What's a Polka Dot Gal, anyway?

Well, it started with the logo of the Fibromyalgia Association UK.

She's a gal and she seems to have polka dots on her.

Those of us with Fibromyalgia recognize it as a diagram of FM tender points.

Polka Dot Gals is also a UK organization dedicated to raising awareness of Fibromyalgia within the press and the media, and they're in the process of a great calendar fundraiser. I've got my calendar and it's wonderful! It's very artistically done and of excellent quality. They got the idea to do this calendar as a fundraiser from the original Calendar Girls of Yorkshire, on whom a movie of the same name was based.

Bianca Embley is the founder and Director of Polka Dot Gals, and I had the opportunity to meet with her at ILAP 2008 (which I haven't NEARLY gotten started writing about, what with my additional diagnoses and medical treatment making me sicker than I was in the first place, but I will, I promise!). She is a charming and gracious young lady. Funny, smart, well-spoken, and beautiful too. She was a fashion model and flight attendant when she developed Fibromyalgia following an accident she had while working for Virgin Atlantic airline.

I was also privledged to meet Bianca's mom and the Polka Dot Gals Director's Assistant, Gail Boyle, and Pam Stuart, Chair, FMA UK , at the conference. All of them also have FM.

Each month has an eye-catching photo with a comment about FM -

Cute, huh? There's a letter included along with the calendar which suggests that at the end of 2009 we continue to help with raising awareness by sending the calendar to our relevant Health Minister. There's a page containing the name and address of the Secretary of State for Health in England. I think that's a really novel idea, and sure to grab some attention! I haven't decided who I'm going to send mine to (In the U.S.), but I'm thinking somebody big...

"Fibromyalgia - The Polka Dot Gals Campaign Documentary" - this is an excellent video and well worth the 15 minutes it takes to watch it.

The PDGs had a great idea to raise awareness last year, too. They posed in front of the Parliment building!

I think we could take some cues from the Gals, here in the U.S!

Back to this whole polka dot gals concept. Back in the stone age when I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, all of the tender point pictures looked something like this:

That's right, the pictures were always of men's bodies. As the years went by and I learned that the ratio of women to men who were afflicted with Fibromyalgia was about 9:1, I really started to resent that picture.

When I finally realized what the Polka Dot Gals stood for (I'm a little slow, sometimes), it took me back to those bad old days. And then I started to look around on the net at all the different pictorial representations of tender points that we have nowadays.

We have plain realistic images:

We have fancy realistic images:

We have artistic images:

We have artistic, realistic, numbered images:

We have fun, personal images:
And they're all feminine forms! We've come a long way, baby.

While I was doing all this pondering of the images of FM, I came across this on Devin Starlanyl's site, Fibromyalga (FM) and Chronic Myofascial Pain (CMP), and the new depiction of Fibromyalgia. No more dots. It's a lot more complex than that.

"When the standard depiction of fibromyalgia was first introduced, we lacked even basic comprehension of the condition, and had only a guide for researchers who were attempting to deepen this knowledge. Due to increasing research, our understanding has grown from counting tender points and focusing on painful muscles to an evolving concept of a heterogeneous set of subgroups who have central nervous system sensitivity and a countless variety of potential dysfunctional biochemical and metabolic interactions. With this new FM concept comes the need for a depiction that acknowledges the complexity of fibromyalgia.

We are delighted to present an innovative work of art, designed by artist Anne Félicité, wife of the famed French researcher Dr. Jean B. Eisinger. The figure depicts fibromyalgia in a new way, reflecting that those of us with fibromyalgia are not victims of fate (or of three Fates), are more than the sum of our tender points, and are complex individuals who are each unique in metabolic make up and needs."
Devin J. Starlanyl

Anne Félicité


  1. What a trip down memory lane! Getting my fibro diagnosis 20 years ago, without even having the tender points at the time, "so maybe it'll turn out to be lupus" - but those drawings - and the complete lack of knowledge - you are so right, we have come a long way! The calendar is light hearted, eye catching, and definitely an attention grabber - bravo UK, and you Sherril for bringing forth the info!
    Happy healthy new year to you,

  2. Happy, healthy to you too, Karin. The PD Gals should be honored by your compliments on the calendar - being the great artist that you are! Thank you for all of the beautiful, inspiring photos of your work on your web pages. I'm going to try something similar one of these days...

  3. Very well done. I got a good chuckle out of the tender points pictures -such variety!

  4. Thanks, Larry! Laughter is good medicine, eh?


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