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What follows is a section from the book that accompanies the
Fibromyalgia: Keys to Recovery video.
All content copyright Lance B. Hendricks © 2004.

Lance Hendricks: My Own Story
Instead of Dying, I Learned How to Live
“Only the wounded doctor can heal.”  Carl Jung

When I returned home from Desert Storm in 1991, I was diagnosed with a fatal and incurable liver condition called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis. My Doctor had given me a death sentence, but instead of dying, I learned how to live. This is my story.

It is said that experience is the greatest teacher and I have learned much from my own experience.  Many medical providers have learned the most important lessons about healing through their own illnesses and injuries.  Certainly that is true in my case.  My own medical problems have given me great insight into sickness, pain and recovery.

I opened my private physical therapy office in the spring of 1990. Seven months later, I was unexpectedly called up for service in the military in Operation Desert Storm.  I served for just over three months in a military hospital in San Antonio, Texas.  About one month after my return I was awakened at night with severe pain just below the ribs on the right side of my body.  Unable to sleep due to the severe pain, I got up and drank some Mylanta. This was not helpful so I tried massaging my stomach, changing my position and every other thing I could think of to alleviate my pain.  Nothing seemed to help.  The pain continually increased no matter what I tried.  I realized at the time that I had a $250 deductible on my insurance and I was evaluating this pain to see if it was really worth $250 to get rid of it.  About 3:00 a.m. the pain hit $1000 and I asked my wife to drive me to the hospital.  Upon arriving at the hospital the medical people evaluated me and thought I was having a gallbladder attack.  They did an ultrasound and other testing, but did not find any stones.  The pain eventually subsided and I was released from the hospital at about 9:00 a.m. without any diagnosis or treatment (it still cost me a thousand bucks!)

I continued to have similar episodes of pain from March 1991 until December of that year.  I found that by eating applesauce, rice, baby food and toast, I could be relatively pain-free much of the time.  I did lose some weight, but I don’t recommend this diet! I continued to have occasional episodes of intense pain, but none like the initial pain.  I was under relatively heavy stress in getting my physical therapy practice back on its feet and these frequent painful episodes made it difficult to work. I had little time to have further medical treatment at that time nor did I get any helpful advice from the medical people.  They attributed my pain to “stress” since the ultrasound and other tests were negative for gall bladder stones.

On December 24th of that year, I had another extremely painful attack, which felt like I had been stabbed under my right ribs with a sword going from my front to my back.  It felt like someone had the handle of the sword and they were twisting it.  In addition to the pain, my skin color turned a deep yellow-orange and I decided it was time to let the doctors have another look at me.  When I went to the doctor complaining of these symptoms, he evaluated me and said, “You’re going to the hospital right now.”  I thought December 24th was not a good day to be going into the hospital and asked if I could go in after Christmas.  I had five children at home and felt that it would be nice if I could be home for Christmas.  My doctor said, “Lance, I don’t want you dying at home on Christmas.”  So I made the reasonable decision to go to the hospital without even checking to see if I had holes in my underwear. (My Mother would have been shocked!)

Once in the hospital, my liver function tests showed extreme liver dysfunction.  They put me to sleep and stuck a tube down my throat, ran it through my stomach and up into my liver to have a look around.  They called this procedure ERCP.  I got these initials confused with RPG, which I was familiar with as a “rocket propelled grenade,” a term used in the military.  I felt like I had an RPG go off in my guts. 

I threw up constantly for almost 24 hours following this procedure.  I felt like I most certainly would throw up my liver and all the rest of my insides if this continued.  My doctor visited me in my hospital room and said he had bad news for me.  I had been diagnosed with Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis.  This is a rare and fatal liver condition for which there is no treatment.  It had already destroyed my gallbladder and bile ducts.  I would need to have surgical removal of the gallbladder and rebuilding of the ducts from the liver into my intestines.  The bottom line was there was no treatment for me and I was going to die or have a liver transplant.  Actually, I thought dying would not be a bad thing at that time compared to the pain I was having.

