Living with Pain: UVU Graduate Reflects on Managing a Chronic Diagnosis

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Looking back, there were many moments and various signs that something was wrong. But nothing big.

Just nonchalant little things that Lora Kendell mentioned to her doctor when she was in high school.

Things that never would have mattered if the pain hadn’t been happening continuously and intensely during his senior year of college.

Kendell, a UVU Spanish Fork graduate, had never heard of fibromyalgia before. Most people she spoke to didn’t either. There are no doctors who specialize in fibromyalgia, very few medications specifically for it, and there is no treatment or cure. The medical world doesn’t even have an explanation for why this happens or what causes it. It’s just.

Kendell was diagnosed with fibromyalgia when she was 22 years old. She lost a lifestyle of independence, freedom and activity and gained a life of constant pain and addiction.

Lora Kendell sits at the Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah. Prior to being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, she often participated in active outdoor activities. (Courtesy of Lora Kendell)

Kendell said fibromyalgia, or fibro, is a chronic condition in which the body’s nerves miscommunicate with the brain and send incorrect signals.

For example, Kendell said it’s like the nerves in her arm are saying she’s being stabbed or punched, but in reality, that’s not the case.

It first started with back and neck pain, but she managed to get through it. She continued her work, finished her studies, but soon after it hit her full force, spreading to her arms, legs – everywhere.

Kendell now lives in a state of constant pain, with recurring flare-ups, which is an increased level of pain. These can be triggered by food, exercise, and more, and can last for days or months.

According to Kendell, fibromyalgia is different for each person.

“It’s not exactly a science. It’s not just standardized across the board. If one thing kicks in for me, it could be totally fine for someone else. And even something that triggers me today, I could do it tomorrow and it could be fine. That’s why it’s hard,” Kendell said.

After Kendell graduated from college and was diagnosed, a lot changed for her. Her active and free-spirited lifestyle changed and she could no longer be independent. Therefore, she often felt like a burden.

“As for my parents, I felt like a bit more of a burden to them. Because, you know, I left the house and I was alone, but now they have to support me and they have to kind of leave my room open at home,” Kendell said.

But, she says, she learned a lot.

“People had to make adjustments for me. All the time. It’s hard. But these people want to help me. And they can, so I should let them,” Kendell said.

According to Kendell, pain now takes up a lot of his attention.

“Most of the time I feel like I’m with everyone, but my mind is like, ‘Oh my arm is hurting right now.’ Or, ‘Oh, you should smile.’ Most of the time I’m so focused on maintaining the look that I just don’t have time to think about it. So in the end the energy isn’t there. I’m so tired everything time,” Kendell said.

Kendell’s mother, Becky Kendell, shares how hard it is to see her daughter being sidelined.

“It breaks my heart that she has boundaries now. She wants to hang out with her friends but can’t because she’s in pain. Seeing her sidelined not because she wants to but because she has to. doing it is hard,” Becky Kendell said.

Lora Kendell, second from left, with her family taking photos a year after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Kendell had never heard of the disease before his diagnosis. (Courtesy of Lora Kendell)

Despite these challenges Kendell faced, poetry was an outlet for her. She found strength through her faith in God, who provided her with a way to express her hope and sadness, she said.

“He was able to allow me to free myself through these poems. I think he gave it to me as an anchor to remind me of when I was at my lowest, at that time he was always there for me,” Kendell said.

Lora Kendell wrote the poem “Becoming” to help convey and release her emotions about battling fibromyalgia. (Poem courtesy of Lora Kendell and made in Canva by Ashly Larkin)

Kendell’s father, Travis Kendell, also worked to help ease the pain through fun hobbies.

“As the parent of a child with chronic pain, knowing that I can’t take his pain away, my efforts focus on providing activities to distract him from the pain and create and support positive experiences,” said Travis Kendell.

Kendell said she realizes that everyone goes through hardships that no one else experiences and that she has found comfort in helping others through their struggles.

“I feel like I could notice through that that everyone has something they struggle with. And mine may be an invisible disease, but most people’s is something invisible that no one else sees,” Kendell said. “So the way I’m able to run my own stuff is just to talk to people about their stuff…and we can just learn from each other,” Kendell said.

Lora Kendell wants people to know that just being there for her has made all the difference.

“I guess the most important thing is knowing that even though people can’t help but heal it, or really do anything to ease the pain, it’s knowing that people care. They care enough to ask and reach out and that supports me and that’s enough,” Kendell said.

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