How my father’s terminal cancer battle/memories have helped me through my fibromyalgia struggle!

As of recent, I have been focusing a lot of my time on grieving. After being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I learned grieving the loss of my old life needed to take place. When one is diagnosed with fibromyalgia we often lose our identity. It took me years to realize this. Once I grieved the loss of myself, I began to find the strength to push through again. At an appointment with the psychologist I currently see, I soon realized I did not really grieve the loss of my father. I once again had to allow myself to grieve ( and still in the process). Grieving the loss, many conversations my dad and I had while he was sick began to flood my mind.

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In 2015, I lost my father to a long battle with cancer. One of our conversations always comes back to my mind. “No matter what, take care of yourself. Get all the testing possible to detect anything at early stages. I am not just referring to cancer! Promise me this my girl. ” As we sat on the couch I whispered beneath my tears I promise. My dad always called my mom and I his girls and he was always so proud to have been able to call us this. I don’t have cancer, but I do have fibromyalgia which is also a very debilitating condition ( obviously not the severity as terminal cancer).

Picture taken at the moment of the above conversation in 2014.
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I kept my promise. Doctors probably think I am a hypochondriac because when my symptoms of fibromyalgia began I insisted on every test possible. I even pushed for a brain MRI to make sure it was not MS ( MS and fibro have many overlapping symptoms) – even though there was no indications of rheumatoid conditions in my blood work detected. We only get one body, so it is important to take care of it no matter what. I know I am not a hypochondriac, so I decided if doctors want to have that opinion of me, they can own the problem.

This text I hold close to my heart. My last text my dad sent to me.

I look back at my dad’s courageous battle, and realized not once did he ever complain about the pain from cancer or side effects of chemotherapy. I often wonder how he did this with the bone pain he experienced. I too have bone pain with fibromyalgia and wonder if the bone pain I have is similar to what my father felt. I assume the pain from cancer is much worse and it amazes me how he never complained once. Obviously many tears were shed, but never once did I hear him speak negatively. The bone pain I experience breaks me most of the time – to the point I can’t stand up out of bed or off the floor. I try to stay strong remembering how strong he was during his battle. It motivates me to not allow fibromyalgia to overtake my life. I refuse to let it win. I was recently listening to a podcast on fibromyalgia and Dr. Liptan ( author of The Fibro Manual and fibromyalgia warrior herself) spoke two sentences which resonated with me. “Your life is not over. It’s probably going to look different, though!” It sure does look different, but she is correct when she states your life isn’t over because of fibromyalgia.

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My dad often was heard saying “It is what it is!” after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. These five small words have made such a drastic impact on me and have stuck in my mind. The saying is often used when a person is facing a challenging situation that cannot be changed and must learn to accept these circumstances. I often find myself saying these exact words in regards to being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I had to come to terms with the fact I got diagnosed with a chronic pain condition with no cure. There are many strategies out there that can help improve fibromyalgia symptoms, but finding the right combination is the challenging part. What works for one person may not work for the other.

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My journey has led me down a pathway of stepping out of my comfort zone and trying new strategies with the guidance of a psychologist. Strategies that I finally feel are showing benefits instead of resulting in failures. I got so frustrated and discouraged with health care providers trying to “fix” me instead of helping me learn how to manage fibromyalgia and it’s symptoms or trying to repeat failed treatment routes. False hope does not help improve fibromyalgia – just like false hope does not cure cancer. It can create high anxiety/depression and further frustration to set in ( at least in my case). Even the rheumatologist who confirmed my fibromyalgia diagnoses told me ” Go enjoy nature alone and ignore society – your fibromyalgia will improve!” Say what!?!? Nature is good for the soul, but please do not take this rheumatologist’s advice. Don’t hide from society! Find the courage to live your best life under the circumstances that you are faced with . “Fly above negativity.”

The occupational therapist I was working along side, gave me this decorative piece at discharge. She knew I felt I had hit rock bottom, and needed to hear these words of wisdom!
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As for my father…I hold the memories close to my heart. My father’s final words to me were “Smile, don’t be sad! The last life lesson he taught me before he passed away – GRATITUDE!

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