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Shelley Ensz

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About Shelley Ensz

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  1. Hi Brenda, Welcome to Sclero Forums and thank you for contributing your experience so far with SCL-70 but no symptoms. As it happens, autoimmune thyroid disease is sometimes a sort of gateway to other systemic autoimmune conditions. See Exploring Systemic Autoimmunity in Thyroid Disease Subjects, 2018 Journal of Immunology Research. Also see Autoimmune Thyroid Disease on our main site. On the positive side, if you ever do develop other symptoms, it is likelier that they would take them seriously many years sooner than for others, and thus perhaps sort of nip things in the bud. Make sure your treatment of Hashimoto's is optimal, and do everything in your power to keep stress under control, as it is also hard on the immune system. I'm sure in many ways it's a disadvantage to know about antibodies before any relevant symptoms appear, but the flip side of the coin is having abundant symptoms but no relevant antibodies. It's a catch-22 -- it's not ideal to be stuck on either side of the coin. But there are very few of us who managed to get classic symptoms right along with perfect antibodies, at precisely the right time...and who really wants that, either? It's all objectionable, when it comes right down to it. It's like, what do you want? Worry but with nothing to show for it? Confirmed worries? Or continued worries with symptoms but no antibodies? "None of the above" is the correct answer. And you could argue that it is harder in some respects to have a potential cause for concern but nothing to show for it, which could be crazy-making if you let it. So keep on keeping your head on your shoulders. You'll find both comfort and concern from stories of people who have antibodies and so far nothing, or had antibodies and then got sick later.
  2. Hi Jeannie, I'm always thrilled to hear from you! I'm delighted that you are enjoying an abundance of grandchildren and dogs. I'm sorry things are still progressing but also glad you have them treated as good as possible, and still active and making the best of things.
  3. Hi Janet, I'm sorry for your predicament. There's a few things that you may (or may not) find helpful. One is that it is of primary importance to get emotional reactions and depression under as good of control as possible (keep at it with medications, counseling and support groups, etc.) because doctors are under oath to "do no harm" and they often construe that telling a depressed person that they may have a serious disease (especially one for which there are few relevant treatments) may be doing excessive harm. So, it's not unusual for them to patiently wait for the person to be stabilized or have sufficient support before they go breaking more "bad news" to them. Of course, as a patient, I definitely understand that a diagnosis may not be seen as "bad news" when that is, really, all that you are seeking. However, consider that a diagnosis on top of depression could be very adverse, depending on how a person processed the information. So, first off, try to focus on establishing an even keel, somehow. Also stress is terrible for any condition and especially any emotional and/or autoimmune condition, so treating it is equivalent to also treating the illness, to a certain extent. Next off, many of the U.S. scleroderma experts only see patients who have already been diagnosed. Yes, I know that is a terrible catch-22! But, be aware of it and ask about it when you are calling around. Also, for G.I. issues in particular, there are no treatments specific to scleroderma. Although scleroderma can affect the gut in many ways, the complications are basically treated the same, regardless of the cause. For example, constipation is treated with the usual treatments for constipation. Heartburn is treated with heartburn medications or in some cases, even surgery. Slow motility is treated with motility drugs, etc. So, the most important factor is seeing that your individual symptoms are treated per standard regimens, if need be. Another factor is that depression and anxiety can cause severe fatigue, widespread pain and difficulty sleeping, etc. So you can see how doctors would chalk up those symptoms to any obvious emotional ills, first off? That's why letting go of the immediate quest for diagnosis may actually be the key to getting an eventual diagnosis. So first off, try to wrap your head around the concept that worrying about the diagnosis is what may actually be preventing you from gaining a diagnosis. Doctors react very poorly to any sort of drama. They want "just the facts, ma'am". So, first off, pursue anything that you find calming. Find some slogans to rely on, such as, "It is what it is," "Patients need patience", "I'll get through this." Find as many sources of genuine support as possible. Once you see that emotional stability may be the key to an accurate diagnosis, it may make it easier to pursue such serenity...and the coping skills you develop will also help you deal positively with any resulting diagnosis (or even the lack thereof.) Also make sure to keep a solid relationship with your primary care doctor. Carefully document any new symptoms. You can expect some health improvements once emotions are a bit stabilized, and once the dust settles, you can see how many symptoms remain. Neither you or your doctors are a failure if they have so far failed to diagnose you. I was misdiagnosed and only partially diagnosed for decades. Throughout that time, I comforted myself with the slogan, "The truth will out." I didn't care what the truth was; I knew I'd figure out how to be up to dealing with it. Focusing on "truth" puts things back on "facts" and it is facts that will enable any diagnosis, after the emotions get out of the way. You can do this. You just can't do this overnight. Plan on this being a long term process, to begin restoring your health in every way. Get support. Then get more support. Try to keep yourself and your doctors focused on the facts, and not on your reactions. I understand why you've hit the panic button! But you are going to be okay now. You are going to find some peace, and find a path forward, and it is all going to be okay. Plus in return you will be able to help others, someday.
