The marathon of scleroderma – Greg’s story

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If there was one word to describe Greg Cohen, that word would be active. Greg, 39, has always had a passion for fitness. He was a competitive wrestler, he enjoys CrossFit, works for a nationally acclaimed fitness company and thrives off the nature of competition. 


Now, even with scleroderma, Greg uses fitness to keep himself mentally and physically healthy. But more than that, he uses it to inspire others.


To fully understand Greg’s remarkable story, though, you have to start from the beginning of his scleroderma journey: his diagnosis. 


In the summer of 2014, Greg started noticing his first scleroderma symptoms: issues with his hands. He experienced numbness and a swollen feeling, even without the appearance of swelling. One Sunday while going into work, Greg couldn’t feel his left hand at all. He quickly headed to urgent care. 


Greg’s urgent care physician diagnosed his symptoms as bilateral carpal tunnel and gave him wrist guards. But since Greg didn’t regularly work at a computer, this diagnosis left him confused. Greg decided to go to a rheumatologist who then diagnosed him with Hashimoto’s. 


Soon, Greg was experiencing painful digital ulcers which he tried to home remedy. His wife urged him to return to the doctor, and it wasn’t until April of 2017 that he was officially diagnosed with limited systemic scleroderma. Greg was shocked. But considering his active, fighting spirit, that shock didn’t stay around for long. It quickly turned into motivation.


Greg never considered himself to be much of a runner, but decided to sign up for the upcoming LA marathon after receiving his diagnosis. He fundraised from friends, family and strangers and ended up raising over $5,500 for scleroderma. He ran the 26.2 miles as a patient, advocate and hero.


Part of the reason Greg stays so active is to inspire others and to be living proof that people living with autoimmune diseases can stay active and challenge themselves. He takes blood pressure medication for his Raynaud’s and digital ulcers, GERD and his thyroid, and follows a fairly strict anti-inflammatory diet, but seemingly nothing can stand in his way. He plans on running the marathon each year from now on and fundraising more every time.


Greg’s actions haven’t just inspired others, they’ve further inspired him. Greg decided to return to school and is currently working on his Masters in Public Health with a focus in Lifestyle Management. And with his active nature, Greg isn’t going to stop pushing himself or others. Whether it’s crossing another marathon finish line, raising money for scleroderma, advocating for a cure or simply inspiring one patient with the belief that they can do it. 


After all, his inspiring work isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. And he has plenty of people cheering for him along the way.