All posts by gcscleroderma

Taking Control of Your Life: Food as Medicine

Western MD vs Functional MD Tree ImageJoanne Pappas Nottage, a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and speaker at our April 2017 Patient Education Conference, spent years struggling to get correctly diagnosed and treated for her autoimmune issues. Today, she’s helping people blend traditional western medicine and functional medicine to get and stay healthy. This is part two of a five part series from Joanne on functional medicine.

If you’re living with scleroderma or another autoimmune disease, you know how overwhelming it can be to manage. In a previous post on this blog, I described my challenging personal journey with autoimmune disease, and my eventual discovery of Functional Medicine (FM) – an innovative health approach that complements Western medical practices. FM has helped me feel better than I had in decades. I want that for you, too. Let’s start by exploring some specific factors FM addresses so you can begin to take control of them.

Functional Medicine Perspective on Autoimmune Disease

The first factor is food. FM advocates approaching food as medicine. To understand why, let’s consider the potential causes of autoimmune disease from the FM perspective. FM confronts autoimmune as a disease of the immune system, where a common internal system connects all autoimmune conditions. In some individuals, that connected system reacts to certain triggers (shown below), causing an autoimmune response. Unfortunately, many of these triggers are commonplace in modern life, and people with autoimmune disease can go for years without making the connection.

JPN Blog Post 2

The Importance of Gut Health

The core of that interrelated biochemical process is the gut, making it critical to overall health. Our gut is important to our overall wellbeing because its health determines what nutrients we absorb and what toxins, allergens and microbes are kept out. Good intestinal health enables optimal digestion and absorption of food, which in turn allows the important processes within our bodies to function well. Many diseases that seem totally unrelated to the intestinal system, such as psoriasis or arthritis, can actually be caused by problems in the gut.

The modern diet is full of foods that can create gut problems (processed foods, sugar, bleached flour, caffeine to name a few) and for some of us they trigger an autoimmune response. Pervasive in today’s food options, gluten— a protein found in wheat, barley and rye— is one of the leading offenders. While gluten-free diets are all the rage, they’re not just another fad. People who are sensitive to gluten or who have Celiac disease can have serious health consequences.

A growing volume of published medical literature shows that gluten can damage the gut lining, contributing to intestinal permeability (Leaky Gut Syndrome) and allowing bacterial toxins and undigested food particles to pass into the bloodstream. This can lead to the malabsorption of nutrients (Gut Dysbiosis, a microbiome imbalance), and can cause inflammation throughout the body—which can eventually trigger chronic and autoimmune disease. Beyond the oft-mentioned GI issues, gluten has been linked to scleroderma, Hashimoto’s, Graves’, diabetes and lupus. If you have one of these conditions, consider a gluten elimination plan and monitor your symptoms!

Think About Food as Medicine

We may not be able to change our genetic predisposition for autoimmune disease (30% of our risk), but we can change what we eat. Beyond gluten, sensitivities to other foods—dairy, soy, corn, peanuts or sugar—may contribute to your symptoms. Be mindful when you eat and notice how you feel afterwards. Try to identify and remove any foods that trigger inflammation and worsen your symptoms.

While there is no “one best” food plan for everyone, consider these practices: eat “the rainbow” – colorful fruits and veggies for important phytonutrients and antioxidants; consume healthy fats like olive oil and avocados; choose anti-inflammatory foods like broccoli, spinach, ginger, wild salmon and bone broth; add fermented foods like coconut kefir, sauerkraut, and pickled ginger for probiotics. Very importantly, stay hydrated! Water helps eliminate toxins and is an important contributor to body function.

My next post will explore the second factor FM addresses – our high stress modern lifestyle – and how it impacts autoimmune. Until then, I wish you good health!

Thriving with Functional Medicine

Joanne Pappas Nottage, a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach and speaker at our April 2017 Patient Education Conference, spent years struggling to get correctly diagnosed and treated for her autoimmune issues. Today, she’s helping people blend traditional western medicine and functional medicine to get and stay healthy. This is part one of a four part series from Joanne on functional medicine.

You probably already know that autoimmune diseases like scleroderma can be confusing and hard to diagnose and treat. What you may not know is that there are so many options you may not have been exposed to – including Functional Medicine. I understand this particular struggle very well. I myself have received multiple diagnoses over the years and my path to better health was a stressful, frustrating and lonely journey, despite being blessed with a loving husband, family and supportive friends. I didn’t know what was wrong, and wondered if it might all be in my head. Sound familiar?

