Leader Again Pain Spotlight:  Donna Marsh

Donna Marsh is a National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Leader Against Pain who currently lives in Nashville, Tenn. (population 600,000+); but in just a few days she will move about 60 miles east to Baxter (pop. 1,300) to be closer to her parents.  Donna's 20-year-old son will remain in Nashville, while her older son, who soon hits the big 3-0, lives in Portland, Ore., with his beautiful fiancée.  That means it will just be her and, in her words, the “Hounds of Hell,” a little diva of a Corgi and one horse of a Weimaraner, off on this new adventure.
 
When Donna was 10, she had a doozey of a bicycle wreck.  Although she lost a few layers of skin off her knees and could barely walk for days after, it was determined that no true damage had been sustained, other than to her pride, and she’d soon be back to normal.  Normal never returned.
 
She soon began to experience repeated bouts of fatigue, wide-spread body pain, and swollen glands.  She was tested for every medical condition that could be responsible for her illness. She was sent to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to see specialists, but no medical indications were found that accounted for her health problems.
 
Donna moved with her family to Tennessee, and her mother continued to be her greatest champion through her teenage years.  She took Donna to various doctors as different symptoms developed or as flares put her in bed for hours, days, and even weeks at a time.  These new doctors didn’t take Donna or her illness seriously, however, and she was told it was growing pains or called lazy, a malingerer, a hysterical female, and more.
 
Through the years that followed Donna learned to hide her problems well.  She rarely complained, and most people didn’t know the levels of pain and other issues she lived with daily.  She married and divorced twice, had two boys, went to college, and enjoyed a career as an associate producer for a cable television network.  She coped by learning to pace and take care of herself.  Good nutrition, stress management, rest, and maintaining a positive attitude were crucial to her regimen.
 
That all changed in 2007 when Donna's health deteriorated.  She was frequently hospitalized and on medical leave from work.  Her illness affected her career, marriage and more.  During this time she saw a rheumatologist which became not only one of the worst doctor’s visits she had until then, but also the best.  That rheumatologist very coldly pushed on her tender points, declared that she had fibromyalgia, and wrote out a prescription without uttering another word.  As he turned to leave, she finally worked up enough nerve to ask if there was anything else she could do.  He tossed “Find someone to talk to” over his shoulder as he walked out of the room, and that’s what gave her the idea for Fibro Friends, the support group she created and still leads today.
 
Through Fibro Friends Donna learned much from the experiences and wisdom of others while coming to value their support above all.  As Donna shares, “Just knowing that someone understands has often made all the difference.”  The group also gave her a purpose after she was downsized from her job in 2008.  Donna floundered for a bit, experienced depression, crocheted a lot of hats, and managed to finally finish the book she had worked on for so long – Nashville Haunted Handbook, but she was still lost.  That’s when she consciously turned what energy she did have into raising awareness of fibromyalgia.
 
In 2012 Donna was chosen by the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association to attend the Leaders Against Pain (LAP) training program in Washington, DC.  Her LAP education and training helped Donna pull off a free Tennessee fibromyalgia awareness concert in 2013.  This year to raise fibromyalgia awareness, she has small speaking engagements in the Middle Tennessee region. With her current energy levels and other health issues she believes this is an easier task to accomplish, while at the same time possibly reaching more people in the long run.  For Donna, just as it did for so many years, it continues to be about “attitude.”  She has learned that she can LIVE with fibromyalgia, as long as she paces herself, watches her diet, and copes with the stresses of life.