I had surgery the day after Christmas and they performed a choledochojejunostomy and cholecystectomy.  What this means in layman’s terms is they slice your abdomen open, throw all your guts out on the table and cut out your gallbladder.  Then they try to hook your liver back up to the rest of your guts by making an artificial tube.  Things didn’t work out quite as easily as they anticipated and I spent another 11 days in the hospital, which would be another long story that I will not bore you with at this time. 

For several months following the surgery, I continued to have similar episodes of excruciating pain in my abdomen extending through to my back. I also had gut spasms and irritable bowel symptoms almost constantly.  In addition to that, I had low back pain over the area of my sacroiliac joint and into my right buttock.  That made it very painful to walk, sit and move about. It was difficult to work as a physical therapist during that time and I often had to excuse myself from treating patients so that I could go in the next room, lie on the floor and try to reduce my gut pain to a tolerable level.

During this time, I tried medicine, health food, exercise and everything I could think of to resolve this problem. I was able to get my gut pain down to a tolerable level, but having tried all of the physical therapy treatments that I knew of at the time, I still could not find a lasting resolution to my low back pain.  Finally I called my friend Martha in the state of Washington. She is one of the finest therapists in the country and I thought if anyone could help me, she could.  I said I wanted to buy two hours of her time. I would see her in conjunction with attendance at a course that she and a couple of other instructors were giving regarding this specific low back problem.  I flew out to Seattle and she worked on me for the two hours.  Almost all of that time was spent in doing hands on therapy to my abdominal region.  Toward the end of the two hours I told Martha; “I came here for you to fix my back pain.  Are you going to work on that?”  Martha said, “I have.  Get up and tell me what you feel.” I got off the table, stood up and was totally astonished to find that I had no back pain whatsoever.  This was a revelation to me because I had not felt that treating the abdomen would have any effect on the low back pain.  This pain relief lasted a couple of days and then gradually returned.  While I was taking the low back seminar, I had another therapist work on my low back with more traditional physical therapy methods.  The longer she worked on me, the more I hurt.  Finally I had her stop because the treatment was becoming too painful. 

After this experience I had a whole new outlook on the interconnectedness of the body. It gave me new insights into how I should be looking at chronic neck, back and abdominal pain.  This had a major impact on how I treat patients with chronic, painful conditions and influenced greatly the exercises and activities that are contained in this book and video. 

Over the next three years I learned a great deal about health and wellness. I learned about healing exercise, restful sleep, mental healing, supportive relationships, healthful diet, stress management and many other things that lead to heaIth and recovery. I have had tests done to check my liver function and they have come up negative. I no longer have any indication of any liver problem except for the 6 inch scar on my abdomen. At the time of this writing I am 58 years old and consider myself to be in very good health.  I am physically active and participate in running, cross country and telemark skiing, backpacking, roller-blading, mountain biking, kayaking, performing somersaults on the trampoline, and scuba diving.  I mention this because I think this level of activity is pretty remarkable for a guy who is supposed to be dead. The principles of health that I have learned can apply to many different medical conditions. However they a particularly effective in the treatment of fibromyalgia.

I must admit that I do not follow my program perfectly all the time. As a consequence, about two or three days a year I get all the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Everything in my body hurts.  Even my hair hurts. They told me in physical therapy school that if a person said their hair hurts then you would know for certain that they are crazy.  I’m quite certain that I am not crazy and neither are you.  “Painful hair” is a common experience in people with fibromyalgia.  I don’t know exactly why I get these episodes. They may be associated with stress, lack of sleep, excess physical exertion, poor eating or a combination of those things. It lasts only for a day or two and then goes away completely as I do my own treatment program.  I consider these events a blessing for two reasons.  It reminds me to be grateful for the tremendous gift of good health that I normally enjoy. It reminds me of the suffering that people have on a daily basis who have fibromyalgia.  It is very motivating for me to help find a cure for this condition.

I am quite certain that if I didn’t follow the guidelines contained in this book and video I would be plagued with the constant pain of fibromyalgia.  It is my hope that you too will be able to use this information to conquer fibromyalgia and take back your life.