My Story: Karen Anderson

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

Due to attendance issues at work, I was forced to try and come up with a reasonable explanation. So far, doctors had blamed menstrual woes as a major cause of my problem.

The all-over pain was explained to me as "all in my head." Finally, I was referred to a rheumatologist who did blood tests and X-rays.

Now this was 30+ years ago and no one had heard of it, but I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I was given pain medication, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatory and anti-depressant meds and a note for work.

The medications really helped the way I felt and I added physical therapy. I was able to do almost everything I wanted and lived a fairly normal life.

As I got older, the pain got worse, and unfortunately I had to change insurance and doctors. I had the doctor that said, "You look good, how could you be in so much pain?" and then the doctor who said, "We need to get you off all these medications. Fibro is all in your head."

Then I had a doctor say she flat out didn't believe me and to find someone else. I ended up in a pain management program and saw a psychologist (for CBT), a physical therapist (for exercises to get my strength back) and a pain doctor who said, "I believe you."

So I am again with all the medications I need, an exercise routine for my specific problems, and a psychologist who gave me all the meds I needed for my bipolar and depression conditions.

The pain doctor also ordered a MRI where it was revealed that I had three herniated discs in my back and also took a bone density test and discovered that I have osteoporosis.

I now have doctors who believe me and give me the necessary medications and treatments to make me feel the best I can.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

I used to play softball and ran two miles every morning. Now, it takes me between five and 15 minutes to get up out of bed and begin to move.

Imagine the worst pain you have ever experienced from exercise or an injury and multiply it by 10. I do walk now for exercise, plus I also walk my dogs, so I take two walks a day.

I pace myself by going on shorter shopping trips and I break household work down into smaller parts. Like I may clear the table and rinse the dishes, then later load the dishwasher. My husband helps me by vacuuming the floor and then I mop upstairs one day and downstairs the next day.

Karen Anderson

Who has been there for you? How?

My husband, son, and a few friends have been there for me. They understand how my pain keeps me from doing everything I want and they help out with housework and errands.

My friends come to visit me and will cook meals and do light housework chores to help me out. My family, unfortunately, does not understand and think it is all in my head and that I am a hypochondriac.

I don't speak to them anymore because I couldn't take the stress of dealing with people in my life that don't believe me.

I spend my days walking my dogs and enjoying the mountain air and scenery.

What's your advice to someone else living with Fibromyalgia?

Be yourself. Take time to rest when you need it and don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't try to be something you are not or to try and please other people because you think you should or you think they expect more from you.

Try and exercise every day even if it is a short walk or a few stretches.

What's your advice to someone else living with Fibromyalgia?

Be yourself. Take time to rest when you need it and don't be afraid to ask for help. Don't try to be something you are not or to try and please other people because you think you should or you think they expect more from you.

Try and exercise every day even if it is a short walk or a few stretches.

Be yourself.

Be yourself.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I just started a Facebook page called Kim and Karen's Fibromyalgia Talk. It is for people like me who need to be believed and comforted as they go through their daily life. I try to add stories and information to help enlighten readers to issues relevant to fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome.

I am very proud to have been a cast member at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. I loved working there and making magic moments for guests when possible. It is truly a magical place!

Try and exercise every day even if it is a short walk or a few stretches.

Is there anything else we should know?

I also have chronic pain syndrome, which I never seem to work into my story. I am 61, retired from Disneyland, and live in the mountains of southern California with my husband, two dogs, and cat, Max.

About Karen Anderson

My Story: Karen Anderson

Retired from the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, I live in a cabin in the mountains (elevation 6,200 feet) of Southern California with my husband, two dogs and one cat.

It is a small town with a population of 732 with grocery stores about 25 miles away. I have a son who is 26 and is seeking a job as a police officer.

I spend my days walking my dogs and enjoying the mountain air and scenery. When I am able to I like to oil paint and I love to cook.

Kim and Karen's Fibromyalgia Talk

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