|Facing Life's Challenges|
|Sunday, 16 January 2011 20:26|
At 57 years of age Anne Wersching doesn’t have a single wrinkle on her face.
Sitting in her lounge room in Bayswater North, Ms Wersching looks well, save for a few red marks on her cheeks.
But Ms Wersching has a little-known disease called scleroderma, a progressive disease of the connective tissue that causes a range of symptoms. It is not known what causes scleroderma but it affects about one in 4400 people and tends to occur more often in women than in men.
Ms Wersching was diagnosed in 1998, almost 10 years after her first symptoms.
“I had bad reflux and my fitness was going downhill quite rapidly,” Ms Wersching said. “The doctors (initially) said: ‘You’ve got too much weight on you, you need to lose weight, you’re drinking too much’, things like that.”
But the reflux continued and Ms Wersching developed calcification in her fingertips, sensitivity to cold and poor blood flow.
She also developed the tell-tale sign of scleroderma, a thickening and tightening of the skin, particularly on the face and hands.
This tightening is what has prevented Ms Wersching’s wrinkles.
“I haven’t got wrinkles and I’m 57 - I look like I’ve had a facelift. It’s the one advantage,” Ms Wersching said.
Since her diagnosis other signs and symptoms have included a loss of iron, hypertension, and red marks on her face due to burst blood vessels. Since 2000 Ms Wersching has lost 40 per cent of her lung capacity. “Even just doing simple things like making my bed takes me an hour because I have to stop and rest with my lung condition,” Ms Wersching said.
“I’ve just got to take things a lot slower; I get very frustrated by that.” Ms Wersching moved from a private practice as a tax accountant to her home where she could rest through the day.
Eighteen months ago she tried a new treatment to prevent her condition worsening.
“They put me through a course of chemotherapy but only a small dose,” Ms Wersching said.
“It seems to have worked because the lungs have not got worse over the past 12 months, so we’re hoping.”
But Ms Wersching is not one to let the disease get her down and with the support of her husband Gunter and their three children, Ben, Kara and Emma, tries to keep her spirits up.
“Sometimes the doctors will say: ‘How bad are you really because you seem OK and we know damn well that you’re not’.”
Source: Ainsworth, M. (2010), "Facing life's challenges", Knox Leader; can be viewed here.