Ironically my life was super busy and active during the weeks and months before the onset of what lead to my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome diagnosis. There seems to be the general belief that we are tired or lazy or that we have some sort of unhealthy aversion or fear of exercise, but nothing could be further from the truth!
As we move towards ME Awareness Month (May), I wanted to share some of my health and fitness memories from the week before I fell ill. I hope that this will help to dispell the idea that we are lazy and afraid of exercise and help people understand that the opposite is actually true. Now I know that healthy eating and exercise simply doesn't cure everything.
My Health And Fitness At The Start Of 2015
At the beginning of February that year I had started eating clean and doing regular exercise, so I had already lost some weight and was fitter than I had been in years. I had been getting sharp stabbing pains throughout my body for a few months, but doctors were unable to figure out why.
I assumed it was my body telling me it was time to take my health and weight control seriously, so I adopted a clean diet full of fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and good sources or animal protein. I also went dairy and gluten free since I knew I was intolerant - I'd just chosen to ignore it for years.
Looing back, I cringe at this super high carb diet, but hindsight is 20/20, right? At the time I thought such food was good for me, it was natural and full of "healthy" ingredients - it must be good for me! But I now know that my own body doesn't thrive on carbs, even the healthy fruit and vegetables are too much, so I now follow the ketogenic way of eating. Lots of fruit and vegetables seem to be good for some people, but not for others - who knew?
But back then my meals were colourful and delicious and I was absolutely loving this new healthy lifestyle and started setting some exciting fitness goals. I had taken up my much loved Taebo again and had worked my way back to the advanced level - an hour of high intensity kickboxing inspired workouts which I love!
I had also taken up a dance fitness class with dance school in central London. I had always wanted to learn how to dance and their fun street dance fitness classes were amazing - my body was taking shape like it had never done before and I only did one hour a week!
In 2015 I was also finally able to take part in the 14 mile charity walk in aid of The Royal Marsden in London. A colleague and friend of mine had lost her dad a few years earlier during my first year at work and I had always wanted to join her in raising funds and awareness for this great cause in His memory. This was the year!
I could never have imagined that only a week later I would be off to bed with a viral infection and still be severely ill years later...
The Marsden March: A 14 Mile Charity Walk
It was the 22 March 2015 and I was super excited for my first ever charity walk. On the morning of the walk I prepared a big energy-packed breakfast. I had oats cooked in almond milk and topped it with banana, almonds, coconut and honey. I also had 2 boiled eggs on the side.
It's a fun day out with friends, so I dressed up in the funkiest, brightest outfit I could put together! I wore black leggings, an orange tutu, yellow leg warmers, my Marsden March t-shirt with a purple long-sleeve top underneath and some pink fingerless gloves. It was still early spring and quite cool outside, so the extra layers were welcome.
We checked in at the starting point, picked up our snacks, water and some balloons and got in line. One of the ladies in our party had brought us all some pink bunny ears to wear too. As we waited in line in the shade of the tall buildings around us, we were jumping up and down to keep warm, so the DJ on site nicknamed us the Bouncing Pink Bunnies!
They let us set off in batches as there are so many participants that the streets would get too crowded if we all went at the same time - they don't close off the streets, we use the sidewalks or hard shoulder and traffic continues as usual en route. When it was finally our turn to start the walk, our group was right up front - we even got to cut the ribbon!
It was so much fun getting to spend a day out with friends, sunshine, cool breeze, loads of happy people along the way, good conversation, encouragement from people passing us by in their cars, lots of laughs and all for a great cause. We stopped at a pub or two along the way for toilet breaks and sat down in a park for a few minutes to have lunch. If I am ever able to be active again, I will definitely do another one of these charity walks. The atmosphere is fantastic! Maybe one day there will be a charity walk for ME Research too - that would be amazing!
Another colleague and her family had come out to meet us at the finishing line, that was a lovely surprise! There were also medals, goodie bags, and a music concert at the end before we made our way to the nearest bus stop for the journey home.
I think you can tell from my face how much I loved participating in this charity walk and I had already registered to walk the Race For Life that summer too. I even had set a goal to run my first half marathon that year and was going to start training after this event. Had my eye on Tough Mudder too!
But I fell ill just days into my Easter holiday a week later. While out cycling in the Italian countryside I lost my voice, got a very sore throat and horrible earache, and here I am years later spending most of my time in bed, unable to even shower daily.
A colleague took my place in the Race For Life that summer, I never did start training for the marathon either, my trainers, with a pair of clean socks stuffed inside them, lay by my bed for weeks, waiting for the day I'd be well enough to go jogging... as for all my other fitness goals, they will just have to wait too.
Some of my favourite activities which I can no longer do due to Severe ME are:
- nature walks/exploring
- going to church
- grocery shopping
- visiting craft fairs/markets
- foodie festivals
- holidays abroad
- long drives with the family
- going to the beach/swimming
Despite not being able to do all those things anymore, I still manage to find joy in every day and keep as busy as my body will allow. I cannot wait for the day I can do any of those activities again though.
I'm sure you can tell I have no aversion or fear of exercise, I simply have a body that ceases to function and causes me much pain if I attempt anything more than a slow walk to the bathroom and back a few times a day.
There is exciting scientific research happening though, so I am very hopeful about the future!
If you'd like to know more about the research or help speed things up by donating any amount, no matter how small, please visit the Open Medicine Foundation. Every penny counts!
We might not have a charity walk for ME yet, but there are many amazing events happening globally every year. If you're interested in becoming an advocacy ally, organising or joining an event is easy to do with all the tools available - please visit the ME Action Network to stay up to date on awareness events and petitions and click here to see a list I've put together of events by various charities and patient groups. We can use all the healthy allies we can get!
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