Conference aims to empower women in pain

LOS ANGELES Every step is riddled with pain, but 52-year-old Evangelist DeVance walks with a smile.

"Walking in pain tires you out," says DeVance.

DeVance is one of hundreds attending a huge conference devoted to women in pain. The goal is to empower and educate.

"Getting people to understand the widespread pain, the widespread depression, depression is so pervasive," says Loretta Jones of Healthy African American Families.

After seeing a series of doctors, DeVance was finally diagnosed with lupus and fibromyalgia, a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain. She became disabled and couldn't work. A deep depression followed.

"Depression and pain share the same pathways," explains UCLA psychiatrist and author Dr. Kenneth Wells.

"So, it's not just a psychological reaction," adds Wells.

Wells says depression has more impact on one's health and well-being than any other chronic condition including heart disease and arthritis. He says most of the undiagnosed cases of depression are in people suffering from pain.

"If you get treated for depression, the pain also gets better," explains Wells, "so you get the double relief from getting care for the depression."

Conference organizer Cynthia Toussaint suffers from complex regional pain syndrome. The pain gets so bad she feels like she's on fire, but she copes by reaching out to others.

"We are not alone, and that truly is the message, and we are all dealing with depression and we have to know that we're sisters and we're in this together," says Toussaint.

DeVance credits community support for helping her get back on her feet.

"I can cope, I can truly cope," emphasizes DeVance.

"Today, I am so grateful to get up in the morning, I am super duper grateful," she adds.

The second annual Women in Pain Conference held at the California Science center was sponsored by many community agencies including For Grace, Healthy African American Families and Charles Drew University.

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