I really love The Mighty. It’s an empowering website for people with Chronic Illness to share and learn and they encourage input from people like me, who live with Invisible Illnesses. This is from their website:
The Mighty is a digital health community created to empower and connect people facing health challenges and disabilities.
We have over 1 million registered users and are adding a new one every 20 seconds.
Our stories and videos are viewed and shared more than 90 million times a month.
But those are just stats. This experience from a community member is what we’re really after:
“How is it that I read an essay on The Mighty and it is the only place in the world where I feel truly understood? Time and time again you speak to me through your contributors. I read this headline and it could have come from my very lips…I wanted to say thank you – words can never express how truly grateful I am to the author for sharing her story, for all Mighty contributors, and to The Mighty itself. You have changed my life. I have made a close friend who lives many miles away because of our shared pain. I gain insight every day and I finally, finally do not feel so alone in this world. Thank you. Bless you!”
I’ve had one story published already and now they’ve gone ahead and published a second article of mine. They took my post Some Body To Love and condensed it so it can be shared with the world. I’d love it if you’d check it out here!!
There is always hope!
Did you know that as a Patient, you have a Bill of Rights, afforded to you under your Government? It’s true! There are certain obligations your government has committed to meeting when it comes to your health care and I decided it was a good time to share those with you, as well as to write-up a set of Rights that we have as Patients for our Doctors, Nurses and other Medical Professionals. Are you ready?
Canadian Patients’ Bill of Rights*:
You have the right to be fully informed about one’s medical condition;
You have the right to be advised of the available treatment options;
You have the right to be involved in treatment decisions;
You have the right to information on the qualifications and experience of the health professionals from whom services are received;
You have the right to receive considerate, compassionate and respectful public health services;
You have the right to confidential communications with health professionals;
You have the right to have access to and copies of personal health records and to have them corrected, if necessary;
You have the right to have health records kept confidential and not used for any purpose other than public health services without written consent;
You have the right to designate a person to exercise rights on the patient’s behalf if the patient is not able to do so because of a physical or mental incapacity; and
You have the right to be informed of all rights and responsibilities under the bill and under other laws of Canada or a province with respect to public health services.
American Patients’ Bill of Rights**:
You have the right to receive accurate and easily understood information about your health plan, health care professionals, and health care facilities. If you speak another language, have a physical or mental disability, or just don’t understand something, assistance will be provided so you can make informed health care decisions.
You have the right to a choice of health care providers that is sufficient to provide you with access to appropriate high-quality health care.
If you have severe pain, an injury, or sudden illness that convinces you that your health is in serious jeopardy, you have the right to receive screening and stabilization emergency services whenever and wherever needed, without prior authorization or financial penalty.
You have the right to know all your treatment options and to participate in decisions about your care. Parents, guardians, family members, or other individuals that you designate can represent you if you cannot make your own decisions.
You have a right to considerate, respectful and non-discriminatory care from your doctors, health plan representatives, and other health care providers.
You have the right to talk in confidence with health care providers and to have your health care information protected. You also have the right to review and copy your own medical record and request that your physician amend your record if it is not accurate, relevant, or complete.
You have the right to a fair, fast, and objective review of any compliant you have against your health plan, doctors, hospitals or other health care personnel. This includes complaints about waiting times, operating hours, the conduct of health care personnel, and the adequacy of health care facilities.
I’ve not done the Rights for other countries as most of my traffic comes from North America, but I’m sure a simple Google search using your country and “Patient Bill of Rights” would turn up something similar. I think this is good information for all of us to have and it’s all very reasonable.
Now the list for us as Patients:
You have the obligation to treat your doctor and other medical personnel with respect.
Be organized when you go to see your doctor – know the questions you need to ask and understand your doctor is limited to one or two concerns at a time. If you have more than that to talk about, book a double appointment. Don’t be an “oh, by the way” Patient.
If you need refills of your prescriptions, let the office know when you’re making your appointment. This way, they can schedule that into the time you spend with the Doctor.
Bring along a family member or trusted friend to help translate for you if English is not your first language. Don’t let translation issues cause your appointment to run overtime. The same goes for the hearing impaired – bring a sign language interpreter with you if needed.
Find out what the policy is for missed or cancelled appointments with your doctor. Most cancellations given within 24 hours are fine, but if you need to cancel with short notice, you may have to pay for the full cost of the appointment. Every office varies, so know in advance what your obligations are.
Be honest. Tell your doctor if you’re using recreational drugs – it can make a difference in regards to the prescriptions they need to write or tests they need to run.
Speak up if you don’t understand something the doctor says. You have a right to clear and concise information so if you’re not sure of what the doctor is saying, ask for clarification. There’s no sense going home and then having to call the doctor’s office to ask what he meant. Your time in the office is your chance to have everything explained properly. If you feel your doctor is being dismissive of your symptoms, you have the right to ask for a second opinion.
What do you think of the Patient list? Is there anything you think is wrong? Is there anything missing that should be added? Tell me in the comments below.
Remember, we have as much of an obligation to be good Patients as our Doctors and Nurses et al do to be good practitioners of medicine. It’s a two-way street and only by working together will we be able to form a Patient Centred Care Team where those practitioners are working with us in partnership for our best health.
