Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Health FAQ

Sometimes, it's good to be honest, even if it may end up being ultimately bad for business. I've been meaning to do one of these posts for a long time, but I haven't known how to word it; I'm still not sure I'm saying things correctly. But this is a part of me that I don't want to hide, and if you've read this blog long enough, you've probably put together some of the puzzle pieces already.

So I present to you... The Health FAQ.

(Imagine that you're asking questions, and we'll get along fine.)

I have an autoimmune disease called fibromyalgia. I was diagnosed with it almost three years ago, and it's a chronic condition. Fibromyalgia causes me to have muscle pain, increased fatigue, and a susceptibility to illness. My immune system doesn't work as well as a normal person's, and things hit me harder than they would a fully healthy adult woman. For example, when I have a simple cold, I often feel like I have the equivalent of the flu. Colds often also turn into infections, which is one of the reasons I get so many sinus infections.

Last week, I was diagnosed with seronegative arthritis, in addition to the fibromyalgia. This means that I have symptoms that are consistent with rheumatoid arthritis, but my bloodwork comes back negative for the rheumatoid factor. My doctor is treating me for rheumatoid arthritis, and says that there are many medications that can help alleviate the pain that I've been in for the last month or so. Among them, is an antimalarial drug, which effectively means that I can frolic freely among mosquitoes, when I'm up to the full dosage on it.

Arthritis is also a chronic condition, and it affects people of all ages. Essentially, it's an inflammation of the joints (in my case, my body is attacking my own joints, hence the inflammation). If the inflammation in the joints is left untreated, deterioration of the joint itself will occur. That's why it's so important to be diagnosed early, and take preventive care.

But why am I telling you all this, you ask? What impact can it possibly have on you?

Well, for starters, it means that I work slower than other people. I always will--not due to any incompetence on my part, but merely because I have a limited supply of energy each day, and when that's drained, I'm done. Many, many people out there have cases of fibromyalgia and arthritis that are much worse than mine, and most are able to live productive and happy lives. I have every confidence that I will be able to do so too. =)

For the time being, I'm learning to adapt to the reality of having arthritis in my mid-twenties, and the changes I need to make in my life and work schedule. Anyone who has talked to me in the last month may have realized that I've had about as much energy as a dead snail. Thankfully, the new medications I'm taking are starting to kick in, and I'm told that most of the pain will be gone within the two months it takes for the medication to start being fully effective. This is a very good thing.

It also means, however, that I'm severely backlogged, and will probably be so for the next few months. I've already started working on it, and it feels wonderful to be functional again. I've got a wonderful new intern who is helping me sort through things, and I'm looking to acquire more. To help with the fatigue, I'm going to delegate more of my workload, and learn to streamline what I'm doing during the day, so I can be more useful to my existing clients. I'll still be taking on new clients, as they're the lifeblood of this business, but I'll most likely be more selective about who I take on. Each new client represents a piece of my energy that I need to use during the day, so I have to be careful that I'm using my strength in the most effective way possible.

I'm also going to be concentrating on improving my health. From the day after Christmas onwards, weight loss is going to be a priority for me--because the less weight I'm carrying around, the less stress I'm putting on my skeletomuscular system. I intend to exercise more, eat better, and rest more often. Life is too short to spend it being continually stressed about work. Overall, this will contribute to a happier, healthier Jenny.

Blogging will continue, because as I've said many times before, it's an outlet for me. I like being able to connect with writers and readers and all the assorted people who come to LIT SOUP. =)

There's an expression in Japanese, a verb, really: "ganbaru". This is often translated as "Do your best!" or "Work your hardest!" ("Ganbatte!" in Japanese). And that's what I'm going to be doing--working my hardest within my physical limits, making the most of my life and my agenting career and all the other things that I love to do. So thank you in advance, for your understanding and sympathy--regardless of whether I ever work with you in a professional capacity, it means more than I can say.

So let's do our best together, shall we? In Japanese, as they say, "ganbarimashou". =)


SaraMurphy said...

My Aunt has fibromyalgia, so I understand where you’re coming from. You are totally on the right track with the “get healthy” attitude. Changing her diet helped her quite a bit.

