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Thirty-six women with fibromyalgia (FM) were asked to describe how they live with their FM Data were analysed using the constant comparative method The goal was understanding the process of living with FM through theory development The women described living with FM as struggling to maintain balance, this involves recalling perceived normality, searching for a diagnosis, finding out and moving on (transcending the illness) Several women relinquished the struggle because of situations that may or may not be under their control (e g depression and feeling imprisoned by treatment) Over time the illness moves from being a primary life focus to being part of the backdrop of the lives of women with FM