Survive and thrive with fibromyalgia

What is fibromyalgia syndrome? It's chronic, widespread pain, but it doesn't have to mean the end of an enjoyable, productive life.

Scientists estimate that fibromyalgia affects 5 million Americans 18 or older. Between 80 and 90 percent of people diagnosed with fibromyalgia are women. Most people are diagnosed during middle age. I have fibromyalgia, and here is my story:

I worked in real estate 40-50 hours a week. As a single mom, I was raising two adolescent children. I was exhausted and in pain. Daily the fatigue and discomfort increased until one day I couldn't walk up the stairs to work and was driven home by a co-worker. I was hospitalized and eventually a physician diagnosed my condition. I was disabled, confined to a wheelchair and out of resources. My friends assisted us with housing to avoid homelessness. My mother moved in to care for us.

I survived and today am living a full life. Here's how: The first steps were to accept my illness and to change. I couldn't be all and do all for everybody. I had to take care of myself despite the opinions of others. Learning to say no was and still is extremely important.Next, with determination I sought treatment. I read a lot. The most helpful book was "From Fatigued to Fantastic," by Jacob Teitelbaum.

I found support groups, took antidepressants and other medications and interviewed many doctors. I started a protein rich, low carbohydrate diet and it helped.

With each change, I gained hope. My hope (for the most part) didn't come from physicians, because many are confused by this illness. Some practitioners prescribe exercise as the solution, but this can be impossible for the fibromyalgia sufferer.

In Illinois I found a highly effective treatment called a Myers Cocktail or Myers Infusion (named after the Baltimore physician who invented this intravenous vitamin therapy). Of all the therapies I tried, this boosted my energy level and dramatically reduced my pain.

After much research I found a physician on Hilton Head Island, Dr. Joseph Hickey, who works with fibromyalgia and offers Myers Infusions.

Today I'm thriving. I'm no longer confined to a wheel chair, I have the energy to maintain relationships, I'm able to pursue rewarding interests and I live life on life's terms. I am no longer a victim. Although, I still have fatigue and pain in specific areas, usually my elbows, hips, knees and upper back, I am thankful for the improvements.

So, if you have or suspect you have fibromyalgia, hang in there, you can make it!

Joanne Davis-Taylor lives in Beaufort County.