Monday, 12 June 2017

Nicola Whitehill, UK, June Scleroderma Awareness Month 2017, Raynaud's, Rare Disease Patient Profiles DAY 12

Nicola Whitehill, UK 

June Scleroderma Awareness Month 2017 Patient Profiles DAY 12  

Nicola Whitehill, UK
TODAY is my birthday!! 

Wehoo... I have made it to 44! 

At 24 years of age, I was told that I had scleroderma and I was looking at a 15 month prognosis.....

Name:           Nicola Whitehill 

Location:       Southport, UK   

Diagnosis:     Diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis, Raynaud’s   

Year of diagnosis:    1997

Age at diagnosis:     24   

Where / who diagnosed you?

September 1997 - Consultant Rheumatologist, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham.  

December 1998 – Dame Prof Carol Black, Scleroderma Unit, The Royal Free Hospital, London.

What were your presenting symptoms?  

Tight skin on my arms, legs, hands.

Swollen puffy fingers with no strength to undo jam jar or bottles.

Difficulty in swallowing and opening mouth.

Overall fatigue and feeling ‘out of sorts’.

How long did it take for you to be diagnosed after first symptoms?   

I had an initial blood test with my GP which came back negative for arthritis, which surprised me at the time, as my symptoms were similar to arthritis.   

A second more specific blood test revealed the presence of RNA polymerase III.  

I was then referred to the Consultant. This process probably took 6 weeks.   

Read more about my initial diagnosis here   

Current reality  

Living the dream scleroderma style!    


I am now 13 years chemo – immunosuppressant free, with my only medication being bosentan 125 mg twice a day, which has made a remarkable improvement on my digital ulcers.    

I was delighted to be told last year, by my hero, Prof Chris Denton, that my skin is now cured from scleroderma. Read more here    

I have annual monitoring tests for my heart and lungs. Read more here    

It is a full time job managing my symptoms, read more here    

My Raynaud’s sensitivity keeps me under house arrest all year round in an attempt to minimise the attacks. Read more here   

Gloves and Uggs all year round

I feel lucky that my level of disease is ‘stable’, even though, I am living with the damage which the disease, at its most aggressive, caused.    

Please describe your current symptom involvement and management, including any treatments taking and taken:  

Raynaud’s / digital ulcers. Bosentan 125mg bd.  

GERD. Specialised diet and omeprazole in emergencies.  

Musculoskeletal pain. Time manage, co-proxamol in emergencies.  

Fatigue. Time manage, rest when have to.   

Calcinosis. Minocycline had little effect.   

Mobility. Time manage, and be realistic.   

Dry mouth. Drink lots of water.   

I have written about  

Fatigue here     

Mobility here    

‘Living the dream as the real life tin man’,  here   

‘My job today is to simply get better’, here

‘Ah, great another day to spend in bed, said no Raynaud’s scleroderma patient, ever’, here

Diet, here     

What are your 3 biggest current challenges due to your diagnosis?    

Unpredictability of the flare up of symptoms.  

Calcinosis, Raynaud’s, MSK pain, GERD.

Tin man body.   

What are your 3 top tips for living with your diagnosis?   

Make sure that you have the best medical team around you.   

I wrote about the importance of expert specialist centres  here  

The importance of an early diagnosis here    

Taking part in clinical trials here 

Focus on the things which you can do, and which make you feel good. Scleroderma loves stress, so eliminate stressful toxic situations and people from your life.  

Be independent of the good opinion of others. This is your body and you know what is best for you. If you need to rest, do. You are not being lazy, your body needs to heal. 

Be gentle with yourself and if you are having a worse day than ‘normal’, respect your symptoms, in the hope that tomorrow, you may feel better.   

I set up my cosmicfairy444 blog to share some of my coping strategies, click here   

What are your 3 wishes for the future?     


Cause and cure to be discovered in my lifetime. 

I focussed on some of the current clinical unmet needs in my article for Rare Disease Day 2017, where the theme was ‘Research where possibilities are limitless’, read more here    

My body to return to 100% wellbeing.    

Prof Chris Denton does not retire !!    

I have been truly blessed with how my 20 year scleroderma experience has turned out compared with how it was supposed to turn out, as by my diagnosing doctor. 

