Excerpt: Chapter 1

“Looking back today, I know Scleroderma prepared me to believe I can do anything or at least give it my all in trying. Doctors gave me a death sentence, but I refused to listen. I fought back because that’s what I do. When life pushes against me, I push back harder. Which is why, on the heels of the global financial crisis of 2010, I started a business in a field largely uncharted. Many thought I was crazy, but when you have walked through hell like I have, it is all a matter of perspective.

I’ve experienced excruciating pain, had medical treatments that would take down the strongest of people, and faced, head on, a disease that wanted me dead. It is a miracle I am still here, and because of that, I realize there isn’t anything in my business I can’t handle. Nothing comes close to what I have been through with Scleroderma. It is this perspective that makes me a good CEO and is the key reason my company is so successful today.

Death Sentence
The first 39 years of my life, I was the picture of health. Active, in good shape, and never needed more than an aspirin for a headache. Then all of that changed. A disease I didn’t know about silently attacked my body. After only a couple of months, my symptoms went from mild to severe. The worst part was my hands. It felt like somebody stuck a straw under my skin, blew air in there, and made them swollen and hard as rocks. My hands ballooned, swelled, and became so tight the skin wouldn’t move at all. Then my fingertips started to rot from the outside in. My pointer fingers and my middle fingers had skin ulcers called infractions. Parts of the skin would fall off and then the skin underneath would turn dark, greenish-black from the gangrene. The physical pain was excruciating, unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Mentally, I had no idea how to go on.

I would wake up in the middle the night screaming in pain, crying and begging my husband to have the doctors cut my fingers off. The two Fentanyl Transdermal (Morphine) patches I wore all the time, along with a laundry list of other types of drugs, were meant to help me maintain some kind of quality of life with less pain. They weren’t working.

In 2005, my life changed. I remember watching the nurse practitioner read a document in my file, look down at the ground, then shake her head as she matter-of-factly told me, “It’s not good. You have Scleroderma, and given the type, you have 12-18 months to live. I recommend you get your affairs in order.”