Monday, September 29, 2008

Fibromyalgia and Pregnancy

I touched on the subject of kids in the previous blog as being a great source of de-stressing. They are innocent and give unconditional love. And children are wonderful to have in your life regardless of whether you have a chronic condition or not. I can't tell you how many forum and chat rooms I've been in that cater to people suffering from Fibromyalgia where the subject of children comes up, but there are a lot, and the topic that seems the most interesting to many is pregnancy.

Some of you who have recently had a baby know that there was a baby boom in 2007. I missed that boom by one month and had my littlest one this past January, but I, like all the other mothers to be, was very eager to find out as much information as I possibly could on pregnancy and Fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed in late 2005, which was well after my first pregnancy, and I must admit that I was a bit leery of what might happen to me and a new baby due to my chronic illness, so any information would have been a welcoming comfort to me.

Fibromyalgia is still considered a relatively new syndrome and only recently has an FDA approved medicine, so information and studies can be hard to come by in research, however, I have found some studies relating to Fibromyalgia and pregnancy and the facts that I have found are pretty positive.

First, I must stress that I am not a doctor and I cannot diagnose or treat anyone's medical condition. You must see your own doctor and discuss pregnancy with them. But if you are afraid of trying to have children because of Fibromyalgia, please feel rest assured that studies show that this dibilitating condition might not be passed on to your children. Dr. Mark Pellegrino stated in an article taken from the National Fibromyalgia Association in August of 2005 that the baby has a greater vulnerability of getting it because of the genetic component, but that is the only risk to the fetus.

It is true that some doctors have stated that babies can be effected by the prescribed drugs and herbal supplements of some patients suffering from Fibromyalgia. And most will caution women to go "drug free" before, during, and for breast feeding mothers, after pregnancy, but these side effects are shown to be from the prescribed drugs and those effects usually happen during the first four to six weeks of pregnancy when a baby is most vulnerable. Some of the research I've read about supplements vary greatly from doctor to doctor and this is where your own GP, OBGYN, and Fibromyalgia specialist (usually a rheumatologist) should be involved to help you sort out what is best for you yourself.

I had decided to go "drug free" myself a few months before trying to get pregnant with the help and guidance of my doctors. And by "drug free" I mean getting off of all supplements except a prenatal and stopping my use of Advil and Tylenol. It was hard in the beginning, but once I became pregnant, my Fibro symptoms were not that bad. Some even became nonexistent. One study has shown this to be true for pregnant Fibromyalgia sufferers. They seemed to be symptom free for about the first six to seven months of pregnancy.

I will stress that there is a very recent study done by Dr. Karen M. Schafer that contradicts this finding. Her study findings are similar to a study done in Norway in the 1970's. Her study was done with only nine mothers that ranged in age of 26-36 and these mothers already had a previous pregnancy before diagnoses. She states that mothers had more fatigue and pain in the last trimester and they also found it very difficult to breastfeed due to soreness and stiffness of their joints. Some also had a problem with sore nipples. This may be common with all mothers, but for Fibromyalgia sufferers and mothers with arthritis, it may be more common according to the La Leche League. Their article states that some medications and steroids can cause the mother to have a problem with yeast infections and if you are suffering from cracked or bleeding nipples, you should consider it to be thrush and get medical advice to treat it.

Now, studies are just that-- studies and believe me when I tell you that some of the information out there can make your head spin. Mine went into overdrive when I read all the controversy, but remember, FM is still new. The best thing you can do for yourself is to get a support system going because you are going to need it. The old saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." is so true and a lot of people I'm sure will be willing to help you.

I remember wanting to do it all and being just way too tired to do anything. I allowed myself a lot of time to rest and asked for a lot of people to help me clean my house and do laundry. I also looked for support with mothers who breastfed their babies and suffered from FM. There are many forums out there that have a dedicated page for this, but the La Leche League gals were one of my favorite groups. I must stress that making the decision to breast or bottle feed is a very personal matter and some people may make you feel bad if can't breastfeed your baby. And that is just sad. Always remember that you are the mother and you love your child and if you are making the best decision you can possibly make for the both of you, then it's a good decision that was made out of love. I bottle fed my first and breast fed my second and there are wonderful perks with both which I've stated in a previous article on Helium.com entitled Feeding Your Baby: Breast or Bottle?

There are so many other tips that I have found that work well when it comes to holding and feeding your baby that I'll be discussing in further blogs. The information I have is just too much to condense into one blog. Most of what I have collected will be going into my new book which I'll announce to all of my readers here. I am going to write another book on Fibromyalgia and this one will be on my pregnancy. I talk about tips and tricks and of course my trials with Fibro. I will also discuss how to talk to your children about your chronic condition.

Children are truly wonderful and will give you great blessings of joy in your life. They can help you stay young and also remind how to be fabulous. Take care of yourselves, until next time.

