Fibro Warrior of the Week (#31)
FWOTW: Melissa Swanson
Location: New Richmond, Wisconsin, USA
Mantra: I am a Fibro~Warrior Living Life
Fibro Warrior of the Week #31 is Melissa Swanson, a busy Fibro blogger, career woman, wife, and mother who has three cats and a dog in addition to her active daughter! Melissa believes in living life to the fullest with Fibro, and has even been swimming with a dolphin!
FD: : Tell us a bit about yourself – Where were you born, where do you live now, family, interests, etc.
Melissa: I live in Northern Wisconsin with my husband (Mark), our 13 year old Daughter (Ravyn), three cats and a five-month old Border Collie (Ewe “Bet” I Can):
I think of my life as in phases. I was an extreme dog person competing in Flyball, Obedience, etc., for thirteen years.
The next seven years, I was a full-time working mom, Girl Scout leader, volunteering at school as much as possible.
Now, I continue to work full-time — chauffeuring my daughter and her friends, watching volleyball games and track meets. I spend my spare time working on my blog, my Facebook page, online support group and training our dog.
FD: When did you first suspect that something wasn’t right? What happened?
Melissa: In 2009, we experienced a family death that led to year of a tremendous amount of travel, physical and mental stress. I began experiencing migraines, insomnia, severe back and jaw pain. Looking back now I realize that I had symptoms most of my life. It took this experience to connect all of the symptoms and send me into full blown Fibromyalgia.
FD: When were you diagnosed with Fibromyalgia?
Melissa: I consider myself fortunate when I read how long it takes for others to be diagnosed. I had a year of testing and was diagnosed in 2010.
If anyone asks I tell them I have Fibromyalgia and twelve of its evil sidekicks.
I had already been diagnosed with General Anxiety disorder, Seasonal Affective disorder, and ADD. I was sent to a Periodontist that diagnosed me with TMJ. A chiropractor diagnosed Degenerative Disc Disease and Mild Scoliosis. The rheumetologist diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia, allydonia & myofascial pain syndrome. A pulmonologist diagnosed me with sleep maintenance disorder. In addition, I have photophobia, IBS and now dry mouth is causing Periodontal disease.
FD: When you received your diagnosis, how did it affect you?
Melissa: I was relieved. Not only did I finally find someone who believed me, but it was real. It was no longer “in my head”. It gave me a fresh starting point. Now, I knew what I had so could educate myself and my family.
FD: Since then, how has your outlook on life changed?
Melissa: I have become more positive and try to help others as well. I have always liked the symbol of a dragonfly. It symbolizes opening one’s eyes, finding a deeper meaning of life and living “in” the moment I appreciate every day.
FD: How does Fibro affect your day-to-day life?
Melissa: When you are in pain 24/7 and exhausted all the time it becomes a chore to get through the day. When I wake up I am stiff and sore… I have to sit down to get dressed and ready for work. It has affected my choice of clothing. I can no longer wear clothing that is close to my arms. I wear short or no sleeve blouses all year long. I am short and I love wearing high heels. I still wear them, but I have to bring the “comfy good-for-you shoes” so I can change into them. I have to watch what I eat and drink. I need to take breaks. If you go anywhere I have to pack as if I am going for days. I carry at least five different medications with me. Even at work I have a heating pad, ice pack, sun lamp and candle warmer. I have to keep my bedtime routine the same every night— which now means I go to bed before our daughter.
FD: What can’t you do anymore because of Fibro?
Melissa: There isn’t anything that I cannot do because of having Fibro and its evil sidekicks. I won’t let Fibro stop me from living. It has slowed me down, but it hasn’t stopped me. .
FD: Name something you do now that you never would have imagined happening before your diagnosis.
Melissa: I have always loved writing. I would only share my poetry with a few people. I began writing my blog to help myself. I slowly started showing people and talking to other Fibromites online. I formed a closed support group and finally the Facebook page. It has given me the strength to write articles for a he-man, go whitewater rafting, paddle boarding, and go swimming with a dolphin.
FD: : What has been your experience with seeking medical treatment for Fibro?
Melissa: I decided from the beginning that I was going to be my own Pain Management advocate. I have been very fortunate to put together an amazing team. I have a GP, Rheumatologist, Neurologist, Chiropractor and Acupuncturist. I also am a firm believe in water therapy. I started out doing water therapy and added Aqua Gym and Aqua Zumba. I have taken it upon myself to research and try new supplements, prescriptions, diets or therapies that could help my quality of life.
FD: How has Fibro affected your relationships, friends, family, partners?
Melissa: At home, my husband and daughter have had to help out around the house a lot more. My husband fixes most dinners and does all of the laundry. There are times when they will go do something and I will stay home. My parents and sister live in Illinois. I have cancelled driving down there twice in the past two months.
As for friends ~ I really do not have a lot of friends outside of the internet any more.
However, I have found some of the most amazing supportive friends by joining online support groups.
I think because I work all day and our daughter is in sports after school that has contributed to isolating myself even more.
One of my best friends has been so understanding. My husband has started pushing me to go out more and stop turning people down… My co-workers comment that we used to have company get-togethers and because I was the one always organizing them, they have stopped.
FD: What is the biggest challenge you face living with Fibro?
Melissa: My biggest challenge is remembering that I do need to pace myself. I struggle with the fact that I can’t always get everything done. Learning to say no and that it is okay if things are not perfect. In addition, Fibro Fog. It has been and continues to be an emotional struggle that my memory is not as good as before. When I was first diagnosed, our daughter asked me, “Do you have the kind of memory loss when people forget who their kids are?“ Even now, those words feel like being stabbed with a knife. There are times when the words spin in my head and can’t come out.
FD: What inspires you to keep on fighting?
Melissa: My first response is my daughter. I want her to see that her mom is a fighter. I want her to know that what ever adversity we may face we can overcome.
A few months ago, I lost a friend who has been apart of our family for twenty-one years. She had been suffering from Fibro and it’s evil sidekicks for the past thirty years. She gave in to the pain, insomnia and depression three years ago. Her inactivity and lack of will to fight led to her death. I am fighting for her, for her husband and for my family.
FD: What advice do you have for other people who are living with Fibro?
Melissa: You: Educate yourself, your family & your friends. Be sure that you are getting information from reputable sites. Join positive support groups. Find activities that will help you physically and mentally. Understand that you are going to have really bad days when you want to give up and that is when you have to find your inner strength and fight. There are many treatments available and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Also, what works for you one day may not work for you the next. I have tried acupuncture, reiki, water therapy, chiropractic care, supplements, prescriptions, meditation. These are just a small amount of treatments to try. Keep very good records of your medical history. Creating a binder that has your diagnosis, medications, supplements, physicians etc will help you on those “foggy” days. Don’t give up! Keep living life!
FD: Do you have a funny Fibro story you can share?
Melissa: I do not.
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