Emily Parker spoke with author Amy Samuel about her new book 'Coping Without A Cure', and how she has learned to live with chronic pain and an incurable illness.

Amy Samuel
Amy Samuel

Emily: When did you first start to have back pain?

Amy: I started having back pain when I was 18. I was just going about my usual life of working and studying. I grew up on a farm so I was always quite physical. I didn't have an accident or anything. The pain just gradually came on and became persistent and never went away. So I had to learn to deal with it as part of my everyday life.

Emily: Eventually you went to the doctors. What happened then?

Amy: Doctors don't take back pain very seriously. They gave me mild painkillers and physiotherapy. But as the years went on I did fight to get referred to specialists and also attended pain clinics where they teach people with chronic pain how to cope better. Essentially they teach you how to live with it, both physically and psychologically. But about 12 years after the pain started I did also get to see a spinal consultant and had major back surgery. Unfortunately it wasn't successful, but they did try everything.

Living Life With Fibromyalgia

Emily: When was it you first heard about fibromyalgia?

Amy: I'd already been unwell for about eight to 10 years before I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I heard about it when I was living in America. Some alternative therapists and chiropractors suggested that might be the problem. But then my GP in England diagnosed me.

It's basically a chronic pain problem where people have specific points in their body and certain muscles that always hurt. There's fatigue and all sorts of other symptoms associated with it. So as well as the problem with my spine, they diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. There's no cure. You just have to learn to cope with the pain and manage it as best you can.

Emily: In terms of your day to day, what does that look like for you?

Living Life With Fibromyalgia

Amy: Getting up in the morning is difficult most days, so ideally I'd be able to get my medication and breakfast, and maybe get some help to do that from my husband. I do stretches and some exercise suitable for my condition, just trying to wake up my fuzzy head really and stretch out the sore muscles. Then I would plod on through the day with whatever I had going on; that would involve physiotherapy, using painkillers, tens machine, heat and ice packs. The best thing I could do would be hydrotherapy, so exercising in water. But at present that daily discipline is quite tricky because I have two children under the age of three and they keep me quite busy. So it's a challenge to manage pain, but before having them I certainly learned how to cope and stay on top of the pain by using daily discipline.

Emily: You have a faith too. What part did your faith play when you got your diagnosis, but also now, living your life when you feel pain?

Amy: I had a faith in God before I became ill. I was brought up with strong Christian beliefs, but I stand on my own convictions as well, even though those beliefs have been tested over the years. My belief in a loving, heavenly Father, who can and does heal people of all types of diseases, is slightly incongruent with my physical experience and I've battled that reality.

I went through times of feeling I didn't deserve healing, or perhaps my sin had caused the pain and prevented me receiving a miracle. I've been in cycles around those things and I've come to the point where I know it's not because of my sin, because I've confessed that and dealt with that, and I've been through lots of inner healing seminars. It's not because I don't have enough faith because I know that God heals; I've seen Him do it and even in my own family He's performed miracles. I believe that God's forgiven me and He values me and I've just come to the point where I've accepted that I don't know why some people get healed and some don't. But we're human; we can't know everything about God while we are here on Earth. He even says in Isaiah, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways my ways, they are much higher than yours." Who are we to think that we know better than God?

Living Life With Fibromyalgia

Through the years I have always kept my faith and I've even plugged in deeper to God because I need Him more, and need the people in the church around me to support me more. I've heard God whisper to me in recent years "My grace is sufficient for you." What I'd like to hear is, "I'm going to heal you!" But actually, in my walk, it's like He just gives me the grace for each day. He gives me people to help me on the bad days, or He gives me pain relief for certain occasions where I really need to be well.

The words "My grace is sufficient for you" were actually spoken to Paul in the Bible. The apostle Paul was talking about a thorn in his flesh that hindered him and bothered him. We don't know what it was. It was something that bothered Paul and God didn't take it away, but He gave Him strength to keep going. God gives me resources to keep going. He might send someone to help me with the children one day, or someone will come and give me a massage and that really helps. It's little things like that where I feel like they're kisses from heaven, that God keeps me going.