Love and friendship,

Kimberley

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stress Busters

Hey everyone! Sorry I didn't have a chance to post yesterday. I was "busy" tending to my 8 month old who was very clingy yesterday. She's most definitely a Mama's girl and has a very hard time separating from me. It's kind of funny because, in a sense, she seems to know when I'm about to have a flare since she cries for me to pick her up. Now, some of you are probably thinking I'm nuts by saying that because she's just a little baby and how "sensitive" can a baby be-- right? Well the answer to that is simple, babies are pretty sensitive. They can be just as sensitive to their caregivers as a pet would be and when they "react" to you like that, it can actually be beneficial. Sometimes just holding a child or a pet or even tending a to a garden or aquarium can relieve stress. It's a pretty old and known fact and that's going to be the topic of discussion for today.

I've had pets in my home all of my life. Both sets of grandparents had dogs and my parents had cats. I remember having a bit of trouble when I was little with the pet hair because I was allergic, but it never stopped me from loving animals of all kinds.

As an adult, I now have 13 pets that are the topic of conversation in my blogs every now and then. My two cats were in the literal sense of being stray. Diamond was an unwanted an abused kitten before I had him. When I first got him, he hated men. At the time, that was fine with me, of course, because I was getting over a bad relationship and I hated them too lol! But, after a while, he grew to tolerate men once my husband started feeding him. Diamond did a few other special things once he started to see that I was getting ill. He started to follow me around the house during my really bad days and would even move my daughter's toys away from my walking path for me so I would not have to bend. Diamond also learned how to open cabinets to get out his canned food and hair brush. He is very sensitive to my illness, a love to have in my life, and a great stress reliever because when I take the time to be with him, I'm "forgetting" my own troubles for a bit.

Topaz showed up on my doorstep about two years ago and is my other great love. She is my "lap cat" who doesn't mind being brushed (unlike Diamond) and just wants as much attention and love she can get from you. She is the cat that will fight Diamond to get a better seat by my bedside just so she can be there until I'm well enough to get up. She is another wonderfully sensitive cat and is yet another love in my life.

My other pets are two African- clawed frogs and several tropical fish. Fish are another wonderful way to relieve stress-- believe it or not. Some of them that I've had over the years can get excited to see you like any dog or cat would when they see their caregivers come home and some will even eat out of your hand. But the best thing about fish is that you can have calmness in your life by just watching them swim. In other words, they could act as a meditative tool for you to help you relax your sometimes clouded, busy mind. I have a tank in both of my daughter's rooms and a tank in the family room that I love to look at when I'm tending to my children, or just plain by myself. It's a great way to relax and the fish won't mind because they are like all pets-- they are there to be loved.

Children are another great love of mine and they can also be great stress busters. A child can say some of the most profound things if you are lucky enough to listen. They also don't seem to care as to whether you can walk or not either. My 7 year old daughter will look at me after I've told her I can't play ball with her and say, "Okay Mommy, then let's play cards instead." Life is pretty simple for them and we as adults could learn a very valuable lesson from them by finding what relieves our stress and just taking some time to relieve it. I'm glad that I have so many animals, children, and even a husband in my life to help me remember how to relieve mine. Here's to finding yours so you can stay fabulous.

Love and friendship,

Kimberley

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Guilt Factor and The Contest

Warning: This blog entry is not a suitable read for children because it contains a mature topic.

Okay, now that the warning is out of the way, I'd like to discuss in today's blog, The Guilt Factor which is a topic I go into great detail about in my book, Fibromyalgia and Sex Can Be A Pain In The Neck... and back and shoulders. I also have an announcement about a special contest that I'm running in honor of National Invisible Illness Awareness Week. I'll discuss that contest in better detail at the end of this blog, but for now, let's talk about our pleasure to please people.

I've always thought that my pleasure to please can get the best of me sometimes. I'm a Mom and I'm sure all you Moms out there know what I mean, but really we all-- whether we are Moms or not-- try to please the people we love by doing things for them. I'm sure everyone will agree (unless you really, really enjoy housework) that cleaning out the cat box, taking out the trash, or cleaning the toilet just are not things we like to do. But we do these things because we love the people and pets we have in our lives. These things, of course, don't always have to be done by you, the sufferer, because, well let's face it-- there are days when even opening up a jar just seems impossible. So you delegate tasks out.

But what happens when it comes to you and your partner's intimacy since that's not something you can just "delegate" out. I'm sure you've felt like me and you've had the pleasure to please on your brain when it comes to this subject. However, intimacy can wind up sounding too much like an everyday task when you hurt and then in comes The Guilt Factor. And let's get even more frank by saying, how can one please their partner and themselves with a little intimacy and still be able to walk in morning? Well, you can do this by getting a little selfish. Use the mantra "It's all about me."

