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'It feels never-ending': Lake Stevens teen writes book about living with chronic pain

15-year-old Riley Boerger has endured two surgeries, more than 150 medical appointments and four years of physical therapy.

LAKE STEVENS, Wash. — Every single day for Riley Boerger is an exercise in perseverance.

The Lake Stevens High School sophomore suffers from a rare disease called Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome, a chronic condition causing constant stabbing pains throughout her body, dizziness and debilitating headaches.

The 15-year-old was diagnosed on her 14th birthday.

"It is hell," Boerger said. "It feels like my world kind of ended that day because my pain took over everything. It feels never-ending."

After enduring two major surgeries, more than 150 trips to the doctor and four straight years of physical therapy, Boerger decided to put her pain to paper.

She wrote 12 Spoons, a book based on her life. It was published at the end of the summer. 

The title is based on a chronic pain management metaphor where a patient has a dozen "spoons" of energy to get through the day.

"Just getting up in the morning costs a spoon, but if you don't sleep well the night before you get 5 spoons when you wake up. It changes every day," Boerger said.

Perhaps even worse than the persistent physical pain was the mental anguish Boerger suffered, with doctor after doctor telling her her pain wasn't real.

"It was that I'm a girl or it was childhood trauma as pain," she said. "I got very dark. I think anyone who is being told over and over again that they're crazy is gonna go a little crazy."

A recent Johns Hopkins study found 40% to 80% of chronic pain patients are misdiagnosed.

"I wrote this book because we don't have to be alone, because we don't have to suffer in silence. I wrote this book because I am a chronic pain/illness warrior," Boerger wrote in 12 Spoons.

Riley said writing the book was therapeutic for her. In it, she actually thanks her illness.

"I thanked my illness because without it I never would have become this strong," she said. "Even though I hate it with every bone in my body I had to learn to accept it as a part of my life. I've learned to appreciate my competitor. It makes me strive. It makes me better."

While Riley's strength endures so does her disease.

There is no known cure. Riley might live with it her entire life.

But 12 Spoons is testimony that her struggle with chronic pain is most certainly real, and it has has purpose.

"I want doctors to read this book and understand what people are going through. I want people to actually be able to sit and read and say, 'I get this. This is me.'"


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