The World is a Stage

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My new Wednesday readers know little about me, although pretty much all has been revealed over the decades I wrote in Friday’s Tillsonburg News. For this column, you need to know that I have had Fibromyalgia for many years.

Fibromyalgia is a baffling and usually disabling malady that affects millions of Canadians. You don’t go into stage four, the healing stage of deep sleep, so when you wake up in the morning you feel like you have been run over by a truck. The day doesn’t usually get any better. You have pain in joints and soft tissue, extreme fatigue, headaches, irritated bladder and bowel syndrome, swelling in hands and feet (to the point you can’t use them), cognitive and memory impairment, muscle spasms, nerve irritation, reduced coordination, multiple chemical sensitivity (odours, noise, bright lights, medications, foods), and decreased physical endurance.

Life is the pits. Because of all of the problems, and exhaustion, you don’t have a lot of tolerance, patience or understanding, so participating in anything is a challenge. Work is most often not possible. The good news is you won’t die from it, you will only wish you could die.

How bad does a person with Fibro really feel?

Dr. Mark Loveless, head of the AIDS and CFS Clinic at Oregon Health Sciences University gave testimony in 1995 at a congressional briefing that the patient "feels effectively the same every day as an AIDS patient feels two months before death." Not a pretty picture is it?

Back in the 90s many doctors and agencies did not recognize this ailment. We were told it is all in our heads. In essence they were correct as it was suspected that a chemical imbalance in the brain did not produce serotonin, which was one of the problems. There is no cure or magic pill.

When first diagnosed I was put on Amitriptyline, an antidepressant which supposedly would help you sleep and control the pain. The side affects were numbing. I could function better without it. There were other drugs over the years that came out that I tried, but with all of them, even Lyrica, I preferred the pain to the numbing of my brain. It got to the point when someone said to try a new drug I just refused. I have had to stop doing things I loved, like stage managing shows, rehabilitating multiple species of orphaned wildlife, going to parties, painting scenery and exercises on land. I changed my diet (smoking and drinking aggravate it), developed a schedule, removed as much stress as I could, and exercised in the water instead to control the pain. It worked for over 25 years, but by then I needed more help and went on Noritriptyline, and put up with the side effects.

I recently went to my physician, who is very helpful, and told him I wanted off Noritriptyline and on something else. He sent me home with the names of several drugs for me to research and one stood out, because it didn’t deaden anything. It actually addressed the problem - it is Cymbalta.

WebMD Medical Reference notes, “Researchers think that Cymbalta helps calm down these pain signals by increasing the level of two naturally occurring substances called serotonin and norepinephrine. These substances, which are found in the brain and other parts of the nervous system, can affect mood and are believed to help control and suppress feelings of pain. Cymbalta and other SNRIs block serotonin and norepinephrine from re-entering cells, and therefore increase the levels of these substances. This process is thought to improve mood and relieve pain in patients with fibromyalgia.”

This drug made sense! I have been on it for two weeks now and love it! My pain level dropped way down and I actually go to sleep! I haven’t had a run of good night sleeps in decades! The side effects are not as bad as many drugs and most of them I have lived with for years already - constipation, dry mouth, nausea, decreased appetite (I really hope so!), decreased sex drive, drowsiness or sleepiness, increased sweating, jitters, nervousness, or restlessness (agitation), and urinary hesitation. These I can live with to feel this good.

There are more people in Tillsonburg than you can imagine that have Fibro. This article is for them. Please, if you know someone who has it, pass this article along to them. Like most pharmaceuticals or natural products, Cymbalta will not help everyone but it is certainly worth the try! 

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