There is always hope.
Today, I’m talking about creature comforts…and by that, I mean the pets that bring us comfort when we’re in pain, or just needing a little extra loving. This is a guest post and I’m going to be introducing you to several of my Internet friends and their furry companions.
Lets start with Catherine Taylor and her Bichon Chloe. Catherine shared this with me: Bichons in general are very loyal and Chloe and I bonded from the start. It was like she imprinted on me … she was my shadow. When she was a pup, we had her outside one day, playing in the girl’s sandbox/play centre. It had a small slide and the girls put her at the top of it and ‘encouraged’ her to slide down it. Chloe was having nothing to do with it. I went to the bottom of the slide, crouched down and called to her. She turned around and saw me and tentatively made her way to the top, looked around once and then slid down to my waiting arms. This dog trusted me 100%. I love animals and feel privileged when an animal trusts me. I believed this dog would risk her life for me, if she had to. We were friends for life.
Chloe comfy in the chair
When I developed fibromyalgia, she stayed by my side as I spent more time in bed resting. She could have stayed near the action (and food) with other members of the family downstairs, but she became a fixture, literally, at my feet and often lying over them. It was like having a weighted therapy blanket (didn’t know about those back then). She wasn’t too heavy, just the perfect amount of pressure to make me feel snug and my feet warm, which are usually cold. She’d stay for the duration while I slept. Wherever I was, she was beside me.
Chloe laying on Mommy’s legs in bed!
As anyone can tell you, it’s comforting and soothing to have the warmth and devotion of another being close by, one that doesn’t require anything from you. Studies have shown that blood pressure and heart rate decrease when petting an animal. Chloe passed away last year and I miss having her by my side.
What a sweetheart!!!
Our next guest is Elaine Zena Feather and her precious rescue baby Felix Felix is my gorgeous rescue fur baby. He’s been with me almost a year and a half and he was barely more than a kitten when arrived. My granddaughter named him Felix which is also special. We’re not sure if he had been abandoned but he was definitely very nervous. He was happy to come to me straight away and have cuddles but he kept finding little hidey holes when we first got home (including diving into my drawer under the bed and he would not come out lol. My son had to remove the drawer and coax him out. Before long he made himself right at home, stretching his long, furry body out on the carpet.
He is such a loving boy and will lie right next to me wherever I am, snuggling up and wanting lots of cuddles. He will lie on my lap and turn himself over so he’s lying in my arms. Then he’ll put his paws up to my face for me to kiss them. I cannot imagine my life without him. He follows me round like a dog and comes running when I call. He’s very vocal and “chats” away to me. He really is a comfort and is loved by all my family. He is also very good with my grandchildren especially my grandson who was totally besotted with him. He has beautifully long fur and is happy to be brushed and will even roll over for me to do both sides lol.
Felix showing off his luxurious fur
His one “downfall” is he keeps bringing me “presents” which I do my best to rescue and then release back into the wild. Unfortunately I have ended up being bitten a few times by rescued mice and boy does it hurt. I just sometimes forget because I just want to try to pick them up before they disappear somewhere in my house that I won’t be able to find them. I can’t really blame Felix though because it’s what cats do and we have amazing open fields at the back of us which is a great hunting ground. They say having an animal reduces stress and stroking them is very good to reduce blood pressure but also to keep you alive longer. I totally believe that’s true cos having my snuggles with Felix is wonderful and makes me forgive him anything……..even him waking me up at 4am to go out lol xxx
Elaine and Felix cuddling each other
I love how furry Felix is!!
Our next guest is Julie Villefana and her Old English Sheepdog Don Pedro I have been living and coping with having Fibromyalgia as well as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for many years. At the beginning I slept a lot, as well as cried and generally felt very unhappy. My mum lived with us, so I was busy hanging out with her. She basically got me out and about as little as I did. Then about 10 years ago my mum had a stroke and was first hospitalized and then placed in a Nursing Home. I was devastated. I had lost my only friend who really understood, or at least tried to understand my new-found life. Even though I am happily married, my hubby is away a lot. So, about 8 yrs ago we decided to get an Old English Sheepdog. We named him Don Pedro and he was 8 weeks old when we brought him home.
Don Pedro, Eight Weeks Old
He was so small that he fit on my mum’s tray on her wheelchair! He forced me to not only have to take him out to do his business and general exercise, but also to learn to smile again. He brought and still does, bring such joy to the world! He attracts attention wherever we are. Many stop to ask questions about him, to which I have to reply, naturally. He made me happy again. Sometimes I feel that I have to dress the part to just take him outside to be seen by the world. Plus, he is such a character and certainly has a personality of his own.
Playing with his girlfriend
If it weren’t for him my life would be very much duller. He seems to have adopted my lifestyle in that he rests when I do, which is a lot. Plus he seems to sense when I am at my worse and snuggles beside me on our bed. (We actually had to get a bigger bed as he tends to jump in ours and slowly push us to the edges so that he can stretch out)! I post a lot of pictures of our Don Pedro on Facebook and Instagram, etc, because he is so photogenic and adorable to us at least.
