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Lady Gaga's recent documentary, Five Foot Two, which aired on Netflix, brought to light her daily battle with the condition Fibromyalgia. For those who don't know what the condition is, fibromyalgia is defined as a long-term pain condition which causes muscle pain, headaches, extreme fatigue, brain fog, and a whole host of other symptoms that severely impact the sufferer's life. At one point during the documentary, Lady Gaga wakes up with extreme pain down her right side and her staff immediately jumps in to help alleviate the pain with massages and various other therapies. Gaga comments that she has no idea what she would do without them or how she would cope. Welcome to the world of pretty much every other person suffering this condition on the planet, to the people who don't have the money or the help to ease their pain and get them through the day.
I was diagnosed myself seven years ago, at twenty four. To get the diagnosis at such a young age was earth-shattering, but at the time I was determined to keep moving forward and do as much as I could, to achieve as much as I could before the condition got worse. I foolishly believed that my symptoms would remain the same for many years, with the occasional flare up, and that I would be fine until I was older. Last year, my symptoms grew progressively worse. How I felt before didn't even compare to how I feel now. The condition was worsened by stress and illness. Where I was tired before, I am now psychically and mentally exhausted. Where I had pain before, I am now in agony. I have migraines lasting up to eight days at a time and a sensitivity to most painkillers which means there isn't much I can do for the pain.
I do not have staff or special treatments to help me. I can barely afford a trip to the chiropractor once a month. I had to give up my job a year ago. So while I am grateful to Lady Gaga for bringing this illness into the light and getting everyone talking about it, I am angry that it took that for professionals to take it seriously. Since the documentary, there have been numerous TV spots on daytime shows and the local news, talking about the illness and it is clear that few have even heard of it.
Doctors are the first to admit that they don't know what causes the condition—possibly trauma, but not always. I suffered no trauma before the onset of my symptoms. The doctors can only treat the symptoms and there is no cure. For some people, before they are diagnosed with fibromyalgia, they are treated as hypochondriacs or dismissed altogether. It took a year for me to get diagnosed, but I was one of the lucky ones. Ignorance of the condition is not an excuse to treat the patient like they are crazy or exaggerating.
More research and understanding of this condition is needed, with steps taken to find better treatments to help the patient rather than throwing painkillers at the situation. The NHS needs to produce specialists who can deal exclusively with fibromyalgia, and appointments with chiropractors, massage therapists, and other treatments need to be more affordable, especially since a lot of patients are limited in their ability to work.
Sadly, I believe that once the hype has died down, fibromyalgia will leave the headlines and be forgotten once more. It is up to us, the people who suffer from the condition to speak up, to make our voice heard and make the right people listen.