I’ll just say, as one of the hopefuls waiting for a response to a query letter, take your time. :) Many agents don’t respond even to query letters for three to six months. So no sweat. I can’t speak for anyone else, but the wait gives me time to work on my next book.

I’m glad you’re starting to feel better.

Sara Murphy

Anonymous said...

As we say in Hebrew, "Refuah Shleima" (i.e. feel good)

Renee Lynn Scott said...


Thanks for this post. I've been dealing with some of the same issues. No, I don't have fibro or arthritis. But, I've had several hypoglycemia attacks in the last week as well as chest pains, which I hope is GERD and not the heart issue that I've been ignoring. I've been torn between getting healthy and my addiction for food as well as my propensity to procrastinate. I'm a migraine sufferer as well, which throws me into a cycle of bad habits.

Here's to much needed will power, the day after Christmas, and to getting healthy.

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

This lurker who doesn't often comment says good on ya, Jenny, for taking care of yourself. My 24-year-old daughter's rheumatoid arthritis was diagnosed when she was about 18 months old, so I understand why you tire easily. I'll be thinking of you.

spyscribbler said...

I hope your health improves as much as it can! I had fibromyalgia for many years. I'm not sure you ever get over it, but most of the pain has gone away by doing yoga and avoiding all the yummy food in the world. :-(

Jaime said...


I almost never comment here, but I felt the need this time.

When I was 28, or a thousand years ago now, I was told I had both fibromyalgia and systemic lupus. I have all the symptoms you do plus the added bonus of high blood pressure and arthritis in every joint in my body. The only saving grace for me is that the fibro and the arthritis go away for months and sometimes years at a time.

The hardest lesson for me to learn was when to push myself to do things and when to give in to the fatigue and rest. It's like walking a tightrope, with the very real issue of 'use it or lose it' on one side and not driving yourself into a worse attack by not resting enough.

If you get through slush slower than some other people, so be it. Do what you can do, when you can do it and the world of writers will just have to cope. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing.

Good luck. :)

kiwi said...

This is a brave, post, Jenny, and why you have blogger fans.

And pleased to see that you're putting the big stones in the glass first. :)

DanTownUnlimited said...

Your a strong woman Jenny. I'm glad you're starting to feel better, and things are falling into place. Us writers will just have to be patient with you!

Becca said...

I have fibro, too.

All I can say is I sympathize.

Cutting out sugar worked wonders for me, as did a gentlified version of pilates, but boy is it hard to maintain.

I agree with other commenters--thank goodness for the cyclic nature of fibro and that there will always be another good day sometime.

Kelly Swails said...

Take care of yourself, Jenny. That's the most important thing. If you don't have your health you don't have anything.

Ryan Field said...

First, thanks for sharing this very personal information with your readership.

Second, it sounds as though you've been doing very well, indeed, considering your phyisical condition.

Third, my partner of fifteen years was suddenly diagnosed with something like this last June and it rocked our two very fast paced lives. So I know first hand the way this effects your life, and your husband's life, too (the cost of meds and insurance alone are enough to make you weak; we have docs in New York, docs in Philly and docs where we live; plus the tests).

And last, Thanks again for sharing like this. This blog is an outlet for me, too. I write all the time and don't want a blog of my own, but it's nice to share here with you.

joycemocha said...

FWIW, Jenny, I work with a lady in her 50s, a teacher, who struggles with the same arthritis and fibromyalgia issues. It's not easy, but it's doable.

So are they talking about any of the same meds that they use for Crohn's Disease as well for you? I do have some info in that area, since I have a kid with Crohn's who's taking Remicade.

Best wishes. A friend of mine had a daughter who was diagnosed at age 16. Not fun at all.

Dead Man Walking said...

Next time your doctor wants to give you an antibiotic for a sinus infection, ask him about "Avelox" or "Levaquin". Most anti-biotics (ie the Z-Pack) require the 'help' of your immune system in order to work. Avelox and Levaquin are great for immune-impaired folks (like you and me) because they don't require any help from a person's immune system.

