This week, I would like to introduce you to Donna Grant who lives with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Lyme Disease and writes about her experiences on her February Stars blog. Here she talks about her experiences and living well with her chronic illness.
Donna first started noticing symptoms in 2011. It was a gradual onset and began with digestive problems. She experienced pain and cramps in her stomach and felt really nauseous most of the time. At first, she thought it was a virus but when it didn’t go away she sought medical help and was back and forth seeing the doctor. She was given medication to try and, when that didn’t help, her problems were investigated fully as they thought she might have Irritable Bowel Disorder. She was then told they couldn’t find anything wrong and was labelled with IBS. But, by this time she had also started to experience pain and fatigue.
It took a further two years and worsening of symptoms before Donna was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. It felt like such a fight to get a diagnosis. All her tests came back normal and she was told there was nothing wrong more times than she could count. It was a relief to finally get an answer. Fibromyalgia fit her symptoms to a tee.
Managing work and worsening health
At the time, she was working a very active job and found it really challenging. Her symptoms continued to worsen and her life became work and nothing else. She would often crash as soon as she got home and the weekends were spent recuperating. Things continued to get worse and she then experienced neurological symptoms which she hadn’t had before (numbness, blurred vision, eye pain and pins and needles). An MRI came back clean so she was told her symptoms were likely due to the Fibromyalgia. But by the autumn of 2014, she had completely crashed and ended up bedbound with unrelenting fatigue.
It felt like her life had changed overnight and she eventually lost her job. She couldn’t even look after herself, never mind work. She lost faith in the medical system as her doctor told her he had exhausted all options and couldn’t help her.
It took until 2016 for her to learn she had Lyme Disease. Prior to this, she was told her symptoms were due to her Fibro flaring up and that she likely had ME/CFS. So Donna decided to take her health into her own hands and sought answers. She tested positive for Borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. She hadn’t previously been aware of a tick bite but she believes Lyme is the reason she experienced the neuro symptoms and why she completely crashed. Everything suddenly made sense.
The symptoms she has dealt with over the years have been very varied and have included: chronic pain; chronic fatigue; exercise intolerance; post-exertion malaise; brain fog; autonomic dysfunction; pins and needles; numbness; muscle stiffness; dizziness; constantly feeling flu-like; vision problems; disruptive sleep; digestive problems; poor immune function; redness and skin rashes. Symptoms that felt like a never ending list! Chronic fatigue was one of her most debilitating symptoms.
Getting to a better place
Donna says “the most important thing for me has been becoming my own health advocate, keeping an open mind and holding onto the hope that I could get better. I’ve experimented with a lot of different things over the years. This includes treatments like herbal therapies, supplements, massages etc. But, also things that help to look after my mental health like meditation, practising gratitude and using affirmations. For me, it’s also been important to have a support system to lean on and I am very fortunate to have an amazing husband and family”.The most important thing for me has been becoming my own health advocate and keeping an open mind. Click To Tweet
Most recently, she went through a Lyme Disease treatment program at a clinic called Infusio. This involved receiving stem cells which has been life changing.
In the last 5 months, following her stem cell therapy, she has been dealing with fewer and less intense symptoms. Though her energy is a lot better than it was prior to stem cells, she’d like this to continue to improve. Donna also still needs to continue to work on healing her gut and supporting her lymphatic system. Thankfully, her chronic pain has also improved significantly since receiving stem cell therapy.
She still has months of healing ahead of her but she is very hopeful about her future.
The good in illness
I asked Donna in what ways her illness has been a good thing? She said she finds this hard to answer because her mind wants to say that her illnesses have robbed her of so many things. They have, however, changed her for the better in some ways though. She has slowed down and she is more patient and empathetic as a person now. And it has brought her closer to her family too as they have supported her through this.
Advice for others
The one thing she always tells herself is that “this will pass”. Donna has lived through many bad days (whether that’s physically or mentally) and, so far, her rate for getting through them has been 100%. She always reminds her1self of that.
What does the future hold?
Donna still hasn’t returned to work. Instead she has her blog – February Stars – that gives her a sense of purpose and she can fit it in whenever she feels up to it. The future is uncertain and she has no idea what it holds as it stands. But, thanks to her stem cells she says she is super excited to find out.
Donna’s social media links can be found here: