Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Living With Psoriasis: Question & Answer With The Incredible Elizabeth Menduke

To my favorite readers,

I just wanted to take a moment to say that I hope you're all having a fantastic summer. As always, I'm so thankful that you've chosen to read along; this blog truly wouldn't be much without you guys. That being said, please don't hesitate to introduce yourself if you haven't already. I love hearing from you, getting to know your stories, and inevitably being inspired by each one of you.

Speaking of inspiring... today's post is about Elizabeth Menduke. Having lived with Plaque Psoriasis (a chronic immune-mediated skin disease) for over two decades, Elizabeth has finally found a successful treatment to control her symptoms. As a result, she has regained her self-confidence and is able to have simple, but profound experiences again such as travelling, meeting new people, and proudly shaking hands with others; actions that others may never think twice about. For Elizabeth, these experiences were victories and she was determined to help others living with psoriasis. 

August is Psoriasis Awareness Month and what better way to kick it off than sharing an interview with Elizabeth herself? Enjoy!

  1. What is your diagnosis? When were you first diagnosed and how old were you? 
My diagnosis is plaque psoriasis and I was first diagnosed when I was 21 years old.

  1. What would you tell someone who has been newly diagnosed with psoriasis and/or a chronic illness in general?
My advice to others who are living with a chronic illness such as psoriasis is to continue to live their life as normal as possible. You are not the disease; instead you are just a person who is living with this disease. Stay positive, do research, find healthcare professionals that you trust, and do everything you can to maintain normalcy in your life while focusing on all the positive aspects in your life.

  1. Please explain a bit how your condition affects you. (For example: What are the symptoms and what is the hardest to cope with? Has the disease changed with time? etc.)
My psoriasis condition has affected me differently depending on the severity of the disease. There have been times in my life where my psoriasis has been truly horrible and covered a vast majority of my body. During those times, I experienced severe pain from my skin cracking, itching, and overall embarrassment of my condition. At these times, my self-esteem was at its lowest. I only wore long sleeves and long pants to cover up most body parts. I was uncomfortable going to a hair salon, nail salon, the beach, the gym, or any place where people would be able to see my severe psoriasis symptoms.

Then there are times like now; however, where I have found the treatment that has caused a great improvement of my psoriasis. I am grateful to the advancements that have been made to help treat my condition and I am now benefiting greatly from a biological drug called Stelara. I get an injection four times a year and my skin looks almost normal. I am able to do the things that used to make me feel uncomfortable when my skin was bad.

  1. Where do you get your strength?
I'm not sure where I get my strength. I think I've had to do some work on myself because I wasn't always strong. Living with a chronic illness such as psoriasis can really get depressing sometimes.  I guess my strength comes from realizing that there is always somebody worse off than you are and you need to just be grateful to be exactly where you are in life.

  1. What are you most proud of?
When it comes to my psoriasis I am most proud of a speech I once gave at a hotel in Los Angeles where I spoke about psoriasis to an audience of healthcare professionals and other psoriasis patients. I was asked to speak by the National Psoriasis Foundation (click here to reach their Facebook page and here to reach their twitter page). At the time I gave this speech my psoriasis was fairly active. I wore a sleeveless shirt with a blazer over it and when I got up on stage I felt nervous to speak in front of this large crowd. Towards the end of my speech I said "as a sign of hope and solidarity amongst us all, I am going to stand up here today and remove my jacket. I feel safe letting you see my skin." When I removed my blazer the crowd applauded so loudly that I wanted to cry. Afterwards, patients in the audience came over to me and said that I helped them and gave them hope. Some were even crying. This was a proud moment for me.

  1. What are three things you couldn't live without?
The three things I could not live without regarding my psoriasis are:
    • I couldn't live without my dermatologist
    • I couldn't live without Stelara
    • I couldn't live without a good moisturizer

  1. How do you manage and cope with your psoriasis?
I moisturize my skin thoroughly when I get out of the shower every day. I stay on track with my Stelara injections. I try to get sun when I can because that seems to help me as well. If I'm asked to help someone who has psoriasis I always do so because that in turn helps me.  In the past I often felt uncomfortable in relationships because of my skin and that was sometimes hard to cope with.

I have been in a relationship with a man for the past six years that is going really well. On one of our early dates I decided to tell him about my skin and show him my psoriasis. I pulled up my sleeve to expose my red, scaly patches and he looked at me and I wasn't sure what he was thinking. Then, he pulled up his sleeve to show that he had psoriasis too! I couldn't believe it and this is made coping with my psoriasis quite a bit easier because we can lean on each other.

  1. If you could send one message to medical professionals around the world, what would it be?
My message to medical experts would be to be honest with your psoriatic patients about this chronic condition and to stay on top of new developments and treatments that give their patients hope. If you are not familiar with new developments and treatments for psoriasis please refer your patients to a dermatologist that is.

  1. In honor of Psoriasis Awareness Month...if you could send a message to the world about Psoriasis, what would it be?
I would like to ask the world to be tolerant of people who live with psoriasis. It's not contagious, you can't catch it, we can't help that we have it, please accept us. It would be wonderful if Psoriasis Awareness Month actually did make people aware of what psoriasis is all about because if people were more educated about this disease and what it is and isn't, it would make life a lot easier for those of us who have it. Psoriasis is not who we are.

Thank you so much for sharing your story Elizabeth! You're amazing...



  1. Many people with chronic illness experience depression. In fact, depression is one of the most common complications of chronic illness. It is estimated that up to one-third of individuals with a serious medical condition experience symptoms of depression.

  2. I love that she is reaching out to others with this chronic disease. I know how lonely it can be when one suffers with illnesses that are chronic and knowing others like oneself are out there really does help.

  3. Wow! I loved #7. What a coincidence.

  4. Psoriasis comes from the Greek word psora, meaning fine bran like scaling. Psoriasis afflicts 1% - 4% of the general population, and is a type of chronic skin condition where itchy scaly red or white flaky patches form on the scalp (in approximately 40% of cases), elbows, forearms, knees, groin, and legs or lower back.

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  5. A weak immune system, hormonal changes and stress are some of the risk factors for scalp psoriasis. Flaking and constant itching can make the person feel very embarrassed. There are various treatment options for scalp psoriasis. Let's take a look at them.
    psoriasis free for life