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6000 km, 9 months, 3 countries - raising awareness of Fibromyalgia

6000 km, 9 months, 3 countries - raising awareness of FibromyalgiaThis month, 35 year-old French woman Violette Duval, is walking six thousand kilometres, from France to the Algarve, in order to show that despite her pain, she possesses the strength and endurance required to raise awareness of her condition. She is suffers from Fibromyalgia, and through her journey she wants to alert the world to her disease, characterized by constant pain throughout most of her body.

She has had to make many stops along the way to recover from injuries as a result of pushing her body beyond its limit. Despite this, she has only one goal: to make Fibromyalgia known. She wants to warn of the slow and difficult nature of the diagnosis, the lack of recognition of the disease, and the high suicide rates it causes.

Violette on Friday 15th November, walking from Carvoeiro to AlbufeiraIn Portugal there are hundreds of thousands affected by this condition, roughly 2-4% of adults, being more common in women. The Portuguese Society of Rheumatology, the specialty that treats Fibromyalgia, characterizes it as a disease with “generalized, diffused, often migratory musculoskeletal pain and an increased sensitivity to a variety of stimuli that can cause pain and discomfort, like stress, anxiety, or loud noise”.

“It may have periods of calm or exacerbation, pain and discomfort may be fluctuating. It is often accompanied by fatigue, sleep disturbance, memory and concentration problems. ”
Myos, the National Association Against Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a non-medical, non-profit association, explains that “it affects men, women and children of all ages, ethnicities, statutes, where 80% to 90% are women between 20 and 50 years. ”

Violette’s symptoms forced her to rethink her future. At the age of 14 she had to give up her passion for sport and to rethink her dreams of both pursuing a career in basketball or being a PE teacher. “The first pains were in my hands and feet, it was unusual. I focused on my studies, but I was in pain all the time, I knew it wasn't just psychological or emotional, although doctors insisted it was.  I achieved a Masters Degree in Finance and went on to work as an auditor for KPMG. Two years in to my job I suffered a crisis in my life. I couldn’t do my job and I was unhappy.

The pains were so great that I could not feel my face, I could not sleep, and the system expected me to continue working to full capacity, which simply was not possible. I visited a specialist in Paris, who finally gave me my diagnosis, and I was referred to the Center du Douleur (specialist pain centre), where I was given pills that numb the nerves but don't treat the disease.

In my case the diagnosis was relatively 'fast', but there are people whose pain is so long and so prolonged that the idea of ​​suicide seems to be the only solution.”

“The French social security service doesn’t recognize our inability to work to the same level, which is impossible. So, an increased recognition of Fibromyalgia is important to me. Having a name for the disease, after doing so many tests, is a relief. ”

Individuals with Fibromyalgia are called lazy, and they are told their symptoms are psychosomatic. The patient, between pain and discouragement, begins to feel lost. “In physiotherapy I started to have this idea of ​​travelling and it helped me emotionally to have a goal. I realized that walking and being in the outdoors was beneficial.”

Violette has previously undertaken two backpacking and public transport trips, one around Asia and Australia, and one in South America. “In Uruguay, I met a man out hiking with a trolley and a dog… And I said to myself, what a good idea! I arrived from South America with the idea of ​​doing something walking-related. After a year of crowdfunding and promotion I got funding to make this trip. ”

This makes the Algarve trip Violette’s third, but the first she’s fully hiked. She left home on April the 13th, and made her way along the French and Spanish coast all the way to the southernmost regions of Europe until she reached Portugal.

In early November she reached the Algarve, and by the beginning of March she hopes to reach the end of her journey, Grandville, Normandy. Violette concluded by saying: “I do this not only for myself, but others, and I receive a lot of love from all people. When I travel I am happy, I walk, I take photographs. Returning to a normal life will be complicated. Sometimes I think that having Fibromyalgia was good, it allowed me to travel, I owe all these trips to the disease ... Each trip is different and I’ve learned a lot about myself. This has been very deep. Everyone needs to know about this disease, and I will continue to spread my story and how people can cope with my illness. I'm sick, I have Fibromyalgia, but I walk, I travel and, I’m happy.”

What an incredibly strong young woman! Anyone wishing to support Violette, and follow her progress on her journey to raise awareness for Fibromyalgia, can find her through her Facebook page, Instagram, or official website.

Instagram: violette.duval

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