Look at that smile!
We have been on the front page of the news twice, including even winning a Lookalike Competition! And now that we have recently moved to Victoria, he is constantly being photographed by the massive array of tourists. Yes I realize that his breed don’t live forever, and we hope that he will be with us for many more years of sheer joy, we know that he will leave us one day, where I will have to carry on as best I can, but for now I will enjoy everything that he has to offer. I thoroughly recommend an OES for anyone housebound and in constant pain as am I.
Julie and Don Pedro enjoying the snow
I can’t wait to meet Don Pedro as Julie and I are friends in real life and she just moved to my town of Victoria, BC!
And finally, there’s my pet, Dorie. What can I say about my sweet kitty? We’ve had her for 9 years now, since she was a kitten and she is definitely MY cat.
Dorie at 10 weeks old
She plays with Ray but she cuddles with me and I’m the one she curls up to at night when it’s bedtime. She sleeps tucked right up beside my tummy, as tight as she can and only moves when I need to get up to pee. She waits for me to come back and get comfy and then *boom* she’s right back in there again!
She seems to instinctively know when I’m having a bad day too. She loves to come curl up in my lap on those days, offering me comfort. On other days, when I’m blogging or otherwise occupied on the computer, she’ll stay close enough to wait to an opportunity to sneak onto my lap whenever she can!
Just waiting for her moment!
Dorie has two special toys that she considers her babies – a blue crocheted string and a small stuffed bunny. She carries Bunny and String around the house, chirping at them and leaving them in the strangest places. We’ve found them in the food bowl before, and I once found Bunny in the recycling bin and the bathtub! Our rule is that we never move them unless absolutely necessary.
Here I’d only set my motorcycle helmet down for a short while but apparently it was a good home for both toys! Dorie makes me laugh with her antics and I think that’s one of the best things a pet can do for you when you live with chronic pain – laugh!
Do you have a pet that helps you feel better? Tell me about it in the comments below and if you’d like to be featured in a post like this in the future, send me your information in the Contact Me form and I’ll be in touch!
I love my body! Despite the fact it’s a piece of crap on the inside and has been for a very long time…I still love it! 🙂
It’s not a model’s body, not by any stretch of the imagination, but my husband still finds it attractive after 24 years together. He took this photo back in 2011 when we went on our first cruise and when I asked him if he could find it (because I wanted to show it to our daughter to prove I looked good in a two-piece back then), he looked at me almost in disbelief and said “of course I can find it”. He knew exactly where it was because it’s a favourite of his.
I was 49 when this photo was taken and I’m 56 now. I don’t look quite the same as back then but I’m working on it. I’ve had a hip replacement since this was taken plus another surgery, as well as many years of increased pain with my Fibromyalgia and other illnesses. In fact, over half of the Invisible Illnesses I live with now didn’t even exist in my body when Ray snapped this photo. But I still love my body, just the way it is right now.
I’m 5’2″ tall and I weigh about 145lbs right now. I fluctuate up to 160lbs. I have strong arms and legs, but my fingers and hands are weak. Once upon a time in 2008 in Calgary AB, I walked a Half Marathon in -23 degree temperatures (with a windchill of -30). The annual Running Room Hypothermic Half Marathon is quite famous and is now held in cities across North America. This was my very first time – I took a training program but hadn’t trained properly near race day because of my health and really, I probably shouldn’t have even done it. However, I finished in 3:30:22 and in fact it was such a good race time that Ray almost didn’t make it to the finish line in time to take photos of me crossing (it was a surprise for me). I was delighted to finish and vowed I would never do anything like that again (I got a tiny bit of frostbite under my chin which was the only area left exposed).
I love my body now, but there was a time when I mourned for the body I used to have. Back in the mid-2000s, I used to be in great shape. I went to the gym, I had a trainer named Terrianne and I lifted weights – heavy weights. I was doing 40lb bicep curls and 80lb hip abductors and at one point, I could leg press 800lbs. Yes, you read that right…I could leg press 800lbs. I was well muscled and toned and in the best shape of my life. It was only because of 3 unexpected surgeries between 2006 and 2007 that my life derailed and I was unable to recuperate properly. In fact, I had barely done any proper training for the Hypothermic Half when the Marathon actually took place, so to finish in the time I did was a real testament to the shape I’d been in previously. We really take our bodies for granted when they’re running well, don’t we?
I still love my body! Even after everything it’s put me through with surgeries, and Fibro and Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue and all the other Invisible Illnesses, it’s the only body I have, so I try to stay positive and treat it well. I like to try to keep my mind sharp as well so I enjoy doing things like word search puzzles and crosswords and I’ve always enjoyed those online hidden object games. Because I don’t get out of the house a lot, I do tend to spend a lot of time on the computer, but sometimes, I’m aware of being “housebound”. It’s an awful sensation and it makes me feel like an invalid. A shut-in if you will. How about you? Do you ever feel that way?
