When 35-year-old Bulloch County native Christina Canady stepped off the plane in January, she weighed 66 pounds and didn’t know how much longer she would live.
Returning to Statesboro for her parents to help take care of her, Canady had been battling with a host of health issues for the past 10 years while living in Maine. She spent time in the hospital on several occasions, but doctors never quite pinpointed her problem. She was misdiagnosed several times.
But a doctor’s appointment just one month after coming back to Statesboro netted an accurate diagnosis. Dr. Eli Penn determined that Canady had Scleroderma, a rare disease that involves tightening of the skin and connective tissues.
Some patients suffer from external tightening only; some deal with internal damage to blood vessels, internal organs or the digestive track. Many patients, like Canady, endure both.
Scleroderma affects mostly women, though men contract the disease as well. Patients tend to be diagnosed as adults after the age of 30.
At this time, scleroderma has no known cure, though medications treat the symptoms. Canady will need those medications the remainder of her life.
Canady, who praises the knowledge and care of her doctor, said her symptoms can fluctuate like a roller coaster ride.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “Dr. Penn saved my life. He is phenomenal.”
Canady’s parents, Jim and Mashmer Canady, assisted their daughter both physically and financially. Canady tips the scale now at slightly more than 100 pounds and had felt much better for several months.
“God brought me here for a reason,” said Canady. “My doctor; my parents … I have been so, so blessed. You just have to hold your head up and put it in the hands of the Man upstairs.”
Suffering a recent setback, Canady spent time in the hospital with loss of motility in her esophagus and required a feeding tube and sought out other specialists for problems with her lungs.
Because the bitter cold causes her skin to tighten more, resulting in shooting pain in Canady’s fingertips and extremities, she will never be able to return to Maine and live comfortably.
Scleroderma sometimes results in crippling of the hands and feet, possible kidney and lung failure, difficulty breathing and other health problems. Despite the issues Canady faces daily, she remains positive and determined and has a mission.
“I’d rather fight,” said Canady. “It’s hard to go from being active to just barely able to walk. But I’ve got to keep moving and push forward. I’ve got to educate people about the disease.”