Once again, fibromyalgia — or more specifically, the symptom known as myofascial pain syndrome — defeated me in a hard-fought battle. Acutely painful muscle spasms (think emergency room visit-worthy pain) in my upper back have been part of my life for more years than I care to remember. Occasionally, I speculate why these episodes occur — severe fatigue, repetitive motion, prolonged stress, etc. More often, they appear randomly — and suddenly. Their presence has ruined so many occasions that I think of it (and fibromyalgia in general) as the cancellation disease.
During the two months leading up to Christmas, these episodes occurred much more frequently and more painfully than ever before. Recognizing a full-blown flare in process, I did all the things my pain management specialists recommended. I spent days attached to a TENS unit; applied heat, ice, and lidocaine patches; stretched; had massages and acupuncture. I consulted with my neurologist, my physiatrist, my general practitioner, my psychotherapist, and a spiritual adviser — even resorting to increasing and changing my narcotic pain medication. Nothing worked. By Christmas week, the spasms were occurring every three to four days. I had no choice but to cancel travel plans to be with my family for Christmas.
Travel is a challenge for people with fibromyalgia, even under the best of circumstances. Holiday conditions add to that challenge. The decision to cancel was made easier for me when those conditions reached a ridiculous level. With extra security precautions in place for the Christmas season, Los Angeles International Airport announced a requirement to be at the airport four hours prior to all departing flights. No doubt, this spelled inconvenience for all of the million-plus travelers heading home for the holiday from the West Coast’s busiest airport. However, for me, in the midst of a major fibro flare, it spelled impossibility. The four-hour functional day that is normal for me would likely have been extended to at least nine hours or more — with no place to lie down if needed.
Fibro fog also played an important role in my decision to cancel. Inevitable fatigue would have been accompanied by the inability to think clearly or to make decisions. Accommodating likely changes and delays brought about by unusually large crowds, heavy air traffic, or weather conditions would have been difficult, to say the least. Add that to unpredictable muscle spasms and there were just too many factors over which I had no control. So, I disappointed myself and my family and spent another holiday without them.