Sunday 2 December 2018

My Scleroderma and Chemotherapy Experience. Nicola Whitehill. Scleroderma, Raynaud's, Autoimmune Rare Disease.

My Scleroderma and Chemotherapy Experience. Nicola Whitehill.
Scleroderma, Raynaud's, Autoimmune Rare Disease.

#SclerodermaFreeWorld   #RaynaudsFreeWorld  

At the start of December, I will be celebrating my 20th year since first dragging my tin man body, to the Scleroderma Unit at The Royal Free Hospital in London, UK.  

Sept 2017

The previous year, at the time of my initial diagnosis in September 1997, I was told that I had a 15month prognosis, due to the aggressive attack, which the diffuse form of the disease, was having on my body.  


I was also told that there was no cure, with treatments targeting symptom suppression in a ‘hope for the best’ kind of way. The treatments used being steroids, chemotherapy and immunosuppressants.

During the year following having first heard those life changing words ‘You have scleroderma’, I took all of the standard treatments used, in an attempt to suppress the disease activity.

These medications included Hydroxychloroquin, Tacrolimus, Cyclosporin, Methotrexate, Prednisolone, Omeprazole, ALL pain killers, Amitryptiline, Gabapentin, and Co-proxamol still remains my painkiller of choice. 

By December 1998, I was in a very bad way. My body was stiff, weak, in constant excruciating pain, and my skin was extremely tight. 

I was then started on a new medication regime which included 3 iv Cyclophosphamide infusions, along with mycophenolate mofetil (MMF) tablets. 

Thankfully, my name was removed from the Stem Cell transplant waiting list. 
A daily dose of 2g MMF for 5 years stabalised my symptoms. This was stopped in March 2004, upon my achieving my personal career goal of being a practising barrister. 

I am now 14 years chemotherapy / immunosuppressant free. I take Bosentan for my Raynaud’s and control my GI symptoms with a strict Diet.  

My body is still very weak from the effects of the chemotherapy. I am super mindful that I have a weakened immune system in the process of repair. I avoid being in large crowds to try and not get sneezed or coughed on. 

Any small bug or virus could knock me out for months. I already feel as though I have continual flu due to my scleroderma lethargy!

Thankfully, I no longer have the continual nausea which accompanied my chemotherapy experience, however, my GI symptoms are a continual daily demand. 

My muscles are still very weak, feeling as though I have sprinted around the world and constant exhaustion upon the most basic of tasks eg. having a bath. 

My hair is slowly becoming thicker, but still comes out en masse, and more silver coloured hairs!

In November 2016, I was delighted to hear Prof Chris Denton advise me that my skin is cured from scleroderma. 

I am eternally grateful to Prof Chris Denton and the NHS for keeping me alive.     

As well as my other dream team members.  


Dr Howell, Raynaud's world trailblazer
Dr Sykes, Consultant Rheumatologist, Southport hospital 

My 'tin man' body, along with chronic fatigue and mobility challenges, remain constant sources of frustration, making a full time job, with managing my symptoms. 

This year in particular, has been quite challenging for me with my scleroderma 'added extra' complications such as skin cancer, dental issues, calcinosis and index finger ulcer.   

I know that I am a ‘lucky’ scleroderma patient. 

Lucky, in that, I have minimal internal organ damage. Lucky, in that, I continue to survive. 

Albeit, my full time job is looking after, and respecting my symptoms. 


During the course of my global patient profiles campaign for Scleroderma Awareness Month 2017 and 2018, every patient detailed how Raynaud’s and digital ulcers were a continual problem to them. INDEX     

Other unmet clinical needs, which patients have in common include: 

I am honored to be a patient research ambassador with the National Institute for Health Research. video.   

Medical Research provides immense hope for #SclerodermaFreeWorld. 

For optimum patient care, 3 hallmarks preside:

supported by a medicaldream team’ 
(expert specialist as the clinical lead).


In the meantime, I continue to remind myself that 'My Job Today is to Simply Get Better', with hope, and my canine diva dream team, as my constant companions.  

October was Raynaud's Awareness Month and my 50 shades of blue 'party trick', time of year.  

Recently, I was appointed a Patient Public Voice on the NHS England CRG for Specialised Dermatology

I am delighted about this role, and I very much hope to be a valued voice.  

This is in addition to my NHS England CRG Specialised Rheumatology role, and my roles with the European Medicines Agency.   
Twitter, Instagram, YouTube: @SclerodermaRF  @RaynaudsRf  
#SclerodermaFreeWorld           #RaynaudsFreeWorld  

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. Thank You. 
November 2018.  



Living the dream, scleroderma style.  

An edited version of this article was published here, in my Column with Scleroderma News. November 2018.  


