“I needed help getting in and out of bed. Walking was painful. My throat closed up so that I couldn’t swallow my pain pills. I developed sores that wouldn’t heal, some of which later became gangrenous. I had stomach ulcers and severe heartburn. I didn’t understand what was happening. I was just ten years old.”
Elisa, however, was diagnosed at age ten with a form of systemic scleroderma
When did you first become aware that you were not well?
When I was nine years old, I got a cut on my elbow, and it was extremely painful. The wound got bigger, and it wouldn’t heal. A blood test revealed that I had systemic scleroderma. Because my health was deteriorating rapidly, we needed to find a doctor who had experience treating scleroderma.
How did your search turn out?
We found a rheumatologist. She told my parents that chemotherapy could slow down the scleroderma and extend my life by five years, with the possibility that my illness might go into remission. The downside was that chemotherapy would compromise my immune system. Even a cold could prove fatal.
Obviously, the worst did not happen.
What was the cause?
The doctors found that my hemoglobin level was dangerously low and that my heart was working overtime to pump blood to my brain. Within a few weeks, treatment relieved the problem. But at that point, I remember thinking that anything could happen from one day to the next. I felt more helpless than ever, as if I had no control over what was happening to me.
It has been 14 years since your condition was diagnosed. What is the state of your health now?
I still live with pain, and I have a number of ailments that are associated with scleroderma. These include ulcers, lung fibrosis, and severe heartburn. Still, I refuse to dwell on my illness or waste time feeling sad. I have other things to do.
I love drawing, making clothes, making jewelry. Most important, though, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I engage in the work of teaching the Bible. Even when I am not able to walk to people’s homes, I am able to assist other Witnesses who conduct Bible study sessions with people in our area. I have even had students of my own. The ministry gives my life purpose.
Why do you engage in this work when you have your own problems to contend with?
I know that the information I share with people is vital and beneficial. Besides, when I keep busy helping others in this way, I’m happier. I even feel healthier! For that brief period of time, I forget that I’m sick.
What role does the Bible play in your positive viewpoint?
It reminds me that my suffering
Yes! Learn three steps that can help you to cope with chronic illness.
How did evil begin, and why has God allowed it to continue? Will there ever be an end to suffering?
Will God’s purpose for an earthly paradise ever be realized? If so, when?