SABINE PARISH, LA (KSLA) - "Schlero - what?"
That was the reaction by Tina Dowden after waiting for months and months to get an official answer, a diagnosis, to explain what had been going on in her life. The cold, numb feeling in her fingers and toes, the lack of energy, feeling winded, and the ulcers on her fingers.
"On days I don't feel good and don't get out of bed, i feel defeated," says Tina, who works in the real estate business in Sabine Parish.
That's the diagnosis Tina now has dedicated much of her life discovering more about and learning to live with.
"They call Scleroderma the disease that turns you into stone," adds Tina.
Recent medical tests reveal Tina's lungs are scarred and have aged to that of a 62 year old women.
"It's rare, an autoimmune disease," says Tina's rheumatologist, Dr. Katie Walton.
"The basic meaning or greek interpretation basically means the hardening of the skin. It's the most common thing you see with this disorder."
Dr. Walton says Tina's diagnosis is much more severe.
"Commonly the lungs can be affected. It can effect the kidneys and conduction system of the heart," adds Dr. Walton.
Since the diagnosis roughly a year ago, Tina has been undergoing chemotherapy in an attempt to stop the scarring in the lungs. Meanwhile Tina has formed a support group with hopes of connecting with others faced with this debilitating and possibly life-ending disease.
"People can live with Scleroderma for 20 to 30 years. Well I'm only 36 .. ," pausing to give thought to her young age, her husband and two children.
Click here for more information about Tina's Scleroderma support group can be found here.