And then came age thirty. The work I had accomplished in my twenties was finally realized. I had received several job promotions and my college curriculum was put on a fast track toward an MBA. Then I contracted a viral pneumonia. This is where my life took a drastic turn. The pneumonia eventually cleared, but I developed other problems that lingered. My joints hurt all the time. I was so fatigued. My brain was slow and felt thick like cream soup. I persistently ran a low-grade fever. My heart would start racing for no reason and I would come close to fainting without warning. It was scary.
A pattern emerged where I would pursue different doctors for a diagnoses. After I was told I was 'anxious', 'depressed' or just had a ‘weird lingering viral condition’, I would try to live my life as best as I could and continue on. Then I would come to a point where I could not take the illness any longer and I would seek, yet, another doctor. This cycle went on for many years. Fifteen years, to be exact.
Fortunately, and through much research, I found a doctor who looked promising. After the examination, his first question was "How long have you had fibromyalgia?" I had finally found someone who was really going to listen to me and possibly understand my health issues. This doctor not only diagnosed fibromyalgia, but ultimately diagnosed Undifferentiated Spondylarthropathy (USpA) - an autoimmune inflammatory arthritic disease and later, Autoimmune Autonomic Neuropathy (Dysautonomia/POTS) and Small Fiber Neuropathy.
Now, in having my diagnoses, I am properly treated with a concoction of drugs that, while it all makes my head spin, has helped to stabilize my illness and pain so that I can go forth, most days, in an upright position. But of course, I have my ups and downs. However, treating the pain is the easy part… The true challenge lies in day-to-day living.
I have learned from experience that a chronic illness will change your life. During my twenties, I worked so hard to establish an education, career and marriage. During my thirties, I worked so hard to maintain my education, career and marriage and my health. Today, my job as Vice President is long gone as I am unable to work and my degree remains unfinished. My marriage is intact and for that I am very grateful and fortunate. My husband and I have endured a lot of scrapes along the way because of my illness, but we manage. He is supportive, loving and understands when I am feeling poorly. Somehow, that makes the loss of my education, career and income much less important.
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