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'Invisible illness' wears out sufferers

By JEANNE DINEHART

The Mirror

Jodi Johnson of Federal Way is one of the estimated 5 to 10 million people in America diagnosed with an ‘invisible illness.’ People enduring the condition often appear to be fine, yet much of their lives are consumed by pain.

Johnson has fibromyalgia (FM), a syndrome which includes symptoms such as chronic pain in all four quadrants of the body, problems with sleep, memory, cognition, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, fatigue and impaired coordination.

The symptoms of FM can also cross over with chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) and can exist along with other conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Gulf War syndrome. All of which are why Johnson spoke out during May, the International CFIDS Awareness Month.

“It’s really bad at times, but right now, I’m at the healthiest I’ve been in the last five years since I was diagnosed with FM. It’s been a long, hard road to get here and I just want people to know there’s hope,” she said.

Johnson’s “healthiest” involves a definition of the word most people wouldn’t consider: She’s able to be out of bed, but still unable to drive much of the time and also unable to sit for more than about 20 minutes.

“There are a lot of doctors out there that are not well-informed on CFIDS and they just want to throw medications at the patient. I’m not able to tolerate drugs like codeine, so that wasn’t any help,” said Johnson.

Help did come from Dr. Kenneth Bakken of the Tacoma Bayview Medical Clinic, who provided some relief with injections of lidocaine, physical therapy, supplements and chiropractic adjustments.

Johnson also speaks highly of Dr. Andrew Holman of Pacific Rheumatology Associates in Renton. Holman treats FM patients and is involved with ongoing research.

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