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Writing a book helps woman deal with chronic disease

Wednesday 18 January 2012


From the Wisconsin Rapids Tribune:


Sheila Dembowski
Sheila Dembowski

'Leaning Into the Light': Writing a book helps local woman deal with chronic disease

1:35 AM, Dec. 19, 2011

Sheila Dembowski was at a low point in dealing with the chronic disease of fibromyalgia when a doctor asked her to describe herself.

"I am sick," she told him.

"What else?" he asked. She didn't know what to say, so he answered for her. Yes, she was sick, he said, but she also was a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend. She had one big negative in her life, he told her, but there plenty of positives, too.

Dembowski, 43, of Schofield relates the story in a memoir she has written called "Leaning Into the Light." The book details her struggles with fibromyalgia, a disease that puts her in constant pain. She was diagnosed with it in the spring of 2007. The conversation with the doctor helped her realize she could still live a life, even though she was ill.

Dembowski started writing "Leaning Into the Light" for her 7-year-old son so that he could understand more about who she was. But Dembowski, who is a librarian at Riverside Elementary School in the D.C. Everest Area School District, found that writing the book also helped her come to terms with fibromyalgia.

The book is about the difficulties of dealing with pain, but it's also a hopeful story about the power of acceptance, optimism and prayer in the face of incurable disease. Dembowski hopes the book might help others in similar situations.

"I had to realize that God has a plan for all of us," Dembowski said. "And this (fibromyalgia) was part of the plan. That was the hardest thing to accept."

Melanie Clark, 52, of the town of Guenther is a leader of the Central Wisconsin Fibromyalgia Support Group, and although she doesn't know Dembowski and hasn't read the book yet, she thinks it was important for Dembowski to write it.

Fibromyalgia often is misunderstood, she said, if people who read the book learn more about the disease, people who have it will be better off.

People with fibromyalgia need support, Clark said. "It really helps to have somebody who loves you and accepts you the way you are without trying to change you."

Dembowski's book tells the story not only of fibromyalgia, but also her battle with a lesser-known disease called myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disorder that occurs when a person's autoimmune system attacks the body, causing weakness in muscles. She was diagnosed with that in 1999.

For Dembowski, it caused double vision and a drooping eyelid, and was caused by antibodies emitted by her thymus gland. She underwent surgery to have her thymus removed, it's located in the chest and requires an incision similar to open heart surgery.

That greatly reduced the symptoms of myasthenia gravis, which, like fibromyalgia, has no cure. But she feels the effects of the disease in times of stress.

Dembowski has had to make lifestyle changes because of her diseases. She can't physically push herself. She meditates, prays and watches plenty of comedies, because laughter seems to help. She practices yoga.

But mostly she focuses on the positive aspects of her life, her relationship with her husband, Jim, and Michael, her son.

"It is truly how you view life," Dembowski said.


The above originally appeared here.


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