“Both abundance and lack [of abundance] exist simultaneously in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice which secret garden we will tend." - Sarah Ban Breathnach

Thursday, May 28, 2009

WOW! Could This Be Possible?

Dr. Kenny De Meirleir announced today that he has unlocked the mystery of ME/CFS.

Not only does he say he knows what causes it, but there will be a simple urine test available, most likely over the counter, for diagnosis. And then ... treatment? Cure? Is this possible?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I have six kids. Even before CFS, my home was barely tidy on the best of days. The day I conceived my first child I knowingly and lovingly sacrificed shiny surfaces and clear pathways and anything white. I am OK with that.

However, I must admit things have gotten out of hand since CFS. I thought I had been doing a pretty good job of teaching my children work and responsibility. But once I got sick and could no longer nag them to do their work, it all went downhill rather quickly. Instead of doing a job right, they were doing it just good enough -- and that bar kept getting lower and lower.

I finally recognized that we needed help. I took my friends up on their offer to clean my home. They were wonderful and spent a week digging us out. I could breathe again! The kids could have friends come over! We were not too embarrassed to open the door when the doorbell rang! But old habits returned quickly, and messy was creeping up on us again.

I am now having a woman come twice a month to clean. Yesterday was her first day. I did not spend the entire morning frantically cleaning before she got here -- you all know how that would have turned out. Well, she wasn't happy that she had to clean around the clutter! She made it very clear she disapproved of how messy my home was. I explained I was sick, but she obviously didn't get it. She wanted to know why my kids weren't helping out more. She gave me instructions on how she wanted it picked up better when she comes next time. And, she said she needed to get started earlier in the morning than I had her scheduled.

I'm just wondering what ever happened to discretion and respect in the employer-employee relationship. I am paying her to clean my house. That implies that yes, it is dirty. Why the disdain? If I were the kind of housekeeper she thinks I should be, she wouldn't have a job! Does she really want to encourage me to get on top of things? Would the satisfaction of knowing she shamed someone into keeping a clean house compensate for the lack of income?

By the way, she was fantastic and worth twice what I paid for her services! I will happily endure her huffs of indignation when she comes back in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

ME/CFS Awareness: Hidden Blessings

Sometimes, it's so easy to see everything you are missing when you have CFS. So, in a rare moment of quiet contemplation, I came up with a few blessings I have now specifically because of CFS.

1. A clean slate. It is exactly the fact that I can't keep up with my old activities that I get to start over. Before CFS, was I doing things because I loved doing them? Because I "had" to? Because it was expected of me? Because it was habit? Because it was an escape? Now, my functional time is precious, and I have much more stringent requirements before an activity even makes the list! I am choosing to remake me.

2. Permission to say "no." There is no pressure to agree to do something that I'm asked to do. I have to be honest with myself. If it is not physically plausible, or if it crowds out something of greater value, I get to say "no!"

3. Less doing, more becoming. I like the word "becoming." It has no beginning, no end -- it's a process. With so many activities stripped away, I'm left so often alone with myself. Am I happy with what I see? What do I embrace? What do I want to change?

4. Discovering hidden strengths. Faith, strength, patience, courage. Some I knew I had; others have been a surprise. This is an amazing opportunity not only to recognize but to use those strengths.

5. Becoming creative. I've seen this in other people with CFS, too. Perhaps it's all that internalizing that taps into it; perhaps it's a need to express the upheaval of your life. Maybe it is even because you have to become creative just to enjoy life! Discovering my creativity is a fun process.

6. Ability to find joy in the tiniest things. I can't believe how much I missed before! Lying in bed, listening to my boys play together, hearing their giggles. Walking outside and feeling the sunshine on my face. Being nearly asleep, but waking when my husband reaches across and kisses me so tenderly. I never had time for these things before.

7. Relying on others. To someone who is proud and independent, this does not immediately seem a blessing! But to be on the receiving end of love and service is something that stays in your heart and is treasured forever.

