A One-Woman Crusade
Barbara Keddy has long been irritated by the insensitivity of the media and the medical community in regard to fibromyalgia, a chronic condition from which she has suffered from for over 40 years. She finds it hard to swallow that a newspaper as venerable as the New York Times blares in large type, echoing some doctors’ thoughts: “Does it really exist or is it all in women’s heads?”
When Dr. Keddy retired from her teaching position at Dalhousie University in 2004 she decided that as a researcher, university professor, medical sociologist, and nurse who suffers from fibromyalgia, it was time for her to focus on furthering our understanding of the condition. To that end, Dr. Keddy wrote a book called Women and Fibromyalgia: Living with an Invisible Dis-ease (iUniverse Co.). The book details the experiences of 20 women sufferers of fibromyalgia, including Dr. Keddy’s own observations. In addition to relating personal tales of woe, the book also talks about current trends in treatment options and medical theories on the causes of the condition. Keddy also has a blog in which she relates her personal difficulties in living with fibromyalgia from day to day.
“Sore All Over”
Keddy, a professor emerita with the Dalhousie School of Nursing was diagnosed with fibromyalgia after having symptoms for 30 years, starting just after the birth of her eldest child by C-section. At the time, the doctors didn’t have a name for fibromyalgia, but Keddy knew that her condition was real—she was “sore all over.”
Keddy found that fibromyalgia sufferers were being called out on the carpet as kvetches and complainers. Besides soreness, some of the other, diffuse symptoms of the condition include digestive problems, chronic tiredness, depression, an inability to concentrate, insomnia, and stiff, aching muscles. Damp weather tends to aggravate the condition while moving to a dry climate or taking some medications can help. However, the condition is incurable with the pain never that far away. All this makes Keddy’s frustration all the more poignant, “The audacity! The women who have this condition hurt in all the same places and have the same symptoms. So how can they say that it’s all in women’s heads?”
Keddy believes that more women have fibromyalgia than anyone supposes but since the disease doesn’t show up on x-rays or blood tests, doesn’t threaten lives, and leaves major organs alone, the condition remains known as “the invisible disease.”
Some experts believe that fibromyalgia bears a relationship to arthritis and rheumatism because of the muscle aches and pains with which it is associated, however, Dr. Keddy has come to see the condition as the reaction of a hypersensitive nervous system and believes that the great preponderance of the condition among the female sex is due to their traditional role as caregivers: those who think about others before themselves. The ultimate trigger may be the death of a loved one, or a hysterectomy, or some other tragic event that calls the nervous system of the sufferer into play.