Sunday, 16 April 2017

The Raynaud's Scleroderma, Autoimmune Rare Disease, Olympian - Nicola Whitehill

 The Scleroderma Olympian - Nicola Whitehill
Raynaud's Scleroderma, Autoimmune Rare Disease 

Summer 2016 saw the Olympic games held in Rio de Janeiro with 206 nations participating. I have often likened my diffuse scleroderma experience / existence to being similar to that of an Olympian athlete, but without the athleticism and without any competition with anyone else. 

The ‘gold medal’ being to feel better, stop the progression of disease within my body, and return my body to wellbeing. I am more than aware that the medical outlook and the textbooks give my ‘gold medal’ vision a rather different outlook.

However, given that my diagnosing Doctor gave me a 15month prognosis back in 1997, I am independent to the ‘expected’ medical outlook of what symptoms my body should now be displaying due to the time duration, and remind myself that I am not my body, or a text book definition. Read more here 

I have written about the importance of an early diagnosis, here

The comparing of my scleroderma experience to an Olympian lies in the forward planning and preparation required to complete the most basic and simple of tasks, which are my sporting events. 

Along with a winner’s attitude where I want to feel good, and one day, be able to say ‘I used to have scleroderma’.

My main current scleroderma health challenges, now, relate to my: 

musculoskeletal  'tin man' symptoms,  


I have managed to control my skin involvement to a tolerable manageable level by daily bathing in liquid paraffin, followed by moisturising with a thick emollient. 

I am delighted that my skin has reversed back to normal skin by 95%. I can stretch out my arms without any tightening to my chest. 

At the height of my disease activity, this was impossible for me to do and was excrutiatingly painful. 

In 1999, I had a most unpleasant experience at a friend’s wedding reception when dancing in a circle whereby everyone was linking arms, and my tight skin made me unable to take part.

Tri-colour change in my fingers during a Raynaud's episode - VERY PAINFUL, PREVENTION as there is no cure

Now, my daily routine is dedicated to addressing my symptoms to make my day as easy as possible. My mermaid bathing routine not only helps my skin, but also, my swollen joints and circulation. 

Due to me having little success with the medications used to treat Raynaud’s, I am always mindful to prevent a Raynaud’s attack in the first place. 

For me, this is helped by a warm bath within an hour upon waking, otherwise it is likely that getting undressed to get into the bath will prompt a Raynaud’s attack. 

Getting into the bath also brings along challenges to a tin man body, requiring caution and alteration in style. Sadly, my days of being similar to Daisy Duke getting in and out of her car in the TV program The Dukes of Hazard, are a distant memory.

Whilst in the bath I will drink my squeezed lemon and water which activates my gastro-intestinal system. I have detailed my daily smoothie and juice ingredients, here

Although my skin has reversed almost to healthy skin, it can sometimes itch and is very sensitive. This makes for wearing tight clothes a ‘no go’, as well as, I can only wear certain materials next to my skin. 

I am no longer able to wear jeans as the denim is too harsh- even my soft Armani jeans, which have remained in the bottom of my wardrobe for too long…. 
I am not able to wear tights, leggings or the like. Track suit / sweat pants are more comfortable, as well as my pyjamas, which has to be my preferred choice of clothing. 

I discussed more about the absconsion of my inner Bond Girl in my article 'The Magic of Summer'.

The actual reality of getting dressed is no longer the simple task which it used to be. 

Buttons and zippers can bring along levels of frustration way disproportionate to their actual size. 

I now remove this anger / patience trigger by buying and wearing clothes which are easy to put on and wear, with my fashionista pride pushed to the wayside.

All in all, the entire routine for me (my body), to be ready to be able to leave my front door with all controllable symptoms at a tolerable level, takes me 3 hours upon waking. 

I have tried to hone a quicker routine but my body dictates the pace, and usually feels as though it has been covered in barbed wire and dipped in concrete.   

Living with scleroderma has made me have to be mindful of managing my time. Medical appointments take priority in my diary, with me needing ‘rest’ days before and afterwards. 

The ‘rest’ days must be interpreted as that- ‘rest days’ and not ‘being lazy days’, as ‘rest days’ are extremely important for the body to recover. 

To read my article on 'Mobility', Click here 

I have had to very much become independent of the good opinion of others when it comes to ‘rest days’ and ‘not getting dressed days.’ 

Especially whereby an observing person may think that they are trying to be helpful with their comments of ‘you have to push yourself’, when in actual fact, they have not got a clue and are in no place to be offering such judgements, since they are not living with my diagnosis. 

