Thursday, December 1, 2011

Speed humps in life

There used to be a sign near the road in front of our house that read, “BUMP.” One afternoon, three city workers took an hour to change out the sign. The neighborhood had asked for a STOP sign, so we were hopeful when we saw the BUMP sign coming down. To our surprise the city workers replaced our BUMP sign with one stating, “SPEED HUMP.”

Is “Speed Hump” infinitely more effective than “Bump”? I can’t say that I have reached that conclusion. My guess is that someone somewhere on the city’s payroll was able to cross off some task on a task list by changing the sign. Cars still speed by, using our street as a cut-through from one side of town to another. I have seen cars hit the hump/bump with great force, rattling the automobile as it lands on the other side of the hump/bump. If the rattling and knocking a car out of alignment isn’t a deterrent, I doubt changing the sign from BUMP to SPEED HUMP will slow drivers down.

I have come to think of Fibromyalgia as my speed hump. It slows me down, causes me to take divergent paths, and even knocks me out of alignment at times. The difference is that no one put up a sign to warn me that this was coming. If I would have known ahead of time, could I have taken precautions, slowed down, or been prepared? I doubt it.

How does one prepare for something that is invisible, something that has varying symptoms that can change location and severity as quickly as the wind changes directions? Fibromyalgia affects 3% of the general population. It is estimated that over 200 million people (85% of which are women) world-wide suffer symptoms of fibromyalgia. Roughly, one-fourth of the sufferers are work-disabled due to the varying symptoms of pain, fatigue, memory/concentration issues, sleep disorders, exercise difficulties, and associated issues of IBS, TMJ, chronic headaches, non-cardiac chest pains, etc. Fibromyalgia often co-occurs with other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and ankylosing spondylitis, yet it is invisible.

What may seem like a speed bump to one fibromite, is a debilitating symptom to another. Currently there is no “magic pill” for fibromyalgia, and the treatments aim at simply managing the symptoms. The treatments are as varied as the symptoms. What works for one sufferer, may not work for another. I am thankful that I am able to work and enjoy a mostly normal life with my fibromyalgia. Many of my fibromite friends are not so fortunate.

I feel the need to erect signs along the side of the road to make folks aware of fibromyalgia and aware of my fellow fibromites. Awareness is the first step towards more research money, more compassion for sufferers, and hopefully better treatments to help manage this invisible illness.

Now that I think about it. Maybe the SPEED HUMP sign would work if the hump/bump in the road was more like fibromyalgia. If the bump/hump was invisible and changed locations and dimensions hourly, maybe drivers would be on the lookout for the warning sign telling them that the SPEED HUMP was up ahead.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Fibroduck Arrived

I received my Fibroduck today. She is already dreaming of slack packing the Appalachian Trail one day. She knows that prior to fibromyalgia hiking and camping were two of my favorite activities. I hope to camp a few weekends in 2012, so I can slowly begin hiking again. She wants to go on adventures with me, but she promises to remind me to start low and take it slow (as my rheumatologist says).

Visit to see photographs of this and other fibroducks. explains the fibroduck:

     People with fibromyalgia and ME/CFS were almost always hard-working and fiercely independent  people. Now that they are ill, their pain and fatigue prevents them from living the lives they had before. Tasks that used to be easy are now very difficult, and many people cannot do the things they once took pride in. They often have to rely on others, and often stress about what goes undone.
We picked a duck to represent people with fibromyalgia/ME/CFS because having these conditions makes them feel as though they are operating in an unfamiliar world – like ducks out of water. A duck on land can still get about and do things, but not as quickly and fluidly as it would in the water.
The dots on the duck represent the painful muscles and joints experienced by people with fibromyalgia.
So, the challenge is to draw attention to fibromyalgia by sending in pictures showing the duck in places a duck wouldn’t usually go, and doing things a duck wouldn’t normally do.

I appreciate the work fibroduck is doing to bring awareness to fibromyalgia. I will do my best to help raise awareness of all invisible illnesses. Will you help too?