While cleaning up some files last week I came across a letter I received almost 20 years ago. “Janice is lazy and just needs to exercise.” What!
This was the final comment of a two-page report submitted to my health insurance company by a specialist after I applied for long-term disability. The letter stated that I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The Mayo Clinic defines CFS as “a complicated disorder characterized by extreme fatigue that can't be explained by any underlying medical condition. The fatigue may worsen with physical or mental activity, but doesn't improve with rest.” Interestingly, the letter concluded that I was lazy, and all I had to do to improve was exercise.
In an attempt to uncover exactly what was going on with my body, and before my insurance company denied me compensation, various blood tests were ordered. I waited for results; hopeful that an explanation was just around the corner. Nope. Test after test came back "normal" and one day the probing ended. A diagnosis was made. Case closed.
Needless to say, it was like having a door slammed in my face! I was shocked and felt helpless at that time in my life. For weeks I read and re-read this report and I got increasingly angry. I was not going to accept this diagnosis. No way! I was determined to get to the root cause of my complaints.
I was much younger then, but having an interest in health, I knew that there was a connection between nutrition and healing. I understood the importance of a balanced diet and I also took notice of the direct relationship between eating well and feeling well. Additionally, the courses I had taken in nursing school provided me with a broader view of how the body worked, and what it needed to perform at an optimal level. Knowing all this, I felt I had some control over my situation. In other words, I had hope.
I did indeed have chronic fatigue syndrome. Let me rephrase that. I was infact, chronically fatigued. Fatigue, which prevented me from doing my job properly. Drained of energy and muscle aches so bad that, even after a good nights sleep, I was unable to climb set of stairs without stopping half way to catch my breath and to wait for the pain in my legs to subside before continuing. So tired that on the days that I could muster up enough energy to take my dogs out for a walk, I would drive to the nearest park and sit down on a bench while they ran loose.
I chose not to accept that I wouldn’t be able to work anymore, and that I would have to live the rest of my life this way. It isn’t normal to feel extreme exhaustion day in day out, month after month. Exhaustion that sleep did not relieve; pain that stopped me from moving; and a lack of energy that regular exercise (the little I could manage) did not improve. I chose not to live on pain medications and accept this as the new normal. I chose to get my life back!
Finally, I found an alternative health practitioner who listened to my complaints. Further testing revealed the root cause of my complaints and a recovery plan was in sight. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic!
I’m grateful for this letter, however, as it prompted me to be proactive about my health. I’m sharing my experience to reach others who might be struggling to find answers and getting nowhere. Don’t give up. Find a way to get to the root cause of the problem and get your life back.
My journey back to health didn’t happen over night, nor was it easy. I was criticised, ridiculed, and received countless eye-rolls for the choices I was making. I paid no attention to criticism, however; this was my life, and my health was my top priority! As I embarked on this challenge I came to the realization that, for the most part, the body has the amazing ability to heal itself. Yes, it was tough. Yes, I had to change my relationship with food. And hell yes, it was absolutely worth it!
Our health is in our hands.
This is Janice, inspiring change