A Guy in a Skewed World: Intro to FMS

For a good number of years, I dealt with issues that baffled me.  You see, my family has a history of autoimmune disease.  My grandmother suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) for many years before passing away due to complications. Several years back, I started feeling chronic fatigue (often even after a full night’s sleep), muscle spasms, frequent and excruciating muscle cramps, frequent muscle aches and muscle weakness. I went to my normal doctor to see if we could figure out what was going on.  With the family history and being the primary means of support for my wife and family, I was concerned about what could be happening.  Fibromyalgia (FMS) is diagnosed, not through positive test results, but an elimination of other conditions. My doctor ran tests (and reran the tests) for lupus, RA, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and other autoimmune diseases.  Over the course of several years, the symptoms only got worse.  It got to the point where I was going to work maybe 3 days out of 5 due to dealing with the symptoms.  My boss was very … lenient … where my absenteeism was concerned.  After approximately 3 years of trying to figure out what it is, my rheumatologist tested me for the 18 tender points usually associated with FMS. Out of the 18 points, I was (and still am) tender in 16 of them.  She then diagnosed me with FMS.  Not that having a diagnosis made life any easier, but it did set my mind at ease.  I had some idea of what I was dealing with.

For those that aren’t aware, Fibromyalgia Syndrome is called a syndrome for a reason.  Not everyone who has FMS has all of the same symptoms.  Some deal with muscle aches, sleep deprivation, depression, joint aches.  Others deal with the muscle aches, muscle spasms, cramps and fatigue.  Others mix and match the symptoms in different ways.  That’s part of why it’s so difficult to diagnose FMS.  It’s also part of why there are still doctors today who don’t believe that FMS is real.  If you’d like more information on FMS, check out the nice WebMD article about it.

As a male with Fibro, I’ve managed to beat the odds rather dramatically.  It’s a disease that’s currently diagnosed in females more than males.  Depending on which set of statistics you pay attention to, it’s either 95% or 10:1.  Now, this could be a gender bias on the syndrome.  My take (and this is backed up by some studies that I’ve managed to lose the links to), it’s probably more common in men than is currently diagnosed, but due to male pigheadedness (aka machismo), help is not sought, so no diagnosis.  Most of the symptoms, taken separately, are all things that men are taught to ignore or work through.  Men don’t admit (to themselves, much less others) that they’re hurting, tired, weak or any of the other myriad symptoms.  It’s seen as being weak.  It’s seen as being less of a man.  It’s. Just. Not. Done.  Ergo, fewer men get diagnosed with fibro. 

Even with the limitations on my activities due to the fibro, I’m still working.  It’s been hard.  Some days, it’s all I can do to climb out of bed and get ready for work.  I’ve been blessed with a boss that’s been extremely lenient and willing to work.  I’ve come close to being fired several times, especially during the period where I didn’t have a definitive name to put on what I was dealing with.  There were several times where I think my boss stepped out on thin ice to give me the time to work through it.  I’m glad he did.  Earlier this year, I hit 16 years with the company. 

I will say that a good part of why I’ve managed to make it and get back to a semblance normalcy is my family support system.  Through it all, I’ve had the unconditional support of my loving wife and our children.  My-in-laws and my parents have all shown considerable support over the years.  Between their support and a wonderful doctor (who also happens to be one of the last old fashioned country doctors), I’m back to something that vaguely resembles a normal life.  I do have to be careful in what I do because overextending is very easy.  I’m back to working 19 out of 20 days.  Which, as an American Male – I’m glad for it.

Looking at it, I’m looking at turning this into an extended series.  Look back for more.

 
 
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