Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Write something AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL (10/02/14)
TITLE: Just Growing Pains, Dear
By Donna Tijou
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I often wondered how long I would experience growing pains. I reached my full height (a whopping 5’2”) by the time I was thirteen, so I was a little baffled why, at ages fifteen, sixteen and up, I was still hurting. Was I ever going to outgrow these pains?
By the time I reached my twenties I had serious doubts that what I was feeling was just growing pains. The pain intensified and I began to do nightly stretches to alleviate it. These stretches never completely took the pain away, but did make it easier to bear.
I lived through the pain in my twenties and thirties, but it wasn't easy. It always became worse, accompanied by extreme fatigue, about a week before, and during, my time of the month. My three pregnancies, followed by a year each of nursing, were somewhat of a reprieve. Perhaps it was the extra estrogen, I’m not sure, but although I wasn’t pain free during those times, I was in less pain.
After the pregnancies, when I was in my forties, I found a new doctor. I told him about the pain and he didn’t laugh, downplay it, or tell me I was growing; he diagnosed it as fibromyalgia.
I said “What?”
He said, “Fibromyalgia.”
“You mean there’s a name for what I’ve been suffering from all these years?”
I had to have him write it down because I knew I wouldn't remember such a long and unusual word. I had never heard of it, nor to my knowledge, had many others. Within a few years of my diagnosis, I began hearing about more people who were also diagnosed with it (currently, about five million in the US) - mostly women, but there are also men who have it. I started to learn what it was and how to live with it.
Today there is much literature to be found on fibromyalgia. It is an autoimmune disease, thought to be the result of overactive nerves causing chronic, widespread, deep-muscle pain and soreness throughout the body coupled with ongoing fatigue. It may be caused, among other reasons, by trauma to the brain or spinal cord (I also have severe cervical disk degeneration, arthritis and stenosis) and/or heredity (my mother and two sisters have since been diagnosed with it as well). The symptoms of fibromyalgia, along with the cervical damage, can be, and are, more than challenging.
Now, at sixty-four, I still have pain and often fatigue, but I lead a satisfying, joy-filled life. I am active in my church and neighborhood association, also garden, bicycle, snowshoe and cross-country ski in winter, watch grandchildren, prepare meals, do housework, write, and still stretch at night. The pain hasn't gone away - knowing what is wrong doesn’t take it away, it just makes it more palatable, thus lifting the fear of the unknown. In addition to taking pain medication and muscle relaxants, my husband provides daily neck message and I use a cervical traction unit many times a day for the collapsed vertebrae. I eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep and rest, do my daily stretches, and enjoy life. The most important part in managing my illness is trusting God for my well-being, which I do. With the help of a wonderful husband, a good family, faith in God and daily management of my illness, I can say that life is good, and that what I feel is not “just growing pains, dear”.
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