This week I’m interviewing Melissa Swanson, from New Richmond, WI. She blogs at Surviving Fibromyalgia – Fibro Warriors ~ Living Life. She was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2010 at the age of 42.
Tell us just a little about yourself:
I have been married for 21 years (Mark), we have a 14 year old Daughter(Ravyn) and a 1 year old Border Collie (Ewe Bet I Can a.k.a. Bet), 2 cats. I work as an ELL(English Language Learner)Teacher in an Elementary School. I love being a Volleyball/Track Mom, spending time with my family at our cabin, Blogging, Writing for an Emag (Living Well with Fibromyalgia), my Facebook & Support page.
What lead up to your diagnosis?
I had several of the symptoms starting in my late teens. During 2009 we had a family loss that led to a year of travel, physical, and mental stress. I went through a year of tests in which I was diagnosed with TMJ and Photophobia. At the time, I was married and our daughter was 10. I was working a job that required a lot of hours.
How did your family initially handle your illness?
It took until the actual diagnosis for them to really believe everything. I even heard the “it’s all in your head” both from a Doctor and family. However, since being diagnosed they have been supportive.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of Fibro?
I think that the most challenging for me has been accepting the fact that I have to slow down. I have to learn to not say yes every time they are looking for a volunteer at my daughters school. Remembering to take breaks and resting when my body needs it. In addition, I have to be pushed to keep motivated and go swimming as much as possible.
Do you have any other co-existing conditions? If so, what are they and how do they impact your Fibromyalgia?
I call the co-existing conditions – evil sidekicks. I have the following: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Seasonal Affective Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder,, IBS, Allydonia, Photophobia, Degenerative Disc Disease, Mild Scoliosis, Sleep Maint. Disorder, Myofascial Pain Disorder, TMJ, Attention Deficet Disorder, & Bursitis. It is important that I treat all of my evil sidekicks. Any one of them can cause problems with my sleep which can lead to a flare.
What (if anything) have you found/ done that has improved your symptoms?
I have found a combination of prescription medications, supplements, acupuncture, chiropractor, swim classes and good sleep hygiene to help me keep my symptoms managed. I have a great team of health providers. I am my own health advocate. I have a Rheumatologist, a Neurologist, Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, General Practitioner and Pain Management Doctor.
How open are you with friends & family about your illness & symptoms?
I am very open with my friends, family & co-workers. I believe that education is very important. The more that others in your life know about your illness the easier it is for them to understand and help you when needed.
What inspired you to blog about your illness?
My blog is survivingwithfibro.wordpress.com I began blogging as a form of therapy and as a way to keep a detailed record for my daughter and any possible future grandchildren.
What is the best advice you’ve received regarding Fibromyalgia?
The best advice was to be my own health advocate. It is important for me to know as much if not more about my health than the Doctors.
What is your favorite way to cope with your life as a spoonie?
Swimming has been the best thing for my body. I also love to curl up and watch a good mystery flick. I enjoy helping other Fibromites.
What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself since your diagnosis?
I have learned that I love being an adminstrator of an online support group and would like to become a Motivational speaker/writer to help others. I have learned to read the signs that my body is telling me.
What advice do you have for others living with chronic illness?
If you have Fibromyalgia you can still live your life. It is important to take care of yourself. You need to keep to a schedule, find the right health team for you and keep trying until you find out what works best for you.
If you enjoyed this interview, be sure to check out the past Fibro Warrior interviews. I’d love to share your story. If you are living with Fibro (or another chronic illness), or are the caregiver for someone living with one of these chronic illnesses, I’d love to interview you. Please contact me for more info.