Shelly Van Winkle has had five babies. Some days, the pain she feels suffering from fibromyalgia is worse than giving birth.
The Mayo Clinic defines fibromyalgia as a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. Researchers think fibromyalgia amplifies painful sensations by affecting the way the brain processes pain signals.
Van Winkle, a 44-year-old former nurse living in Muscatine, was diagnosed five years ago, after the birth of her son Eli. She said the delivery of her son was “traumatic,” but the pain never got better.
Doctors have prescribed her a 25-pill daily regimen of muscle relaxers, proton pump inhibitors, anti-depressants and narcotic pain medications. She can easily drop $1,200 a month for meds.
Earlier this year, a friend mixed cannabis bought on the black market with butter and cooked caramel.
“I had it in the house three months before I decided to try it,” Van Winkle said. “Within a half hour, I’m off the recliner and cleaning up the living room.”
She tried marijuana a few more times, mostly keeping it a secret.
“It makes you feel guilty, insecure,” she said. “You’re labeled as a drug seeker.”