Unfortunately, I have to use a cane for mobility purposes. I’ve had my right hip replaced and it works great, but my left hip still needs to be replaced in the near future. Additionally, my Left Achilles Tendon has been giving me problems for quite some time and even though I’ve seen a physiotherapist, he’s not been able to do much for me. We’ve tried massage and acupuncture and he feels that there’s not really much else that will help the problem, which he thinks is more with the tendon attaching at the bone. Ultrasound isn’t going to improve anything, so after 4 sessions, we’ve called it quits. The other reason for using a cane is that my right knee has problems with severe pain and an occasional buckling and collapsing problem. It’s arthritis that causes this and so I wear a knee brace and use the cane for stability.
Sometimes, when I’m out running errands, I have to use a rollator because the distance is too far for just a cane. Mine is blue and is made by Xpresso:
I call it my “Pambourghini”. Seriously though, it’s great for use around downtown Langford where I live, or when I take the bus to the doctor because it folds up with one hand and it’s easy to transport if Ray and I take the truck somewhere instead.
Here’s the thing though – I don’t want to be defined by my Chronic Pain, and just because I use a mobility device doesn’t mean I don’t want to look my best at the same time. I try to dress fashionably but I also have my own unique sense of style. I can’t wear high heels, so I tend to wear shoes that have some sparkle to them. I love long dresses for a more feminine touch, and over the course of the last three years, I’ve gone from having summer hair (practically bald) to short hair to long hair.
And when I have a chance to go out with friends or with my husband on a rare date night, I want to look good. I want to dress up and be pretty and look like every other person around me. I don’t want someone to be able to pick me out of the room and say “oh, there’s the one with chronic pain”.
But while I care very much about how I look, I’m often too tired or too sore to go anywhere and when I do go out, it’s usually a medical appointment. The last person I need to impress is my doctor. In fact, I generally want him to see me at my worst, so he knows what my day-to-day look really does look like.
In order to try to take care of myself, I’ve recently taken on a 30 Day Challenge to do 20 Squats, 20 Wall Push-ups and 20 Bicep Curls every day. I want to try and be as fit as I can in the body I have but I know I need to start slow so I don’t cause a Fibro flare-up. This was my modified answer to an invitation from a friend for a 100 Squats a Day Challenge. So far, I’m on Day 2 and I’ve done both days in good form!!! Go me! I set an alarm on my iPhone to remind me what to do and when, and I’m determined to follow through!
There was a time when I didn’t always feel this way. I felt like my body had betrayed me. It was hard to go from being so healthy to suddenly being bedridden half the time, or unable to go for a walk without using a cane. It was frightening to think that this was going to be my future, and chances were it wasn’t going to get better, only worse. And in a lot of ways, it’s been true. I’ve had to give up hobbies I loved because I don’t have the stamina to keep doing them.
When I lived in Calgary, AB, I used to sing in a women’s 4 part a cappella Barbershop Chorus called Rhythm of the Rockies, and in a quartet called Quintessence. We were part of Sweet Adelines International and our chorus would compete in Regional Competition against other choruses from BC, AB and SK – we were the All Canadian Region, Region 26! The winner of the Chorus competition would go on to International competition the following year. In 2005, Quintessence decided to compete for the first time in the Quartet competition and ended up winning Novice Quartet of the Year!! I think we placed 10th out of 16 Quartets as well. We were so proud of ourselves!!!
Quintessence Quartet: Cheryl (Baritone), Pamela (Bass), Lauri (Lead), Judith (Tenor)
Rehearsals became too much for me when pain and fatigue took over my life. We competed one more year, in 2006 but that was my final year of singing, including in the chorus. What a huge disappointment that was for me. I had been singing in some form or fashion for most of my life. And now, that was gone. It’s even harder now that I live where I live as the very excellent Pacific Edge Chorus from Sweet Adelines rehearses just down the road from me. I would love to be a part of singing again but I just don’t think I could manage the energy required to be involved again. I have to be honest though…every Tuesday night, I’m teased by the fact there’s a rehearsal going on!!
How do you feel about your body? Do you feel like your body has betrayed you since you first developed Fibromyalgia? What has Fibro taken from you? Did you use to be involved in any crafting or hobbies that you had to give up?
Do you still like your body?
Despite everything, I still love my body. I’ve forgiven it for what its gone through. I know it’s not it’s fault, it just is what it is. Overall, on the outside, I think I’m ageing well. I have no wrinkles, lots of silver in my hair which I love, and the older I get, the more content I seem to be with life in general. I’m in love with my hubby, my kids are doing well in their lives and my three grandsons are all happy and healthy. Those are the things I like to focus on, not the parts that are breaking down left, right and centre. I try to remain positive and stay joyous. Contentment IS achievable, but it takes fortitude and the right mental attitude.
If you’re struggling, I invite you to reach out. I have a wonderful little booklet with some powerful words from women I’d be happy to pass along to you, so if you’d like that, send me a message using the Contact Page. It’s about more than just body image…it’s empowering in many different ways, but all about being a strong woman. And that’s how I like to think of myself. I am a strong woman!
Our bodies are complex, but they’re all we have. Let’s all be strong and learn to love them again, just as they are.
I want to get controversial today and I’m even going to throw in a disclaimer that this post is my PERSONAL opinion. I have no affiliation with any of the organizations mentioned within.
