FIRST PERSON: “IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH”
By Gary Anderson
From Summer 2016 Forum
I remember it so well. We stood under a mass of white roses on our wedding day and our mutual vows included “In sickness and in health”. We both said “I do” and meant it. A kiss ended the ceremony and preceded the applause and, when we walked down the aisle following our nuptials, those who attended continued their applause as they all rose from their seats to stand. I noticed a few of my friends were clapping with their hands above their heads and grinned at that.
We both had good jobs and we both enjoyed many of the same activities. We were great tennis partners and won the majority of our games against other couples. We loved the winter months where we could go skiing. We were both basketball lovers and attended what games we could of our state team’s home games as well as playing on our own teams. My wife, Cheryl, was the top scorer of the team she played on and I attended as often as possible to loudly cheer her on.
It was winter and, just a week before, we had spent a long holiday weekend skiing at a lodge her family owned when I got what I thought was a common cold. The sneezing and coughing, however, didn’t seem to let up and I became so sick that I couldn’t go in to work. My physician told me I must have caught the flu even though I had had a flu shot months earlier. I was in agony for another week but finally felt better and started to return to work. That didn’t work out so well as I found myself having to leave work earlier and earlier to go home and, quite literally, collapse. The sneezing and coughing were no longer with me yet I still had a low-grade fever along with joint and muscle pain, stiffness and severe weakness.
As the weeks grew into months, I could no longer try to get to work and spent the majority of my day in bed to try and avoid the severe equilibrium and dizziness. Even lying down, however, the tinnitus and headaches went unabated. When I slept, I would often have nightmares and would wake up soaked with sweat. My physician noted that I had “benign fasciculation” which I called twitching muscles. He sent me to a couple of other specialists who could come up with no more than him.
Nearly a year later, when whatever was wrong only added to my daily symptoms, my doctor called to recommend a specialist. Eleven months after I first got sick, I was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis. That physician told me that our government had taken that particular name off of their diagnostic code so he’d have to officially diagnose me with chronic fatigue syndrome. “When will it go away?” “When do I begin to improve?” “Is there anything to help these symptoms from happening?” The answers to my questions were all not what I wanted to hear.
Four years later, when I remained sick, the company I worked for offered to help me by writing a letter I could attach to my application for social security disability. They were grateful that I tried my best to take all phone calls from the man who replaced me at the company and explain things that would make the job a bit less stressful for him to learn. Our friends, for the most part, got tired of seeing me so sick and, one by one, dropped out of my life. And Social Security turned down my application!
I found a website on the internet that impressed me as the work they were funding was following up further research trying to find answers and nobody there was earning thousands of dollars to run the charity. In fact, they were all volunteers! I contacted them and they sent me information that helped my attorney greatly and I was awarded SSDI after a hearing. That’s when the good news came to an end. My wife told me she had waited years for me to get better and wanted to enjoy her life a bit more than merely returning home to hear about another miserable day I’d endured. “In sickness and in health” no longer meant much to her and she was leaving before, as she put it, “I become too old to ever enjoy my life again.”
This all happened well over 15 years ago and I’ve been living my life alone ever since. I read a press release in February that has given me hope for the first time when, years ago, I thought I had merely caught one obstinate cold. The announcement read that two Doctors from McMaster University’s Medical Physics and Applied Radiation Science Department in Canada were funded to look for “new therapeutic approaches in the treatment of CFIDS”! The Medical Director of the National CFIDS Foundation stated, “This research is aimed at determining key early intervention points which could prevent or reverse the disease process.” I know research sometimes takes years but I also know that there’s now, at the very least, a bit of hope. I shared that news with my next door neighbors who have continued to be there for me when I needed some help.
Thank you, NCF, for continuing to expand the research that has led to this time. I’ll pray, nightly, for your success that will help so many patients around the world.
The National CFIDS Foundation * 103 Aletha Rd, Needham Ma 02492 *(781) 449-3535 Fax (781) 449-8606