My Story: Michelle McCallister

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

My life before this illness was full I worked full-time, worked out with my sons, and had a healthy social life.

The first time I felt something was wrong with me was when I was talking with a client and couldn't remember what my job title was. I found finding myself unable to think clearly, a terrible pain in my back in between my shoulder blades up to my neck, and pain from the feel of clothing and blankets on my skin.

My doctor diagnosed me with myofascial pain syndrome. Within a month the pain spread to my legs and arms. At that time I had many tests and was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, ankylosing spondylitis, scoliosis, and bulging discs in my cervical and lumbar regions. The pain in my back, shoulders, and neck continues to this day.

I was referred to a rheumatologist who diagnosed me with rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Also around this time, I had a major breast reduction to try to lessen the pain in my neck and shoulders, as they often slipped out of place.

I have had carpel tunnel surgery on the one hand and waiting for it to heal so I can have the other hand operated on.

My newest symptom is migraine headaches. It feels as if I am never going to get a break. I am also seeing a neurologist about having three back surgeries. It took almost five years from the start of my symptoms to get a diagnosis of fibromyalgia.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

My life before fibromyalgia was very active.

I worked full time and often overtime at a fast-paced, high-stress job, which provided well for my sons and I. On my free time, I spent time with my sons-either working out, going to the movies, or out to eat. I also enjoyed dating. I also made sterling silver jewelry and presented my pieces at art shows.

Now I am unable to work, workout, or make jewelry. I can not stand to sit long enough to go to the movies as the pain is just too much when I stay in the same position for too long.

I have made many changes trying to deal with this illness.

I wear mostly very soft fleece pajamas all day as they do not rub on my skin. My meals are very simple, mostly fresh fruit and veggies because I feel they give me energy. I make sure everything is light if I must lift. If it is heavy, my sons take care of it.

Instead of working out with weights, running, or high cardio, I now do mostly stretching as it seems to lessen the unrelenting back pain briefly.

My social life is going to the grocery store, doctor office, and talking with my sons.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I am most proud of my decision to start living independently again. I am now in the process of moving into my own home again. I decided to have a small home so it will easier to clean. I am a little worried to be alone as I have days where I simply can not get out of bed. On those days I will just eat and rest.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I am most proud of my decision to start living independently again. I am now in the process of moving into my own home again. I decided to have a small home so it will easier to clean. I am a little worried to be alone as I have days where I simply can not get out of bed. On those days I will just eat and rest.

I'm proud of my decision to start living independently again.

I'm proud of my decision to start living independently again.

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

My advice to anyone living with a chronic illness or chronic pain is to listen to your body. Learn your limitations. When you feel tired go ahead and rest.

Eat healthy and try to eat fresh fruit and veggies every meal. Learn to make smoothies which include vegetables.

Last but not least, try not to let people make you feel guilty because of your limitations. People will give you unsolicited advice often–just smile and say you are doing the best you can.

My advice to anyone living with a chronic illness or chronic pain is to listen to your body.

Who has been there for you? How?

I have moments where I feel completely alone, but in truth, I have a great family that will help me if I ask.

My sons check on me often and listen to me when I feel I must talk about the pain and changes I have had to make. My mother is very kind and does everything she is capable of doing to make me comfortable.My father has a serious medical condition, so he can relate to what I am dealing with. He also helped financially after I lost my job because I simply wasn't able to work.

Lastly, my sister is in the medical field, and I now live with her. I moved in with her after I lost my job. I filed for disability which broke my soul because I felt like I was giving up. It took two years to be approved.

Is there anything else we should know?

I often get very frustrated with people who do not understand invisible illnesses. I have people always telling me to take vitamins, do yoga, go out more, and stop taking so many prescribed medications. I also get frustrated at people who are unsympathetic- telling me to just push through it. I want to shout I would love to be back like I used to be before all these illnesses.

About Michelle McCallister

My Story: Michelle McCallister

I am a small town lady with two great young adult sons. I am disabled now due to several chronic illnesses and pain, but I still try to have a smile for everyone.

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