Fibro Warrior of the Week (#33)
FWOTW: Crystal Chavez
Location: San Antonio, Texas, USA
Mantra: Breathe, take it easy, health comes first…
Fibro Warrior of the Week #33 is Crystal Chavez, the “Morning Edition” Host at Texas Public Radio. Crystal’s a strong believer in stretching—and coffee!—to get through her early air time. She’s also not opposed to fast wheels in the grocery store…
FD: : Tell us a bit about yourself – Where were you born, where do you live now, family, interests, etc.
Crystal: I’m the “Morning Edition” host at Texas Public Radio, the NPR member station in San Antonio, Texas. My shift starts at 4:30 a.m. so coffee is a must! I host local news updates, traffic and weather. I also host a weekly show called Fronteras, which covers the U.S. –Mexico border region, immigration, and the growing Latino demographic.
Before TPR, I worked at KUT News in Austin, also a public radio station. At KUT, I was a reporter and morning producer. I’m a proud Longhorn and graduated from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin in 2005.
FD: When did you first suspect that something wasn’t right? What happened?
Crystal: I got married in March of 2012. It was the happiest day of my life and I was Fibro free! In the months after, the symptoms slowly started showing up. It started with my shoulders hurting so bad I couldn’t even lift them. My docs thought it was the result of bad posture at work.
Then my knees started to hurt. The pain got worse until I needed a cane and eventually I could not walk. My husband had to carry me to the bathroom and bed. We had no idea how soon the “in sickness and in health” part of marriage would come, LOL.
FD: When were you diagnosed with Fibromyalgia?
Crystal: When my primary doctor finally saw that this was not in my head, he admitted me into the hospital immediately. I had every test under the sun: MRIs, endless blood tests and a spinal tap. The docs couldn’t find anything but some arthritis. After days in hospital hell, I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. This was in the summer of 2012.
FD: When you received your diagnosis, how did it affect you?
Crystal: I was happy to put a name on my illness, but was still skeptical since Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis run in my family. The diagnosis conversation with my neurologist was a mixed bag. I was glad I did not have a deadly disease. But everything else he said was troubling, that this was life changing, that I’d have to take meds for the rest of my life. That I may not be able to work nor have children… It took awhile to accept my diagnosis and plenty of research to see that I indeed had many of the symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia.
FD: Since then, how has your outlook on life changed?
Crystal: I place so much more value on my health. I appreciate the little things so much more. Not being able to walk will do that to you. I remember when just walking from the front door to the car was sooo hard.
While I don’t follow any particular diet, these days I’m much more cognizant of what I put into my body. And I take things day by day, trying not to stress too much. Stress is so bad for the body and mind and now my body reminds me of that with flare-ups.
FD: How does Fibro affect your day-to-day life?
Crystal: Every single day is different. Some days are better than others; it’s a roller coaster. The pains move around the body although there are regular trouble spots such as my upper right back and shoulder. I take Magnesium, Vitamins C and D, fish oil and calcium, along with a low dose of meds. I stretch a lot and take plenty of walks with my husband. I have such low amounts of energy that I really have to prioritize tasks. I sleep a lot to refuel.
FD: What can’t you do anymore because of Fibro?
Crystal: I can’t run like I used to, but I can jog on a really good day. I can’t always plan ahead because I never know how I will be feeling. I’ve had to learn how to slow down and can’t have too much on my plate.
I used to feel obligated to attend every single birthday party or event I was invited to. These days, after work my energy levels are too low to do much more. I’ve had to learn to say no, and not feel guilty about it.
FD: Name something you do now that you never would have imagined happening before your diagnosis.
Crystal: I have no shame in stopping to stretch in public, no matter where I am! I will ask my little sister or husband to massage out knots in my upper back and shoulder. I’m sure it looks weird to some people, but when you are in pain you simply do not care!!
FD: : What has been your experience with seeking medical treatment for Fibro?
Crystal: I’ve learned that when you have multiple doctors, they don’t always share information and you find yourself explaining and repeating yourself. I’ve learned doctors aren’t always right and you have to listen to your body. It has been so helpful to take tips from other Fibro sufferers online.
FD: How has Fibro affected your relationships, friends, family, partners?
Crystal: My husband, family and close friends have been wonderful. My husband is pretty much my caretaker. He picks up my meds, gives me massages, cooks and cleans and gives me the daily encouragement I need. My friends and family have been very sweet and understanding. I try to prioritize staying in contact because they are so important to me but I admit it’s a challenge to travel out of town and to stay up late for dinners and to go out. All of this just makes me more appreciative of the time I do get to spend with the ones I love. Facebook, Skype and texts are all great ways for a Fibromite to feel connected!
FD: What is the biggest challenge you face living with Fibro?
Crystal: Working is a big challenge, but it also keeps me going. Typing, mouse clicking and other repetitive motions contribute to neck and shoulder pain, though stretching helps. I’ve also found it extremely helpful to use a tennis ball to massage my back while sitting (thanks to my best friend for this tip). I use a heat pad regularly and try to be mindful of my posture at work.
It can be hard to smile when I’m in pain and I try my best not to sound like a complainer. But I do think it helps to be honest with others and not hide my condition. I keep the lights dim in my radio control room as harsh lights bother me. One of my coworkers has Fibro and we have found it so refreshing to be able to vent to each other, as only someone with this condition can really truly understand the daily battle.
FD: What inspires you to keep on fighting?
Crystal: Honestly, I feel like I don’t have a choice. I could crawl into a little ball in the dark and cry my heart out or I could keep doing what I love and try to have a life. My grandparents have always shown strength and that inspires me. Everyone has their own battles, this is just mine.
FD: What advice do you have for other people who are living with Fibro?
Crystal: Try different meds and approaches until you find what is right for you. Never stop researching and hoping for a cure. Treat yourself to your favorite things, buy soft pillows, eat well and laugh…a lot. Learn to communicate what you are feeling since it can be hard for others to understand this invisible illness.
FD: Do you have a funny Fibro story you can share?
Crystal: My grandparents lent me a walker… that they’ve never had to use.
Brain fog is real, Google it! I can literally forget what I’m saying mid-sentence which can be comical in some situations, but it’s mostly just frustrating. And I always feel funny when I’m having a flare-up and have to use those super slow scooters at the grocery store. They make a loud beeping sound and everyone turns around to look. I wish they had a turbo button!
Follow Crystal on Twitter: @CrystalRChavez
Check out Crystal’s show on Texas Public Radio’s website at www.tpr.org. They also have a free app!
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