For Laurie McIntyre, it all started with some heart palpitations.
The North Tonawanda resident had suffered from fibromyalgia, an auto-immune disease that can cause pain and many other medical symptoms.
“Anytime something is going on with me, I just blame it on the fibromyalgia,” McIntyre said. “But I just had this feeling in my chest where every time I was breathing deeply, it hurt. I knew something was different.”
She landed in the hospital for about four days and eventually developed an itchy rash on her legs.
After lots of blood work and visits with a new doctor, the problem was finally revealed. McIntyre was diagnosed with scleroderma approximately three months ago.
“I was like, ‘Sclera-what?’ “ McIntyre recalled of that first doctor’s visit when she was diagnosed.
She knew nothing of the disease — also an auto-immune disorder — and even though she’s still in the early stages of determining the best course of treatment, she knew she had to seize the opportunity to help educate others this June, Scleroderma Awareness Month, by sharing her story.
Scleroderma — which literally translates to “hard skin” — is a chronic, often progressive, autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks its own body, according to the Scleroderma Foundation website. The disorder can cause a thickening and tightening of the skin, in addition to serious damage to internal organs like the lungs, heart, kidneys, esophagus and gastrointestinal tract.
As the disease progresses, it can scar organs, leading to organ failure and death.
McIntyre said she’s still in the early stages of the disease right now and doesn’t have many visible, outward signs of its progression.
“As far as my skin goes, I’ve had tightening of my skin on my legs and I use a real good lotion and that’s OK,” she said. “I have a patch on my chin that’s real dry.”