Now, before any of you think that I'm totally crazy-- let me explain what I mean. My husband and I got a little creative and decided to expand my list to include what "works" for my body even when it comes to intimacy. You can read more about my list in the previous blog for more details.

When you start a list for intimacy, you'll become even more aware of your body and how it "works" for you. And the more aware you are, the more "about me" you become. Once you have figured out what works, The Guilt Factor can then go where it belongs-- right out of your life because you'll be able to do what you wanted to in the first place-- please your partner. The only difference now will be that you'll be trying new things, like maybe incorporating more massage into your intimacy, for instance, or you might wind up going back to familiar favorites. But either way, your being selfish by thinking "it's all about me" will wind up being a whole lot of fun for the both of you.

So now that I've touched on The Guilt Factor, how about discussing that contest? How would you like to win an autographed copy of one of my books? I'll be giving away two copies of The Fibro Hand and two copies of Fibromyalgia and Sex Can Be A Pain In The Neck...and back and shoulders to four lucky commenters who read my Fibro and Fabulous blog. So all you have to do is leave a comment on here and be lucky commenter 25, 50, 75, or 100 and you'll be receiving a copy of either book! I'll be checking the tallies and giving you all some updates from time to time on the comments count, and also of course, announce the winners in future blogs. So have some fun commenting and as always, Stay Fabulous!

Love and friendship,

Kimberley

Monday, September 8, 2008

Getting to Fabulous

Getting to Fabulous can seem like a daunting and difficult task for anyone who suffers from Fibromyalgia. The fatigue alone can make everything seem hard. But somehow, everyone of us with this debilitating syndrome manage lives with a job, kids, a partner, hobbies, pets, and anything else you might think of that would be included in a life. And we do it simply because we were people before we got diagnosed and we are most certainly people after that. But finding that happy medium between illness and life can really make a person wrestle with priorities. I discuss in great detail a lot of that turmoil that I went through when first diagnosed in my book The Fibro Hand, and I'll only share a bit of it here so this post won't bore you to tears.

I was always hard-working by nature. And anyone looking at me probably would look at me as a kid that felt she had something to prove. That observation would probably be right because I had always been that kid with a sprain or strain on one muscle or joint or another. I can remember my classmates in middle school taking bets to see if either I or another kid named Matt would show up with crutches on a given week. So you can definitely say that I started to "work" through pain at quite an early age.

After this, it became very hard for me to distinguish "aches and pains" from actual Fibro flares because they were pretty similar for me. It really wasn't until after giving birth to my first child that I experienced some really crappy days where I just plain couldn't move my fingers in the morning. But even then at age 28, I just tossed it off as nothing more then being tired from sleepless nights and long work days.

Then I turned 30 and got promoted to a "real" management job at a retail department store that I worked for. I'd been in a middle management position since the age of 16 so I knew what to expect-- a lot of long hours and a lot of stocking of merchandise. But this position was a bit different. I was doing a lot of walking in the store because the upper management felt that a presence was needed to boost sales and morale. This store was in a mall and had two floors. And to make a long story short, I was walking (steps count) anywhere from 5-15 miles a day on average. My knees were literally killing me. I went to the doctor, and so began the process of figuring out what I had and what to do about it for myself and my family's sake.

After the diagnoses of Fibromyalgia, I started to read everything I could on the subject and I tried to meet as many people as I could that had it. I wanted to beat this thing that was robbing me of the life and job I had. One particular book took my be surprise. It dealt with Fibromyalgia in a whole "new" way where the woman thought food and other natural approaches would help manage the pain. This book called Fibromyalgia, A Natural Approach, talked about a "detox" program where you eliminate food that cause problems in your diet. I was ecstatic and felt in control again of my life because I now had an idea and a plan to help me to feel better.

Once I read this book, I started to keep a journal of what I ate and how I felt afterwards. I tracked whether my ankles swelled, if I was tired, or if I had a burst of energy. Now, I also did this for my activities and how I felt after those too, because I knew that this would help me for my particular situation. I wrote in this journal faithfully for one week at first and then I started tracking it off and on for a couple of months. After my regular foods and routines were tracked, I continued the journal for any new activities and foods. This gave me a great record of what "worked" well for my body and what caused flares.

Now, I'm not a doctor, so I must stress that getting yourself checked out by one is very important because everyone is as different as the symptoms are of Fibromyalgia. This journal, however, helped me and my doctor communicate better because he and I could refer to what worked for me. And it helped a lot, but getting yourself diagnosed first is very important so you can eliminate any other possibile illness. Fibromyalgia tricky to diagnose because it's symptoms can look like Lyme Disease, MS, or even RA, to name a few. So having said that, I hope this bit of information helps you to get on your way to be Fabulous! Take care of yourselves and I will chat again real soon!

Love and friendship,

Kimberley

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