  4. Hi Bluebell, Welcome to Sclero Forums. You mentioned that the tests showed "positive", but by that do you mean they detected the presence of the antibody, or that the antibody was detected AND was abnormally high? In other words, were those test results flagged as being abnormal? If so, please return to your doctor to get an explanation of your lab results. If it's just that the antibodies were present, but not out of range, that would mean the test results are normal. It's very common for antibodies to show up on blood tests; it is only when they are out of range that it can (sometimes) be problematical.
  5. Hi Lynnann, I'm sorry that both you and your sister have had so many health issues. The tests might help determine a cause, such as scleroderma. Plus who knows, your weight loss may also be due to something else, and it would certainly be urgent to treat, regardless of the diagnosis. Please let us know how things go.
  6. Hi Olimpia, Welcome to Sclero Forums! I'm sorry you have concerns regarding SCL-70. As it happens, about 30% of people with non Hodgkins Lymphoma show a positive ANA, but without it being due to autoimmune disease. The studies about that are over 3 years old, so we won't link to them in the forums, however, you can Google the topic. Perhaps that's it? Or perhaps not. Only your rheumatologist, preferably a scleroderma expert if you are experiencing any symptoms of it, could know for sure. Even then, the illness is diagnosed based on symptoms, not blood work, which is why symptoms rule the day.
  7. Jo, thanks for your always relevant and useful news for all of us! I found this article particularly fascinating. I probably shouldn't say this, but I often miss you; sometimes it brings me to tears and I cry. I also hate various stuff. Ugh!!! Okay, this is a poor attempt at humor on a very serious topic -- but I'm very prone to saying "ugh" and now I'm hyper-aware and will likely use it every other word. Ugh!!! Also, it's pretty hard for us not to use such words on this forum, as we're dealing with very serious issues that can evoke strong reactions. So I want to remind others that we still need to express ourselves. Plus, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was it our language habit changes causing depression, or just being one of the first clues that we are experiencing mood changes?
  8. Hi Marybeth, As it happens, it is possible to have sinus problems related to scleroderma, according to scleroderma expert Professor Chris Denton of the Royal Free Hospital. Please see How Post Nasal Drip Can Be Related to Scleroderma. That said, treatment for it would likely be the same as treatment for any regular sinus problems. Importantly, a sinus problem would *never* be considered part of the diagnostic criteria for scleroderma, so scleroderma itself is rather a moot point when dealing with your doctors. And it is far more crucial to consider all the most common causes first, lest you overlook something more easily fixable. Like, for example, Sweet's rather amazing case of a huge fungus ball! What if she had just chalked it up to "only" scleroderma and thought nothing could be done? She could've suffered the whole rest of her life -- unnecessarily. I've had lots of nose/sinus stuff that for me, is probably more related to Sjogren's than scleroderma, but scleroderma can also cause dryness, so who knows? Sinus problems also cause a feeling of pressure and that should not be confused with scleroderma skin tightening on the face. When the skin is tightening, it is felt overall, where it is occurring, and not only in the sinus area. Any listed scleroderma expert should be able to distinguish skin tightening from sinus issues. (And, it is possible to encounter both at the same time, of course. But perhaps that is less likely.) I've been affected by microstomia, which caused my mouth to become smaller. That was a painful process that involved a lot of TMJ (temporo-mandibular joint pain) and tooth loss and alignment problems. Now my mouth is child size. But the positive side effect of scleroderma affecting my face is that I still look younger than my years and I've been fortunate in that my facial involvement settled down a few years ago. I've also had plenty of sinus problems caused by normal run-of-the-mill sinus infections and allergies. Also, allergies can blossom unexpectedly! I developed an allergy to white ash trees in the springtime -- when I was over 50. And some years, I am not bothered by it at all. It is also common to develop new allergies within so many years of moving to a new place.; Hopefully it's something that can be sorted out soon, and having you feeling a bit better again! Remember, we're always here for you.
