Cheryl Magnussen lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She was diagnosed with systemic sclerosis in the fall of 2019 after seven years of investigative testing with medical specialists. “Waiting for a diagnosis was likely one of the hardest pieces for me to endure,” notes Cheryl, “It’s hard enough to watch your own body degenerate, but to not know the cause makes it even worse.”
Along with scleroderma, Cheryl is also a brain tumor survivor and has a rare immune deficiency called CVID (which made a confirmed scleroderma diagnosis even more difficult). Because of CVID, it’s almost impossible for Cheryl’s scleroderma to be treated without causing life-threatening consequences.
Since her diagnosis, Cheryl has been steadily losing fine motor skills in her hands. The tendons often tighten and lock her fingers into twisted and painful positions. Her quads, feet and hips are in continual pain. Cheryl also lives with gastroparesis, liver disease, chronic kidney disease and heart disease (caused by the scleroderma).
“Receiving the diagnosis was almost freeing in so many ways,” remarks Cheryl. “It allowed me to begin to learn about, and understand, the disease that was rampaging my body.”
Cheryl is a mom to four and grandmother to six, and has been a foster mom to countless children and youth. Currently, a 24-year-old girl who has Down syndrome, autism and multiple health challenges lives with Cheryl and her husband. Knowing her foster child needs her is not a burden on Cheryl, but rather a blessing, as Cheryl says it pushes her to overcome obstacles and be her strongest for her.
She remarks, “No matter how weak my legs may feel, nor how much pain they give me, I go to the gym or get outside and walk each day, to keep my heart strong so that it can keep beating for her sake and mine.”
Cheryl is the volunteer CEO of her daughter’s charity ‘Hugginz By Angel.’ She helps sew and ship blankets to seriously ill, traumatized and medically fragile kids. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization is sewing facemasks and medical caps for frontline workers and those at risk for complications. No matter how many times her hands lock into painful positions, Cheryl continues sewing.
She feels proud to stand alongside her daughter and make a difference in the lives of families throughout the world. Cheryl says, “Scleroderma may try to wrestle me down, but I’m not going to let it take the win. I will continue to rise as often as needed to fight back against it.”