From time to time he grabs his left shoulder and winces. He hurts when he walks, when he sits still, when he gets up from his couch and when he missteps in a wet meadow. More than he hurts. It sounds like some kind of agony, though he never mentions it. There are times when he can’t help but show this, the aftermath of a car accident four years ago, in which the car he was driving flipped and rolled, leaving Freeman and a friend to be pulled out of the car with the Jaws of Life. Despite surgery to repair nerve damage, he was stuck with a useless left hand. He is gripped tightly by a compression glove most of the time to ensure blood doesn’t pool there. It’s a pincer, the pain of it, an icy blow to a relatively useless limb. He doesn’t like to show it, but there are times when he can’t help but lose himself in a world-ending grin. It’s such a big gesture
“It’s fibromyalgia,” he says when asked. “Up and down the arm. That’s where it gets so bad. Incruciating”.
This means Morgan Freeman can’t fly jets like he used to, a hobby he took up at sixty-five. He can’t navigate as well anymore. There was a time when he would sail alone to the Caribbean and hide for two or three weeks at a time. “It was complete isolation,” he says. “It was the best way to find silence, how I found time to read.” No more. He can’t trust himself on one arm. He can’t drive, not a stick anyway, not the way he used to, ie fast, open, dedicated to what the car can do. And he can’t ride that much on horseback, though he once rode every day.
He never mentions any of it as a loss, though how could it be anything else? He never dwells on the injustice of this. “There is a point to changes like these. I have to move on to other things, to other conceptions of myself. I play golf. I still work. And I can be very happy just walking the earth.”
Wait. How can you play golf with a wing clipped like that? How can you hit a stick when you can’t lift one of your arms?
“I play with one hand,” he tells me. “I swing with my right arm.”
How does that work for you?
“See for yourself,” she says. “I’m playing at 3:00 today.”
Freeman’s revelation that he has fibromyalgia spread like wildfire through the FM community. Finally, here was an A-list celebrity who admitted to having been diagnosed with FM. A handful of other celebrities have had the courage to speak out on his FM, for which we are extremely grateful, but so far none have had the superstar power of Morgan Freeman.
Almost immediately, FM patients and advocates began asking Freeman to speak out on behalf of others with fibromyalgia. It is even rumored that a large national FM organization has approached him about being their spokesperson. While most of the FM community seems to strongly support that idea, some have questioned the wisdom of Freeman being an FM spokesperson.
From what I’ve read, those who doubt that Freeman represents the FM community seem to have three concerns:
Does he really have fibromyalgia since he only mentioned pain in his left shoulder and arm?
He is still very active and therefore would present an inaccurate picture of how debilitating FM can be.
Since the majority of people with FM are women, as a man he would not be representative of the majority of patients.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these concerns.
Do you really have fibromyalgia? – I have to admit that when I first read the article, I too was wondering if I had been diagnosed correctly. But when I reread it, I noticed that he said, “Up and down the arm. That’s where he gets so bad. Unbearable “. His statement, “That’s where it gets so bad,” sounds like he probably has another pain, but it’s the pain in his arm that’s the worst. For many years, he could have made a similar statement about my left hip. Although he had pain all over his body most of the time, it was the pain in my hip that was usually the worst.
We must also remember that the purpose of this interview was not to discuss Freeman’s fibromyalgia. The author simply noticed that Freeman was making faces several times and asked him about it. It stands to reason that Freeman only mentioned the pain he was experiencing at the time. Or maybe he went into more detail, but when he wrote the article, Chiarella chose to include only what he thought was most important.
So is whether Freeman really has fibromyalgia a valid concern? Absolutely. When we talk about someone as a spokesperson for a disease, it is legitimate to want to be sure that he really has the disease. We simply should not draw any conclusions based on an isolated statement.
Morgan Freeman opens up her ‘fight’ over fibromyalgia
Your activity level does not show an accurate picture of FM. People with FM fall into a wide range of functional abilities. Freeman seems to be doing quite well as he continues to work and play golf. However, the article noted that he has had to give up various activities that he loved. On the other hand, some people with FM are completely disabled, unable to handle even basic self-care tasks. The rest of us fall somewhere in between. While Freeman’s activity level shouldn’t stop him from representing people with FM, I hope that part of his message is to describe how debilitating FM can be and explain that different patients have different levels of disability.
As a man, he is not representative of the average FM patient. – Frankly, I think the fact that he is a man with FM is a positive thing. Like it or not, when it comes to health issues, men still have more credibility than women. Studies have shown that health professionals are more likely to take a man’s symptoms seriously, but attribute a woman’s symptoms to emotional causes. Although acceptance of FM has come a long way in recent years, there are still some people, including some medical professionals, who don’t believe it’s real. So having a well-known and well-respected man like Morgan Freeman speak on FM might help improve our credibility among skeptics.
Given the repeated urges to step up and be a spokesperson for fibromyalgia, I sometimes wonder if Freeman wishes he had never mentioned it. He probably never dreamed of uttering a single word in the middle of an hour-long interview that would attract so much attention.
In our excitement to have a prominent celebrity like Morgan Freeman speak on our behalf, I think we need to consider how doing so could affect her life. Years ago, celebrities went to great lengths to keep any health issues a secret because revealing an illness could ruin their careers. Though Hollywood seems to be a little more accepting these days, I suspect there’s still some hesitation about casting an actor with a known health issue. And even if his career isn’t a major concern, Freeman strikes me as the type of man who would rather not dwell on his pain and what he can’t do, but rather move on and focus on what he can do. .
Yes, it would be wonderful if Morgan Freeman decided to become an advocate for fibromyalgia. The entire FM community would welcome him with open arms. His support could do wonders for raising awareness and money for research. But ultimately it is a personal decision: each of us has to decide what is best for our lives at any given time. While I hope you choose to use your celebrity to help others with FM, I will respect your decision either way.