Living with Scleroderma

Missy’s Story

By May 10, 2024No Comments

“She was an anomaly for the scleroderma world,” says Olivia Muñoz Mulkin of her mother, Maria “Missy” Cavazos. This Mother’s Day, as we celebrate the strength and love of mothers everywhere, we remember Missy, a remarkable woman and mother who defied the odds in her battle against scleroderma. “Her prognosis was only 4-5 years, but with her grit and determination, she survived with scleroderma for 24 years!”

In 2000, Olivia and her sister Mariana were only 10 and 17 years old, respectively, when their mother was diagnosed with scleroderma. When Missy first started developing symptoms, her condition was not immediately apparent. “She noticed something was off when her hands and feet would turn blue when she got cold,” Olivia explains. “A couple of years later, her hands and arms started to tighten. The scleroderma eventually began to tighten her lungs which made it difficult to breathe, and she lost a lot of weight from scleroderma in her esophagus and digestive tract.”

After their mother’s diagnosis, Olivia and Mariana were “not sure what to expect or how it was going to impact her family”. Even their father, who is a physician, had “heard very little” about scleroderma.

The family came together to help Missy secure the best care. She received complex treatments, including chemotherapy, stem cell transfusions, and pain management therapies.

“I saw the day-to-day changes and the pain she went through,” Olivia describes. “Even though our mother was in pain daily, she was literally the strongest woman I have ever known. She did not let scleroderma win; she fought it and continued to live her life.”

We are grateful to Olivia and Mariana for sharing their and Missy’s story – it’s clear that these experiences have shaped their passion for advancing scleroderma research. “Right now I feel like we still don’t know much about scleroderma,” Olivia says. “Supporting research will help specialists and the community get closer to finding a cure.”