Monday, January 5, 2015

The Fibromyalgia Files

In 10th grade, I wrote an essay on the definition of life. I said connections. After reading this article yesterday and reflecting on my own life, I think the same analysis can be applied to autoimmune diseases. If one string gets tangled, usually it pulls another thread into the hornet's nest with it.  

As the name of my blog implies, the body buddy that I've focused on is celiac disease. Even before gluten exited the picture, though, I already stumped doctors in a different branch of medicine. 

An enigma wrapped in a pink butterfly t-shirt!
I was a 10 year old with all the symptoms of fibromyalgia. For those who don't know or haven't seen the commercials, fibromyalgia (also shortened to "fibro") is another autoimmune condition that affects a person's pain neurons. Basically, the neurons are too active, causing continual pain, fatigue, brain fog and other symptoms. 

My mom also has fibro, so the tongue twister wasn't an entirely new concept. But it wasn't applied to me directly until I fell one night during soccer practice, slamming my wrist against the gym floor. Some tears. Some swelling. A little pain. When we went to the ER the next day, the doctors figured a serious injury was impossible - if it was broken, I'd be screaming my head off. One X-Ray later, I was wheeled into an operating room to fix a fractured wrist and severely dislocated fingers. Surprise

I was quite unamused at the time
So began my official relationship with fibro. One of PE notes and salt baths after every soccer practice to ward off the extreme muscles soreness. One of debilitating headaches, stints with a chiropractor and a masseuse. One of medicines that made new doctors do a double-take

Some days Mom and I wondered what life would be like without pain. Mythical? Inconceivable even. But, most days, I wore the aches like my school backpack - like it was just another part of life. 

And then celiac disease turned everything topsy turvy. For almost a year, I fought its negatives: the weight loss, the stomach tantrums and social suicide.

A little upside down action
But yesterday I jumped on the scale and saw 100 lbs - something I never thought possible after a year of loose jeans. Yesterday I walked home from kicking around the soccer ball with my dad and realized I wasn't really hurting. Not like I used to. 

I don't know if ditching gluten is the key for every fibromyalgia sufferer. As my doctors have pointed out, it's hard to say whether my celiac disease mimicked fibromyalgia symptoms, or if the gluten free diet eased them. And really? I don't care. 

Been there, got the celiac T-shirt!
Because I know that flareups are now rare and in between. I know that my neck only demands a massage every few months. I know that, when the doctor asks if I'm feeling any pain, I no longer answer "Only a level 7 today." 

As Meghan O'Rourke writes in her article, it's easy to rage at the body for its connective nature. If I already have one disease, is it really fair to be at higher risk for another? As I've experienced, though, sometimes it takes a couple tangles to finally see a clear picture.


*Also found at the Chronic Friday Linkup!*

Have you noticed a correlation between celiac and other autoimmune diseases? What positives have you found in celiac? Comment below!


2 comments:

  1. Steering clear of gluten has worked for me. It was the first task my physician gave me - stay away from dairy, gluten, and processed foods. It was limiting to my choices, but it helped me find the foods that are good for fibro and the ones to stay away from. Gluten is in everything, too, unfortunately.

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    1. I'm glad that you've found a way to eat that helps your fibro! And I feel you on the gluten being everywhere - it's amazing the places that it can hide! I even recently found paper plates made with wheat instead of paper in my local grocery store...

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