I was recently involved in an online Facebook discussion that got pretty heated. What was it about you ask? Well, let me ask you a question…
Is there a blood test to diagnose Fibromyalgia?
The answer is NO.
Is there a lab test to diagnose Fibromyalgia?
The answer is YES and NO.
How can there be both? Well, I’m going to explain it to you and when I’m done, you’ll see how wording can make you believe both things. Before I do though, I’m going to give you the correct answer. As of right now, today, there is NO blood test that definitively diagnoses Fibromyalgia. Not according to the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins or any other leading hospital in the United States.
First off, let’s get something clear about Fibromyalgia. Fibro is NOT an inflammatory disease. It is technically NOT an autoimmune disease. What Fibro IS, is a NERVE disease where the brain misreads the pain signals going to the body through the spinal cord.
The big test that everyone talks about when they say there’s a lab test that DOES diagnose Fibro comes from EpiGenetics. It’s called the FM/a test and it shows some promise that it could potentially diagnose Fibro. They say it does that now, but I say in the future. This article from Healthline explains it in more detail but it’s important to note that more clinical trials need to be done before we can trust this test to be the definitive lab test we’re all waiting for.
Here comes your Science lesson. This FM/a test looks for chemokines, which are a family of small cytokines, or signalling proteins secreted by cells. Some chemokines are considered pro-inflammatory These are formed under pathological conditions (on pro-inflammatory stimuli, such as IL-1, TNF-alpha, LPS, or viruses) and actively participate in the inflammatory response attracting immune cells to the site of inflammation. But as I said above, Fibromyalgia is NOT an inflammatory disease…so how is this blood test going to be useful other than by process of elimination? And by that, I mean it’s going to rule out all the other diseases that DO have inflammatory responses, such as Lupus, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis, etc.; basically, all the auto-immune disorders, which would have already been ruled out by the doctor through a regular panel of blood work.The way Fibromyalgia is diagnosed is by using the traditional Tender Point test. There are 18 tender points on the body of a person with Fibro:
As indicated, having 11 of the 18 Tender Points is considered a positive diagnosis. This is the ONLY way Fibro is diagnosed, after all other possible conditions have been ruled out, such as arthritis, lupus, MS, etc. This Tender Point test has been accepted as the gold standard in the medical community for years and will continue to be utilized until the medical community itself accepts a blood test as the new standard. That may be the test from EpiGenetics or there is one being developed based on RNA, not DNA, by a company called IQuity. They call their test IsolateFibromyalgia and you can read about it in this article.
EpiGenetics has developed their test and are marketing it aggressively, but it hasn’t been endorsed by the major hospitals like the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins, etc. or by doctors who treat Fibromyalgia. It’s accepted in most States, as well as in Canada and several other countries. Insurance and Medicaid will cover it in the US, but I don’t believe there is insurance coverage anywhere else, so you have to pay $1080 for the test, plus possible shipping fees to their California Laboratory and it takes a week to get results. In my opinion, that’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t have the support of the medical community.
For people with all the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, one of the most complex of the Invisible Illnesses, in my opinion, the future could be looking a whole lot brighter a whole lot sooner than we think. Instead of having to rule out multiple other conditions, a simple blood test will be able to help your doctor determine if you have Fibromyalgia, which means treatment can start sooner rather than later. Who knows…perhaps once we have a test to determine if you have Fibro, it won’t be long before we have an actual treatment for it too! One that really works, not just masks the pain or other symptoms for a short period of time.
Your best weapon against Fibromyalgia and all Invisible Illnesses is education. Stay up to date with information from trusted sources like the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins and Healthline. Labs like EpiGenetics are focused on their own work and will be biased toward their own product so be aware of what they’re saying and why. They have a product to sell you and that’s their agenda – to make a profit. Keep that in mind anytime you’re researching information and ask yourself; what’s in it for them and what’s in it for me. The answer to that question can save you a lot of grief and controversy.
Remember, there is always hope.
FIBROMYALGIA IS REAL BUT YOU WILL ALWAYS FIND DOCTORS WHO DISAGREE
If you’ve been to my blog before, you know that I live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Invisible Illness. If this is your first visit, you now know something about me. I want it made very clear that YES…Fibromyalgia DOES exist.
Walk a mile in my very painful shoes and you will know exactly how painful it is to live with Fibro. Every one of my muscles feels like it’s being dragged in concrete and every joint feels like it’s been twisted, then put into a mechanical vise and clamped as tightly as possible. I get shooting pains in parts of my body that I didn’t even know existed, for no reason at all. My arms burn and my hands and feet tingle or go numb.
The brain fog is awful…forgetting what you’re saying in the middle of a conversation is so embarrassing. I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast. I can’t remember if I ATE breakfast. I take medications that cause horrible side effects like weight gain and shaking hands and brain zaps…a sensation like an electrical shock that runs across your brain and where you can feel AND hear a literal buzz. I am constantly exhausted by the lack of sleep that comes with Fibro. It’s never refreshing and it’s never enough.
Yet, with all of this that I and my fellow Fibromites go through, there are still doctors who say “it’s all in your head” and “it doesn’t exist”. Well, tell me then…what DO I have wrong? All my tests come back negative for everything you tested me for…but I have all 18 of the 18 tender points that indicate Fibromyalgia is what I have.