8. Relying on the Lord. My strengths pale in face of this enormous challenge. I am all too aware of my weaknesses and failures. I can see the hand of the Lord comforting me, strengthening me, and making it up to the people I love when I can't be everything for them.

9. Learning, learning, learning! Emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, physically -- every day brings a new lesson, something I never knew before.

10. Gratitude deeper than I could have expected. For true friends, for good days, for knowledge and understanding, for small kindnesses, for my family, for my faith, and for a million things more.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

ME/CFS Awareness: Managing CFS

There is no treatment for CFS. You treat the symptoms; you manage CFS.

I currently do not take any prescription medication. I have in the past, but it was either not helpful or made things worse. Sadly, the medical community has not been my best friend when it comes to CFS.

So, here is what I do to take care of ME (get it?):

1. PACING!!! There is no drug or supplement or protocol that has done more good for me than pacing. My quality of life skyrocketed once I found out that you can not "push through" CFS. I still make mistakes ... and learn my lessons ... but overall, I do pretty well making sure I get plenty of rest between high exertional periods. It has allowed me to go from being a zombie 24/7 to being lucid and functional 3 to 7 hours a day.

2. Formal, scheduled periods of rest. This is a bit different from pacing, I think. Twice a day, regardless of activity level or level of fatigue, I rest for 30 minutes. I go in my room, put on my migraine/sleep mask, set the timer, and just rest. I try to add a little deep breathing and maybe some light visualization for relaxation. But I don't push it. Sometimes my mind races for the full 30 minutes; sometimes I fall asleep. Usually it's somewhere in between. I usually feel much better afterward, but if not, it's a great gauge that tells me I need to slow down a little more.

3. Supplements. I discovered pretty early on that you can be so desperate to get rid of CFS that you'll spend a small fortune to try anything! I use a little more restraint now. My rule of thumb is that it has to either be obviously effective or good for my overall health. At night, I take a multi-vitamin, calcium, magnesium, fish oil, and melatonin. In the morning, I take a mega dose of B12 sublingually, CoQ10, and a B complex. I take .75 oz. of dark chocolate twice a day, after my rests. I have begun taking additional anti-oxidants, including CoQ10 in the afternoon to see if it helps with my afternoon slump. I had been taking NADH, but I stopped for a few weeks to see if it was helpful. I think it was, so I'll start taking it again next week. I'm also going to be testing electrolytes and d-ribose.

4. Exercise. Right now, I do about 15 minutes of stretching daily to ease pain. I am hoping to begin adding 5 minutes of cardio. No panic, just something very low impact that I can monitor and pace carefully -- probably rebounding (mini-trampoline) because it has the added benefit of flushing the lymph nodes and improving the immune system.

5. Diet. OK, I have to admit this is more theory than practice at this point! Although I have made some progress by eating healthy dinners. I have easy, healthy recipes that even my kids can make if I'm not up to it (see my other blog, The Flagging Chef, sidebar). The next step is to cut down on the sugar and other high Glycemic Index foods so I have a more steady stream of energy. Ha! We'll see.

Did I leave anything out?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ME/CFS Awareness: How CFS Affects Me

Yesterday, I blogged about my symptoms. Today, I am blogging about how it has affected my life. That means a trip down the old memory lane. It isn't something I allow myself to do often, because that usually means comparing myself to the "old" me, and that isn't always pleasant!

Before CFS, I was:

An interior decorator
A church volunteer
A gardener
A good homemaker
A genius
An exercise enthusiast
A social friend
A good wife
A really, really good mom
An avid cook
A nature lover
A shopper

Living with CFS is like living inside a box. Most of those things from the "old" me no longer fit inside my box. The things that are most important to me have to be reduxed just to be able to fit.

I am no longer an interior decorator. That was just a fun hobby for me and completely superfluous. I now volunteer one hour a month at church instead of several hours a week. My garden now consists of a single pot. My current exercise routine is about 15 minutes of stretching a day. I am hoping to be able to add 5 minute of aerobic activity soon. I can do laundry. I visit with friends once a month at my book club. I can cook a quick and easy meal a couple of times a week. I shop online. I still love nature; I just haven't visited in awhile!

