This week I’m interviewing Debbie Good, a Fibro Warrior from Olympic Peninsula, WA. She was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 2007, at the age of 39. She is a stay-at-home mom to her 10-year-old daughter.
Tell us a little bit about yourself:
I am a 47 year old stay-at-home mom and have been married to my husband for 11 years now and we have a ten year old daughter. We have a black lab/great dane mix who is around seven.
My background is in outdoor recreation and environmental education as well as classroom teaching. I spent some summers in college leading trips in the Adirondack Park and then got into environmental education with school groups. I went back to school and completed a Master’s in Teaching so I could be an elementary school teacher. I never did get to have a classroom of my own, but I did do some substitute teaching. I haven’t been able to work for a few years now which has been frustrating and disappointing. I have a lot of unused education!
Fortunately, I have been able to get back to my outdoorsy roots and get back into hiking and backpacking. I have been extremely excited to be able to get back outside for the past two years. I am currently training for an attempt at a thru hike on the Appalachian Trail in 2017. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for many years and feel like this would be a good time to give it a try.
What lead up to your diagnosis?
My daughter had been sleeping through the night and yet I was still so tired all the time. And my back and hips hurt. A lot. This was despite the fact that I wasn’t carrying my girl around like I had been before she became mobile. So I went to my doctor to find out what was wrong with me. I figured it would be simple, maybe I needed more iron or something like that. But that wasn’t it and so I had some tests done. And then a few more. Finally at one visit the Physician’s Assistant suggested that I might have Fibromyalgia. I didn’t think that I had Fibro because my symptoms were different than my mom’s symptoms (she has Fibro, too). But it turns out I do have fibromyalgia.
What was your life like at the time you were diagnosed?
I was staying home with my daughter, after having finished my Master’s degree, which I completed while pregnant and then nursing. Talk about having a hard time thinking! I was just starting to work as a substitute teacher while my daughter was at pre-school when I was diagnosed. I continued substitute teaching for a while but it became too difficult to be on call like that. I would come home from subbing with a nasty headache and feeling awful and I wouldn’t be able to do anything else. I didn’t want to quit subbing but it was not working out for me and my family. Heap on the guilt!
How did your family initially handle your illness?
It was hard on my daughter because I went from being a very active, playful mom to becoming mom who had to take naps every day and couldn’t play much anymore. It was hard on my husband in the same way. I had to opt out of so many social activities and it was frustrating for him. We all had a hard time with it for quite a while but things have definitely smoothed out all around for our family. Everybody is much happier.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of Fibro?
It’s hard to say what is the most challenging. Maybe the guilt. Because people with chronic illnesses carry around a huge load of guilt. For all the things you have to miss. For all the things you have to let go. For all the time you miss out with your family and friends. But really no part of Fibro is a picnic.
What (if anything) have you found/ done that has improved your symptoms?
At first I was going to a rheumatologist in Seattle. I went through their entire line up of Fibro medicines, one after the other. Not one of them improved the quality of my life in any way. They either didn’t do anything at all, except cost a bunch of money, or they made me a zombie. And when you have a young, active girl to keep up with being a zombie is not an option. So I got frustrated and quit all the pharmaceuticals.
My husband’s coworker recommended a local naturopath who I made an appointment with. I have been seeing her for the past three and half years or so and she is one of my heroes because she helped me change my life. Through her testing I found out that I have sensitivities to yeast and dairy. Since I quit eating them I completely eliminated my IBS symptoms and have dramatically decreased the number of horrific headaches I used to get every few days. I take quite a few supplements which get changed as my needs change. My naturopath really helped my clean out my insides which has helped me a lot.
I also found that medical marijuana helps me with pain, anxiety, and sleep. And contrary to popular belief it doesn’t make me lazy, it actually helps me get a lot accomplished. Before, I slept a lot during the day not able to do house work or errands or much of anything. Now I can do most of the things I need to do. And it has helped me to be able to get back into hiking, which I had missed terribly. Last summer I took my family backpacking for four days in Olympic National Park. What a fantastic feeling to get to do that with my daughter. I know many people are still leery of marijuana but it helps a lot of people and I experience no ill side effects.
How open are you with friends & family about your illness & symptoms?
I am very open with my family and friends about having fibromyalgia. I talk about my symptoms with my mom, husband, and a couple of friends. With everyone else I only talk about it if asked specifically.
Do you blog about your illness? If so, what inspired you to do so?
I have not been writing about my illness except in my personal journal sometimes. I will have a trailjournals.com trail journal up and running soon. Trail journals is a place for long distance hikers to journal publicly. Mine will address having Fibro as well as all the fun hiking stuff. To find me on trailjournals.com look for “Appalachian Trail 2017” and then my name – Debbie Good.
What was the worst advice that you followed?
I haven’t had any bad advice. I have just been trying different things to see what works for me. Fortunately I live in a small town that has a lot of different services available.
What is your favorite way to cope with your life as a spoonie?
I cope by eating how my body needs me to eat, hiking, hiking, and more hiking, massages, and lots of stretching.
What is it that inspires you to keep going, despite your illness?
I am inspired every time I read about another person doing things in the world even when faced with illnesses or injuries. I was inspired last year when I heard a 74-year-old woman with the trail name Drag’n Fly who became the oldest female to thru hike the Appalachian Trail.
I am also inspired by my daughter. We just returned from a road trip to Redwoods National Park and my daughter said to me that it was the best family vacation ever. That was so nice to hear and it was wonderful seeing how happy she is since I’ve been able to get some of my life back. We are having a lot more fun these days.I am inspired by others who keep going despite illness. Click To Tweet
What is one thing you’ve learned about yourself since your diagnosis?
One thing I have learned is that I can be a badass hiker chick even with fibromyalgia. I have learned that I can hike wherever I want to as long as I pace myself. Enjoy the hike, not just the end point.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to someone newly diagnosed with Fibro (or even still seeking a diagnosis)?
I think I would tell someone newly diagnosed to be patient, as it might take some time to find what works best for them. I’d also tell them to read blogs like this to find out what works for others.
Is there anything else you’d like the readers to know?
I struggle with my feelings about using medical marijuana. On one hand it helps me out tremendously and has changed our family for the better. But on the other hand it still isn’t socially acceptable even though it is legal for everyone in Washington now. I struggle with the fact that I do hide it from my daughter who I think is too young to have to deal with that information. But I don’t like to hide things from her. I just recently told my parents about it not sure how they would react. But they were great! They have always been so great. I am lucky to have awesome parents. And husband and daughter. 🙂
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