My pain story goes back many years. I remember suffering widespread body pain from my teen years and on – I’m 57 now. Mostly, it was mild for many years, but painful enough that I knew it wasn’t normal. I ached all the time, but back then, I was living a pretty transient lifestyle and it just wasn’t at the forefront of my mind. I finally settled down, had kids, entered and left a couple of relationships, and then met my wonderful husband.
In 1991, I was in a single vehicle car accident where I spun out on black ice. I took out the driver’s window with my head. Fortunately, I didn’t suffer any broken bones, but I did have a lot of soft tissue damage. I also suffered a huge fibromyalgia flare-up, and was in pain for months, despite going for physiotherapy. This was when I received my official fibromyalgia diagnosis.
Something else that has contributed to my fibro pain is the number of surgeries I’ve had in my life. I underwent stomach surgery in 2004 for severe gastric reflux disease and ended up with nerve damage. In 2007, my body went into overtime with health problems, and I ended up having surgery to remove my left ovary, then my gallbladder and then my right ovary – all happening within a 6-month time frame. Talk about body trauma!
My surgeon also discovered that I had scar tissue covering my bladder and bowels each time he operated and that I’d probably had endometriosis for years without knowing it. It certainly explains a lot of why I had so much pelvic pain over the years. All of these surgeries caused my fibro to flare-up repeatedly until I was in what felt like a permanent flare.
And if that weren’t enough, I also live with Osteoarthritis, Myofascial Pain, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and several other health issues. These all combine to make my fibro pain unbearable at times.
I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had good family doctors in both cities I’ve lived in (Calgary, AB and now Langford, BC). I was referred to and accepted into outpatient treatment at the Chronic Pain Centre while living in Calgary, and there, I worked with a team including doctors, physiotherapists, a psychologist, and others.
Treatments for Fibro
We tried several types of injections for the Fibro trigger points, including Botox, but nothing helped. My fibromyalgia was also treated by putting me on Lyrica first and then Cymbalta, plus a narcotic called OxyNeo (oxycodone). This is the treatment plan I follow to this day.
I also use Mindful Meditation, Music Therapy, Heat and Cold, Epsom Salt baths, Magnesium rubs, and I’ve tried Flotation Tank Therapy as well. Everybody is different in what works for them and these are all things I’ve found that help me especially during a flare-up.
My faith as a Christ follower is huge as well, and prayer plays a big part in my life when it comes to pain and managing it. It also helps to have a supportive partner. My husband does way more than his fair share around the house when I’m not able to pitch in with chores and stuff. He understands that I have bad days and is always available for sympathy and a hug.
I have been on Disability since 2009 as I can’t sit, stand, lift or carry for more than a few minutes at a time…I’m constantly having to move or shift positions to prevent my muscles from stiffening or going into spasm. The doctor who diagnosed my fibro and arthritis pain said it’s among the worst he’s ever seen. I feel like my muscles are encased in concrete as they constantly feel heavy and aching and hard to move.
I’m never pain-free, I’m perpetually exhausted because I can’t get into the deep restorative sleep….I’m loopy and dizzy from drugs and as much as I keep a positive attitude, I’m frustrated beyond belief that this is what my life has become.
My body is hypersensitive to many things, including the feeling of labels in clothing, loud noise, smells….you name it. I’ve also developed persistent excessive sweating – I can be in a freezing cold area and have goosebumps all over, but I’ll be sweating from my head, arms, and chest. So embarrassing and uncomfortable!
For a period of time, I attended group classes at the Victoria Pain Clinic for relaxation, diet, exercise, etc. and it did help to learn other ways to focus and cope. It also helped to be with people who “get it”. My husband is a saint, and treats me like a princess, but as wonderful as he is, he can’t feel what I feel. Sometimes, the best thing I can do is soak in a hot bathtub and try to focus on other things, but nothing ever makes the pain go away.
I allow myself to be taken care of so I can focus on healing. That was a hard step for me, but a necessary one. I’ve always been the doer, but now…I need to step back and take care of me.
Hip Replacement Surgery
In 2017, I had my right hip replaced because my osteoarthritis was so bad, and there was an impingement as well, which meant the head of the femur wasn’t sitting in the hip socket properly. The surgery took a couple of hours to do, and I was in the hospital for just 2 days before I went home. The nurses had me up and on my feet, the day after surgery and there was actually little pain.
My recovery took approximately 6 months and while I’m still using a cane, it’s because I have knee problems on the same side, not because of the hip. My hip feels great and I’m so pleased with the surgery. My left hip will need to be replaced as well, but hopefully not for another year or so. And during the period right after the surgery, I actually had only a minor fibro flare, partly due to the medications I was taking and partly due to the continual icing of the joint – it helped to keep things to a minimum.
There Is Always Hope
I’ve struggled with a lot of health issues, but my motto is “there is always hope”. It’s the name of my blog as well, where I write about Chronic Pain and Invisible Illness. I keep a positive outlook on life and I know that despite the fact there’s a lot of negative things going on for me health-wise, it could be a whole lot worse as well. I feel blessed overall and I never take things for granted.
About the Author:
Pamela Jessen lives in Langford, BC Canada. She is a blogger who writes about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness at pamelajessen.com She also writes for The Mighty, PainResource.com and various independent publications. Pamela is also a Patient Advocate with the Patient Voices Network in BC. She sits on 4 committees and one Provincial working group and has also been involved in advocacy work at the Canadian National level as well. Pamela is married to her amazing husband Ray and they have one cat named Dorie.