Shannon C. - Diagnosed Age 50
I entered the Navy in Sep. 1993. In Feb. 2009, I started reporting to sick call with joint/muscle pains and hypothyroid. I began experiencing fatigue and malaise. I was seen many times over the years. I began getting knots in my connective tissues. Sometimes the size of a pea but sometimes quite large. I developed carpal tunnel, which was not relieved by surgery. I experienced extremely painful periods and menorrhagia, leading to a complete hysterectomy. At the same time I was experiencing frequent urination and nocturia as well as bladder leakage. My colds started lasting 3 weeks or longer. My face was puffy. My eyes were rheumy and I would get blisters on the whites of them.
I started asking for referrals to specialists to try to find out what was wrong with me. I went to physical therapy, acupuncture, lidocaine infusion therapy, massage and was issued a TENS unit. I was finally referred to Rheumatology. The referral stated to "rule out autoimmune.” The only test specific to autoimmune that was performed was for rheumatoid arthritis. The physician stated that he could "definitely rule out autoimmune.” At this time they advised me that I had Fibromyalgia. The doctor at the pain clinic told me there was nothing they can do for me and that I would need to learn to live with the pain. An ER doctor insinuated I was just trying to get out of work. My PCM made snarky complaints in my record about “ALL of her complaints.”
After leaving the military I did not seek medical care for almost 5 years. I was afraid of how I would be treated and I would not be believed. The first time I explained all of my symptoms to my doctor, she ordered an ANA test. My titers were 1:1280. She referred me to a Rheumatologist. There I was tested for everything. My C4 was low, my anti-dsDNA was high as well as 1 other marker for systemic lupus.
I am now on Plaquenil and Prednisone daily. I am not in constant pain now but still about 75% of the time. The memory loss, brain fog and fatigue are debilitating. Preceding the onset of my symptoms I was under severe stress.