Me and My Fibromyalgia

One doctor thought Helena Adams * had MS. Another doctor suspected the true reason for her symptoms: fibromyalgia, but he predicted the disease would go into permanent remission within five years. Twenty-nine years later, at sixty years of age, Helena is still suffering. But she's not complaining. "Women come up to me after services and squeeze my arm. They don't know it hurts," says Helena, and she's not telling them.

For Helena, the pain in her arms and legs and the way her fingers tend to 'lock,' are just the way things are. She's grateful her symptoms aren't worse. "Weather has no effect on my symptoms, and I don't get tired or have to take to bed, like some people do."

The main issue for Helena has been pain management. She's tried many medications including Naproxin and Celebra, but after a few months, Helena finds that she develops a resistance to medications. "The last medication I tried was Etopan. I was taking 800 mg. but it stopped working. They all do. I get [cortisone] shots every few months. They help. My doctor is very good. I hardly feel them and he knows just the right places."

Don't Be Afraid to Ask For Help.

Though Helena doesn't complain, she's not afraid to ask for help. "If there's no bagger at the supermarket, I open my mouth. I say, 'Please will you open this bag for me.'"

Sharon Halaby's* doctor told her that in order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia, she had to have 11 out of a possible 18 pain points. She had 14. "I had pain and inflammation in my neck, hands, fingers, knees, ankles, feet, and a general ache in my spine. I was lucky, though, and I recovered without having to consult a whole slew of doctors."

Halaby is grateful that she hasn't had too many recurrences. "I have an episodic, acute type of fibromyalgia. When I have an episode, I can't move from the couch for three days, and then I feel achy but functional for about two weeks."

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast.

A psychologist by profession, Halaby knows better than anyone that her episodes of fibromyalgia are brought on by stress, "It's always due to specific stress. I think it's a good sign I've only had two episodes in the past four years. In my professional experience, most fibromyalgia sufferers are hyper-achievers. There's comorbidity with depression. Fibromyalgia seems to be some innate message in a person's body telling him to slow down."

*Names have been changed.

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