never heard of before: excimer laser. I followed up with her and it turned out that that was the treatment that worked for me. The disease never goes away, but now I’m far, far better off.”
(Editor’s note: Excimer laser is a form of phototherapy. More Than Skin Deep was a series of free Saturday-morning conversations with experts in psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis in an informal setting.)
He also cites the money NPF raises to fund research into psoriatic disease. “There are some smart people working on this. They are doing really cool stuff. I’m so grateful for that,” he says.
Just as NPF is grateful for the contributions of people such as Matt Mercier.