The Silent Enemy This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

December 11, 2011
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Have you ever gotten really sick? I’m not talking about the flu or anything simple. I am talking about seriously ill. This happened to me in eighth grade. I had something no one knew anything about. It took me months to get better, as well as several trips to the hospital.

My story starts on a weekday morning in November 2009. I had just awakened and was getting ready for school. Out of nowhere, I got a severe, sharp pain in my right side. I fell to the floor and could not move. My mom ran in to see what was wrong. I was crying and couldn’t talk. Even if I could talk, I wouldn’t know what to say. I had no idea what had just happened.

My mom, trying not to show how scared she was, tried to help me up and bring me to the couch, but it hurt worse to move. My mom and step-dad had to practically pick me up and carry me to the calm, comforting living room. I lay as still as I could. I tried drinking sprite and eating crackers, but nothing helped. Not knowing what was happening made me even more anxious.

After about two hours of excruciating pain, my mom brought me to my doctor. Crying hysterically, I walked in with my mom. She told the uncaring doctor what had happened. The doctor told us there was nothing they could do. If it got to the point where it was unbearable, then I should go to the emergency room. So, that’s exactly what we did.

We pulled up to the hospital and hurried inside. Surprisingly, there wasn’t that long of a wait. We sat in the cold, tense emergency room for what seemed like forever when the nurse finally came in.

“Krista. Follow me.”

It was hard for me to stand, but I did anyway. Bent over in pain, I followed the contemptuous nurse, knowing this was what I had to do if I wanted to feel better.

The nurse arrogantly escorted me and my mom into a room. A feeling of death swept across me as I walked in. The room was a sea of white: white walls, a hospital bed with white sheets neatly placed, and silver equipment. Despite the eeriness of the room, I curled up in the bed, waiting for the doctor to arrive. When he finally showed up, we explained what had happened. The doctor listened carefully to what we were saying. He wanted to run tests to make sure everything was okay. I had to do several X-rays and blood tests. Little did I know, this would be the beginning of a long, bumpy road.

A few days later, the doctor called us with the results of the tests. “Everything looks good. No need to worry. It should all go away soon.” When I heard this, I was relieved at first. This meant there was nothing seriously wrong, right? The bad thing, though, is that this means there was nothing they can do to help me, since they didn’t even know what’s wrong. When we mentioned this concern, he said it was out of his hands. It wasn’t considered a life-threatening illness, so he couldn’t help.

Because the pain was still there and in my side, my mom scheduled an appointment with a pediatric gastroenterologist. Right about this time, I started getting more symptoms: nausea, body trembling, aching to the point where I couldn’t move, and hot flashes/chills. I went to my appointment with the GI doctor. He ran some more blood tests and an MRI. We patiently waited for the results, hoping something minor would show up. Again, everything was normal. There was nothing he could do either.

After many more doctors and tests, we found one that turned out to be quite helpful. In January 2010, we were told about a pediatric surgeon who could possibly help me. I did not want to go to a surgeon, for this could possibly mean having surgery. But, my mom made an appointment anyway.

An excellent and respected pediatric surgeon, my doctor walked in to introduce himself. I was nervous when I first met him, simply because he was a surgeon. He listed all of the possible things it could be. One of the most likely things, he told us, would be appendicitis. The bad part: the only way to know whether or not you have it is to take out your appendix and send it to the lab to be analyzed. I told my mom this would be my last resort. Unfortunately, it came to the point where this was my only other option.

We scheduled the surgery. I tried not to work myself up (as I usually do), for this would only make matters worse. I stayed calm all through the surgery prep. The hovering doctors gave me the anesthesia and waited for it to start working. Inside, I was panicking. I hate hospitals. I didn’t want to do the surgery. I just wanted to go home. I tried not to show this, though, because I knew that my mom would start to cry, and I wanted to be strong for her.

The surgeons came in and told me it was time. Everyone had to leave as they wheeled me into the surgery room. Doctors in green scrubs told me I needed to get to the table. My shaking body tried to move but they stopped me, telling me I wouldn’t be able to move that well because of the anesthetic. Instead, I just lay still, and the surgical team lifted the blanket I was lying on, transferring me to the table.
The surgeon leaned over and whispered, “Close your eyes. Just relax. It will be over soon. Everything will be okay.”

I woke up to see a completely different room surrounding me. My mom was there waiting for me to wake up. She called everyone else in to come see me. I tried to sit up, but my whole stomach hurt, not with a sharp pain like before, but with a mild soreness. I was relieved the surgery was over.

About a week after the surgery, the surgeon told my mom and me that he needed to make another appointment with us to discuss the surgery. As it turned out, I had acute appendicitis. That means it wasn’t too serious, but it could have been causing the pain in my side. The results, good and exciting, were what I had been waiting to hear. I was ecstatic. Bye-bye appendicitis means bye-bye pain – or so I thought. Yes, the pain in my side was gone, but all the other symptoms were still there.

The only other doctor that could possibly help was a rheumatologist. We made an appointment to go see him. He ran some more test and umpteen orders of blood work. Still unable to find anything, he diagnosed me with pediatric fibromyalgia in February 2010. For those of you who don’t know what that is, you’re not alone. Not even scientists know much about it. All they know so far is that it’s a muscular disease. It causes one to have constant pain in muscles all throughout the body. To make matters worse, there is no cure for it. Yes, they do have prescription drugs that are supposed to help, but I’ve tried them all. None of them actually took away my pain. There is also no test for diagnosis. Basically if someone has those symptoms and there is no other medical evidence showing anything else, one is diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

It was a very long and difficult time for not only me, but the rest of my family, too. I was not in school for almost six months. I missed out on pretty much all of my eighth grade year. Confined to my room, I couldn’t move without falling to the floor in pain. I had a home-bound teacher coming to my house to help make sure I learned everything. I did not get out of doing my schoolwork or state testing; I was still responsible for learning it. Usually when I tell other students about me being on home-bound and not going to school for six months, they tell me how lucky I was to not have to go to school. I would reply by saying they didn’t know how lucky they were to be in school. I would have given everything just to be able to do that. I could not hang out with friends, go to the mall, or participate in any other activities.

In April 2010, I returned to school. Still in pain from the fibromyalgia, I didn’t want it to consume my life. I wanted to go back to school, hang out with my friends, to just be a normal 14-year-old. Realizing how this affected my life, I knew I had to change the way I thought about the whole situation. Instead of thinking about how much I couldn’t do, I was constantly telling myself to just keep going. The pain does not control me; I control it. I had to keep thinking positive.

Even today, I am still struggling to overcome this. It is hard for me to do certain activities, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try. If you were to just look at me, you would never know that I am constantly hurting. I try to hide it as much as I can. I hate it when people know you have a medical condition and treat you differently because of it. Unless I am close to you and trust you, you would not even know about me having this. I have also had to give up dancing, my favorite thing in the world, because of it. My mom is my hero. If she was not by my side the whole time supporting me, I would not be where I am today. It is a battle, but I am not going to let the enemy win. I have to do this for both me and my mom.

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