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How One Woman’s Psoriasis Led Her to a New Career

Psoriasis can lead patients down interesting roads in life. See how Melissa’s new career path was influenced by her psoriasis. 

Sometimes, you can find strength and motivation in unexpected places. Take our Skin to live in writer Melissa, for example. After many years of pursuing a career in dance, and eventually performing at a professional level, Melissa ended up taking a different direction. With the “help” of her psoriasis, she followed a career path in Bioethics (the ethics of medical and biological research). Now, she will be going to medical school to further her education in the field. So, how did psoriasis inspire her to follow a new path and pursue this dream?

Let’s take a few ballet steps back.

First position 

It all started with a small patch on Melissa’s cheek before the age of 1, which spread to the majority of her body. At the age of 3, Melissa’s pediatrician diagnosed her with psoriasis. Typically, psoriasis is not diagnosed this early, as it often develops between the ages of 15 and 35.1 Melissa’s psoriasis covered 85% of her body, and she would find out later that this skin condition would be a big part of her life.

Pas de deux with psoriasis

Despite receiving this diagnosis early - and covering a majority of her body - it didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream. Melissa, even at the early age of 10, showed a lot of promise in dance, and was already traveling to Manhattan to learn from the best teachers in the world. It was clear that she had her sights set on dancing for a living.

Her psoriasis, however, was always lingering. You can imagine what it was like if Melissa received a flare-up during a performance. “Some of the most severe flare-ups of my life happened when I was performing, and it was extremely difficult” Melissa explains. 

Even when dancing with others, it was a struggle. “I’ve had a lot of difficulties with partners in a pas de deux - when you are dancing with a male partner – and people didn’t want to dance with me because of my psoriasis.”

It was clear to Melissa that psoriasis was affecting the way other dancers saw her. Despite this feeling of rejection, she continued to push through, and it fueled her to want more. By this time in her career, she was professionally dancing in New York City among some of the greatest dancers, dance companies and choreographers in the world.

Swan Song

At the height of her dancing career, Melissa suffered an injury. It turns out that she was dancing on a stress fracture, which led to a broken ankle, torn tendons and dislocated bones. After several surgeries and rehab, Melissa knew it was time to hang up the pointe shoes and move on to something else.

But what? How do you make the switch from something you’ve dedicated your life to, to something else? Melissa thought about how psoriasis was a big part of her life, and how she was passionate about the advocacy work that came with it. Could that be something she could take on? Could she find a balance between her fascination of her own skin condition and her need to help others?  

The switch

That’s when a light switch turned on. Melissa used her life-long experience living with psoriasis as the foundation for her new endeavor, Bioethics. “In undergrad, I was introduced to medical ethics (Bioethics), which combines philosophy with science, and I absolutely loved it. I'd always felt torn in two, as both a psoriasis patient and as a professional athlete. Both, however, have become the fuel behind my fascination and zeal for Bioethics, and also, larger concerns with the world.”

The next step

Through the ups and downs, twists and turn-outs, Melissa is happy where she landed. She will be attending medical school and continuing her passion in Bioethics. But make no mistake: Melissa did not leave the barre completely. She still finds time to teach a therapeutic dance program to children with Down syndrome to help with muscle development and coordination.  

Although Melissa’s psoriasis had such a large impact on her life, she also views it as the unexpected influencer that drove her to find her new path. She’s the person she wants to be and sees her psoriasis as a motivator to do/ask for more. “Psoriasis bothers me every day…but I’m really grateful to bear the burden because living with psoriasis has taught me that beauty is found in virtue and merit.”

So, what can your psoriasis teach you? It is very easy for psoriasis to knock you down – but you have to get back up. How has psoriasis taught you to get up, get out and keep going?

  1. National Psoriasis Foundation. About Psoriasis. January 2016. https://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasis

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