Today I’m interviewing another Fibro Warrior, Monica Radtke of Blaine, MN.
Tell us a little about yourself:
I am not married, but have been with a gentleman who’s name is Larry for over 24 years. We have no children, just a few fish. I work for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis in Minnesota. I enjoy spending time with friends, watching NASCAR and professional wrestling, and going fishing.
When were you diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in September of 2007 when I was 37 years old.
What lead up to your diagnosis?
I was actually having fatigue and muscle issues back in 2004, but the Physiatrist (Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation doctor) that I saw wouldn’t 100% say at the time of my second visit that it was Fibromyalgia (the visits were 2 years apart). In early 2005 I was found to have herniated discs in my neck, had surgery on C3-4 in August of 2005 and on C5-6 February of 2007. I concentrated on the surgeries at that time and then went to another doctor, a Rheumatologist that my Primary doctor referred me to. She was the one who found that I was Vitamin D deficient and, with the muscle fatigue, body fatigue, and other problems, just went full into ‘you have Fibromyalgia’.
What was your life like?
I was pretty much at the same point where I am now – I held a full-time job, decided to go back to college in 2005, and was being a caregiver for Larry. Larry was diagnosed with Epstein Barr Virus/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2001 and I am in a way his caregiver, trying to help with that. The doctor who diagnosed him told him ‘because EBV is a virus, it will go away’. I learned miles of information on EBV for Larry and relayed what I found out more than his Primary doctor would do.
How did your family initially handle your illness?
My family is okay with it. I don’t ‘hang out’ with my family too much, I’m an only child so my parents are aware, but don’t know much about it other than what I tell them, and for Larry I just attribute everything to my back due to issues I’ve had since 2005. I also have other health issues which I’ll explain later.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of Fibro?
For me the most challenging aspect is the ‘Fibro Fog’ because I used to have the memory of 10 people. I can’t remember names, phone numbers, or a calendar anymore. That makes me very upset when I forget to do things, have to look up a phone number, and now use tricks to remember people’s names.
Do you have any other co-existing conditions?
I’ve been diagnosed with degenerative disc disease, lymphocytic colitis, metabolic acidosis, insomnia, and migraines (since I was 15). I get migraines when I don’t eat or get stressed, plus it’s hereditary. The colitis is from being in the hospital with Norovirus in early 2013. Everything impacts Fibromyalgia to me because I have to balance out my neurological, urological, gastrological, and orthopedic issues. I’m pretty good most of the time, but there are those days when the body just wants to ‘shut off’. Then I know I need to take a day or two off and relax.
What (if anything) have you found/ done that has improved your symptoms?
Right now I have a hard time with that because I used to handle my Fibromyalgia a lot better and now I take 10 different medications for everything. Timing doesn’t always work, so neither do all of the pills. When the pain and fatigue really get me all I can do is sleep.
How open are you with friends & family about your illness & symptoms?
I actually choose not to be open with too many people about it because I don’t want any special treatment, or to have them think I complain about things all of the time. Obviously if I have back issues on a given day I can’t do a lot of things, but with the Fibromyalgia overall I usually can function okay.
What is the best advice you’ve received about Fibromyalgia?
‘Focus on your needs’ from this website not too long ago in an article titled, ‘5 tips for getting through a fibro flare’. It made me realize that I have to take time for myself. I don’t do that enough.
What was the worst advice that you’ve been given?
Being told that I don’t have anything wrong with me.
What is your favorite way to cope with your life as a spoonie?
I try to take one day at a time and offer myself only when I know I absolutely have to. I need to take care of myself before I help others unless it’s an emergency.
What is it that inspires you to keep going, despite your illness?
That I know there HAS to be something better out there for me. I just have to be patient enough to wait, look, or find it.
What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself since your diagnosis?
I can’t do everything all of the time for everybody.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone newly diagnosed with Fibro?
Keep a diary of symptoms, keep talking to doctors and people (you never know what you’ll find out about yourself), research the Internet (just be careful what you read), and stick with it (if you are truly having symptoms, there is hope).
Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know?
I am one of millions – treat those of us with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Chronic Pain Syndrome, Lyme Disease, Lupus, and similar conditions with the respect of being ‘not well’ that we deserve. Just because our condition doesn’t show physically like others, we still hurt physically and mentally. Offer help – listen, suggest, learn, whatever it takes. This is not easy for us and to have to explain it to those of you who don’t have this type of condition is even harder sometimes.