My name is Darlene, and in February of 1999, I fell while taking my four children skating. I thought that I might have fractured my right leg because I could not walk on it for a long time. I went to my primary care physician and she sent me for x-rays but noticed that my hands were really swollen and she requested some blood tests to be done. A few days later she called and told me that my x-rays were fine and that I had a disease called scleroderma. I had never heard of this before and she was a little vague about the disease.
The first thing she said to me after she told me I had scleroderma, was do not go on the Internet. Well, the first thing I did was go to Web MD to see what this thing was. The more I read, the more I cried. My husband was convinced that I was going to die. The most difficult part of learning about this was trying to tell my mother. After being diagnosed for certain by my rheumatologist I had to ask my older sister to explain to mom because I was so upset I could not talk for two days.
My doctor sent me to see a rheumatologist, who over a one year period of time sent me to a GI specialist and a pulmonologist. The GI specialist explained to me that sometimes people with scleroderma can get throat cancer and suggested that I have an upper GI performed. I was so relieved to find out that the only thing they found were a few polyps. The pulmonologist sent me to have a pulmonary function test and found that I did have some lung involvement. He then sent me have a exercise echocardiogram. After he received the results he told me that I have a mild case of pulmonary hypertension and wrote me a prescription to become involved in a monitored exercise program. After being in the exercise program for eight weeks my exercise echocardiogram improved.
Every month I have to give blood (which is usually painful because my veins are so small) to make sure that the medications that I am taking do not interfere with my kidneys. Over time and because of my CREST, Sjögren's, rheumatoid arthritis, pulmonary hypertension, skin tightening, acid reflux, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, swollen ankles and knees, soreness all over my body, I am currently taking 15 pills a day to cope with all my symptoms.
Some days I sit and cry and become very depressed but I joined a support group in the New Jersey area, and their support has helped me cope with scleroderma. The people in the support group are extremely helpful to me, but I am not always able to go because of baby-sitting problems. I think I have one of the most supportive husbands in the world and I do not think I would be sane without him. My siblings have also been very supportive and they call and check up on me often.
Now that I have read a lot of literature and I have become more knowledgeable about scleroderma, I feel I can cope with it better. I have learned to focus my energy in a positive manner. I have my hobbies and my children. Some days are more difficult than others but I go to the scleroderma message board and read the encouraging messages and they help. I am just grateful for another day.
New email address needed 08-01-06 SLE
Old Email Prefix: JoDar89
Story submitted 5-1-02
Story posted 5-5-02
New email posted 8-13-03
Story Artist: Shelley Ensz
Acid Reflux (Heartburn)
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