My husband is a good husband. He loves me and supports me in every way. He has lovingly lowered his expectations.

Here's the hard part. I am no longer a really good mom. You see, being a really good mom is really hard work. You have to be able to set structure and follow through with consequences when it is breached. You have to be able to weather unhappy children. You have to be able to teach them skills to become independent. You have to work with them side by side. You have to be available to them when they need you, not just when you are feeling good. You have to get up pretty early for the little ones and stay up late for the older ones.

Now, don't get me wrong. I still love my children ferociously, and that goes a long way towards making up for faults. But. I can see how much this has hurt my family. I can see that they are a little lost without me. I can see some crumbling around the edges. I can see their yearning for their mom. You know, the "old" me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kicking Off ME/CFS Awareness Week!

It looks like ME/CFS Awareness Day (May 12th) has evolved to ME/CFS Awareness Week! Which is nice, because really, most of us need to "pace" our posts anyway, right?

I'm taking Ashy's lead, and I'm going to be sharing what my symptoms are, how they affect my life, and what I am doing to manage this disease.

My Symptoms:

Fatigue (duh!)
Cognitive dysfunction
Impaired memory
Difficulty with word finding
Word switching (always humorous)
Post-exertional malaise (but not severe)
Unrefreshing sleep
Headaches, sometimes migraines that last days
Sore throat, but only when I've overdone it
Night sweats
Sensitivity to light
Sensitivity to sound
Sensitivity to cold
Eye spasms (blepharospasm or myoclonus)
Tinnitus (ringing ears)
Orthostatic intolerance
Jaw pain (TMJ)
Weight gain
Muscle soreness when I wake up

My worst symptoms are the fatigue (again, duh!), cognitive dysfunction, and the ever-embarrassing eye spasms! The rest of it is annoying and bearable.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gardening: CFS-Style

Every year as Spring approaches, I get a sudden inexplicable desire to garden. Not just any kind of gardening -- I want a summer vegetable garden, just like I remember from my childhood. I loved the baby carrots, peas, and beans. I loved fresh corn on the cob grown and harvested from my own backyard. I loved how the zucchini took over more than its assigned mound of dirt. The watermelon was the perfect epitome of summer. And what could be better than tiny cherry tomatoes, still warm from the sun, a juicy burst of flavor in my mouth? Summer has always been my favorite time of the year, and these are the flavors of summer.

I can't say that I was an accomplished gardener before CFS. In fact, we only had a successful garden twice. Once, about seven years ago, my family and I tackled the side yard that was overgrown with weeds, some taller than the kids. My husband turned over the dirt, and I added the soil conditioners. Each child chose their own plant to grow and tend. It was a phenomenal success! We had fresh, homemade zucchini bread for months. We repeated the experiment the following year. It became quite the source of pride for us. In fact, our wonderful little garden was still going strong the day we moved to our new home.

Then, there were the normal adjustments in a new house that took my attention away from gardening. Then, the front yard needed attention and landscaping. One year, we were able to get the weeds cleared away in the side yard, but we discovered it was too hot and too late in the season to do much else. And finally, CFS hit and hit hard.

And yet, the desire to garden never went away! It was on my list of things I used to love and couldn't do any more. I mourned it. Until this year, when I decided that I was going to have my garden, dang it! I just had to get a little creative.

So, here's my garden! A ceramic container with Patio cherry tomatoes (bred specifically to grow in a pot), basil, and sage. I have two water globes so I don't have to water every day. No hoeing, no weeding, no energy to expend. My CFS garden! I am so proud of myself! I drag my kids out to "look at my garden" every couple of days. I show them the little blossoms on my tomato plant. I point out the new growth on the herbs. The teenagers roll their eyes; the little ones help me refill the water globes. And I count down the days until I have those little cherry tomatoes, still warm from the sun, to pop into my mouth.