Systemic Scleroderma Patient Pursues Ambitions as an Artist

According to a story from St. George News, when painter Linda Toombs was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma, a rare autoimmune disease, doctors told her that she wouldn’t see her children graduate from high school. Since then, she’s made it her goal to defy that prediction. Despite her symptoms, Linda, has pursued an increasingly lucrative career as an artist. She said she’s been drawing since she was a child.

About Systemic Scleroderma

Systemic scleroderma, which is also referred to as systemic sclerosis, describes a group of autoimmune diseases that can cause system-wide effects in the most severe cases. The mechanism of this disease is believed to be an autoimmune response in which the immune system mistakenly attacks body tissue. Some factors that may contribute to triggering the autoimmune response include mutations of the HLA genes and exposure to certain materials, such as certain solvents, white spirits, ketones, and silica. Symptoms are broad ranging and systemic, including kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, stroke, headaches, facial pain, congestive heart failure, skin abnormalities, high blood pressure, chest pain, indigestion, and many more. Treatments are varied and depend on the symptoms, but most patients take medications in an attempt to suppress the autoimmune response. In severe cases, life expectancy is around 11 years from onset. To learn more about systemic scleroderma, click here.

Linda’s Story

“I loved art – I loved creating. I just thought everybody did. It was my form of communicating with myself and a way of surviving things.” – Linda Toombs

Growing up, Linda was discouraged from pursuing her artistic career, which was dismissed by the adults around her as a “fluffy hobby.” She ended up going to cosmetology school instead. She also got caught up in raising her children, so her aspirations as an artist were put to the side.

With her life seemingly about to be cut short following the diagnosis, she got rid of her art supplies and focused on staying alive for her family. However, she has well exceeded the expectations of the doctors. With her kids being older, and her survival being longer than expected, she decided that now was the time to return back to art, her truest passion. 

While the disease has affected her skills, she has taken up painting and demonstrated excellent ability. She’s currently attending an art program for older adults at Utah Tech University. She saw her skills improve greatly, and her art, which often features wildlife or Utah landscapes, has been displayed in local St. George galleries. 

“Your mind and your health are attached…I think when I started to focus on what I like, is why I’m still alive. Your mind starts to say, ‘Aha, this is worth fighting for.’”

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