  9. Hi Cathy, First of all, we should be celebrating the good news, which is that it sounds like your doctors have already ruled out the very worst causes of chest pain, such as heart or lung troubles. So let's take a deep breath while we all rejoice over that! So now it's down to troubleshooting the lesser causes. See 19 Important Causes of Chest Pain by doctor's Opinion. Given scleroderma, some of the more likely culprits would be costochondritis, heartburn or esophageal spasms, muscle tension, or anxiety. I've had random chest pains for over 20 years. Once I had the baseline testing done that ruled out the severe and acute causes, my doctor just explained it could be this, that, or the other thing, and simply not to worry about it unless it goes on for over 5 minutes, is significantly different, or is accompanied by other symptoms. Variously, my chest pains have been due to esophageal spasms, heartburn, pneumonia, pleurisy, influenza, bronchitis, pericarditis, a mammary gland infection, Raynaud's of the nipples, muscle strain (from pushing a car), palpitations, referred pain from gallbladder, mitral valve prolapse, and costochondritis. Plus, then there are just random ones that appear out of nowhere and resolve themselves without any further ado -- and a fair number that I've personally chalked up to fibromyalgia, when they occur along with other roving aches and pains. So, one thing to keep in mind is that you might be having more than one source at the same time, which can really confuse things. Overall, I like to take comfort in whatever they've proven likely won't kill me today, which helps reduce anxiety, which can also cause or worsen chest pain. Plus, one source of chest pain does NOT mean that all chest pain is due to that particular source. There's such a fine line between reacting and over-reacting, and never is the line quite as difficult to find, as when dealing with chest pain -- it is the most common cause of all for emergency room visits. So, my thoughts are with you as you get this sorted out.
  10. Okay Cde311, we expect you to get such a handle on this that down the road, you'll be able to pitch in and help us all talk other newbies off the cliff! We all know the feeling, and we all need things explained from a variety of sources to start getting the hang of this whole scleroderma misadventure.
  11. Hi Cde311, As it happens, we always recommend that people consult their scleroderma expert regarding diet and lifestyle changes. It's not as straightforward as the internet might suggest and scleroderma can pose complications to standard health advice in many ways. The autoimmune protocol can be difficult or nigh impossible for many people to follow, even for a short time (but I've followed it briefly, here and there). It also might not be necessary or necessarily helpful; so discuss the pros and cons and any concerns with your expert. The thing is, we often try to tweak our diet, unaware that leaky gut can also be worsened by poor sleep, stress, gut bacteria, too much OR too little exercise, alcohol, drugs and even toxic relationships. Looking beyond only food to balance our entire life can also be very helpful with autoimmunity. And there's the perennial pitfall with scleroderma, in that, our immune systems are already in overdrive, and not under-drive (like AIDS). Sometimes an ill-advised health kick -- which might be very good for any healthy person -- can lead to strengthening our body's ability to attack itself. Going on a high protein diet, for example, may stress scleroderma kidneys which are already vulnerable to sudden failure. Many diet changes can worsen pre-existing problems with esophageal and bowel problems. Such as, increasing fiber can lead to potentially fatal bowel complications in someone who's g.i. motility is weakened from scleroderma. That's why knowledge is power with scleroderma and it's so great you even asked about this! Now that we have it understood that this is not a do-it-yourself job, but rather one that we research ourselves and then work with our listed scleroderma expert on, here are some additional resources for you to consider: Food Guide for Autoimmune Disease, Diet and Scleroderma, Endocannibinoid System (for CBD), and Heartburn/GERD. Cannabidiol (CBD) derivatives are emerging as a potential treatment for scleroderma (and other illnesses), with several clinical trials in progress. CBD is the part of marijuana that doesn't get you high, so "pure" CBD is legal everywhere, but there are FDA warnings about improper labeling, etc. So in areas that have legal marijuana, it's best to get medical grade CBD from a dispensary. See: CBD for Scleroderma and Warnings for CBD. The GERD link above also has ideas for naturally managing symptoms, such as how to elevate the head of the bed, which side to sleep on, etc.
