By: Steven Lehman
In 2015 my life began to change. As a 41-year-old Fire Lieutenant/ Paramedic, I was always doing something active. One thing I enjoyed the most was the long walks I took with my best friend and wife Kira. It was on one of these walks I started noticing I was sore in both of my hips. I dismissed it at first, figuring it was from working out or jujitsu practice. When the pain lingered, I started wondering why. My mother has osteoarthritis, so I thought for sure this was also going to be my issue. After receiving a clean bill of health, I was left confused. As 2015 rolled on I began to have more pain, I felt irritated and started having trouble sleeping. I began searching for answers and only ended up with more questions.
My journey to a fibromyalgia diagnosis was relatively short, for which, I feel very lucky and grateful. After seeing my GP again in the fall of 2015, I tried a DO, who helped me rule out food allergies, toxins and other common causes. I was then able to get a referral to see the first rheumatologist. On my follow-up visit, the physician all but called me crazy in front of two interns. It was one of the most humiliating experiences I have had and really stuck with me.
How could I feel this bad and be perfectly healthy?
After a trip back to my GP, I was sent to a neurologist for an EMG/NCV which was also normal. Out of desperation, I asked to be referred to another rheumatologist at the Oregon Health & Science University. It was there that I met Dr. Ghetie and everything changed. After a few visits, MRI, muscle biopsy and another EMG/NCV she was able to determine I had fibromyalgia in 2017.
Fibromyalgia was not an unfamiliar term to me. As a paramedic student in the mid 1990’s, I had been taught that fibromyalgia was a mental issue catch-all diagnosis and could be linked to drug seeking behavior. If a patient said they had fibromyalgia their words were often discounted by many in my field. Remembering the humiliation, I experienced earlier, I was thankful I had not caused the same. To my parent’s credit, I was raised to be polite and was very thankful for it. My wife and I got educated about fibromyalgia and I have learned to work with it instead of against it. I found a support group with other men with fibromyalgia which has been helpful as my symptoms have worsened and expanded some. With the remaining years I have left in the emergency services field I will work to raise awareness about fibromyalgia and keep fibromyalgia visible!