Two weeks off work. Feeling shit. Once again, as always, time wasted and potential limited. Although I know and appreciate that I am comparatively very lucky, because it could be much worse, it nonetheless pains me that this illness is never going to go away. And I have recently accepted that this is a fact: ME is always going to affect my life, often reappearing when I least expect it.
I have had a grating cough, and subsequently a stubborn chest infection, for approximately eight weeks. I have vomited. I have coughed up tons of phlegm and even some specks of blood. My appetite has diminished. I have missed three days of work. I am on my third set of antibiotics (625 mg per tablet, three times daily for one week). I have seen three GPs. A chest x-ray showed nothing sinister. My breathing is difficult, laboured.
Is it likely that my history of ME and the associated problems with my immune system mean that I am much more susceptible to things such as chest infections and that, once I have them, they affect me more than others and are more difficult to get rid of?
I sense a relapse. Having had a very bad cough, a sore head and a general feeling of lethargy for almost three weeks, I can feel that things are about to get much worse. I know the heart-breakingly familiar signs and symptoms as well as I know the unpleasant reflection of my own self. Extreme fatigue, all-over aches and pains, mind fog, tingling hands, poor absorption and retention of information, etc etc etc. Hold on. Here we go again....
When I am feeling realistic and strong enough to face the cold, hard facts of life with ME, I admit to myself that it will be almost impossible for me to ever run and cycle again. Yet, in spite of these rare and brutal moments of honesty, which are genuine, I don't think I have ever said it and truly meant it. There is still a part of me - some days a big part, other days a very small, humble part - that believes that I will eventually feel healthy enough to run again. This, in spite of the indisputable fact that in the middle of March of this year, I went out for a run (my first in more than three years) of a mere four hundred yards.... and spent four days of the following week on the couch, absent from work, crippled with fatigue and blunted by pain.
I can't let go. I won't let go. Rightly or wrongly, I still hope for a better future. I still believe that I can have my old life back. Is it this hope that is ironically holding me back from further recovery? Or is it this hope that helps me to get out of bed each day and say to this cruel illness: "Go fuck yourself. I've had the worst of you and I'm still here, still standing. I will not be beaten. No matter how long it takes".
The road back to recovery was never going to be easy and smooth, right? And of course it hasn't been. The week just gone is evidence of that. All of the old symptoms were back (and linger still) and I made it to work only one day out of five. It was a painful and unnecessary reminder that ME is still a big part of my life and that there is still a long way to go.
I was diagnosed with ME in March 2010 and, since then, it has dominated and blighted every aspect of my life; to such an extent that I have only very recently returned to work after having been made unemployed because of it. Recent signs of an improvement in my health, which I had previously believed to be impossible, have finally given me hope that I may yet be able to fully recover. I remain determined to beat this illness - it's just taking longer than I had anticipated - and will use this blog, as well as Twitter, to keep track of what happens next.