On the Job and in Pain: Genitourinary Symptoms

Arlene Braverman* of Wichita, Kansas, has a hard load to carry: she's both on the career track and a sufferer of fibromyalgia. To make things worse, like 65% of all women with fibromyalgia, she's got vulvodynia, a painful condition affecting the vulva; the opening of the vagina. There are days when the fatigue of fibromyalgia makes it hard to roll out of bed and on into the shower, but Arlene finds that forcing herself into a regular routine is what works best. Her real problem is less about fatigue and general aches and pains and much more about her uncomfortable genital condition.

Hiding the Pain

"The vulvodynia comes and goes, but it seems like stress brings it on. So, if I have a presentation to give in front of the board of directors, I'm likely to have an episode. I'm a good actress, so I can hide the pain as long as I don’t have to sit down. In other words, let me get up in front of everyone with a flow chart and a pointer and no one could possibly know I'm in pain, but if I have to have a lunch meeting with an important client, I'm in trouble big time.

I found that the only way I can get through these long lunches is by liberal application of topical anesthetics. That's right. Lidocaine. Hey, whatever ever gets you through, right?

But I'll tell you, there was one time, I had used up my tube of lidocaine cream, and had forgotten to put another tube of the stuff into my handbag. I did something really crazy. I went into the lady's room of this restaurant during a meeting with a company bigwig and waylaid the lady with the basket of cosmetics. I had her find me a linen towel and some ice cubes and I somehow patched everything together to make a cold compress."

A Brave Performance 

"I stuffed that into my panties and went back to my table. I think that was one of the bravest performances I've ever put on. And no one ever knew I was in agony, except for the lady in the bathroom. I gave her a $50.00 tip, so she's not talking. And, I won the account, if you can believe it. The guy talked me up big time and my boss gave me a promotion.

It's hard enough choosing a career over being a mommy, and it's even harder trying to get ahead while being of the female persuasion, but add fibromyalgia and vulvodynia, and just call me Superwoman," chuckles Arlene with just a hint of the infectious mirth that has made her such a success in business and in life, in spite of her disabilities.

*Not her real name


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