Fibromyalgia warrior, Shanikwa Brown suffers from Fibromyalgia and Lupus. Shanikwa has added her face and story to Faces & Stories of Fibromyalgia. I am so grateful that Shanikwa has shared this, as each story told raises awareness and helps fellow sufferers.
You can connect with Shanikwa by following her on Instagram.
Let’s take it back to 2015. I was working full time overnight and I was attending Kean University, commuting to campus throughout the week. It was a lot. I had a lot on my plate, so when I began to become extremely tired all the time with a migraine, I just thought I was overworking myself and it would pass. It did not. These were the first symptoms that I experienced. Then came the chest pain. It literally felt like someone was stabbing me in my chest, repeatedly! Nothing helped with the pain. I went to the ER countless times throughout the year and the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. After the chest pain, came the joint and hand pain. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. During this time, I was working out, and eating healthy. I couldn’t understand why my body was constantly tired and in so much pain.
Fast forward to January 2016. I was in the ER again, fed up because I was constantly in pain with no answers. For a while I did not have health insurance so going to the doctor was an expensive trip. I decided to just go to a primary doctor. We talked about my symptoms and he decided to perform a series of tests to determine exactly what was wrong with me. Because of my chest pain, he thought it was asthma. I knew something was wrong, I just wanted ANSWERS.
He decided to do a complete blood count test, which tested for EVERYTHING, including Lupus, Lyme disease, and Anemia. I was anxiously awaiting the results.
Finally, my doctor told me that my ANA levels and red/white blood cell levels were high. Antinuclear antibodies are an indicator that you may have an Autoimmune disease. These antibodies are produced by your immune system, so if the levels are high, it means your immune system is stimulated. He told me to schedule an appointment with a Rheumatologist. I was SUPER nervous. I had only heard of Lupus and Fibromyalgia once before. I began to research what Lupus and Fibromyalgia were and how it can affect the body. I was shocked as to what symptoms I did have.
After meeting with my Rheumatologist, he did another series of blood tests which tested different things in my blood. With the results of these tests plus my symptoms, he made the diagnosis of Lupus SLE. My case was mild but nonetheless I was diagnosed with Lupus in August 2016. Shortly after, my doctor diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia as well.
My journey with Lupus and Fibromyalgia had just begun. My doctor started me on medication. It was a rollercoaster. The first few months were extremely rough. I still had to work so I didn’t really have a chance to rest. I felt super alone. I was still constantly in pain and once I got off from work, I spent my days in bed. I felt like I had no one who understood my pain and what I was going through.
Fibromyalgia and Lupus not only affects your body, it affects your mind. It causes you to become confused, have memory loss, and worst of all, depressive and suicidal thoughts. Never be afraid to talk to someone and seek help. You are not alone!
I thank God for my family during that time and my best friends because they really encouraged and uplifted me. My church family prayed over me and spoke life into me. I slowly began to feel better after my doctor, and I figured out which medications worked best for my body.
Fast forward to today. I am living, not just existing. Having the diagnosis of Lupus and Fibromyalgia forever changed my life but I will not let it stop me or deter me from my goals. I also do not let these illnesses stop me from living my life and enjoying the time I have here on earth.
Life with Lupus and Fibromyalgia can be overwhelming and unpredictable, but with this new diagnosis, I have become stronger than ever with a new-found purpose in my life.
Things that have helped me throughout my journey:
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
- Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself with your treatment team.
- Be honest with your treatment team with regards to what works and what doesn’t work. You know your body better than anyone!
- LISTEN to your body. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over these 4 years, is to listen when my body says rest. There’s nothing wrong with resting!
- Fibromyalgia and Lupus can both cause brain fog. Don’t feel ashamed if sometimes you forget things! I have to write things down 3 times, in my phone, in my planner and on the calendar.
- A heating pad is your best friend!
- Keep track of your symptoms, new and old, so that you can remember to tell your treatment team.
- Journaling has really helped with my anxiety and depression around my illnesses!
- Remember that you are not alone! You have a whole community out there that can relate to you.
I hope my diagnosis story can help others who are newly diagnosed or help those who need some insight into what fellow warriors go through.
I plan on turning my pain into purpose.