Here are things I’ve had to say to friends and to DOCTORS who have questioned me about Fibro and Chronic Pain at various times over the last 10 years:
1. This is not “just in my head”. My pain is real.
2. I wish Fibro came with bruises, that way, you could see how much pain I’m feeling just so you could believe me.
3. It never goes away. My pain is always there, even when I’m acting “normal”. Don’t let my smile fool you, I am always in pain. Always.
4. There is no standard day or week or month with Fibromyalgia, It changes from hour to hour sometimes. Some days are better than others. Some days I think I want to die (this one always gets me in trouble).
5. Staying home instead of working or doing something fun isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
6. You think I’m faking being sick, but really I’m faking being well.
7. The Brain Fog is terrifying. You try forgetting what you’re saying in the middle of a sentence and see how it makes you feel – you feel stupid and old and easy to dismiss. I lose things easily and am easily distracted. It’s so frustrating.
8. Day to day activities are exhausting. Heck, getting out of bed is exhausting.
9. Even if there were drugs that worked well, I am not a drug seeker and my history will show that. I have ONE Family Doctor and use ONE Pharmacy! I just want relief from the pain.
10. What part of “chronic condition” are you having a hard time understanding? I am not going to get better. I am going to live with this for the rest of my life. I hope to get better but it’s never going to go away. Don’t give me false hope.
11. I’m willing to try just about anything, but just because something worked for some Aunt’s friend’s cousin’s sister doesn’t mean it’s going to work for me. We’re all different and treatment isn’t a one size fits all option. But, whatever…I’m willing to listen.
12. Sometimes, I have to cancel my plans at the last minute. Sometimes, I cancel my plans with the same friend 2 or 3 times in a row. It’s not a reflection on the friend. It’s my body.
13. I wish more doctors understood Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain and took us more seriously. Do you see me as a drug seeker too? What about when my x-rays show a body filled with arthritis? How do you deny my pain then? I just want you to help me find answers and relief.
14. Some days, even my hair hurts
15. There are days when the most I can accomplish is moving from the bed to the couch, and that’s okay. At least I did something.
16. On the days I feel good, I push myself too hard to get things done, even though I know I’m going to pay for it later. I hate being thought of as lazy. When my husband comes home, I can honestly say to him, “honey, today I cleaned up, did the dishes, vacuumed the house, did the laundry, baked cookies and scrubbed the bathroom”. And then I know I’ll be bed-bound for the rest of the week.
17. What you see on the outside doesn’t necessarily reflect how I feel on the inside.
18. My chronic fatigue is at times overwhelming and I can’t push past it. It’s exhausting to be this exhausted.
19. I wish a simple nap would help to relieve my pain, but it will not disappear if I lay down and have a rest.
20. I’m a real person with real pain. I didn’t ask for this but I’m being forced to live with it. I didn’t do anything to get this, but sometimes I feel like I’m being punished.
Oh, it can be so frustrating having an Invisible Illness like Fibro. I truly do wish there were outward signs of this illness so that people could see that you’re ill. Something like bruises or a rash, or big F’s showing up on your body would be perfect (“oh look…she has F’s all over her…poor thing, she has Fibromyalgia…go get the door for her”). I truly wouldn’t mind that if it would help a doctor believe in what I’m going through, trust me. But, as I always say…
there is always hope!
Now a lot of you are probably thinking I’m crazy, and I am. While you’re getting up early in the morning to face the rush hour commute to go to a job you may not even enjoy, I could still be snuggled in my bed, fast asleep without a care in the world, right? Well, that’s the scenario you probably have in your head, but it’s far from the truth. As a Person with Chronic Pain (PwCP), I’ve probably been awake half the night because pain wouldn’t let me sleep; every muscle feels like concrete and every joint feels like someone has twisted it, put it into a machining vise and then clamped it three times tighter than necessary.
My brain hurts too…I want to be going to work with you. I loved my job prior to going on Long Term Disability (LTD) and the jobs I held before that. I was an Administrative Specialist at several different companies, mostly supporting Retail Operations and the people who managed the work; Directors, District Managers and Store Managers. In the past, I’ve worked for Rogers and Bell and my last company was The Forzani Group, now known as FGL Sports. I supported the group that ran the former Sport Mart stores (now closed), but am still considered an employee of FGL Sports while on LTD. I receive an employee discount and recently celebrated 10 years with the company.
I worked with an amazing group of people. I loved going into my job every day, knowing it was going to be challenging and fun and never knowing exactly what the day might bring. I organized team training events for Store Managers, travel and training for the District Managers, travel for the Regional Manager Rob Hillier and kept the Director, John Hould on track for his daily activities.
Then came the days when work started to become difficult. Too difficult. I had been doing all of this under the radar of Invisible Illness, which none of them knew about but it was starting to become an issue. Things that used to come easily to me became a struggle. I was famous for remembering things without needing a list and suddenly I was carrying notebooks with me because the Brain Fog was so bad. I would stop conversations in the middle of speaking because I forgot what I was saying. My pain levels were getting higher and higher but I refused to use a cane at work for my bad hip to ease the pain as I didn’t want to be perceived as being weak or incapable of being effective (this was prior to my right hip replacement). I couldn’t concentrate during meetings and even typing became a challenge – it still is to this day.