  12. Hi Cde311, Welcome to Sclero Forums. Under the circumstances, it might be pretty good to talk to your doctor. It'd be reasonable to set an appointment to discuss these results and to begin rounding up a scleroderma expert. I know the first impulse most of us have is to be scared out of our wits and want to make it all go away (like with a stem cell transplant). But, trust me, very shortly you'll have a more balanced view, and realize this is far more often a chronic illness that is manageable. Joint pain and GERD are usually especially manageable and perhaps that's all you'll ever experience from illness, because there is no predictable progression for scleroderma (it can wax and wane all on it's own, even without any treatment of the underlying condition.) Also you'll find reassurance from many of us who were given a brutal and hopeless prognosis decades ago, yet we are still alive and kicking! Treatments and clinical trials are continually improving quality of life and outcomes for people with scleroderma and related illnesses. Generally speaking, stem cell transplants are reserved for those of us with very rapid onset and severe diffuse scleroderma; it's not the common or usual treatment of choice, given that it can sometimes have drastic or fatal complications with scleroderma. Fortunately, joint pain and GERD are not life-threatening and are easily managed with ordinary symptom treatment. Not having skin involvement or Raynaud's at this point is excellent and is likely a harbinger of a slow disease course or good long term outcomes. In fact, you may not even reach the clinical criteria for diagnosis yet, which often relies on the presence of symptoms such as Raynaud's, pulmonary fibrosis, or tight skin, for example. But there is an effort afoot to try to identify "early stage" scleroderma. You may fit that category but be aware that 50% of people with some symptoms of connective tissue disease and some positive blood work never go on to develop a full-blown specific disease such as scleroderma. Thus, the odds are excellent that you might be put in a "watch and wait" category for regular follow-ups. Now, that's a good thing, not being so sick as to ever acquire a diagnosis, but it's a bad thing because of the psychological limbo it can leave people in, wanting a diagnosis to verify it's real or that we're not faking it, for example. As it happens, I know people with a few symptoms and some antibody or another who've been followed for ten years before they were declared to be free of connective tissue diseases, such as lupus or scleroderma; and some who were diagnosed and then later on the diagnosis was overturned. Imagine, all that time spent convinced they might maybe were going to die soon, and then disappointing everyone by keeping on ticking and then, being healthy in the end, after all that physical and emotional ruckus! For the time being, you are alive, you are basically okay without life-threatening complications (that we know of.) But you are most understandably feeling threatened by the scleroderma monster (we all were, all of us who researched anything, at least.) That should fade within the next few weeks, as you gain insight and knowledge about the disease and the people who have it. So, enough of this. Your first obligation is to seek expert care and evaluation. Quite likely, you'll end up in the watch and wait category (merely because the vast majority of us do, often for many years before we know what end is up). It's an average of six years from onset to diagnosis for women, which is adverse by any measure, but it's also a reality that means we need to find ways of coping in the meantime. In particular, you might want to study our information on Diagnosis of Scleroderma, Endocannabinoid System and Scleroderma, also Skeletal Involvement, GERD, and, most importantly of all, listed scleroderma experts. I'm glad you found us. Things are the scariest they'll ever be right now; you should feel a lot better, or at least more comforted, soon, now that you're around people who "get it."
  13. Hi Anda, Welcome to Sclero Forums. I'm sorry that your mom has Overlap and that she has new symptoms. Please keep in mind that I'm not a doctor and verify everything I say with a reliable medical source. As you may know, scleroderma can affect any part of the body, including the intestines, and slow motility is a very common result of that. She'd be wise to consult a listed scleroderma expert, if possible. Also, motility issues are sometimes caused by medication side effects (pain killers being a very common culprit). See Bowel Dysfunction in Systemic Sclerosis. Some of us have been able to switch to medical-source CBD for pain relief, thus avoiding side effects like low motility. CBD is the non-psychoactive part of marijuana (meaning, it doesn't get you high). See Endocannibinoid System and Scleroderma. Also note the FDA warning, which is why a legitimate medical source for CBD is crucial. Due to special circumstances, I have to have a colonoscopy every year. So I'm well aware that they are unpleasant and even risky. If by any chance your mother is over age 70, it's likely that the risks may outweigh any potential benefits. See Do You Really Need That Colonoscopy? by AARP. Be sure that she doesn't make any major diet (or other) changes without sound medical advice from a scleroderma expert. With scleroderma, for example, it can be dangerous (as in deadly) to add a lot of fiber, and some people find it necessary to go on a low fiber diet, or what is called a Low Motility Diet, which should be designed by a nutritionist. It isn't a do-it-yourself job to undertake such a diet, so don't try to force any diet changes on her but rather encourage and enable the consultations it may require. Her necrosis might be a complication of steroid treatment. Steroids can pose special problems for scleroderma patients, but sometimes there's not many viable treatment options. However, it's always good to be aware of the issue and to see if alternatives are available. See Steroid Warnings for Scleroderma. Overall, your mother may be encountering a common complication of scleroderma, or side effect of medication which is just less tolerable along with scleroderma, and it may be beneficial to weigh risk and benefits of the procedure with her scleroderma expert, in case a more conservative approach can be tried first (which will depend on many factors.)
