Nancy Bader, 55

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Ten years ago, Nancy was a runner, skier, golfer, scuba diver, computer technician and database developer. She lived in a small town, enjoying all aspects of her life… until she started to have some pain in her arms and wrists, along with swelling in her fingers.

“I figured I had carpal tunnel,” she said. “If only that had been the case.”

She was ultimately referred to a rheumatologist, who suspected she had scleroderma.

“I read the pamphlet and said, ‘I don’t have that.’ But… I did.”

Within six months, she was experiencing new symptoms every week. Suddenly, she had elbows she couldn’t straighten, knees she couldn’t bend and skin so hard, she couldn’t be touched.

“My legs were so stiff, I could barely walk a block,” she said. “But when I did, I had to lift my feet with my hands to get them up on the curb.”

Fortunately, Nancy was accepted into a new scleroderma clinic at the University of Minnesota, where doctors created a treatment plan and worked with her local experts at Jamestown Regional Medical Center for physical rehab. Since then, she’s also participated in two clinical trials: one designed to study the use of a patient’s own adipose-derived regenerative cells and one for a drug to treat calcinosis in scleroderma at Stanford University.

Now, at age 55, the effects of scleroderma are certainly challenging, but Nancy still considers herself lucky.

“I have all of my fingers and toes, the support of my family, friends and coworkers, and my employer,” she said. “I’ve had some significant issues, but I’ve always been able to bounce back.”