About Scleroderma

Scleroderma is a rare and debilitating chronic autoimmune disease affecting connective tissue. Connective tissue forms the fibers that make up the framework that supports the body. They are found under the skin and around the internal organs and blood vessels. It's often progressive and sometimes, fatal. It affects every age, and gender, and it's neither preventable nor contagious. It may run in families, but it often occurs in patients without any family history of the disease. Scleroderma confuses the best of the medical field by making it difficult to diagnose.

Systemic scleroderma, also known as systemic sclerosis, is a multi-system disease causing an overproduction of collagen and thickening and fibrous harding in various organs in the body, which may include the skin, underlying blood vessels, muscles and joints, as well as the gastrointestinal tract, lungs, kidneys and heart. It is estimated that about 300,000 people in the US and 2.5 million worldwide are fighting scleroderma; about 1/3 have systemic scleroderma. Scleroderma is rare in children, and it is four times more common in females than males. It is most likely to appear between the ages of 20 and 50 years. 

Scleroderm causes a loss of circulation that can result in painful skin ulcers occurring on fingers, toes and other extremities. Joint pain caused by inflammation and swelling can be chronic. Loss of flexibility in the hands and severe skin tightening can impair the use of fingers and toes. The skin of the face may also tighten and harden, especially around the mouth, making eating and drinking difficult. It is estimated that approximately 90% of systemic scleroderma patients experience Raynaud’s phenomenon as a primary symptom. (Please note: This is secondary Raynaud's - While only a small percentage of people with Raynaud’s phenomenon develop scleroderma, almost all scleroderma patients have Raynaud’s symptoms.)

Currently there is no way to prevent Scleroderma and there is no cure. Read below for Teri's story.


Teri's Story

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Teri was raised in a big Italian family; one of 11 children. When she was young Teri lived on Viaduct Avenue in Johnsontown (Downingtown), PA. As she grew up, Teri moved into a house on Lancaster Avenue… eventually that house was torn down to make way for Green Street in the middle of Downingtown. This is where Teri’s Run starts every year.

Teri attended St. Joseph’s for grade school and later went to Bishop Shanahan High School. Once she graduated, Teri decided to follow her love of travel and went cross country to attend the University of Arizona. During college, she spent a year abroad at the School of Irish Studies in Dublin, Ireland. Her passion for travel took her throughout the United States and Europe; she had or was close to having traveled to every state in the country.

Teri went on to receive her MBA from Widener University and also received her Law Degree from Widener Law School. Teri held a clerkship with the Honorable Judge John Stively, Court of Common Pleas of Chester County, was a clerk with the President Judge of Bucks County Court, and a law associate with Valocchi & Fischer. She moved to Arlington, VA where she was an attorney with the Securities and Exchange Commission and an attorney with the Office of Thrift and Supervision in Washington, DC.

In DC, she met her husband, Kevin Petrasic and had their daughter, Katelynn.

Teri could do anything! She was always competitive and definitely put it to good use. Through college, graduate school and law school, Teri acquired a deep love for running, biking and swimming. She was an avid swimmer; holding the Butterfly Champion title for years and even swimming with the Olympic level swimmers. She always kept in touch with her childhood and high school friends and returned to Downingtown every year for the 4th of July Good Neighbor Day Run. 

Teri was an accomplished triathlete, competing in numerous races including Iron Man competitions and the New York, London and Marine Corps Marathons. She even competed in a triathlon when she was eight months pregnant with her daughter.

In September of 1999, during one of her triathlons, running alongside her sister, Teri collapsed. She knew something was wrong and saw doctors for many tests until she was finally diagnosed in December 1999 with systemic Scleroderma, a disease that hardens the organs and skin. The disease slowly debilitated Teri physically and her abilities to walk, run, bike and swim were taken from her. She lost her battle with the disease on February 21, 2002, two days after her 48th birthday, 2 years after she ran her last triathlon.