When I Choose to Forget I’m Sick

choose to forget I'm sickIt was the perfect time to choose to forget I’m sick. When the idea surfaced that John and I would play ‘tour guides’ and show our friends the key sights around Guaymas (pronounced whuy-mus), because we’d spent seven months here last winter, I couldn’t refuse. I didn’t want to refuse.

We know where the best ferreterias are (hardware stores, essentially) to get reliable and reasonably-priced parts for a sailboat. We know where the best little local restaurants are. And we know how to get to all the dry yards, where people repair and repaint their boats after hauling them out of the water. We also know where the best local markets and grocery stores are, where the banks are, and of course, where TelCel is (one of the Mexican cellular service providers, at least as frustrating as the providers we dealt with in Canada!).

Our friends Kirk and Heidi, from sailing vessel Due West, were renting a car, and we were happy to go along. It just wasn’t viable or reasonable for us to rent a second.

And so began a day where my physical shortcomings would be painfully evident – to me and to my friends.

Problem #1 – Walking

Our first stop was the big Sunday market in Empalme, just outside Guaymas. “Can we park a little closer?” I had to ask, as we looked for a spot several blocks away. I knew getting to the market was one thing. Walking around the market and then getting back to the car? Quite another.

Shadows of group of people walking through the streets at morning sunlight. Silhouette of group people walking.Five of us walked a couple of blocks to the market and then proceeded to wander the dozens and dozens of stalls: trash, trinkets and treasure troves of tools and toys. We were there looking specifically for fresh fruit and veggies but found only a couple of stalls offering very limited supply. We were at the market for perhaps an hour, walking for much of the time. Standing for all of the time.

It’s not that I can’t walk for an hour straight. I can. And I often do. But when I do it is the only physical thing I do that day, and I rest immediately afterwards. No, the problem on this day was that it was the first of many stops. And I knew I would not have any opportunity to duck out to rest.

Problem #2 – Chest Pain

I don’t know about you, but if you have fibromyalgia or another chronic illness where symptoms pop up out of the blue and then disappear, does it drive you nuts? It happens to me quite often. A forearm that suddenly swells to double its size then settles down within 24 hours. A rash that makes my life miserable for a week then vanishes. Or a very sore spot on some other part of the body.

Well, on this day, it was chest pain. Now, it could be serious, right? A fifty-five-year-old woman whose fibromyalgia means she doesn’t get much of a cardiovascular workout… getting chest pain?  The first thing you might think is – – heart attack!  But this chest pain was in the middle of my chest, slightly to the right-hand side, where one of the ribs meets the breastbone. I’m pretty sure it was costochondritis, a non-cardiac type of chest pain, common among those with fibromyalgia.

Problem #3 – Embarrassment

It was painful to the touch and it hurt to breathe. When I didn’t breathe it hurt. looking-at-you-smallIt was uncomfortable enough that I stopped walking, or at least slowed down a bit. At that time it was impossible to forget I’m sick. Every member of our group was acting concerned, offering suggestions and some topical arnica. It was all over in about twenty minutes, and it hasn’t recurred since. (My list of such symptoms is loooong. Comes on for a day and goes away, never to been seen again.)

But I was embarrassed. I didn’t want to be the subject of attention because of my fibromyalgia. I didn’t want to stand out because my health poses restrictions on what I can do. But that’s the way it is, and I worked my little head around in fairly short order to acceptance once again. It. Just. Is. (Repeat after me….)

Problem #4 – Tight Quarters

The third problem of the day was our tight quarters. The rental car was tiny – just room for five people. There were three of us in the back seat, and none of us had any spare room to manoeuvre. I think of fibromyalgia as a bit schizophrenic: it prevents me from moving too much, while at the same time forcing me to move a lot. Meaning, I can’t stay in one position for long. If I can’t  change positions every few minutes body parts go numb or seize up. In that little car, with no room to shift or move, I spent much of the day in at least a little discomfort.

Problem #5 – Sudden Stop

Our good buddy Kirk, our driver for the day, saved our lives. At a corner with limited visibility, Kirk had to slam on the brakes when an oncoming car ran the stop sign. I have a pretty significant shoulder injury from last February. You know the kind? The one where the doctor says you’ll be better in twelve weeks? I have fibro and experience with these sorts of things, so I multiply the twelve weeks by four. I can expect to be almost better in twelve months. This is only eight months after the injury, so I’m not healed yet. And the one thing that still throws my pain gauge pinning in the territory of ten is any sudden, full-body move. Like a sudden stop in a car. Or when I jump back after accidentally stepping on one of my cats’ tails. MAN does it hurt. With this sudden stop, I hunched over, grabbed my shoulder, and hyperventilated (think the forceful panting breaths of a woman in labour) until the pain started to subside. I tried to keep the tears at bay – who wants to be around a middle-aged woman crying? – with limited success.

Problem #6 – A Whole Day

And the final problem was that the excursion was an all-day affair. With people. And talking. And laughing. In addition to the Empalme market, we stopped at the Fonatur Marina in Guaymas, drove all the way around the bay to Gabriel’s yard, where John and I first met our new boat, Ingenium, and where we worked on her for a month before splashing last December. (We’re all sailors who are interested in anything boat-related. And we were curious to see the aftermath of damage at those two marinas/dry yards after Hurricane Newton.) Lunch at El Mazateno was awesome. We checked out a beachfront hotel and tried to visit the Pearl Farm, which was closed. We spent some money at a local grocery store. All day the company was exceptional. It was a great day. And I was exhausted and sore at the end of it.

Notice I said “and I was exhausted”, and not “but I was exhausted”.  I can have a full day out with friends, and I will be exhausted. I know it will happen again: I will choose to forget I’m sick.


L-R John & Boni Wagner-Stafford, Heidi & Kirk Hackler. Missing: Lisa Ann Diel.

6 thoughts on “When I Choose to Forget I’m Sick

  1. Carolyn Sparks

    This is my life. It is so reassuring
    To know someone else goes through the same thing I do.
    There is such a thing as Fibromyalgia and it is life changing. Thank you for your blog. You are not alone in this illness.

    1. Boni Wagner-Stafford Post author

      Thank you Carolyn. I’m glad my blog gives you some company – we’re both living with fibro! Appreciate your comment. B

  2. Pingback: The Role of Belief in Chronic Illness - The Connection Review | BClear Writing

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