The painter Marc Chagall said, “Art must be an expression of love, or it is nothing.” Lianne Menkes knows what Chagall was talking about, because she spent her summer vacation making bracelets to raise money for a cause close to her heart.
Menkes, from Toronto, Ontario, Canada, is a senior at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where she’s studying art history and minoring in fine art. She’s also exploring photography. “I love making things and being creative,” she says. “Art doesn’t feel like work to me.”
When Menkes was 16, she was diagnosed with psoriasis (guttate and plaque). A few years later, in summer 2015, she decided to raise funds to help fight psoriatic disease. “I wanted to make as much of a difference as I could,” she says. “But I didn’t want to just ask my family and friends for money. I wanted them to have something.” She settled on making bracelets from embroidery thread, wire and pearl beads. She also teamed up with Team NPF, which aims to raise awareness about psoriatic disease and money to find a cure.
Menkes learned about NPF while researching the disease after she received her diagnosis. “NPF also made raising money so much easier,” she says. The result was Project Psmile.
Menkes lays out her mission statement on her webpage (psoriasis.org/project-psmile): “I am lucky to have access to a biologic, but many others who need it are not as fortunate. I started Project Psmile because I want to help people in desperate need of help with their psoriasis get access to these treatment options. I am working toward this goal by selling handmade bracelets and contributing 100 percent of the proceeds to the National Psoriasis Foundation.” So far, she’s reached 63 percent of her $10,000 goal.
The long shadow of psoriasis
Menkes has a “very strong” family history of psoriasis. Her family is in a genetic study at the hospital where her rheumatologist practices. Her parents, a cousin, an uncle and at least one of her grandfathers had it. Her three brothers don’t, and they’re in the study as a control group.
Menkes has tried many approaches to dealing with her psoriasis. “Topical creams were unsuccessful. Two trials of phototherapy only produced short-term results,” she says. “I tried all of the natural things, too, but taking up a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free and nightshade-vegetable-free diet was unsustainable.”
Her next step was a biologic. Taking a biologic worried her, but after much research and assurances from her doctors, she took the plunge. That was almost two years ago. “I consider it to be a miracle drug,” she says. “I have no side effects whatsoever. I had been struggling with the physical and social effects of psoriasis for over three years, but after just two months on a biologic, my skin was nearly 100 percent clear.”
Thanks to the drug, she shows no symptoms, which makes it hard to believe she even has the disease. “The psoriasis hasn’t gone away,” she says.
Project Psmile hasn’t gone away, either. Her bracelets are still selling three years later.
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Driving discovery, creating community
For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.