Joanne’s story

My symptoms began in childhood, when I went from being active and energetic to pale and easily tired. Eventually I was diagnosed with anemia and later with my first autoimmune disease, rheumatic fever, a condition so serious it damaged one of my heart valves and forced me into open-heart surgery in adulthood. I’m very grateful for the western medicine doctors and technology that saved my life!

Throughout my 20’s, I developed other symptoms—allergies, asthma, migraines, weight issues, poor sleep, rashes, hives—then was diagnosed with my second autoimmune disease, alopecia, which caused extensive hair loss. The specialist I saw prescribed cortisone injections, topical steroids, oral prednisone (exacerbating weight gain!) and even clinical trials. I had some hair regrowth but then lost it again.

Later I was diagnosed with granuloma annulare, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and antibodies for a mixed connective tissue disorder—all autoimmune diseases. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to develop multiple autoimmune diagnoses, since many treatments address our symptoms but not their underlying causes.

Finding Functional Medicine

I pursued the path of conventional western medicine for years with at least 10 different doctors! I was a motivated patient and worked hard to get well, but still my overall health continued to decline.

Calling on my formal training in science, I asked my doctor if my symptoms might somehow be related. If we could determine the root cause, couldn’t we treat it instead of the symptoms? She told me that working with a specialist for each symptom was the best I could do. This frustrating response finally led me to explore alternative approaches to my health, to discover Functional Medicine (FM), and to feeling better than I have in decades.

I am a strong believer in western medicine, but in some situations I learned it is not enough. FM provides a strong complement to western medicine, taking a systemic approach to the whole body while addressing the underlying causes and empowering patients to be active in regaining their health.

What is Functional Medicine?

FM incorporates the latest in genetic science, systems biology and an understanding of how environmental and lifestyle factors contribute to the development of disease. An FM practitioner maps a patient’s story onto a timeline and the FM clinical matrix, does a physical exam, utilizes advanced lab testing and explores the interaction among genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors that can influence complex chronic illness.

FM approaches autoimmune as a disease of the immune system, not of a specific organ, in which a shared biochemical process connects all autoimmune conditions. FM works to understand what triggers the immune response, then to systematically eliminate the triggers, correct imbalances and restore function. This approach changed my life and has worked for many with scleroderma too!

In upcoming posts, I’ll share more about the factors that FM addresses, and how you can start taking control of them and your health!

Top Fundraiser Shares Secret to Success

This summer’s walks kick off on Saturday, June 24 in Madison and we couldn’t be more excited for this year’s top notch crew of walkers and fundraisers! We reached out to Gary Sylvan, one of our top fundraisers participating in the Highland Park, IL walk, to find out his secret for fundraising success. We found it inspirational how achievable the activities are that brought him so much success – he alone has raised nearly $10,000 for scleroderma research and support! Read on to learn how he does it!

SF: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions Gary! What motivates you to be a top fundraiser?

GS: My motivation is multi-oriented. Scleroderma is a terrible disease with no known cure. I want to see a cure that works for those inflicted. Too many are stricken with this disease at an early age. One of those is my daughter. It tears at me to see her struggle through daily tasks, work, and her family (including 3 lovely little girls). Raising money is a way to fund research which will, hopefully, find a cure.

I am a competitive person, and raising funds is part of my DNA. I want to compete to motivate others to raise funds, to see who can come out on top. Money is key to research.

I hope to be the top fundraiser, and that my team – Team Lisa Joy – will be a top team. But if that doesn’t happen, it means someone else did a better job, and  the end result is more funds for scleroderma research and support.

SF: What do you attribute your fundraising success to?

GS: My fundraising success is based upon approaching it in an organized manner. I have a list of donors that I keep on my computer, and I update it for every donation. After receiving a donation, I send out a thank you email. I also attempt to think of new donors, including personal vendors and people with whom I do business (e.g. insurance agents, auto dealers) knowing there will be attrition in my donor list. I start my fundraising early, and prepare an email to prospective donors that explains the event and the need for funds. As time grows near, I regularly email those who have not donated.

SF: What’s your #1 tip for other fundraisers?

GS: My #1 tip is to stick to it! Be intent on making the fundraising effort a priority.

SF: What inspires you to stay involved?

I’m inspired to stay involved because I WANT to see a cure! We NEED to see a cure!

