I was born in Beaconsfield, Quebec, a beautiful suburb of Montreal, to two loving parents (my dad an engineer with an MBA, and my mom a teacher specializing in special ed), with an older brother, Chris, who was two at the time. For the medical experts out there, I had a perfect APGAR (appearance, pulse, reflex / grimace, activity, respiration) score of 10 taken at birth, which is fairly uncommon. My younger brother Joel, was born 21 months later. I was an energetic, stubborn, talkative child with an interest in and passion for sports (soccer, gymnastics, downhill skiing, ice skating and waterskiing), reading – my parents would give me a “turn out your light and put the book away” time at night, however, I would continue to read with a flashlight under my blanket, and singing – there was a “no singing at the dinner table” rule enforced since my brothers were incredibly annoyed with my bad habit. We spent our weekends in the summer up at our Tanner family cottage with my “pop” and extended family on the Big Rideau by Westport (closest city would be Kingston, ON), and our Saturdays in the winters downhill skiing at our ski club, Mont-Blanc. We studied in French only, which I apparently enjoyed so much because at times I refused to speak English at home! I loved going to school with my best friend Tracy, where I received straight A’s.
Life at the Tanner family cottage on the Rideau Lake:
Life in Montreal:
At the age of eight, my dad received a job offer in Toronto that he could not pass up, so, much to Chris, Joel and my dismay, we packed up, left our close friends and moved to Oakville, Ontario, an affluent city about 30 minutes west of Toronto. I learned to read and write in English for the first time (scary thought!) since we were now attending school in both French AND English. Surprisingly, I still enjoyed school and was able to maintain my straight A’s. I spent my time outside of school getting close with the girls on our new street (I am still friends with Katie 23 years later), playing competitive soccer, competing on the track and field team at school (sprinting and long jump were my specialties), continuing my reading addiction, and getting out to the ski hills nearby when possible (although the skiing in Ontario does not compare in the least to Montreal or BC!).
Life in Oakville:
My health began to go downhill around the age of 10. I couldn’t fall asleep at night, and when I did fall asleep, I would then wake up about an hour later and toss and turn the rest of the night. I “woke up” in the morning feeling very stiff with the worst achy feeling in my entire body, and I was extremely fatigued. During the day at school I had pain all over, it hurt when others would touch, poke, prod or hit me (my brothers loved to flick my ears), I couldn’t stay awake in class or concentrate, sitting for extended periods was difficult, I wasn’t as interested in my schooling – specifically writing tests since I was having more trouble with my memory. By this time I was playing soccer competitively for the city of Oakville as a starting defender, and although I was performing well, the day after a practice or game, my body felt like it had been hit by a semi truck and I could barely move.
Dealing with something so serious at such a young age was very difficult, but my mom was with me every step of the way (thank god!) She and I began our journey of trying to figure out what, if anything, was wrong with me. Because it has been 20 years since my symptoms began, I unfortunately can’t remember every little detail, however, I’ll provide you with an overview with what I do remember. We started with my family doctor, or General Practitioner, who told us I was just going through growing pains with puberty because it had happened so early, and so quickly. At the time, I was also complaining about pain located in my mid-back (thoracic area), which he quickly dismissed. My mom and I saw this doctor a handful of times before we finally decided it was time to see somebody else to get a second opinion since the symptoms were not subsiding. I began seeing a new GP in the same office, who sent me for a variety of tests over the span of about a year – blood tests, X-rays, bone scan, MRI, ultrasounds, heart tests, and the list goes on. He also sent me to a couple of specialists. The only thing he could find was a tachychardia in my heart and an arrhythmia, as well as a slight curve in my thoracic area of my back, however, he dismissed it as causing my back pain. All of these tests had ruled out illnesses that he had suspected, however, we were not getting anywhere yet. A few months later, I was complaining to my mom about my back pain, so she took me to the Emergency Room. My GP was on call that day, and he examined me. At that point, he thought the pain was due to some sort of arthritis, and suggested I go see a rheumatologist in Burlington. We got in to see the rheumatologist about 3 months later, who diagnosed me right away in September 1997 at the age of 13, with having fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He was shocked by the diagnosis since he had not yet seen someone as young as me with this illness, however, he held firm that this is what I was suffering from. My mom and I both felt relief for finally getting a diagnosis, however, little did we know, this was just the beginning.
As a side note – during the time of my symptoms and eventually my diagnosis, my brothers were busy playing sports and working hard at school, and my dad was working long hours to support the family, so my journey at first only consisted of my mom and I. I will be getting into more detail from my family’s perspective on these events in future posts.
Original Fibromyalgia diagnosis letter from my first (of many) rheumatologists:
Original Thoracic Scoliosis diagnosis letter (although not mentioned here, the curve was 8 degrees, very small but caused a lot of pain):
A card from my first stress test that my dad wrote on before the doctors had diagnosed my heart issues:
Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers believe that fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way your brain processes pain signals.
Symptoms sometimes begin after a physical trauma, surgery, infection or significant psychological stress. In other cases, symptoms gradually accumulate over time with no single triggering event.
Women are much more likely to develop fibromyalgia than are men. Many people who have fibromyalgia also have tension headaches, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.
While there is no cure for fibromyalgia, a variety of medications can help control symptoms. Exercise, relaxation and stress-reduction measures also may help.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia:
- Widespread pain. The pain associated with fibromyalgia often is described as a constant dull ache that has lasted for at least three months. To be considered widespread, the pain must occur on both sides of your body and above and below your waist.
- Fatigue. People with fibromyalgia often awaken tired, even though they report sleeping for long periods of time. Sleep is often disrupted by pain, and many patients with fibromyalgia have other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
- Cognitive difficulties. A symptom commonly referred to as “fibro fog” impairs the ability to focus, pay attention and concentrate on mental tasks.
- Other problems. Many people who have fibromyalgia also may experience depression, headaches, and pain or cramping in the lower abdomen.
Cause of Fibromyalgia:
Doctors don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, but it most likely involves a variety of factors working together. These may include:
- Genetics. Because fibromyalgia tends to run in families, there may be certain genetic mutations that may make you more susceptible to developing the disorder.
- Infections. Some illnesses appear to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
- Physical or emotional trauma. Post-traumatic stress disorder has been linked to fibromyalgia.
Why does it hurt?
Researchers believe repeated nerve stimulation causes the brains of people with fibromyalgia to change. This change involves an abnormal increase in levels of certain chemicals in the brain that signal pain (neurotransmitters). In addition, the brain’s pain receptors seem to develop a sort of memory of the pain and become more sensitive, meaning they can overreact to pain signals.
- Your sex. Fibromyalgia is diagnosed more often in women than in men.
- Family history. You may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia if a relative also has the condition.
- Rheumatic disease. If you have a rheumatic disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, you may be more likely to develop fibromyalgia.
The pain and lack of sleep associated with fibromyalgia can interfere with your ability to function at home or on the job. The frustration of dealing with an often-misunderstood condition also can result in depression and health-related anxiety.
In future posts, I will go over fibromyalgia in much more detail, including; treatments, appointments with doctors and specialists, self-care, exercise, medications, etc.
Thanks so much for stopping by!