Local mom bounces back after life-threatening illness

Published: Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 4:30 a.m. Last Modified: Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 10:56 p.m.

An avid runner, tennis player and rollerblader, Massagee's journey began nearly 10 years ago, when she began to notice her body slowly change, and included an endless parade of doctors, chemptherapy and a risky stem cell transplant.

Over time, Massagee's muscles grew larger. That wasn't necessarily a bad thing for an athletic woman in her early 50s, but as people age they tend to lose, not gain, muscle mass. Then her muscles began to harden and tighten, causing her significant pain.

Her husband, Buddy, a Hendersonville attorney, declared one day that something just wasn't right. Massagee had become so muscular that some in her social circle silently wondered if she was taking steroids to bulk up. She looked more like a professional body builder than an active mother of five.

As her muscles continued to harden and tighten, physical activity became more and more difficult. Massagee sought medical treatment from at least a dozen doctors, including the best of the best at Duke University Medical Center in Durham. After batteries of tests over several years, not a single doctor could tell Massagee what was wrong. Some doctors later confided to her that they thought I was secretly taking steroids and lying about it.

When a brain scan showed that the muscles behind her eyes were much larger than they should have been, doctors realized she wasn't on steroids, but they still weren't any closer to figuring out what was wrong. Bouncing from doctor to doctor, test to test, began to take its toll on Massagee physically and emotionally.

What broke my heart the most was looking at the pain it was causing Buddy and the children, she recalled. The couple's children, Sarah, 32, Rachel, 28, Kelly, 26, Lucy, 24 and Ty, 22, weren't very open about it we didn't talk about it a lot, Massagee said. But I knew it was very, very difficult for them.

Eventually, she found it impossible to undertake the most rudimentary physical activity, let alone work as a CPA.

I couldn't stand to make dinner, she said. I'd stand to chop something and then I'd need to sit down on a stool. I couldn't walk two blocks without having to stop.

One day, Massagee found it impossible to lift her arms enough to put on a pair of earrings.

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Local mom bounces back after life-threatening illness

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