Scleroderma, or systemic sclerosis, is a chronic connective tissue disease involving the hardening of the skin resulting from the body’s immune system attacking healthy tissue. In the more severe form, it also affects internal organs. The cause is unknown. Scleroderma is generally classified as one of the autoimmune rheumatic diseases.
For Gale Sylvester-DeMello, scleroderma combined with Raynaud’s, a disabling circulatory illness that is often a secondary condition of scleroderma, and Madelungs, a disorder of fat metabolism that results in an unusual accumulation of fat deposits around the neck and shoulders area, left Gale in a condition of deteriorating health and diminishing quality of life. A former law enforcement officer (including as a child abuse investigator, undercover narcotics agent, and victim advocate) who loved her job, Gale had to give up her career at 32 due to the effects of the disease had on her body.