I was on 2 z-packs earlier in the fall and they barely made a dent in my sinuses. My doc gave me Avelox in early November and it COMPLETELY CLEARED ME UP!!! I haven't felt this good in years. Seriously.

One caveat - some people don't react well to this class of anti-biotics, so you need to watch for signs of allergic reaction.


She's Lost Angeles said...

Best thoughts heading your way Jenny - if I could figure out some way to be your older-than-average intern and wade through your slush pile from out here in California, I'd be there in a heartbeat.

Enjoy the husband, the cat, and all the things that make life good.

Anonymous said...

Jenny: Some practical advice since you said you wanted to lose some weight to improve your health. (I don't work for them, by the way.) Look into Weight Watcher's Core program--it's much different than the points and counting program you may have heard of, and it's really health based, and even if you didn't lose weight with it (and you would), you would still be eating more healthfully than probably 95% of the population. And you can still have chocolate.

I'm sorry to hear about your health problems. Best to you.

Matthew Rotundo said...

Here's hoping the meds do their thing. Be well.

On a more positive note--I just found out that you're going to be a guest lecturer at Odyssey next year! Very cool! Be sure to say hi to Jeanne for me.

jlboduch said...

Best of luck to you--hope 2008 sees you feeling better.

Rachel said...

I have a friend with fibromyalgia as well, and I've seen what a drag it can be. I'll just have to work extra hard on my novel and query so that, when you do get to it, it'll hopefully be worth the precious energy you're spending on reading it.

Here's to happy drugs and freedom from pain! Hope your holidays are relaxing and happy!


Demon Hunter said...

I hope that you get well and tackle your ailments. All things are possible. I am with you on the weight loss thing. I went to the doctor's office tomorrow and was weighed, so, um, I need to lose some.

The Grump said...

Pain is never fun. Hope you get your double dose under control and bearable.

Khurt Williams said...

My wife is enrolled in yoga and physical therapy and has tried meditation with limited success.

My wife was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a few years ago and our lives were changed forever. I am developing an online community for people suffering from fibromyalgia. The online community, “You're Not Alone” ( http://fibromyalgia.ning.com ), will allow members to participate in fibromyalgia-related discussions in the Forum, share their thoughts and ideas in their blog, and post their personal photos and videos. There is no cost to join. Members of the site follow a simple process to create their profile page, which they can later customize including a profile photo and additional details about themselves. I created the project while participating in a Landmark Education leadership program. Part of the coursework was to create a project that benefits the community. When I had the opportunity to create a project that would make a difference in the community, it was only natural that my wife's illness would be the inspiration. Landmark Education is an international training and development company, who is known for offering their flagship course The Landmark Forum (www.landmarkeducation.com).

Ben S. D. said...

Brave post indeed.

You know, my parents have ran a Natural Food Store for the past 21 years, and our business has never been better. People are starting to realize that our supplements are, many times, far better options than costly medication with unfortunate side-effects. If you haven't already, I strongly suggest seeing an ND or homeopathic expert to help you with your symptoms. You might be very, very surprised, and it's a fraction of the price of dealing with the medical establishment.

I'm not saying the meds you're currently on don't help or won't work, but I just wanted to present the option for your benefit. Believe it or not, we've had some pretty amazing stories over the past 20 years...we've had people with diseases as serious as cancer completely disappearing with a homeopathic regiment. Doctors have actually started sending patients to us on a routine basis; even they have no answers for what a natural approach has been able to accomplish.

I hope you feel better, and by now, I think you know me as a client. I do want to stay in contact, of course, and I do expect you to function properly as my agent (I can't expect anything less, just like you can't expect anything less from me as a writer). However, I also try to stay out of your hair and let you work. If I send an e-mail here and there that sounds pushy, I don't mean it, I'm just excited about an idea or something. :) Hope you feel better soon, and if you have any questions about this, please do let me know. If I or my family can help, we'd love to try to point you in the right direction.

Matthew E Taft said...

Hi Jenny,

Thank you for your honest. As we'd say in German, "Gute Besserung!" (Get Well). I'll pray that these ailments don't hinder you from fully enjoying your time off, and that you continue to find ways to make life worth living, no matter what comes your way.