Why I’ve Chosen to Become a Leader Against Pain

by Jennifer Iannolo | Print This Page

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I recently received a note from the National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association (NFMCPA) asking leaders to throw their hats in the ring to be considered for training as an advocate.

The letter was timely, as I’ve just begun looking at fibromyalgia and what I want to say about it going forward. Zenfully Delicious was initially created as a safe haven, where we could vent, explore and put everything on the table; at the time, however, my motives were slightly different. Several years ago, my main focus was to come to grips with my illness and survive the process, and sharing that was cathartic for me. Coming from there, however, I soon became tired of talking about it, and found that so much of the conversation out in the wild is negative and depressing. Since I preferred not to center my entire life around my condition, I just wanted to get on with the rest of my life.

So I went back to my professional life, worked with a startup, created a couple of new ventures of my own, and was really on a roll. My condition is a continuous thing to manage, but it was just there. Then I had a conversation with a friend who also manages a lot of pain in her own body, including lupus and other autoimmune issues. “Jennifer,” she said in her adorable Texan drawl, “I implore you not to stop talking about this. You have been such an inspiration to me, and the world needs to hear from you because you’re saying what other people aren’t. And you’re doing all of this without medication. I don’t know how you do it. Please do not stop talking about this.”

How does one say no to a request like that? I’m in tears just writing about it, because the notes I’ve received over the past few years have sometimes taken my breath away. The thought of someone suffering through pain, hopeless and thinking there are no other alternatives, is not OK with my soul. Or on my planet.

So I threw my hat back in the ring, and am delighted to announce that I was given a scholarship to attend NFCPA’s advocacy training camp in Salt Lake City, UT later this month. After several intensive days with experts in research, advocacy and media training, I will be certified as a Leader Against Pain and will create an initiative for the coming year.

The conversation to be had about fibromyalgia is massive, especially when it comes to treatment, and while I could sit here in my own world and make it work for myself, that doesn’t do much for others in my shoes. As someone who can make a difference, with advocacy training I can take that even further. I’m looking at you, Washington, DC.

And so begins a new era in my fibromyalgia life. As this is the second decade, that makes good sense. I feel incredibly honored to be a part of this, particularly given all the work NFMCPA founder Jan Chambers has done to make this a national conversation of great importance. If those of us who can speak up do not, we leave our futures in the hands of someone else; and given the state of our health care industry, that’s not OK with me, either.

Game on.

P.S. I’m still running my other new ventures and projects, too. Because I say that with this condition, you can still have it all. See more on the boot camp I’m taking on for myself to make that a reality.

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