My Journey Is Just Beginning, Now That I Know What Journey I’m On

Esthela Nunez Franco

“The National Scleroderma Foundation has been nothing but wonderful to me. They have opened their arms, provided me with information, support, education. I cannot thank them enough and I think that my journey is just beginning now that I know what journey I’m on.”

Esthela Núñez Franco has systemic sclerosis (SSc). Officially, her scleroderma was diagnosed January 2021; however, she experienced symptoms for more than 20 years.

“I’m originally from Mexico and have been in the United States since I was 10 years old. I developed symptoms early on in my teenage years—symptoms of knee pain, joint pain, a lot of urinary issues. Because of where I came from and my culture, we didn’t really talk about stuff like that because if it was an illness that couldn’t be seen or easily detected, then there was probably nothing going on. I went through my teenage years, my 20’s, my 30’s, with all kinds of issues. It was terrible and it was such a lonely fight because I only knew what I felt since I looked healthy from the outside. I was active, I was a working professional. I still work, but my fight was pretty much a fight of one.”

As time went by, Esthela eventually returned to physicians, particularly to see a rheumatologist.

“Antibodies were found and one thing led to another. Now we have a little bit of exploration going on with a pulmonologist. So I was actually diagnosed about 27 years later. When I got the diagnosis, it was such a big relief for me because I could finally put a name to the symptoms and the issues I was having. Now that I have a name, I can do some research, I can educate myself, and I invite you to do the same. Never give up. You know what you feel. Your body is telling you symptoms and giving you signs. Your body is talking to you, so listen to it. That is my advice. Never, never give up because eventually you will find out what is going on.”

Now, Esthela is involved with the National Scleroderma Foundation and enjoys participating in our activities with her local chapter, the National Scleroderma Foundation Rocky Mountain Chapter.

“I invite you to give the Foundation a call. Whatever the cause is, whatever your reason may be, there are answers and together we can fight for a cure. Get involved, contact your local chapter, they’ll be more than happy to hear from you and help you as much as they have helped me.”