06 Jan Voices of Fibro-Rhonda Richardson-Burns
Rhonda Richardson-Burns of Janesville, Iowa
Rhonda has been married for 16 years and has 3 children and 5 grandchildren whom her and her husband love dearly. Rhonda works full-time as a Sr. Account Executive for an IT firm. Her job keeps her very busy but luckily she is able to work from home most days. Rhonda is also an adjunct professor at a local college and recently joined another local university as an adjunct. She enjoys spending time with her family, reading, crocheting, things that keep her mind active. Also swimming and yoga.
Rhonda started seeing her PCP about symptoms about 6 years ago. She was tired, anxious and really struggling with joint and all over pain. She had headaches and reports losing her train of thought worse than she could imagine. Rhonda recalls looking at an object, referring to it as her cell phone but would call it her car keys. She couldn’t find the words in the middle of conversations for minutes. “It was very embarrassing and very troubling. The worst was the pain though. There were days I couldn’t get out of bed. People noticed I was not the same and were worried about me. I thought it was my arthritis but then realized that it can’t be because it was everywhere. I started realizing when I would notice pain that if I thought about it I had pain in many areas of my body. I was sent to specialist after specialist with no results. Finally my husband said that is enough and my hematologist said I needed to go to Mayo Clinic”. In November 2017, she received her official diagnosis at age 49 from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
At first Rhonda was so happy to finally have a diagnosis. She knows it may sound weird weird but after struggling for years to know what was wrong with her, she was just glad to have an answer. Then she found out what Fibromyalgia meant and that it was Chronic. While at the Mayo Clinic (she was there for two weeks) they sent her to an 8 hour class on Fibromyalgia and how to learn to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to manage the pain and symptoms. The class was filled with people that had been diagnosed for years. They were not new to Fibromyalgia and its limitations; she was not! Rhonda was upset at what they were telling her. She reports crying through most of the class. “I have always been a type-A person, go, go, go. I do many things at one time – I do not like to sit around and what I considered at the time “be lazy”. I worked full-time, taught College courses on the side and had a couple of entrepreneurial endeavors I was involved in. Plus running a household and normal day-to-day activities. I became depressed, had panic attacks and even considered the worst option out. It took a real toll on me.”
Learning to live with Fibromyalgia and not live “in it”. This year has all been about learning to accept it and figure out how to live life with Fibro and not have it control me the way it did in the beginning. I know I am going to have bad days but not all days are bad and I can make something good out of even the bad days.
I am still learning a lot but right now the best advice I have gotten is to slow down, take time for myself and that there are many ways to help manage your symptoms.
Rhonda manages her symptoms with medications, CBD oil, and relaxation – sleeping when she needs to. Rhonda swims, uses the hot tub, and knows when to give herself a break! She maintains a whole foods diet, no sugar, no grains, no dairy – vegetables, fruit and protein. She claims her faith is very powerful in her healing process. “I give my troubles to God and ask him to help me. It’s comforting to know that he always is with me and will get me through whatever comes my way”.
Rhonda states that the best thing that happened as a result of her fibromyalgia diagnosis was experiencing depression because it forced her to seek therapy. It was there that she learned a lot about herself and why she was always pushing to do more. She learned to relax and just live in the moment. There are still days that she wants to do everything but she now knows that if she does, she will pay for it!
Rhonda is inspired by her fellow Fibro warriors. Reading their stories and how they have overcome the initial diagnosis and how they deal with Fibromyalgia really helps her to know that she is not alone in this fight! She knows that she is a Fibro Warrior because she made it through the darkest and scariest time in her life. At one point “I really felt I had no way out but I chose to reach out for help in my darkest hour and I haven’t let go yet”!