Fibro Warrior of the Week (#45)
Our first Fibro Warrior of 2014 is Amanda Garcea, a young woman who is studying photography and making the most of college, which now includes Fibromyalgia. Find out how she’s handling it all, how she keeps a positive attitude, and check out her photography website! -FD
FD: : Tell us a bit about yourself – Where were you born, where do you live now, family, interests, etc.
Amanda: I was born in Santa Barbara, California. I now live in Flagstaff, Arizona, where I am studying photography at Northern Arizona University. I have a beautiful Golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix named Aiby, and she really keeps me busy and lifts my spirits.
FD: When did you first suspect that something wasn’t right? What happened?
Amanda: Ever since I can remember, whenever I’d get sick with something as simple as a cold, I would get REALLY sick. I’d be bedridden and the body aches were unbearable. In 2012, during my senior year of high school, I started having excruciating pains in my knees. They would become so weak that I would fall when I would try and just sit down. At this point, I knew something was wrong.
FD: When were you diagnosed with Fibromyalgia?
Amanda: I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in June of 2012 after 4 months of being poked and prodded.
FD: When you received your diagnosis, how did it affect you?
Amanda: I had a pretty good idea that my final diagnosis might be Fibromyalgia. I hoped so much that it wasn’t, though. When I was told that I have Fibromyalgia, at first I was relieved just to finally have a diagnosis. But then once I went home and continued living my life, it really hit me: I’m going to be this sick for the rest of my life. That was really hard to come to grips with, and even now I struggle with the idea that this is never going to go away. I’m always going to struggle with my health. And, being only seventeen at the time, I thought about how long I still have to live. It really scared me.
FD: Since then, how has your outlook on life changed?
Amanda: Some may think that people with chronic illnesses would be a bunch of Negative Nancies! I mean, it would make sense seeing as how we are always sick, always in pain, always struggling just to breathe. Yet somehow, that is not the case. My outlook on life has changed so much in the two years that I have struggled with Fibromyalgia. I find that I am unbelievably grateful for all of the simple things in life- thing such as beautiful weather, a good night’s sleep, a low pain day, doctors who really care, and so much more! Obviously, I have my bad days where I am just an emotional wreck. But somehow I always seem to pick myself up and remind myself that there are many things to be thankful for.
FD: How does Fibro affect your day-to-day life?
Amanda: I am a nineteen-year-old sophomore in college at Northern Arizona University studying photography. I am affected by Fibromyalgia every single second of every single day. When I wake up in the morning, I have to decide if the pain is a high enough level to miss classes. I have to decide if I am sick enough to reschedule my photo shoots for the day. I have to admit, more often than not, I am stuck at home in bed catching up on the schoolwork I have missed because of Fibromyalgia. I would say I miss at least one class a week because I am either overwhelmingly nauseas or in so much pain that I can’t control the tears running down my cheeks. When I do things as simple as walking to the bus stop, it can ruin my entire day and cause my entire body to ache. And sleeping is a whole new level of struggling for me. I frequently rock myself to sleep in bed because nothing will touch the pain and moving my body seems to distract me from it.
FD: What can’t you do anymore because of Fibro?
Amanda: Since being diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, there are so many things I can no longer do. I used to run at least four times a week. Now, just going for long walks is painful. I find myself cancelling on plans with friends very frequently! And every time I have something really important to attend, I always end up debating whether or not I am sick enough to stay home.
FD: Name something you do now that you never would have imagined happening before your diagnosis.
Amanda: I now look forward to going to the doctor. It excites me as if I am going to Disneyland. I used to HATE doctors. Now, I have this overwhelming love for the doctors that really try to help me.
FD: : What has been your experience with seeking medical treatment for Fibro?
Amanda: I have seen probably over twenty doctors for my Fibro. I finally found a rheumatologist and primary care doctor in Phoenix who are wonderful! But then I moved up to Flagstaff for school. I am still working on finding a whole new set of doctors that are educated about Fibromyalgia. What’s frustrating when it comes to doctors is that most of us struggling with Fibromyalgia have many other health concerns on top of the chronic pain. For me, I have liver issues, uterine issues, skin issues— the list is endless. This only means that we need to see multiple doctors with all different specialties to help us get healthy— or as healthy as possible. It can be a challenge sometimes working with so many different doctors.
FD: How has Fibro affected your relationships, friends, family, partners?
Amanda: It’s so hard. My friendships have all been strained due to how sick I am. I have cancelled on every single person I know, and that can really anger people. Some people in my family are really supportive, and others think they know exactly what I need to do to be all better! I seriously had one family member tell me that I just need to stop being so stressed, because stress is probably what is causing all of my health issues!!! Crazy! My partner and I struggle often because of Fibro. However, my partner is always able to really understand what is going on without taking the anger out on me.
FD: What is the biggest challenge you face living with Fibro?
Amanda: The biggest challenge I face living with Fibro is just that: living. Everything that comes so naturally and easy for the rest of the world when it comes to living their lives is so difficult for me. Waking up, getting out of bed, getting dressed, traveling…it’s all so challenging and often times painful.
FD: What inspires you to keep on fighting?
Amanda: I am inspired to keep on fighting because of the people I love. I would never want to give up and face losing my support system. I also just keep thinking about all of the things I still have to learn in life. I have so much to experience like starting my career, having kids, etc.
FD: What advice do you have for other people who are living with Fibro?
Amanda Honestly, I just want everyone living with Fibro to remember that while we are in pain and are sick so often, there are so many things to be grateful for. Unfortunately, we can’t be grateful for our health. But we can be grateful for good days. And it’s okay to break down on the bad days, as long as you remember to pick yourself up when it gets better— because it does get better.
FD: Do you have a funny Fibro story you can share?
Amanda: I don’t really have any specific funny Fibro story. I guess overall, I just laugh because I am so young yet most of the things that come out of my mouth make me sound like I am eighty! There is humor when it comes to Fibro, you just have to search for the little funny things such as that.
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