Monday, February 28, 2011

Today is my Third Anniversary

Okay, well, it's not necessarily one I like to celebrate - it's the anniversary of my original Fibromyalgia diagnosis, in 2008. I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia by a rheumatologist. As a treatment plan, he put me on Lyrica and then Cymbalta, both with awful results. After that, the young doctor seemed to be out of ideas, so I looked for a more experienced doctor.

I found a doctor who specialized in Fibromyalgia patients, got re-diagnosed (pretty much at every appointment) using the standard pressure-point test, and saw him for a while. He started me on Pristiq to regulate serotonin, and also prescribed sleeping meds to help me sleep. I also had a pain medication at my disposal for managing flare-ups. I made some progress and was glad to have found this doctor. One of the most important things he studied, was a theory that an overabundance of yeast in the digestive tract is the ultimate cause of Fibromyalgia symptoms, and could be better managed or even cured by using anti-fungals and maintaining a strict "yeast-free" diet for at least 6 months, then as needed.

I tried this treatment for 3 months without cheating, because I was very curious to see if this treatment would be effective for me. This meant I could have: no bread, no beer, no sugar, no fermented products, no preservatives or artificial sweeteners, very limited fruit and dairy, and pretty much nothing pre-packaged unless it was whole grain or free of all the other forbidden stuff. I basically ended up eating home-chopped salads with lime juice for dressing, and Triscuits (whole wheat) for lunches, and clean meats and veggies for dinners. I'd snack on veggies and have fruit for dessert. Cheese was a special treat.

Basically, I lost 20 pounds in 3 months, I felt worse painwise, and I was not happy about being a social pariah because I couldn't go out to dinner or eat "regaular" foods with my husband or friends anymore. I was skinny and miserable. The doctor saw my ribs and urged me to quit the diet and eat some ice cream or something. Not long after that, the doctor closed up shop and I was looking for a new fibro doctor again. (I'm not sure I was the cause of the closing up of the shop, but I do wonder sometimes.)

I found a neurologist who works in a pain clinic setting. He is very familiar with Fibromyalgia as well as other chronic pain conditions. This is the doctor I currently see now. He is a great listener and we manage my treatments together. I ask lots of questions, tell him how my health has been between visits, and tell him what I consider most important about my symptoms at the time. If necessary, we change up medications or talk about non-medical treatments that could help. I suspect he doubles as my psychiatrist, as he's usually typing a lot of information as I talk. Thus far, it's been a good match, I think.

So, today, I reflect on my journey from undiagnosed to having been officially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia for three full years now. Back then, I had just learned the word and all the packaged symptoms it entails. I have tried many types of treatments and have experienced many ups and downs. I've learned lots about what it means to have Fibromyalgia and deal with its unpredictable nature. I've also connected with many others like myself through online groups and made great friendships I probably would not have, otherwise.

It's been a relatively short journey thus far, but I have already made much progress. I'm hoping that the remainder of my journey will only get easier with time and experience.

Special thanks to everyone who has contributed to my learning and understanding

along the way. This includes doctors, researchers, nonprofit organizations and their publications, support groups, all my fibrofriends, and last but not least, my friends and family - especially my husband Don - who have been supportive and understanding of my body's changes, even before I could be. I am grateful for you and the help I get from you every single day. I am able to deal with this only because of you.