Sadly, I have experienced this from fellow patients also. This is an important reminder that there are no two scleroderma patients who present with the exact same set of symptoms.

So, although there were no sporting events in the Olympics which this scleroderma Raynaud’s patient could actually take part, not even in the paralegal events, I was fixated to my TV screen for the duration of the games.

The dedication and commitment to make an Olympic athlete are most definitely the golden hallmarks of the long term scleroderma survivor. 

Along with attitude, which is everything, so pick a good one. I want to feel good.

The pinnacle day of the scleroderma patient’s year is most definitely 29th June World Scleroderma Day. Read more, here

An edited version of this article was published here, in my Column with Scleroderma News. 
August 2016.  

To read my articles: 

Rare Disease Day 2018, Research - Taking Part in Clinical Trials, Click here   

March Autoimmune Disease Awareness Month 2018, Click here   

Global patient video, Click here   

Becoming a Patient Research Ambassador for the NIHR, Click here  

If we only had more RESEARCH investment for Scleroderma, Raynaud's, Autoimmune Rare Disease, Click here   

Scleroderma Awareness Month 2017 Patient Profiles Campaign, Click here     
Scleroderma Awareness Month 2017 Patient Profiles Campaign Patient Index, Click here        
The Pandora’s Box of the rare autoimmune disease Scleroderma, Raynaud's and Cancer, Click here

Key Event Dates 2018, Click here     

Importance of an early diagnosis, Click here     

Taking Part in Clinical Research Trials, Click here    

The Importance of a Multi Disciplinary Medical ‘Dream Team’, Click here 

Expert Specialist Centres, Click here      

My Skin is Cured from Scleroderma, Click here      

UK Guidelines for Managing and Treating Scleroderma, Click here      

Fatigue, Click here      

Mobility, Click here    

Diet and nutrition, Click here     

Raynaud's, Click here    

World Scleroderma Day 29th June 2016, Click here

World Scleroderma Day 29th June 2017, Click here   

Why Global Collaboration is important to the Rare Disease Patient, Click here      

The theme to this years Rare Disease Day is Research

Rare Disease Day 2018 – Research, Taking Part in Clinical Trials. Scleroderma, Raynaud's, Autoimmune Rare Disease, Click here     

2016 Rare Disease Day Patient Voice
2016 Rare Disease UK Parliamentary Reception   

2017 Rare Disease Day Flashback  

Rare Disease Day is a fantastic opportunity for the entire rare disease community to shine a spotlight on their reality, combining as one unified voice. Where, at least one commonality presides –  
Medical Research provides the brightest light
for the illumination of the rare disease patients’ plight. 

I highlighted other areas of medical research interest within Week 3 of my Patient Profiles Campaign for Scleroderma Awareness Month 2017. 


Although rare disease patients are few in number, eg. 2.5 million scleroderma patients worldwide, (the World Scleroderma Foundation), the commonalities and golden hallmark for each rare disease patient are the same: 

Early Diagnosis
Expert Specialist Centres
Access to Innovative Medicines

Where MEDICAL RESEARCH investment is VITAL.

Research is the key. Abstracts from 2016 World Congress, Click here

Scleroderma Awareness Month Campaign 2016, Click here


View video, here   

Preamble - here

The Family Day at the Scleroderma Unit, The Royal Free Hospital is taking place on the 19th May 2018. Browse the program, here

This year, I am celebrating 20 years of being a patient at this world leading expert specialist research centre. 

Sept 2017

I am eternally grateful to the global scleroderma trail blazers Dame Prof Black and Prof Chris Denton, whose commitment and dedication to unlocking the scleroderma enigma, is nothing other than, superhuman.
I am truly humbled and inspired by their work ethic. I am wholly appreciative for Prof Denton’s continued medical expertise and support, especially during my barrister qualifying years, 1997 - 2004. 

1st March 2004, I qualified as a self employed practising barrister. Further to having been told in 1997, by my diagnosing doctor, that I was looking at a 15month prognosis. 

I very much hope to utilise my professional skills and qualifications along with my patient experience, to help achieve the #SclerodermaFreeWorld dream, hoping to improve understanding and best practice, in the meantime.
For latest updates follow: 

Facebook Page:

Twitter: @SclerodermaRF  @RaynaudsRf  

#SclerodermaFreeWorld           #RaynaudsFreeWorld
#ADAM #Scleroderma

Living the dream, scleroderma style.  

Please DONATE to help fund medical research at The Scleroderma Unit,The Royal Free Hospital, London.  

100% of your monies will be used for medical research purposes only. No wages or admin costs. Thank You.


Last Update: April 2018


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