Thank you to Gary and all our walk participants and fundraisers! We’re walking for the cure and together, we believe it’s within reach. If you’d like to see a schedule of our upcoming walks and other fundraising events and get involved, visit

Spotlight: Aissa Norris, Support Group Leader, Decatur/Springfield

Aissa NorrisRecently we interviewed Aissa Norris, our newest support group leader! She’ll be leading the Central Illinois support group and would love to see you there! If you’re interested in joining this support group or learning more, contact Aissa at More information on the group can be found on the Scleroderma Foundation Greater Chicago Chapter website.

Q: Why did you decide to lead a support group?

A:  I felt that I wanted to become more involved in finding a cure, making people aware of the disease and reaching out to others who are struggling with the challenges that come with this disease. I have had the opportunity to be a leader in other roles and feel that it is important to share my skills and take on this responsibility while I have the ability to do so.

Q:  When and where does your group meet?

A: We meet every other month on Saturday mornings at a Panera in Decatur. We are planning on holding informational meetings each quarter on Saturday mornings so that we are able to include spouses and invite guest speakers as well. We are also having a ‘mini-conference’ on Saturday, June 3, 2017. More information on the group meetings and the mini-conference can be found here.

Q: What do you love most about being involved with this group? 

A: The thing that is of greatest benefit is the friendships that I developed with others who understand chronic illness and how it can impact our lives. We learn from each other and most topics are on the table for discussion. It’s nice to laugh with others, share our concerns and help each other find resources that can be of great benefit as well.

Q: How do you hope to inspire others?

A: I hope that others will see that we can all have an impact which is positive in our lives no matter how ill we are. By sharing our stories and challenges we can each continue on in our lives with hope. I think too that my desire to inspire others comes from the “teacher” in me. I have always been drawn to helping people, specifically children and I hope that by bringing a smile, encouragement and hope to those in our group we each have a brighter day.

Q: Can you share any interesting facts about yourself?  

A: I feel as though I have had such a blessed life.  I have a close family and friends who are supportive. I have had wonderful opportunities to work with special needs students and to care for many children within my home. I have had fun hobbies, from being a hot air balloon pilot to currently running a vintage 103-year-old barn that hosts weddings and special events.

Q: Any words of advice for patients?

A: For those who are faced with challenges with this disease, give yourself permission to go through all the stages of grief related to the change in the life you expected to have, but don’t lose hope of the bright and fulfilling life you still can have. Don’t be afraid to voice your fears or anxiety about this disease. Often, we feel as though we need to be strong for others in our family, but we need to make sure that we are getting the emotional and psychological support for ourselves so that we are able to enjoy the life that has now been dealt to us.

Q: Any words of advice for caregivers?

A: Don’t be afraid to say that you can’t handle this role. Not everyone is meant to be a caregiver and being the individual who helps to find the right caregiver can save your relationship with your spouse, child or relative.  This disease has been dealt to you as well and changed your future too.  Take the steps needed to care for yourself both physically and mentally.  Educate yourself about the disease and don’t be afraid to ask the person with scleroderma how they truly feel, be persistent and listen. They need your love and understanding more than anything else on the good and the bad days.

Q: Why should someone get involved in a support group?

A: Getting involved in a support group whether on line or in person is so important for your mental well-being. Even if you aren’t ready to share yet, take the time to listen to others and giving them encouragement can assist them in healing as well as yourself.  Support groups provide you with the opportunities to grow and learn about the disease and the new treatments that might be headed our way. It can be empowering for yourself or you might even find that you are inspiring to others. Let your story be heard.

VIDEO: What Should I Eat?

Our fall Patient Education Conference welcomed Registered Dietician Beth Doerfler. She answered your nutrition questions as they related to scleroderma, such as:

– Someone who I know that had scleroderma said that she is feeling much better on gluten free diet. Is there any scientific basis to it?
– Besides sugar, white carbs and saturated fats, what are foods to avoid and reduce inflammation?
– What supplements help gain energy? What are the best juices to fight inflammation? How does dairy effect digestive tract?
– What are the benefits of vegan and gluten free diet? What are the implications of low iron ferritin level?
– Why my child is not gaining weight even if she eats whatever she wants?
– What is the best way to obtain calcium if you are lactose intolerant?
– What is the best way for someone with scleroderma to lose weight?
– What are anti-inflammatory foods?

Beth Doerfler is also currently contributing to our blog series dedicated to managing nutrition and wellness with scleroderma. Check out her most recent blog post here!

