Growing pains: maternal love
The doctor's visits, the medications, the late nights. This has been the life of Anna-Kay Chow. The young entrepreneur, shared that living with both rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia was bad enough, but nothing could prepare her for the heartache she felt when her son, Jamie Chow, came face-to-face with the same fate.
The nightmare began when Jamie was younger. He would get fevers and rashes, but she along, with her husband, Andrew, chalked it up to symptoms of his allergies and eczema.
"He would also complain in the mornings about feeling weak and hurting all over. We brushed it off as being spoiled or lazy, but he was always active throughout the day and it was difficult to get him to bed at nights," she added.
TURN FOR THE WORST
While antennas were raised, it wasn't until last year, that things took a turn for the worst and made them question if this was just his vivid imagination. His fever would not subside and he developed pain in his joints: they knew then and there, that they needed medical intervention.
"I was tired of everyone saying growing pains and Jamie thought I didn't believe him, so I spoke to his paediatrician and told her something was definitely wrong with my son and I needed a specialist," Irwin shared. The doctor recommended a rheumatologist.
After conducting a blood test, urine test, X-rays and asking questions of diet, sleep pattern and his medical history, it was discovered that he did in fact have rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Treatment, she confessed, has been difficult for Jamie, especially since his arthritis has progressed a lot faster than expected.
According to Irwin, he's required to take more than 10 pills per day and take Humira injections every two weeks. He has to visit his dentist every four months, his optician every three months, his rheumatologist every two months (locally) and every three months (overseas), as well as his paediatrician every month.
"The injections are the worst, his blood pressure usually goes up days before the injection and we're constantly trying to get him to focus on something positive other than the anxiety of the injection," Irwin asserted.
FACING PAIN HEAD ON
Unfortunately, Jamie's doctors both locally and abroad, have come to the conclusion that he has to face the pain head on. He's living with two chronic illnesses - a fact he cannot escape, his mother pointed out - and he will have to learn to adjust and accept what is. As a parent, she admitted that it's frustrating to hear and even more difficult to accept, but he has an advantage, because his mother understands completely what he's going through.
"I found out I had rheumatoid arthritis when I was 19 years old and fibromyalgia when I was 23. I understand, I feel the pain quite literally. When he's in so much pain that he lashes out, I remind him that I understand and try and teach him the techniques I use, like identifying the pain using the number scale - 10 being hospitalisation and one meaning barely there. I also ask him to explain with details, the pain he's feeling, acknowledging that the pain will always be there, but not letting it overpower his will to live and be happy. Breathing slow and focusing on something he loves, football, karate, and swimming. Praying - asking God to help him through the pain, because it's only a moment, even if it's a long moment."
Medication, warm baths with epsom salts, heating pads, swimming, and sleep (one of the most important necessities for fibromyalgia).
His home was not the only facet of his life that was disrupted: school life was affected, too. Because Jamie wasn't able to function without assistance, particularly in the mornings when he could barely sit up, he missed several classes. Travelling back and forth locally and abroad, only exacerbated the situation, and his previous school wasn't willing to accommodate his illness. So, they decided to change schools. The relieved mother applauded Jamie's new school for making the transition as smooth as possible.
"Hillel Academy has been the greatest support with every concern I've had. They've sent home extra work and books. Over the holiday, while getting treatment, he was able to study and when we got back, I got him a tutor to keep him up to date. He still has topics he needs to cover, but he's not insecure about it, thank God."
Outside of the pain and the treatment, Jamie is a regular boy, his mom boasts. Jamie loves to play on his tablet, watch television and play video games, she divulged.
"He was always very active, he started gymnastics when he was two, but due to the pain, he had to stop when he was six years old."
Mommy's advice to parents going through a similar situation is that everything will be OK.
"It doesn't seem like it when your child is curled up in pain or when you have to carry him or her to and from places, or when the medications overwhelm you or the physical and emotional changes seem too much, but everything is going to be OK. Your child has your undying love and support: know that your child is grateful. You have the strength to carry them until they're able to carry themselves. You are not alone."
She also shared her experience going through this ordeal personally and as a mother.
"There are days that I am very depressed. Sometimes, the pain is so overwhelming. I curl up and cry, begging God to let it all go away. But Jamie drives me to do better and be better. Every day, I do my research and try to come up with different ways to help him. I don't want him to suffer like I do. The pain is ever constant, but Jamie reminds me that I'm still alive and I live for him."