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Should Morgan Freeman Speak Out About Fibromyalgia?

morgan-freeman-fibromyalgia

Esquire magazine published a fascinating, insightful article about actor Morgan Freeman.  In the article, author Tom Chiarella recounts the day he spent with Freeman at his home in Mississippi.  As they walked around Freeman’s property, Chiarella noticed he was in pain.  In the following excerpt from the article, Freeman reveals the cause of his pain.

Every so often he grabs his left shoulder and winces. It hurts when he walks, when he sits still, when he rises from his couch, and when he missteps in a damp meadow. More than hurts. It seems a kind of agony, though he never mentions it. There are times when he cannot help but show this, the fallout from a car accident four years ago, in which the car he was driving flipped and rolled, leaving Freeman and a friend to be pulled from the car using the Jaws of Life. Despite surgery to repair nerve damage, he was stuck with a useless left hand. It is stiffly gripped by a compression glove most of the time to ensure that blood doesn’t pool there. It is a clamp, his pain, an icy shot up a relatively useless limb. He doesn’t like to show it, but there are times when he cannot help but lose himself to a world-ending grimace. It’s such a large gesture, so outside the general demeanor of the man, that it feels as if he’s acting.

“It’s the fibromyalgia,” he says when asked. “Up and down the arm. That’s where it gets so bad. Excruciating.”

This means Morgan Freeman can’t pilot jets the way he used to, a hobby he took up at sixty-five. He can no longer sail as well. There was a time when he would sail by himself to the Caribbean and hide out for two, three weeks at a time. “It was complete isolation,” he says. “It was the best way for me to find quiet, 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 — which is to say fast, wide open, dedicated to what the car can do. And he can’t ride horses as much, though once he rode every day.

He never mentions any of it as a loss, though how could it be anything else? He never hints around about the unfairness of it. “There is a point to changes like these. I have to move on to other things, to other conceptions of myself. Playing golf. And i still work. And I can be pretty happy just walking the land.”

Wait. How can he play golf with a clipped wing like that? How can you swing a club when you can’t lift one of your arms?

“I play one-handed,” he tells me. “I swing with my right arm.”

How does that work out for you?

“See for yourself,” he says. “I’m playing at 3:00 today.”

To Speak Out or Not to Speak Out – That Is the Question

Freeman’s revelation that he has fibromyalgia spread like wildfire through the FM community.  Finally, here was an A-list celebrity acknowledging he had been diagnosed with FM.  A handful of other celebrities have had the courage to speak up about their FM, for which we are extremely grateful, but as yet none have had the super-star power of Morgan Freeman.

Almost immediately FM patients and advocates began calling on Freeman to speak out on behalf of others with fibromyalgia.  It’s even been rumored that a large national FM organization has approached him about being their spokesperson.  While most in the FM community seem to strongly support that idea, a few have questioned the wisdom of Freeman being an FM spokesman.

From what I have read, those who are hesitant about Freeman representing the FM community appear to have three concerns:

  1. Does he really have fibromyalgia since he only mentioned pain in his left shoulder and arm?
  2. He is still very active and therefore would present an inaccurate picture of how debilitating FM can be.
  3. Since most 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.

Does he really have fibromyalgia?

I have to admit the first time I read the article I, too, wondered whether he had been diagnosed correctly.  But when I reread it, I noticed that he said, “Up and down the arm. That’s where it gets so bad. Excruciating.”  His statement, “That’s where it gets so bad” sounds like he probably has other pain but it’s the pain in his arm that is the worst.  For many years, I could have made a similar statement about my left hip.  Although I had body-wide pain almost all the time, it was the pain in my hip that was usually the worst.

We also have to remember that the purpose of this interview was not to discuss Freeman’s fibromyalgia.  The author simply noticed Freeman grimacing several times and asked him about it.  It’s logical that Freeman would only mention the pain he was experiencing at the time.  Or perhaps he did go into more detail but when composing the article, Chiarella chose to include only what he felt was most important.

So is whether or not Freeman really has fibromyalgia a valid concern? Absolutely.  When we’re talking about someone being a spokesperson for a disease, it’s legitimate to want to be sure they actually have the disease.  We just shouldn’t jump to any conclusions based on one isolated statement.

His activity level doesn’t paint an accurate picture of FM.

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7 Comments

  1. R.Freeman would make a wonderful spokesman. Especially as there6and are men in areas of the world that the Doctors tell the male patients that men don’t get fibromyalgia only women, it’s only in the men’s brain they’re being lazy, get out of bed, get up, get a job, go to school.
    On the flip side if the choose a woman to be a co-spokesperson, it would be nice to have some one that has been dealing with this illness 15-2 years,

  2. Yes, and I think he could reach out to those of us who are unfunctionable, mentally, and physically, and even fighting for disability, so he can see how we live and deal with life, on a daily basis.
    From an A personality, to this. Such a different life.
    I’ve always admired him, his strength.
    Vicky

  3. Yes.. I do think he should speak out.. He’s a well respected famous actor who could help put Fibromyalgia on the map and hopefully bring some leverage and weight to the condition that affects thousands of people every day.. Maybe it would subdue or reduce the number of doubters out there! Come on Morgan! Speak up!

  4. I losted the use in my right arm for kneely a year and this was way before i got told i had fibromyalgia
    and no one in years could tell me why i losted the use of my arm i cant still use it much even now it took me over 10 years to be told i had fibromyalgia i had to jump throw hoops to even get told i had it then when i did get told i have it i was told to lean to live with it and get on the best i can to live with it so i understand why there are so many ppl out there when dr don’t even wish to tell it’s out there and so manny ppl are having to live in pain each and every day of their life and being treated as fakes some days it takes a lot just to get out of bed and start the day let alone do a job so my hat off to Morgan Freeman who is doing what is best for himself he is the only one that know how much he can push himself the same as anyone of us that have fibromyalgia