A.S. Face 0010 : LeeAnn Fine
I can tell you when and where I was born – May 12, 1980 in Florida. I can tell you how I grew up – with a single mom that struggled. I can even tell you about how my life is now – married, 3 children, at-home-mom, online college student. But, what I cannot tell you is what my future holds. You see, after a nasty respiratory infection, about 2 years ago, I started having chronic pain, muscle spasms, fatigue, and a myriad of other syptoms. After months of trying to wait it out, I went to the doctor and she told me that I had fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia? Hmmmm…this is not just a “feeling” of pain; this is real pain that debilitates me. “Oh well”, I said, “no big deal”. “I’ll be fine”.
Gradually, it got worse. I started feeling weak and wasn’t able to do much anymore. I got pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart) and it became chronic. I had to have my gallbladder removed and developed kidney stones. My husband began questioning why I acted like an old woman and didn’t want to do anything. I finally told him that I was in pain, had been for several years, and that it was getting dramatically worse. He got upset with me and asked why I hadn’t gone to the doctor. My only answer was “I don’t know”. Really, it’s because I don’t take the time to worry about my health unless it’s an emergency. I’m more focused on taking care of my family and at-home-mom/wife duties.
One morning, I woke up and couldn’t get out of bed. My body was so stiff. Brian, my husband, came in to help me up and he had to pull me to a sitting position, while my arms shook. He got a little emotional and demanded that I go see a doctor. Off I went. I explained my last two years worth of history to the doctor and my current symptoms. I broke down crying because I was ashamed of admitting my weaknesses. I had always been so strong and now my image was blown. I pleaded with him to find out what was wrong with me because I knew this wasn’t just fibromyalgia. He sent me to a rheumatologist.
Once again, I went over my history and current symptoms. Right away, he told me that this wasn’t fibro and started taking x-rays and blood tests. Two weeks later, I went back in. On August 11th, 2011, I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis. What?!?! What is that? He sat down and started to tell me exactly what it was – an inflammatory, autoimmune disease triggered by a gene called HLA B27. Immediately, he prescribed an NSAID that would help and gave me a list of stretches and dos/don’ts to help manage. In a fog, I left his office and went home.
I started researching AS and found out what it was and what can happen. Apparently, a lot of the things that had already happened / started to happen were considered “complications”. Complications? Already? Why had I let myself be in pain for so long? I broke down and realized that my life is going to be completely different than I had imagined.
Even now, when I know what’s wrong, I still can’t bring myself to admit my weaknesses. It’s easy for me to say that my back is hurting or I’m sick, but I still don’t want to admit that I have a disease that will never go away and will get worse in time. I guess you could say that I’m still in denial.
I don’t like to be seen as weak, even when I can’t feed myself because my arms are locking up, feel like noodles, or they’re shaking so bad that food falls off the utensil. I force myself to stand straight but there’s still a small hump in my back. I can’t do much of anything for long periods of time. I cry from pain when I make myself do things with my family. I can’t let them down. I get sick at the drop of a dime becasue I love on my kids so much. I can barely clean the house but I do it anyway. I’m supposed to rest but there’s too much to be done. We are a single-imcome family with very little to spare and I don’t know if I’ll be able to go to work. I’m only 31….
I haven’t found a treatment that works so I’m living through my pain. Hopefully one day, they’ll find a cure. Until then, I must keep pushing on. I will continue to hide my pain because I don’t want to upset my children. They are so loving that when they know I’m hurting, they are sad. I can’t let them be sad.
This is my story. Don’t feel bad or sad for me. Feel happy for yourself and enjoy what you have. Please remember, just because I don’t “look sick”, doesn’t mean I’m not and even when I’m smiling, I’m still in pain.
Rowlett, Texas United States Of America
Believe everything happens for a reason.
If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.