Examining Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Part II

Unlike R.C., who had some rocky relationship issues, she had a very stable relationship with her husband who, she said, was key to her getting healthy again. When others might have doubted she had any real illness at all, he knew she was sick, but that she would get better.

An immunologist told her to get on the bike every day and ride just a little and at low intensity. He believed that this low-level of exercise gave her an endorphine hit and helped rebuild her immune system. On some days she had to drag herself onto the trainer for an easy 30-minute session, but the low intensity rides did seem to help.

She also worked with an internal medicine specialist that told her CFS tends to last for five years, in his opinion. He said she could begin training again for competitive racing, but she would have to train according to how she felt. Fast on the days that she felt good, take it easy on days she didn't feel good.

She did get back to the highest level of cycling again, but one frustration was her performance was unpredictable. In one stage race, she was dropped from the main group on the first day. On the second day of the same race she was on the podium.

In reflection, she says she believes that it is hard for competitive athletes to be honest about how they really feel. They can tolerate such high levels of pain and discomfort in order to race at top levels, but that this tolerance can be both a blessing and a curse. Now, she carefully monitors the intensity of a common cold and immediately reduces training. She does a better job of resting and taking care of herself.

She was once on an extremely low-fat diet, but that is no longer the case. She eats primarily fruits, vegetables and lean meats. She also uses multivitamins and antioxidants to help her keep healthy.

Triathlete G.D.

G.D. was similar to the cyclists in the story in that he was going to school and performing very well in the sport of triathlon. He was under 18 when he began to recognize his talent for sport, good enough to get an invitation to the OTC.

Traveling to races, scoring podium spots and going to school made for an incredible lifestyle. He became so wrapped up in it that the day of a race he failed to recognize he was sick enough to be hospitalized. It wasn't until his physical symptoms became so worrisome that instead of driving to the race venue, he drove himself to the hospital emergency room.

Like the others we've met, he was, and is, an achievement-oriented person. He is gifted in sport and outside of sport. Achieving success in sports and in life was the motivation that gave him permission—self-permission—to drive himself hard. He worked hard at anything that drew his passion and somewhat enjoyed juggling many spinning plates at the same time.

Triathlete W.H.

W.H. was different than the others in that he was not attending school at the same time he was racing at a high level. His time was spent at more training, high volume and high intensity.

Prior to the months leading up to when the illness struck him, he was one of the top professional triathletes in the world.

With two years of reasonably successful racing under his belt, he used a six-week block to just train with multiple workouts per day and multiple days in a row at very high intensities.

Following this big training block, he went into a big racing block where he traveled to and competed in seven races over nine weeks, some overseas. His performances were soaring and he was achieving personal best placements in the field, consistently.

He was beginning to feel tired, though. He decided to take his training easy before the next race. At that race, he crashed on the bike. Accepting that it was just an off race, he continued to rest and heal his wounds.

His next big race turned into a big disappointment. He just didn't have the legs to carry him through. At the next race, he was so tired that he dropped out. It was the first time he didn't finish a race in his career.

While traveling to the next race, he realized something was terribly wrong and cancelled plans for upcoming races. He said this was one of the lowest points of his career. He consulted nutritionists, internists, acupuncturists, Chinese medicine specialists, took vitamins and herbal teas. Piles of tests and consultants, he did research and did what he thought was right for him.

He did low intensity training limited to four to six hours per week. For six weeks, nothing changed. His muscles ached and through his own research he determined that CFS was the culprit, though no "expert" diagnosed him with the disease.

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