Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which the immune system creates antibodies that can attack any part of the body. The Lupus Research Alliance is seeking a cure via funding the world’s most innovative lupus research. The organization fosters diverse scientists who try to initiate better diagnostics and improved treatments.
Members of the Lupus Research Alliance Board of Directors who were actively involved in the luncheon included Brenda Blackmon, Jennie DeScherer, Katey Driscoll, and Carol Weisman. Matilda Raffa Cuomo, Brett Heyman, and Veronica Vargas Lupo co-chaired the event.
In accordance with the idea that “a cure is in the bag,” Plaza Hotel luncheon guests were invited to bid on various displayed handbags. I saw two bags which I would use: the “Think Royln Wingman Bag” ($188), a predominantly aqua and rose multicolored tote, and the “MCM Leather Backpack” ($800), a rose gold pink elegant bag. The “Cult Gala Acrylic Lilleth” ($318), a see through bag made of metal strips, looked like a mini shopping cart and would be appreciated by a purse content voyeur.
While sitting in the beautiful Plaza ballroom, I admired the ornate chandeliers and the gold leaf ornamented walls. A raised handbag center piece highlighted each beautifully set table. The very heavy wide brimmed plates reminded me of the hat weapon brandished in GOLDFINGER. I enjoyed the grilled chicken salad which consisted of avocado, haricots verts, field greens, golden beets, grilled vegetables, black beans, goat cheese, and lemon-thyme vinaigrette. Even though its graham crust, macerated berries, and red coral tuile looked delicious, I abstained from the cheese cake dessert.
Channel Nine news anchor Brenda Blackmon, whose daughter suffers from lupus, hosted the event. Dr. Anca Askanase, the director of the Columbia University Lupus Center, received the Woman of Achievement in Clinical Research Award. When she wittily compared Game of Thrones to what she called “Game of Lupus,” Dr. Askanase stated “we will win the war against lupus. Victory will be ours.” Echoing the perseverance doctors and patients alike described, keynote speaker Vice President of Global News Partnerships at Facebook, Campbell Brown, talked about being a tenacious professional woman whose path to success involved “not giving up, hanging on, and believing in yourself.”
I had the pleasure of sitting next to poet and singer Shanelle Gabriel, who gave me permission to quote her and to use her name. When Ms. Gabriel told me that she suffers from lupus, I asked her to describe how lupus impacts her life. She said that the disease slows her down, that there are good days and bad days, that she plans her life around the disease, and that she is challenged by the financial hardships, such as medical bills and the need to miss work.
With Ms. Gabriel and her fellow suffers in mind, I left the luncheon hoping that we will see a lupus cure soon—even if it is metaphorically carried in the privacy defying “Cult Gala Acrylic Lilleth” bag.
– Marleen S. Barr
Photos via Lupus Research Alliance