HOMEPAGE www.danieljvance.com

By Daniel J. Vance

Lisa Hiter of Freedom, Indiana, had fibromyalgia for almost twenty years before finally fighting back. And she's winning. She reads this column in the Spencer Evening World.

According to the National Institutes of Health website, fibromyalgia affects about one in fifty Americans, and many more women than men. The disorder causes muscle pain and fatigue, and may include insomnia, headaches, morning stiffness, and difficulties thinking and remembering. It has no known cause or cure.

“I've had fibromyalgia since I was about 21,” Hiter, 40, said in a telephone interview. “My symptoms at first were heart palpitations, muscle spasms, and legs that felt so heavy I couldn't run. Doctors actually had me on heart medication for a while because of a racing heart.”

When finally diagnosed in 1986, she had to telephone her doctor back to confirm the spelling. She had never heard of fibromyalgia and couldn't find any information on it in medical journals. Her doctor had arrived at the diagnosis after dismissing lupus and arthritis.

“A lot of friends and family thought I was lazy and didn't want to work,” she said of her limited physical capabilities. “The only employer that would accept my fibromyalgia was People's State Bank. My boss there knew about and understood the illness. I could be fine one minute and sick the next.”

Her fibromyalgia has placed stress on her family. Recently she went through a divorce due in part to her former husband's inability to handle her fibromyalgia-instigated mood swings.

Though her fibromyalgia-related troubles have been legion, by no means has she given up on life. Quite the contrary, she now is fighting back best she can.

“I write a newspaper column called 'Living with Fibromyalgia,'” she said of her regular contribution to the Spencer Evening World. “I love writing. When you have a disability like fibromyalgia, you really can't do any physical work. So I had to work another way in order to do something.”

From scratch, she took a class through Writer's Digest and went to school for other writing-related classes. Writing isn't necessarily physically taxing and can be a flexible occupation.

“After the first few columns, the editor learned his neighbor had fibromyalgia,” she said. “A lot of people have it and you just don't realize it.”

Positive response to the column also led to a local fibromyalgia support group forming.

For more, see danieljvance.com or www.niams.nih.gov. [This column made possible by a grant from Blue Valley Sod, www.bluevalleysod.com.]