Fibro Warrior of the Week (#70)
FWOTW: Elizabeth Hanson
Location: Milwaukie, OR
Facebook: Elizabeth Hanson’s Facebook page
Mantra: Even on my weakest days I grow stronger! Every day and in every way I grow stronger, healthier, wiser.
Our 70th Fibro Warrior of the Week, Elizabeth Hanson, underwent a novel procedure called Transvascular Autonomic Modulation (TVAM) to get relief from her debilitating Fibromyagia symptoms. The result was life-changing. Her family, friends, and doctors were astonished by her transformation from chronic illness to wellness. This is a story that anyone who is trapped by Fibromyalgia will want to hear. Check her out on Facebook – maybe she’ll invite you over for dinner!
FD: Tell us a bit about yourself – Where were you born, where do you live now, family, interests, etc.
Elizabeth: I was raised in Portland, Oregon. I have four sisters and two brothers. I’ve been married for twenty-five years and have one child.
FD: When did you first suspect that something wasn’t right? What happened?
Elizabeth: At twenty-seven, I was a single mother, working a physical job as a professional gardener. I began to have leg pain followed by lower back pain. I was referred to an orthopedic and then on to physical therapy. I eventually started steroid injections into the SI joints.
FD: When were you diagnosed with Fibromyalgia?
Elizabeth: I was first diagnosed in 1996.
FD: When you received your diagnosis, how did it affect you?
Elizabeth: My husband and I had bought a new home in a small town. I went to my new doctor for help and she handed me a post-it note with the word “Fibromyalgia” written on it.
“I think you have this,” she said. “There’s not much known about the disease. There is a research program at OSHU I think I can get you into, twenty-five miles away.”
I went home and began to research Fibromyalgia on the internet, devastated about what I was reading and how I was given the news. I made up ten packets of information on Fibromyalgia and headed back to the doctor. I asked her not to diagnose anyone else by scribbling “Fibromyalgia” on a post it note then handed her the information.
And then I said, “Yes, I’m interested in that research program.”
FD: Since then, how has your outlook on life changed?
Elizabeth: It has changed my outlook immensely. I used to think I was a weak person. I used to be so physical I could lift my own body weight, but for the last twenty years barely ten pounds on a good day. I now think, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger”. When you can sit through twenty-one trigger point injections in a half hour, that’s strong!
FD: How does Fibro affect your day-to-day life?
Elizabeth: Fibromyalgia used to rule my life. Every day began with assessing my pain and planning my day around my pain. I went from being an artist, caregiver, and working circles around people to being a recluse. No one wants to hear about your pain or watch you physically decline.
FD: What can’t you do anymore because of Fibro?
Elizabeth: I gave up three careers because of this disease. I started with a physically demanding job as a professional gardener, day care business, and the one I loved the most, home health care provider. I gave up blowing glass and my mini-farm. I Went from giving care to being the one who needed care.
FD: Name something you do now that you never would have imagined happening before your diagnosis.
Elizabeth: Letting things go. Each day I practice letting go of the past, things that no longer serve me… Living in the now. God says to no one, “Here is ten perfect days in row— go have fun.” All we have is now, so appreciate it!
FD: What has been your experience with seeking medical treatment for Fibro?
Elizabeth: Frustrating is the best word to describe it!!! An endless cycle of MRI’s, diagnostic tests, drugs, and doctors telling me, “We don’t know what’s wrong with you, but here, have some more drugs”.
FD: How has Fibro affected your relationships, friends, family, partners?
Elizabeth: Fibro affects every part of your life. You lose friends, but not true ones. Your spouse looks at you differently. You’re no longer the healthy person they married. The spouses and children of Fibro patients have to put up with a lot. They see your pain every day no matter how hard you try to hide it. It takes its toll on them, too. If you asked my daughter this question, she would start to cry. My husband would say, “I would do anything for her,” but the worry shows on his face.
FD: What is the biggest challenge you face living with Fibro?
Elizabeth:My biggest challenge is pacing myself. Four months ago, I had a procedure called Transvascular Autonomic Modulation (TVAM). Now my brain fog is gone, I no longer wake up in head-to-toe pain, and I have more energy than I have had in twenty years. But having Fibro for twenty years took its toll on my body. Therefore, I’m working with the physical therapist because I now have 100% range of motion (I haven’t had that in over ten years!) My body and muscles were used to working separately. With the help of a physical therapist, my muscles are working together again. I can now walk 2-3 miles. Two days ago, I began blowing glass again for the first time in five years. I feel like the Energizer Bunny!
Read Elizabeth’s full patient story here.
FD: What inspires you to keep on fighting?
Elizabeth: My husband, my daughter, and my faith. The world is a beautiful place and I want to be a part of it.
FD: What advice do you have for other people who are living with Fibro?
Elizabeth: Let go of the past and write a new future for yourself. Be proactive in your health. Research new treatments and go into your next doctor’s appointment informed of all the latest clinical trials and breakthroughs. Doctors on average have 15 minutes at most with each patient so make the most of that 15 minutes.
Discuss TVAM with your doctor. TVAM is a game changer. I no longer take any medication for Fibro! I do take ibuprofen from time to time, but nothing stronger than that! It feels so good to be off all that junk! Now I am planning for the future instead of watching myself wither away.
In this interview recorded on 2/20/2015 Elizabeth describes her life before an after her TVAM procedure. At the end she rattles off a laundry list of symptoms she no longer has and shares her plans for the future.
FD: Sometimes humor provides relief when dealing with chronic illness. Do you have a funny Fibro story you can share?
Elizabeth: When you have Fibromialgia, sleep is very difficult. After several days of not sleeping, I finally fell asleep exhausted. I woke up the next day and went about my business as normal, completely unaware that certain events had been set into motion.
Two days later, my mother-in-law appeared on the front porch with a beautiful salad she had made. Puzzled to see her at my front door, I asked why she was holding the salad.
“Well, I’m here for dinner” she said.
“Dinner?” I asked.
“Yes” she replied. “You called me two days ago and invited me over for dinner.”
It turns out that I had called my mother and invited her over while completely asleep! I didn’t remember the conversation at all. Not even a little bit.
After that, she came up with a simple Fibro-friendly workaround to avoid showing up unannounced on my porch with salads. When I would invite her over, she would wait several hours and then call me back to make sure I was actually awake and remembered our previous conversation. Clever lady!
UPDATE 2/26/2015 A lot of people have asked about the TVAM procedure. We suggest you contact Autonomic Specialists directly. Here’s a link: Get More Info on TVAM Procedure
Friend Elizabeth on Facebook: Elizabeth Hanson’s Facebook page
Read Elizabeth’s complete TVAM story: Elizabeth Hanson’s TVAM Treatment Story
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