I am eternally grateful to the superhuman beings Prof Chris Denton and Dame Prof Black, whose medical expertise allowed me to realise my childhood dream of qualifying as a barrister, and although I am not in full time practise, I am able to transfer my skills to the #SclerodermaFreeWorld plight.  

This ‘coming out of the scleroderma closet’ only happened in October 2012, when I was invited to be part of a panel of patients to present to the global GSK workforce, at the UK headquarters.  

Sadly, one of my fellow patients, Penny Paterson is no longer with us. I am honoured to have met with her, and laughed with her on that day, as to our daily realities. Scleroderma makes you have to tweak your sense of humour!  

The other patient on the stage was Kim Fligelstone, who I would like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to, for all the tireless effort which Kim puts into helping fellow patients. As well as, for being a UK voice on the global scleroderma stage, at FESCA, EULAR, WSF meetings and the like.   

I was delighted to have been used as a pin up girl at the GSK UK hq, some months later, following the presentation.     

May 2015 GSK UK hq
The following summer, the Daily Mail printed my story, here and my public global awareness persona began.   

In 2015 I was delighted to have been part of the European cohort who presented at the European Parliament on World Scleroderma Day. 

Huge thanks to Jimmy Carver for making this event possible, in memory of his late wife, Carmen, who sadly, passed from scleroderma, following a very brave battle.       

To view the presentation click here       

To read more about Living the dream being your own Raynaud’s Scleroderma rare disease patient advocate, click here    

RIP Anne  31.5.42 - 2.10.14

I am eternally grateful to the Raynaud’s and scleroderma trailblazer Anne Mawdsley, who is sadly no longer with us.   

Anne lived with the diagnosis for over 30 years and was a living example to us all, as to how she managed her symptoms.   

In Anne’s memory I set up the Raynauds Scleroderma Awareness global patients social media platforms. Read more about Anne here

I chose the theme of patient profiles and research for this years Scleroderma Awareness Month campaign, as I truly believe that my personal experience was made possible, for me to still be here to be the scleroderma parrot which I have become, further to me gaining an early-ish diagnosis and attending an expert specialist centre by way of the Scleroderma Unit, The Royal Free Hospital.  

I therefore feel passionate that every patient presenting with scleroderma symptoms is diagnosed early enough, whereby life threatening damage is minimised. As well as, it should not be a postcode / ZIP code / Country lottery as to the best management and treatment of scleroderma.  

I am a patient voice on the NHS England CRG for Specialised Rheumatology and expert adviser to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).    

I have written articles for RareDisease UK and the European Rare Diseases Organisation (EurorDis), as well as my blogs here, and my column with Scleroderma News.   

Rare Disease UK Parliamentary Reception, Rare Disease Day 2016

I am a member of the World Scleroderma Foundation.   

I am also a member of the Pro-Vide Law team, here   

I would like to thank all of the global scleroderma community for their support with this campaign – sharing the same vision: 

A SclerodermaFreeWorld.    

To read more about why I chose ‘Patient Profiling and Research’ as the focus of my 2017 campaign, Click here       

Why Research and Patient Profiles? Scleroderma Awareness Month 2017, Raynaud's, Rare Autoimmune Disease, Click here       

2017 INDEX Scleroderma Awareness Campaign Patient Profiles Click here    

2017 Week 1 Synopsis, Click here   

INDEX to Scleroderma Awareness 2016 Campaign, Click here    

UK Guidelines for Managing and Treating Scleroderma, Click here

World Scleroderma Day 29th June Click here  

Please donate to help fund medical research at The Scleroderma Unit where 100% of all of your monies will be used for medical research purposes only. Thank You.


June 2017 Total

Living the dream, hoping for a cure

#SclerodermaFreeWorld #RaynaudsFreeWorld
#RareDisease #Hope #Belief 

Follow Raynauds Scleroderma Awareness Global Patients Facebook Page for latest updates  

Thanks to USA patient Sharon Esposito for sharing her wonderful creativity

Please use the icons below to share this article #SclerodermaAwareness  

Wishing you a most magical day on my birthday, although, every day has been my birthday and Christmas Day combined, since hearing those 3 life changing words: 

'You have scleroderma'. 

#SclerodermaFreeWorld - imagine that. ... 

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