Adjusting To Chronic Pain

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By Jan Ortiz
Bella Vista Church (CRC), Rockford MI
Breaking Barriers Summer 2014

In 1973, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and—unbeknownst to me—fibromyalgia, two chronic diseases with no known cure. I had guessed that the RA diagnosis was coming because I had been having symptoms for the previous nine months. Fibromyalgia was unknown territory and did not even have a name until 1981.

In those early days, there were few medicines available to treat RA, which attacked my hands and feet first. My feet and ankles hurt so bad that if I’d been sitting, I’d have to stand for several minutes, sit down, and stand again before I was able to walk. This was particularly trying in church, where I felt people were looking and judging, though I don’t know this to be so.

Because I could not pick up my 18-month old son, Jonathan, with my hands, he had to adapt to being picked up on my forearms. He made the change with no fuss—what a trooper. Within the first four years, my wrists fused. By the time the sharp, stabbing pain subsided, I was left with a range of motion in my wrists that is the same as what I have today—not much.

Mostly, I remember the intense pain from trying to spread soft butter on bread; fused wrists also change the way you hold things, pick up things, open doors, etc. The debilitating pain of the fibromyalgia exhausted me, and as a result I spent my days lying on the couch dozing while my son played with his toys nearby. I thank God that Jonathan never got into anything he wasn’t supposed to.

People have said hurtful things. I have tried to let those go, but once words have been uttered they can’t be taken back. I don’t know why God blessed me with these diseases; he has been silent when I have asked. I am sure I have not lived my spiritual life to the fullest potential, but I still expect to have all my questions answered when I get to heaven.

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Sherri Maat

Sherri Maat

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