We encourage you to take advantage of our other educational online resources on both YouTube and SlideShare. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for up to date Greater Chicago news!

Bethany Doerfler MS, RD, LDN
Northwestern Medicine

Presented at the Scleroderma Patient Education Conference, Saturday, October 15, 2016. Hosted by the Scleroderma Foundation, Greater Chicago Chapter and the Northwestern Scleroderma Program.

VIDEO: Scleroderma and Stimulating Immune System Response

This past October, the Scleroderma Foundation Greater Chicago Chapter was pleased to welcome Dr. Jaehyuk Choi to Northwestern for our Patient Education Conference. Dr. Choi’s background includes both medical and post doctoral study at Yale University, and he is now an assistant professor at Northwestern University in dermatology, biochemistry, and molecular genetics.
Photopheresis is recommended by medical professionals in order to treat patients with immune system disorders by stimulating immune reactions. The process is simplified to collecting white blood cells and exposing them to a photosensitizer and ultraviolet radiation, resulting in an altered function to stimulate immune response that will fight the development of immune diseases like scleroderma.
His presentation on Extracorporeal Photopheresis includes a brief overview of Scleroderma Pathophysiology and Photopheresis, and continues to delve into clinical studies, the ideal patients for these treatments, and how Photopheresis works in scleroderma and other diseases.
We encourage you to visit our online resources on YouTube and SlideShare. You may find more videos and slideshow presentations from this past conference in October, as well as other conferences.
Our Spring Education Event will be on April 22nd in Oak Brook, IL! Check out for more information and to keep updated with registration availability.
 Dr. Jaehyuk Choi
Assistant Professor
Department of Dermatology
Director, Extracorporeal Photopheresis Unit
Northwestern University

Presented at the Scleroderma Patient Education Conference, Saturday, October 15, 2016. Hosted by the Scleroderma Foundation, Greater Chicago Chapter and the Northwestern Scleroderma Program.

Improving Your Health in Three Easy Breaths: Intro to Yogic Breathing

Yogic breathing, or pranayama, is fundamental in the practice of yoga. Its overarching goal is to increase energy in both the body and the mind. It has many benefits that include, but are not limited to, feeling more calm and centered, better quality of sleep, and helping mitigate intense emotional feelings.

Air intake is essential for life, and the brain responds to the respiratory system with extreme urgency. Because of this urgency, the benefits of yogic breathing can have an overall positive effect on your health. These breathing practices can reduce feelings of anxiety, depression, and increase the amount of oxygen brought into and distributed throughout the body.

Dr. Sundar Balasubramanian is currently studying and researching at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). He is a Yoga Biology Researcher who believes that yogic breathing can improve your daily life and should be practiced by everyone. Dr. Balasubramanian was a speaker at the National Scleroderma Foundation patient education conference, and shared some helpful insight into yogic breathing techniques. Refer to Dr. Balasubramanian’s discussion and demonstration of  yogic breathing practices in the videos below to learn how yogic breathing can make a difference in your overall health.




Spotlight: Valarie Hutchison, Support Group Leader, Green Bay/NE Wisconsin

Recently we interviewed Valarie Hutchison, one of our support group leaders! She talks about the benefits of joining a group, advice for patients and finding inspiration. She invites you to get involved if you are in the Green Bay/NE Wisconsin area. If you are interested in joining this support group or learning more, contact Valarie at


SF: Why did you decide to lead a support group?

VH: The former leader, who was terrific, had some big changes in her life which included a move so it looked like the group would disband.  Even though I had only been diagnosed with scleroderma for about a year, I couldn’t let that happen.  When this disease was first mentioned to me as a possibility, I began to do my own research and I was terrified.  Like a lot of people, I didn’t find knowledgeable doctors locally. I did find this local support group and reluctantly went to my first meeting. I walked in to find two women who educated me, guided me and gave me their opinion that I had scleroderma (which was later confirmed at the Mayo Clinic).  At last, the chaos in my mind was quieted, and I could move forward to get a diagnosis and start treatment.

SF: When and where does your group meet?

VH: Our group meets in a lovely room with a beautiful view at the Bellin Family Health and Wellness Center at 3263 Eaton Rd. in Bellevue WI, 54311.  We meet the second Wednesday of every month from 1:00PM to 3:00PM.

SF: What do you look forward to the most in being involved with this group?

VH: The most gratifying thing for me is the newcomer to the group who is looking for the understanding that only someone who has scleroderma can give. The emphasis of our group is supporting each other and giving each other what we need. It is very free form.