Scleroderma Family Day 2020

25th Anniversary Meeting

The Atrium, Royal Free Hospital, London, NW3 2QG

Chair: Professor Chris Denton


09.30 – 10.00           Registration and Coffee

10.00 – 10.20           Welcome                                                   Dame Carol Black
                                                                Prof Chris Denton & David Abraham

10.20 – 10.40           What is a Biopsy?                                    Dr Kristina Clark

10.40 – 11.05           Dental aspects of Scleroderma            Prof Stephen Porter

11.05 – 11.25           Gastrointestinal problems –                       Dr Fiza Ahmed
shedding new light on old problems 

11.25 – 11.50           Pulmonary hypertension and the heart Dr Gerry Coghlan

11.50 – 12.15           Scleroderma cohort studies –                  Dr Francesco 
                                 ‘Learning from our patients’                     del Galdo

12.15 – 14.15           LUNCH BREAK – see below  

14.15 – 14.45           25 years of progress –                          Prof Chris Denton
from ‘black box’ to ‘positive trials’

14.45 – 15.15           International speaker –                            Dr Madelon Vonk
                                 Scleroderma Management in Netherlands

15.30                        Raffle

Lunchtime Discussions Groups / Demonstrations include:

Clinical Trials                                                                  Rachel Ochiel and team
National Institute of Health Research                            Christine Menzies
Drug Information / monitoring                                        Pharmacy
Massage                                                                         Keith Hunt MBE
Pulmonary Hypertension Education / nursing            Sally Reddecliffe/Adele Dawson
Rheumatology Laboratory                                          Research Laboratory Staff
Scleroderma Education / Nursing                          Louise Parker/ Joseph Cainap
Thermography                                                                Dr Kevin Howell
SRUK                                                                             Ollie Scott
Sjogren’s syndrome                                                       British Sjogren’s Society 

To Read My Articles:  

Gift in My Will, Click here 

Planning for the Future, Click here  


Rare Disease Day:   

Rare Disease Day 2020:  


Listen to my interview with John Smeeton, (Silver Fox), from the Royal Free Radio, here  


Raise awareness and donate to medical research, order your #SclerodermaFreeWorld #RaynaudsFreeWorld tshirt  here   

Rare Disease Day 2020: NIHR 'Research gives hope to Rare Disease patients', Click here  


Rare Disease Day 2019: Leaving a Legacy Gift, Click here       

Rare Disease Day 2019: 11am 97.4RockFM headlines, NO CURE, Click here  

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

2017 Rare Disease Day Medical Research  

2016 Rare Disease Day Patient Voice   

2016 Rare Disease UK Parliamentary Reception       


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.

To read about medical research at the scleroderma unit, Click here   

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 overall. 


To read my articles:  

Celebrating 20 years of being a patient at the Scleroderma Unit, Click here

2019 New Challenges, Click here
NIHR Video: 'My Experience of Clinical Trials', Click here 

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

The Importance of Medical Research and Awareness to the Scleroderma, Raynaud's, Autoimmune Rare Disease patient, Click here  

2018 Scleroderma Awareness Raising and Medical Research, 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- How to Diagnose, Click here        

'All you need to know', 2016 Awareness Video, Click here    

Global Patient Profiles 2018 Video, Click here    

Unmet Medical Needs, Click here     

Calcinosis Video, Click here    

The scleroderma tooth fairy, Click here     

Skin Cancer and scleroderma, Click here   


Sept 2017

Prof Chris Denton and I, Sept 2017

June 2019

This year, 2020, I am celebrating 22 years of being a patient at the Scleroderma Unit, The Royal Free Hospital - a world leading expert specialist, research centre.  

Read more, here.    

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. Along with the Raynaud's world trail blazer, Dr Kevin Howell.  

I am truly humbled and inspired by their work ethic and commitment to their patients.  

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 original diagnosing doctor, that I was looking at a 15month prognosis. 


Chat Magazine May 2019

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. Read more, here     


World Scleroderma Day 2018, Click here  

World Scleroderma Day 2017, 29th June, Click here    

World Scleroderma Day 2016, 29th June. Origins of the date, Click here   

World Scleroderma Day 2015, 29th June.  

James Carver, myself, Prof Chris Denton
I had the pleasure of being a presenter and part of the European co-hort who gave a presentation at the European Parliament, Brussels, in honour of World Scleroderma Day 2015.  

I am immensely grateful to James Carver, former MEP, for organizing this event in memory of his late wife Carmen, who sadly passed from Scleroderma.  

To view the presentation, Click here 


Raynaud's, Click here  
To view the UK treatment guidelines for Raynaud’s Phenomenon, Click here   

To view the EULAR treatment guidelines, Click here    
To view Thermograph Video, Click here    

To view Thermograph image, Click here    

My Raynaud’s reality, Click here     

The global Raynaud's trailblazer - Dr Howell and I, Sept 2017

To view Nailfold Capillaroscopy equipment (used to identify possible blood vessel damage), Click here   

Invisible Disability Awareness Video, Click here

To read My ‘Invisible Disability’ experience, Click here   

50 Shades of Blue, Click here


For latest updates follow / subscribe:  



Twitter, Instagram, Blogger, YouTube, Facebook Page:

#SclerodermaFreeWorld           #RaynaudsFreeWorld    #Research  

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: Feb 2020.   

My Scleroderma and Chemotherapy Experience. Nicola Whitehill.
Scleroderma, Raynaud's, Autoimmune Rare Disease.

#SclerodermaFreeWorld #RaynaudsFreeWorld

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