Once all the Sport Mart stores were closed, there wasn’t really a job for me any longer, so the HR department encouraged me to go on Short Term Disability while I figured out my health issues. Short term became Long Term, and I never went back. My last day of work was in October of 2009. I started with the company in February of 2008. That’s right…I’ve been on Disability with FGL Sports for over four times longer than I worked for them. It was distressing for me to have to leave, because I loved the work and I was very good at what I did. My identity was wrapped up in my work and had been since I first started my career in 1991. When I found myself at home on leave, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I slept a lot in the beginning which was healing, but after that, I didn’t know what to do. I felt invisible, as I’ve discussed on this blog before. And being invisible can be a very painful thing. People accused me of not wanting to work, that this was an extended vacation for me, and that was really hurtful. If they could see inside me, they would know how very much I wanted to be back at my desk, with meaningful work to do. The mistake I made is that I didn’t go around complaining about my health at work, so no one knew how badly I was hurting except for a couple of select people in HR, plus my bosses John and Rob.
I’ve asked my friend Tori Martin if I could share a quote here that she recently posted on Facebook and she graciously gave me her permission. This is what she said:
“STOP suggesting that people with disabilities of ANY kind just aren’t trying hard enough.
There are VERY few people who don’t want to work and contribute in a meaningful way according to society standards. Additionally, being able to work is NOT the ultimate measure of a person’s worth. Frankly, I am much more impressed at how a person treats others than what kind of work they do.I myself am unable to work due to physical limitations and it drives me crazy sometimes. Guess what though, I still have an incredible amount to give! I contribute to society through my photography, through having a huge heart that shows so much love and concern of others, through helping others, through occasional teaching of archery which helps many find confidence and enjoyment in physical activity. I contribute by paying taxes, voting, getting involved in local groups and causes and supporting local businesses. I am NOT a waste of space. And not that it’s anyone’s business, but I worked from the age of 10 until I was 39 and was literally bed-ridden for 2 years. My dr’s have been trying to help find ways of giving me back quality of life and things are so much better than those first two years, but nowhere near where they need to be to hold down even a part-time job. Telling people with mental or physical disabilities they have no worth if they can’t work is b*llshit and needs to stop. I am disgusted to have to say this after reading comments on a friend’s post. Apparently compassion and empathy is something that some folks just don’t have.”
I think Tori really nails it with that comment. She lives with Rheumatoid Arthritis that really affects her hands and I know for a fact that she would love to be working if it were possible. Her friend John Hewak responded with this reply to her post:
“What makes it worse is that we feel the need to justify ourselves, due to both real and perceived judgement from others. People say things like “must be nice”, or “how can I get that?” Well first get f*cking sick, really sick, lose almost everything, navigate the tortuous health system, marshal up a posse of docs, specialist, therapists etc who validate you, get a lawyer, get on welfare, go through the painful application procedure and wait months to hear back while you sink into poverty. Most applicants are rejected first time . Repeat and rinse. If the institutional, bureaucratic, legal, and medical stars align, you might be accepted, in which case you get $1,000 to live on monthly., while you struggle with pain and alienation on a daily basis. Try that for a while. Wow, it’s so great not to work! Living the life of Riley.”
And finally, a third friend named John Poulson replied:
“I have found that people who give the most are the ones who have experienced hardship the most. People who have never experienced hardships have absolutely no idea or clue of what life really all about. It’s not about “things” but the experience you lend or give to others. Having compassion and showing that there are people out in the world that do care. Live; love; laugh. It’s the tears that makes one appreciate the good things in life. That’s my motto. ❤️❤️”
It’s hard to be at home when you’d rather be out earning a living. Everyone thinks we have it so great, but when you’re housebound and feeling like crap, there’s nothing fun about it at all. We tend to be forgotten by our friends and sometimes our family members as well. We don’t get to go out and do “fun” things whenever we want – our time is generally taken up with Doctor appointments or physiotherapy treatments, etc. anyway.
So, to wrap this up, don’t forget your friend or family member who lives with Chronic Pain from Invisible Illness. Call them, ask to stop by for a visit, or to take them out of the house for a bit, whether it’s for lunch, or just a drive. They will let you know what they’re up for and how much energy they have. Even if they say no and they’d rather stay home, just keep in touch. That’s all we’re asking for. And don’t assume we’re being lazy. Trust me…most of us would rather be working if it were possible.
Have you ever felt tired? So tired you could barely move? Guess what…I have a new word for you!!!
Actually, I think there are many people in my life who this word could apply to…the warriors who struggle along every day despite the illnesses that try to hold them back. My friends and fellow Warriors…you are simply Quanked!!!!!!
Taken from Grandiloquent Words:
-Overpowered by fatigue.