SF: Aside from the support group, what resources would you recommend for patients and caregivers in your area?

VH: I always recommend the Scleroderma Foundation and for the discussion boards.  Both are good resources. If you don’t have your own computer, you can use one at the library, and they have people who can help you navigate the internet if you’re not a tech geek.

SF: How do you find inspiration?

VH: There are days that the fatigue and pain get the best of me.  I have Common Variable Immune Deficiency (CVID), a primary immune deficiency and, for the last two years, Scleroderma. Brought with the scleroderma was the standard Raynaud’s with the deluxe package: autoimmune thyroiditis, Sjogren’s, and, just recently, Addison’s disease.  I’m fortunate because I live alone (with my dog, Stewie) so there is grass to cut and snow to blow and everything that taking care of a home entails.  If I had someone else to do those things for me, I would not be as well as I am. I would certainly not be as mobile because I have tendon friction rubs in most of my joints.  I can be a whiner at times, but since there’s no one here to listen I have to pull up my socks and do what needs to be done.

SF: Can you tell us a few interesting facts about yourself?

VH: I’m a mother. I have two sons that are the reason I’m in Green Bay, WI.  They’re great people- the kind of people I’d want to know even if we weren’t related- and then two grandsons.  I never feel so un-selfconscious as when I’m with those kids.  They cheer me up, make me feel better no matter what.

I worked in the mortgage industry for 20 years before it became so greedy.  I felt good about helping people by putting them in the loan product back then it was quite gratifying and I miss that.

I learned to surf when I was 55 and sailed the Atlantic as first mate on a 43 ft. catamaran when I was 57.

SF: Do you have any words of advice for other patients and caregivers?

VH: Educate yourself first and foremost.  Understand your disease and your test results.  Always, always get copies of test results, radiologist reports and discs of any MRIs or scans and keep them together for the continuation of your care.  Make sure that you understand them. Go to websites like John Hopkins or the Scleroderma Foundation to learn more.  Seek out a support group in your area so that you can talk to people who really understand.  If your doctor isn’t supportive and knowledgeable go to another.

Leg “Cramping” Your Style? Ask the Dietician.


At the Patient Education Conference held at Northwestern University in Chicago on October 15, 2016, Registered Dietitian Beth Doerfler answered patient questions regarding nutrition and scleroderma. If you have any questions, please email us at

Q: What are the foot and leg cramps I get every night from and what can I do about them. I have tried using drinks with additional potassium like drip drop but there is a lot of sugar in it and that gives me diarrhea too.

BD: Leg cramps can really interfere with a good night’s rest.  Good sleep is essential to battling fatigue.  To combat leg or muscle cramps, we need to consider both Potassium and Vitamin D.

Vitamin D helps absorb calcium which your muscles use to contract.  Vitamin D deficiency can make muscle cramps worse.  If you have not had your blood levels of vitamin D checked yet do talk with your doctor. Most Americans need approximately 800 IU vitamin D daily and you may need more if your blood levels are very low.  Vitamin D is difficult to get entirely from foods and often we have to rely on some amount of vitamin supplements as well as a diet rich in fortified foods.

If you are looking to eat more potassium I have included a list of potassium rich foods which might be less likely to cause stomach upset.  A typical diet can provide you with approximately 2000 mg of potassium. Aim to boost your diet with potassium rich food by another 500-1000 mg to fight muscle cramps and dehydration.

Spinach (1 cup cooked):                900 mg potassium

Baked potato (1 medium):           920 mg potassium

Dried Apricots (1/2 cup):               755 mg potassium

Acorn Squash (1 cup cooked):    899 mg potassium

Yogurt (1 cup nonfat):                    625 mg potassium

Salmon (3 oz)                                     534 mg potassium

Avocado (1/2 cup mashed):        558 mg potassium

To learn more about topics presented at the Patient Education Conference, visit our YouTube and SlideShare sites for slideshows and videos about managing scleroderma.



How I Turned My Life Around by Not Letting Scleroderma Define Me

JPP (22 of 61).jpgKelly Kohls has battled scleroderma for the past 13 years and is dedicated to learning how to more effectively deal with the hardships and struggles that accompany the disease. Over the past few years, Kelly has become a mother, a runner, and a fitness coach- constantly pushing herself and achieving new milestones she never thought possible. As a patient who felt she was defined by her disease, learn how her change in mindset and lifestyle has impacted her self confidence, health, and relationships.

