First off I want to thank Norman for starting this website and for his Facebook page Men with Fibromyalgia, so that other men can come here to read others stories and feel like they don’t have to hide or not be understood. For me this is a story on what I have been holding in for a long time. I am a Fibromyalgia Warrior!
When I was my teens and 20’s I loved to run, swim, lift weights and I loved competing in marathons, swim meets, triathlons. I felt I was very good. Even finishing in the top 3 in my age group (or overall) in certain races as well as getting a triathlon national ranking. Along with that I worked with the Marriott hotels north of Boston for over 12 years in the health club. I felt no matter what the shift whether it was opening, closing or on a busy weekend I could do anything.
It was about a few years into working for the Marriott I felt that something was wrong. I became depressed, anxious, tired for long periods of time. My workouts would leave me extremely fatigued, and I needed more rest than usual before I try to workout again. Also the stress of handling loads of wet/dry towels, cleaning the facilities, making sure that the pools/spa left me in great amount of pain that I couldn’t feel relief from. So I stopped competing all together. I sought out doctors who x-ray’d me, MRI’s, prescribed me with muscle relaxers and anti-depressants but nothing seemed to relieve me of the pain or fatigue.
After a year of visiting a chiropractor who was trying to fix my spine from the neck she told me that I had been suffering from Fibromyalgia! I was so outraged that I stormed out the office. I couldn’t believe it. So when I told my doctor about this he said, “No you don’t. That’s a woman’s disease!” But after what I told what my symptoms were from chronic pain and fatigue to tender spots in the back, hips, neck, shoulders he didn’t believe me. After that I wouldn’t see him again.
On July 30, 2006 I went to a specialist in chronic pain management and confirmed what the chiropractor had told me. IT WAS FIBROMYALGIA I was suffering from. After going through the 18 point trigger test where I had pain in nearly all the 18 points and extensive blood work done I was floored. I thought my life as I knew it was over. I was in tears not sure of what was coming next.
Needless to say my hospital visits (even with health insurance) was costing me lots of money. So much I had to dip into my savings just to pay bills off. After a failed try to change careers plus trying to go to another department in the Marriott I felt like giving up. I had been evicted from my apartment, the career change cost me in the tens of thousands, and since I couldn’t get any relieve from the stress at the Marriott I left them. For over a year I was homeless, ended up sleeping in my car during the winter of 2008-09.
From 2008 onward I took up work as a summer lifeguard at first, then as a retail worker for a vitamin store before landing as a Greater Boston YMCA lifeguard/adult swim instructor. I still like to be active. Swimming helps even though I don’t do as much like I once did. Running helps too but not as much or hard like I use to do it. Lifting weights has changed too, not as heavy and not as many sets, reps and monitor my rest. I got back into competition although I don’t race as much. I even made onto the USA Triathlon national team last year as an Aquathlon participant (That’s swimming and running in the same race). I hope to continue to racing and even getting back to Team USA
As a Fibromyalgia Warrior, while I still have problems with Fibromyalgia Fog, Depression, Flare ups, Restless Legs Syndrome, IBS, Sleep Apnea, Chronic Fatigue my pain scale can be from a 10 to a 3. 3 is better than 10!!! Eating better to keep my weight down, also trying to find positive outlets like motivation videos, books on battling with this, even a letter from a parent telling me how their child enjoys taking the swim lessons (more on that later) when I’m their teacher is a plus for me. Medication I’m not taking at the moment. I rather find holistic outlets like acupuncture, Swedish massage, even coping techniques to help me channel my energy and reserves away from stress and negativity.
In terms of my personal and professional work right now I work at a YMCA near Boston as a Lifeguard/Child Swim instructor and Aqua group exercise instructor. While the work can be physically demanding its is not as stressful as it was when I was at the Marriott. Personally I have a girlfriend now so having someone who isn’t use to me having this is brand new for her. She’s been very helpful in helping me cope with any issues that I’m going through. So having that support can be a plus.
I like to have any man out there who has Fibromyalgia or any type or chronic pain they are going through or anyone woman who has her man, friend or child who suffers from anything that I’ve mentioned— from the words of motivational speaker Les Brown (I personally recommend to listen to him) “NO MATTER HOW BAD IT IS OR HOW HARD IT GETS I’M GOING TO MAKE IT!!!!” Whether its reducing the pain, getting energy to last you through the day, taking stress out, keeping within your limits, finding a cure—- WE’RE GOING TO MAKE IT!!!!
THANKS FOR READING! GUYS, GALS, “Always Believe” – Ultimate Fibromyalgia Warrior
John Nguyen, Fibromyalgia Warrior, Team USA Athlete – (will turn 46 on May 14th)