Athena Champneys: Pain hit July 23, 2003, three days after my daughter's birthday. It took until the end of December to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was lucky – kind of. Many people go years without knowing what's wrong. No one I ever talked to would acknowledge my symptoms as real.
Athena Champneys: It was terrifying – having pain come and hit me suddenly. The pain settled in my lower back [and] within a year, it had spread to my legs. By the end of the second year, it was spreading to my arms. I had no idea what was happening to me. I was scared – I was 30 years old and losing the use of my own body. I was in constant pain and nothing would help. I stopped being able to take care of my young children. My husband and I were thinking the worst. My doctors kept telling me – like many doctors tell other fibromyalgia patients – the pain was in my head. It wasn't.
Athena Champneys: When my symptoms first started, I was at work. I bent over to pick up a pencil. When I sat up again, I had severe pain in my stomach that wrapped around to my lower back. The pain was so bad I had to leave work and was not able to drive myself home. Within one week, I could hardly walk to the bathroom on my own. I was bedridden for eight months, which was devastating for me, mentally and physically.
Athena Champneys: I started seeing a chiropractor. With this help, I was able to starting walking somewhat normally. I used a cane to walk long distances and used an electric wheelchair to go grocery shopping. The only problem was I still couldn't perform normal daily activities, such as holding and picking up my small children. Going to their school plays and performances, riding in a car or even doing light housework was too painful.
I also ended up trying drug after drug. Many worked, but only for about a week at a time. Then my husband and I decided I would enter a clinical trial with a new drug called milnacipran. I was able to tell a difference in how I was feeling almost immediately. Today, because of the treatment with milnacipran, I feel like life has meaning again.
For more information on fibromyalgia symptoms and treatments, visit http://www.fmnetnews.com/index.php.
Athena Champneys: You're not alone. Nowadays, people are becoming aware of the disease. Get a second opinion before taking or doing a certain treatment. There are medications out there now for fibromyalgia [for example, milnacipran, also known under the brand name Savella]. Talk to your doctor. Find out what treatment plans work best for you. You will be able to live your life again.
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