In 2007, Kat Wright was in her mid-20s and working a Fly-In-Fly-Out administration role on a remote mine site in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, when she began to experience frequent and intense pain in her right side, concentrated mostly in her neck, shoulder and elbow. Thinking that the sedentary nature of her job may be a factor – she was working 14 days straight doing 12 hour shifts – Kat began incorporating stretching exercises and seeing a physiotherapist on-site, however these strategies did not seem to improve her situation.
Kat then began the exhaustive process of trying to find out what was causing her pain, as well as trying to find ways to alleviate it. Her main goal was to be able to reduce the pain so she could continue working.
Kat even underwent a whole-body cancer scan to try and determine if cancer was the cause of her pain, which was a traumatic experience in itself. Understandably her family were thrilled when she got the all clear from this test, however Kat felt devastated that she still didn’t know what was wrong with her, and that she was still living with chronic pain.
Despite her health issues, Kat was promoted to a new position based out of the Perth office, and was fortunate to be assigned to a very supportive and understanding manager, who referred her on to the company doctor for assessment. It was this doctor who finally diagnosed Kat with Fibromyalgia, after what was basically a process of elimination.
Since being diagnosed, Kat’s experience has improved immensely, and she now understands the things she needs to do to minimise her symptoms. She prefers not to take any medication unless her pain is really intense, and instead controls it with physio exercises and taking care of herself. Avoiding coffee and drinking plenty of water are two factors that can have a great influence on how she feels. She also makes sure she eats plenty of iron-rich foods and gets enough sleep, as fatigue and exhaustion can heighten the experience of pain.
Kat has an incredibly positive outlook, a personality trait which has no doubt helped her to manage her condition. She knows the impact that chronic pain can have on mental health, so she chooses to be positive and take control of her future.
While there are some things that Kat is unable to do, she’s aware of what makes her pain worse, and makes sure she works around those factors.
“It’s different when someone has been in a car accident and broken their leg, but when it’s chronic pain that isn’t visible, people really lack understanding.”
“There’s no cure for Fibromyalgia, but I’ve chosen to take control of my illness and my life. I eat right, I do my physio exercises, I make sure I get enough sleep… keeping the basics in check helps to keep my symptoms under control.”
“I’ve had fantastic experiences with health care professionals along my diagnosis journey, but I do know that I’m lucky.”
“Chronic pain isn’t an excuse, it’s a reason for why we sometimes behave the way we do.”