-To have the strength reduced or exhausted, as by labour or exertion; become fatigued; be sleepy.Origin uncertainUsed in a sentence:
“After sprunting all weekend, then frooncing to get my chores done, I’m well quanked.”Quanked is a condition in which one’s energy and vitality has been consumed. One who is quanked has used up his or her bodily or mental resources, usually because of arduous or long-sustained effort. To feel quanked at the end of the day; quanked after a hard run; feeling rather quanked; quanked by a long vigil.-See forswunke
Now, in all seriousness, I think the word is an excellent one to describe how it feels to be exhausted when you live with an Invisible Illness. It’s beyond any type of tiredness you’ve ever felt before. It’s sleeping for 12 hours and waking up just as tired as you were before you fell asleep. It’s like climbing a mountain when all you did was go up one flight of stairs. When sleeping on the couch is easier than trying to get up to go to bed.
Now add in being in pain constantly and what do you get? You get you. You get me. You get people like us, who have been living in varying stages of agony for varying periods of time. I’ve talked with several friends who live with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain and Chronic Fatigue plus various other Invisible Illnesses and they’ve described their fatigue and pain like this:
It’s like swimming through concrete while being on fire at the same time (this was mine).
It’s like constantly having a “pins and needles” sensation that never goes away
I feel like I’m being randomly stabbed by a crazed maniac, but that crazed maniac is inside my body and I can’t stop it.
There are parts of my body that are numb and parts of my body that are burning and other parts of my body are throbbing and it all happens at the same time.
My brain is foggy and I can’t remember things like I used to. I hurt everywhere all the time and I’m always tired, no matter how much sleep I get. I don’t like this me that I am anymore.
I feel like I’ve been in a war, but you can’t see my wounds
Do you remember when you were young and you could stay up for hours and hours at night and never feel old? Yeah, well I can’t do that anymore. I’m lucky if I can stay up past 7pm and I don’t even have kids. I’m too tired and achy and sore.
There are ways you can try to improve your sleep with Fibro and Chronic Pain and the key is consistency:
Sleep in a quiet dark room with a slightly cooler temperature than normal. Wear a sleep mask if necessary.
Power down the electronics (TV, computer, Smartphone, etc.) one hour before bedtime. The light from your bedside clock is also enough to disrupt your sleep, so check and see if there is a dim light setting, or face the clock away from you at night.
Set a regular bedtime and wake up time. Establishing a schedule can help the body recognize good sleep habits.
Consider downloading and listening to “sleep music”. There are many recordings that are free, including delta wave music which works with your brainwaves to help lull you into a natural sleep. A “white noise” machine may do the trick for you. These can be found in almost any electronics store and come with various sounds and settings, designed to help your body relax and let go.
Limit Alcohol before bed. You know you’ve read this before but for good reason. Alcohol may make you “feel” tired but actually will wake you up more often.
Eat a healthy snack 45 minutes before bed. This would be something with protein in it like half a turkey sandwich, a small bowl of whole-grain low-sugar cereal, milk or yogurt or a banana. Eating like this before bed helps stave off the “midnight munchies” where you wake up starving in the wee hours of the night.
Get some exercise! Regular exercise like walking or swimming can help the body to rest well in the evening. Start slow and build up over time. Work with a personal trainer if possible who can help you set up a routine tailored to your specific needs and abilities.
Check with your Doctor to ensure there are no other underlying health issues that could be causing your fatigue (i.e.: thyroid issues, anemia, etc.).
Don’t just lay there – get up! If you haven’t been able to fall asleep within 20 minutes, get up and leave the bedroom. Read or do something that doesn’t involve your TV or computer/Smartphone until you feel sleepy and then try again. The bedroom should be for sleep and sex only. The longer you lay awake in bed for, the more used to being awake in bed your body becomes. You need to break that cycle so getting out of bed and moving to a different room is the smart choice.
Medications should be the last resort but are available to help if needed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for information about over the counter medications to try first.
If you tend to be a worrier at night, with a million things running through your head, allow yourself 10 minutes of this. Set an alarm and let your thoughts go wild. At the end of those 10 minutes, it’s time to stop. It takes practice but it gives you the opportunity to get all those worries out without mulling them over for hours. This isn’t the time for solutions, just the time to acknowledge that they’re there. At the end, say something like “I’m glad I had this time to worry about everything, but now I’m going to sleep on them. I’ll deal with them in the morning”. It tells your brain you’ve acknowledged the worries, and you’ll do something about them later. And off to sleep you go.
Another way to sleep better at night is to be organized during the day. The less you leave to chance during the daytime, the less you need to stress at night. “Did I sign Johnny’s papers for camp?” “Where did I put the chequebook?” “When is the next Book Club meeting?” Whether you use your smartphone, an organizer or the calendar at home, by having a regular system for keeping track of appointments, meetings and paperwork, you’ll stress less knowing you have it all in one place and you’ll sleep better at night.
Sleeping better isn’t always about being in less pain. It’s about doing all the things you can to make your environment as sleep-conducive as possible which may result in less pain. Removing as much stress as possible from your sleeping area is one of the biggest and best things you can do, so try and think of all the things that will make your bedroom area the most comfortable it can be. Perhaps there are items from this post that will help, such as pillows or a special scent. The key is, whatever you do, do it with consistency. None of us wants to feel quanked.
Remember…there is always hope