  14. Hi Tamster, Welcome to Sclero Forums. It sounds like you have a pretty good handle on things already. My tip would be to try to learn how to enjoy and not stress over the medical tests, because they will become your new normal. The vast majority of tests you have taken will turn out with normal results, or they will pick up stray things that eventually turn out to be nothing. The wait between having the tests and getting the results can be excessive and thus nerve-wracking. Your first round of tests is likely to turn out basically fine. At this very early stage, they just need to establish your baseline, of how your hearts, lungs, kidneys and g.i. tract are functioning right now so that any changes can be detected early. They are not expecting to find any major problems for years down the road (even if that). Most of us waste too much emotional energy on the initial doctor appointments, perhaps from trying to prepare ourselves emotionally in case anything bad does turn up. Eventually I got the hang of not troubling trouble until trouble troubles me -- but I didn't learn that as quickly or easily as I would've wished, and if I had it to do over again, I'd have focused more on finding ways to relax and add joy to my life during that stage. Attempt to learn about the issues, stay organized, try to stay chill, try not to get too worked up about things because like as not, this is a very long term condition to deal with, and stress only makes everything worse. And, stay plugged in to Sclero Forums, as we are all here for you!
  15. Hi Cmfc, Welcome to Sclero Forums. Please keep in mind that I'm not a doctor and have no medical training at all, and that I'm also going into detail for others who may stumble upon this thread with similar issues. Perhaps I should explain that, to the best of my understanding, the shortness of breath that goes along with things like pulmonary fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension typically onset very slowly and so gradually that it is sometimes even hard to recognize. With both, the most common exacerbation would be with exertion; and usually it's just the usual/normal/expected onset of the typical shortness of breath that any healthy person would get with too much exertion -- but it onsets earlier than before, without de-conditioning being the root cause. Whereas, shortness of breath occurring at rest, but not with exertion, would likely have a different cause. You may have residual congestion from your cold, the onset of flu or pneumonia, or good ol' fashioned anxiety over the very stressful worry about illness and diagnosis. It's entirely normal to be hyper-vigilant, upset and depressed for a few weeks following any major life change (such as this). Seeking information and support, like you are doing, typically gets us back to our usual level of sanity within a few weeks. But probably the majority of us (even me) sought out private counseling and/or medication to learn how to best cope with such drastic changes, and get our equilibrium back. Whenever something drastic happens, it's good to set an internal timer if we feel our reaction is going downhill. Usual symptoms would be not sleeping well, feeling exhausted, emotional quivering, feeling cranky or irritable, being tearful, turning to alcohol or drugs for comfort, feeling sorry for ourselves, and eating too little or too much. Or, just having one dominating thought that is difficult or nigh impossible to turn off. It's okay to allow ourselves some space to adjust on our own, let's say, up to two weeks. If we're not seeing significant improvement by then, it's wise to seek extra help and support to avoid developing a chronic mental health condition (such as major depression or chronic anxiety.) Since you're at the two week mark, and you're noticing something (either physical or mental or even both together), then it may be a good idea to see your primary care doctor. It's almost weird to *not* have an emotional reaction to such sudden and scary prospects as a potential chronic illness, so don't waste a minute feeling bad about it. I view times of big change, like this, as prime opportunities to improve my ability to cope with stress, since the usual happy daily life doesn't require much effort from us to maintain our stability. Plus, who knows -- you might have an additional reason (cold, flu, pneumonia) for your shortness of breath, and it could even be several items together (congestion from the cold, stress of the diagnosis stuff, and very early stages of fibrosis). But any way you mark it, this would not at all be *only* the onset of, say, pulmonary fibrosis, and in that regard, you would be in no immediate danger at all. I've had some lung fibrosis for over 20 years now; it was beyond the inflammation stage when it was caught, so I didn't even need treatment for it. And I had chronic shortness of breath on pretty minimal exertion since then, which could have been even just simple de-conditioning, but it turned out to be due to dermatomyositis (a very rare autoimmune disease that weakens muscles) -- and it suddenly resolved upon successful treatment for the myositis. Scleroderma is a chronic illness, sometimes with acute exacerbations, and the reason it's chronic is because it typically simply fails to kill us right away. It's more normal to live with the illness for years and decades -- rather than days or weeks, which is how many of us imagine our prognosis to be, in the beginning.
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