Scleroderma, oh scleroderma (GRRR), let’s just say we have an interesting relationship. I can finally say  now, that it is what I WAS. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still carry this disease with me every day but let’s just say I’ve come a LONG way from where I began 13 years ago.


When I was diagnosed, I had just married my high school sweetheart and was looking forward to our new life together. All of a sudden our world completely changed; it was seriously like someone had swung up a stop sign and smacked me right in the face with it. For the next SEVEN years of my life I was miserable. I was ill and I lost who I was.

Like any autoimmune disease I was exhausted. Not only was the scleroderma kicking my butt, the medication had me completely turned upside down. By the time I was 25 I’d lost most of my independence. My hands significantly crippled. My entire body was so tight it was hard to just move around doing daily tasks. I remember one Saturday specifically my husband, Mike, left for the races. I was heading out later in the day and it didn’t dawn on me that he had never helped me put my socks and shoes on before he left. So I tried putting my socks on. I sat on the edge of the bed and struggled for what felt like hours, my whole body hurt trying to reach my feet. I cried and sat, then tried again and struggled and sat, then I just sat and sobbed. I couldn’t take care of myself. It was heartbreaking, almost like a part of who I was died. I had to accept this new sick person; I had to accept being dependent on others and to accept the changes it was making to my body; internally & externally.

Every three weeks for several years I spent many long days getting IV infusions and blood transfusions because my body couldn’t keep healthy counts that are vital to live. Now, when I think back it just seems so crazy to me how we take our bodies for granted. We just expect them to do ALL the things they are supposed to do at all the right times. Crazy, isn’t it?

THIRTY rolled around…wow, were did that come from? It was the point in my life that I was told I couldn’t have children because I was too ill. This was TOTAL heartbreak on an entire new level! It completely devastated me. Mike was so supportive through everything – my rock and my one true love. Not only did he take care of me but let’s face it, his future was forever changed too. Although he assured me many times that it was okay, a big part of me always felt guilty for taking that away from him.

Little did I know that 30 was going to be a BIG year for me! It was the year I asked myself just WHAT in the heck is going on here? In the last seven years I had battled this horrible disease, my mom suddenly passed away and I was told my future dreams are no longer possible. To say my life was a hot mess was a total understatement.



You guys, I just wasn’t having it. I HAD to turn my life around. I HAD to live it. I’m ONLY 30!! I want to enjoy life and have all the things I ever wanted.

So, I set some pretty huge goals for myself. I realized that I could never cure myself from scleroderma but I knew deep down that there were things I could do to get as healthy as I could control. So, okay guys, are you ready for it? I bought a treadmill! Yes, me! The one who couldn’t even put her own socks on. My goal was to be a runner someday, so every night I walked on this treadmill. Before I knew it I was jogging-3 miles! By the time I was 32 I was a runner- tada! I was running 4+ miles at a 9-10 minute mile…say what?? I was eating healthy & cut out processed foods. Don’t ask me how or why but I went into a “sort of remission.”

Guess what? You’ll never guess! Shortly after I turned 35 I had a precious baby girl. Gahhh!! I’m tearing up right now! Emily is the name of my little miracle. My pregnancy was closely watched but was healthy, normal and very exciting! She was born healthy and continues to be a healthy sweet little two year old. Although I still have scleroderma and deal with struggles each day, I am counting my blessings by continuing to be healthy. Pushing myself each day to be in a POSITIVE state of mind has allowed me to make amazing strides.

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Last year I became a fitness coach and I’m in the best health I’ve EVER been! I continue to eat clean and workout every day; I’d also totally be lying if I didn’t say, heck yes I struggle to workout some days. Heck yes I have to modify moves and take it slower – but becoming active and overall healthy about the things I can control has literally changed my ENTIRE life! Now I’m very passionate about coaching and helping other people change their lives to get healthy too – how amazing is that?! If you want it bad enough, you CAN do it! You really can!

I have everything I ever wanted. Well… I do carry scleroderma with me and I could definitely do without that. The one difference about it now though is I don’t let it define me. Yes, it’s what I have but it’s not WHO I am anymore.

It may sound cliché but life is truly amazing; it really is. Sometimes it’s sucky but it has made me a fighter, a strong person, a better person, an amazing mama and wife and I’ve learned to appreciate every moment.  We are all blessed in our own way; you need to fight to find yourself. Only then will you always see the beauty in everything – good and bad.

-Kelly Kohls