So let’s flash back about 10 years and I’ll brief my story to you.
One day, in 2003 I woke up with back pain. It was bad. It went on for days and I could feel it everywhere. Finally, I caved and had my boyfriend take me into the ER because i just KNEW something must be broken. I was only 23 years old, it had to be something I did right? Xrays revealed nothing, no abnormalities. I was sent home. Little did I know that pain was never going to go away.
Over the next few months I kept ending up in urgent care centers, ER’s and doctors offices in excruciating pain that had grown from my back to my neck, down my spine and all over. Everything hurt. I didn’t want to be touched. My hands were swelling, my joints ached, I was nauseous all the time. Also, I was tired. So tired. I was told everything was fine each time, given some muscle relaxers, some pain meds, and sent home. Nothing helped. One doc sent me to a Rheumatologist, and an Endocrinologist who both declared me healthy and discharged me from their practices. No one wanted to send me to a Pain Specialist. After two years of begging docs to believe me, despite their preliminary test results, I lost my health insurance and had to give up.
2005: Those two years were about status quo. Pain, swelling, super fatigue. I developed acid reflux. Lots of random headaches. My hormones flipped out of control, so I never knew whether I was getting a period or not. I battled depression and anxiety big time (I also didn’t know at the time I was bi polar, which now explains some of my mood issues) and every job I tried to work I ultimately had to leave because my pain and exhaustion was too great to meet the demands of working. I was working as a CNA/GNA and had plans to become and RN.But I could barely walk or stand, let alone lift and turn patients.
2007: Finally I landed a job at The Pentagon with good benefits and supposedly mostly behind a desk. But instead I ended up running around the clinic a lot putting out patient crisis fires. I loved the job but I could rarely take time off to deal with my own health. A few doc trips for pain meds were all I could afford to do for the next year or so, and besides, my fatigue seemed to be on the back burner for once. I took an even better paying job eventually at Walter Reed, and things looked a lot brighter until I noticed the pain and fatigue and anxiety getting worse again. It was affecting my ability to function. People were noticing. In a strange turn of events however, Ken proposed, and we had a whirlwind courthouse wedding and before I knew it I had transferred my job to Ft Bragg, NC to be with him.
2009: But it only got worse. We had a deployment coming up, my stress was out of control. My pain was out of control, along with all the other symptoms. In order to keep me upright at my desk all day, I was being given lidocaine shots in my back to numb me so I could finish out the work day. 16 shots in my back, just so I could sit in a chair. That’s when we made the final decision that I could no longer work. Ken deployed, I moved to Houston to be near a friend during the deployment.
In Houston, I started seeing a doc for the pain and that’s the first time Fibromyalgia had been mentioned to me. Now I was familiar with it. You don’t stay sick this long, without hitting the internet for some answers. No one ever wanted to talk to me about it however so I gave up trying to bring it up a LONG time ago. I was relieved and heartbroken at the same time. Everyone knows Fibromyalgia is a life long sentence of pain with no cure. And it comes with a lot of co existing problems. Like fatigue, other autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal issues, memory problems, sleep issues (oh god the sleep issues!) just to name a few. A few months into my stay in Houston I was hospitalized for a kidney infection. Half the time I couldn’t remember what I had done 5 min prior without a prompt or 10 min to think about it. I was always losing stuff.
I came back to Bragg in the Spring of 2010 to wait for Ken to come home in October. With one diagnosis in hand I started with a new doc, and this time was granted access to a neuro and a pain specialist. I really thought I was going to get help! The neuro did not believe me, even though he slammed me on an insane dose of Lyrica to shut me up I guess, (it did not work, the Lyrica nor the shutting up) and the pain specialist bounced me out because they only deal with pain from injuries, not disorders. I then insisted that my doc run some autoimmune labs on me and sure enough my ANA came back positive! FINALLY PROOF RIGHT? WRONG. The Rheumatologist I saw there said it was “weak” and she doesn’t deal with fibromyalgia anyway. No help anywhere. Just pain and tears. ended up losing my gall bladder in december of that year due to acute onset of gall bladder disease, and had the worst recovery the docs had seen in a long time pain wise. They kept me in the hospital a week before discharging me.
2011: Finally we had put Ft Bragg in our rear view mirror and moved to Richmond, VA. Fresh start, all new doctors. My new doc, immediately set me up with a Neurologist, who has controlled my vestibular migraines (chronic migraines that come with vertigo), a Gastroenterologist, who found out that not only do I have reflux but I have gastroparesis (fun fun), and the best Rheumatologist ever, who not only positively diagnosed the Fibromyalgia properly, but has uncovered another thing everyone else ignored: I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. The joint pain, and swelling were NOT my imagination. And my “weak” ANA was screaming something was wrong after all.
2014: We are working on all my problems to manage them, but they are all chronic illnesses that will never be fully cured or side effect free. Diets, treatments, physical therapy, medications, it’s all been trial and error. Some have made my pain worse, some have made my functionality better. I will still never function like a normal person, and I will continue to have health complications arise from them for the rest of my life.