Jan 3, 2022
I am Michelle Richard. I have been living with scleroderma for the past 21 years.
In the beginning, my symptoms were pretty generic; fatigue, joint pain, and my blood work kept coming back normal. My family doctor suggested that I continue to monitor my symptoms and return if any new symptoms arose. I probably monitored symptoms for a year, trying to figure out what was happening with my body. In April 2000 I started to exhibit swelling in my lower legs and hands and was experiencing shortness of breath. I was sent back to rheumatology and was immediately diagnosed with scleroderma. During the first weekend of May, the disease progressed quickly; I had trouble breathing, ended up having a cardiac tamponade procedure and was diagnosed with interstitial lung disease. After a couple of days in the cardiac ICU, I went into kidney failure. At this point my scleroderma was life-threatening. After a month on dialysis, I began to slowly recover. After 10 months I came off of dialysis and began to regain some quality of life. Since my diagnosis, twenty-one years ago, I have been diagnosed with AFib.
Once I started to regain some control over my life I decided I wanted to connect with and find a way to help others living with scleroderma. I found that opportunity through the Arthritis Society of NS. Through them, I met with others living with scleroderma and eventually a small group formed Scleroderma Nova Scotia. In 2020 this organization officially changed its name to Scleroderma Atlantic with a mandate to support those living with scleroderma in the four Atlantic provinces, through education, patient support, advocacy and research.
Through my involvement with Scleroderma Atlantic, I have met other amazing volunteers wanting to make a difference in the quality of life of those living with scleroderma. I have made life-long friends. Unfortunately, I have also lost many friends to this horrible disease.
I will continue to volunteer with Scleroderma Atlantic and meet many more people within Atlantic Canada living with scleroderma. I want others to know they are not alone.”