Mary McDonough: Overcoming Lupus and Fibromyalgia

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Mary McDonough is an actress who was once famous for portraying the character Erin on the TV show “the Walton’s.”  Today, however, she is not as well known for her acting career. Rather, she is known for her openness about her struggles with two very severe chronic diseases: fibromyalgia and lupus.

Nearly ten million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia and one and a half million suffer from lupus today, but it is very rare for one person to suffer from both diseases at the same time. The two diseases have definitely been a struggle for McDonough, but she has been very open about both of them and works as much as possible to spread awareness about the diseases. She has been a spokeswoman for Lupus in particular for many years now.

Mary McDonough Overcoming Lupus and Fibromyalgia

Lupus vs. Fibromyalgia

Lupus is a connective tissue disease that has a negative effect on the immune system. The human immune system can become reversed in its normal function and rather than ward off diseases like it should be doing, it can instead attack healthy tissues in the body instead.

Symptoms of lupus include pain in the joints, kidneys, heart, lungs and even the skin. All in all, lupus affects five million people throughout the world, and people are much more likely to develop it if they have had a member of their family develop it as well.

Fibromyalgia is chronic widespread pain in the muscles, but the symptoms of fibromyalgia go beyond pain.One who has fibromyalgia will also feel immense fatigue and yet an inability to sleep properly at night, a lot of stiffness in the joints, bowel problems, a difficulty thinking straight, numbness, depression, and anxiety. Many people who have fibromyalgia have to take anti-depressants and consult with a psychologist. Much of what happens with fibromyalgia goes beyond the physical aspect of it; it’s very much mental as well.

However, fibromyalgia is a very difficult disease to diagnose properly. There are 11 specific pressure points on the body, in the chest, shoulders, upper and lower back, hips and upper legs, that need to be in pain when pressure is applied to them. But sometimes, this tactic is alone not enough to officially diagnose fibromyalgia.

As a result, a patient may have to go several months or even years before their doctor can diagnose them with fibromyalgia or not. Since it is so difficult to diagnose fibromyalgia, it is even more difficult to treat it. Many traditional methods of treating fibromyalgia have only proved to be futile, and it’s estimated that years of medical studying lies ahead before fibromyalgia can be classified as a treatable disorder. Subsequently, one who has fibromyalgia definitely has a long struggle ahead of them.

Fortunately, Mary McDonough is an inspiration to anyone who has had to endure years of suffering from fibromyalgia. But what’s even more case about McDonough’s case is how she has had to simultaneously battle another chronic disease…and yet she has managed to pull through.

McDonough’s Story

McDonough’s life was changed forever when she went from just being another kid on the block to being one of the stars of a top rated TV show at the age of ten. But it wasn’t long after the show had ended that McDonough’s life drastically changed yet again, only this time, it was for the worse.

McDonough was diagnosed with lupus before she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. She became the founding President of Lupus LA and has continued to champion bringing awareness to the disease. Currently, her lupus has run into remission, but it’s still something that she has to contend with every day in her life.

McDonough’s fibromyalgia diagnosis came after her diagnosis of lupus, and it has brought even more troubles and challenges into her life. It doesn’t help when you’ve already been diagnosed with another disease that can lead to the death of nearly fifty percent of people who are diagnosed with it either.

Following leaving the Walton’s, McDonough tried to reinvent herself by having silicone breast implants. However, McDonough believes that the breast implants were what led her to develop lupus not long after. Just after she had received the implants, she was already not reacting well to them. Rashes broke out all over her body.

Doctors believed that McDonough had an allergic reaction to the silicone in the implants after a number of different treatments all ended unsuccessfully. It’s possible that the silicone had seeped through the implants to cause the horrible reaction.

Following the initial reaction to the silicone, McDonough suffered more rashes to her face and neck, and then the chronic pain set in. She reported feeling pain in her joints and in her muscles, and feeling very tired with the inability to sleep very well at night.

These were all symptoms of fibromyalgia, and sure enough, fibromyalgia had set it. Even today, we have a very limited understanding as to what causes fibromyalgia in individuals. Sometimes it’s believed to happen naturally, while other times, fibromyalgia can be the result of an accident or physical trauma.

McDonough went ten years before she was officially diagnosed with fibromyalgia, having to go all of that time without the proper treatments.  It was very difficult for her to perform basic tasks – not to mention raising her daughter.

Today, however, McDonough’s lupus is in remission and she has learned how to cope with her fibromyalgia. She is a public speaker and leads a number of workshops where she speaks to both men and women going through medical issues of their own.

She also spends time working as a coach where she works with people one on one. She has also written a book where she details her own struggles and gives words of motivation to other people. She uses much of what she has written in her book for her public speaking, workshops, and for her personal one on one coaching with other people.

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