The words “We’re living in challenging times” has become a gross understatement. I’m going to set aside the “challenging” for a minute – guns & mass shootings, abortion, inequity, injustice, etc etc etc etc – and do the truly selfish. I’m going to focus on myself.
One of the challenges people with fibromyalgia have is to know when to go to the doctor. I’ve talked about it before – my rule is, if I have a new symptom and it doesn’t change or get better within a “reasonable” amount of time, I have it checked out to be sure it’s not something like the pulmonary embolism I ignored for a very long time until I was in heart failure. It’s a simple rule I explain to the doctor right off the bat, so they understand I don’t intend to sit in their chair until they make the symptom go away. I acknowledge there probably is nothing to be done, so they give the concerning symptom their full attention. So far it has worked beautifully.
However, in our challenging times, people with fibromyalgia are facing a confluence of fibromyalgia symptoms and the lingering specter of COVID symptoms. I have not had COVID so I can’t attest to what it’s really like, and that’s part of the problem. I’m fully vaccinated and doubly boosted, so if I get COVID, it will probably be mild, often described as cold-like symptoms. So when I got a mild cough and started feeling a bit more fatigued and achy than usual in February, I got a COVID test, negative, took into account the likelihood of a false negative, isolated myself from my octogenarian parents just in case, and waited for the symptoms to go away. COVID tests since then have all been negative, and the symptoms have not gone away. So we’re into the 5-month range and the symptoms are just worsening.
I finally, very reluctantly dragged myself into the doctor’s office. I was reluctant because I’m overweight, so of course I have a problem with shortness of breath. I’m just deconditioned, right? Unfortunately, it’s become severe shortness of breath and my lifestyle is severely limited. Heart palpitations upon the slightest exertion. The fatigue is unbearable at times. Normal fibro pain has grown exponentially. But I’m sure I’m just overweight and out of shape, right?
I’ve had paroxysmal atrial fibrillation for years. Occasionally my heart just beats a bit wrong, but because the wonky beats are in the atria (upper chambers) and not the ventricles (lower chambers), not a big deal. So I went to the doctor and said, you know, I think my AF has gotten more than paroxysmal. After explaining the symptoms, the doctor ordered a stress/echo test, which I took yesterday. I don’t know how long I lasted on the treadmill, but it wasn’t more than 5 minutes. I don’t have all the results, but yes, my AF ticked in with exertion. I have an appointment in Cardiology in July.
Fibro + a COVID world = the possibility of missing something important (or hypervigilance). I work with ENT surgeons who have been horrified the last couple years because people are waiting too long to get help with symptoms that are ultimately a head and neck cancer. I should know better. I know myself. I self-diagnosed. And I ignored it for five months.