Saturday, May 2, 2015

Walk my way back to health

February 28, 2015 first signs: Falling behind ... 

“First, I want to reassure you that this is not in your head and this is not something you did to yourself … ” said the specialist, “… but it is serious, in some cases debilitating, and there is no known cure.”

In mid February I had the flu. The bulk of the symptoms subsided after four days off of training and a few days of working from home. I improved, so resumed training. That following weekend I ran Crown Mtn from the Grouse parking lot with Joel and Pascal. We kept a good pace but also enjoyed stops for photos, the weather was incredible and all was glorious. On the return I faded way behind, feeling weak, sore and nauseated. I thought: “that damned flu is back”. That night I was blasted by a fever that swept me on a bad trip for two days.

The following weekend, FOMO incited me to join Joel and Shannon on a run in Squamish. Immediately, I was dragging behind … chest pains … can’t breathe … so hot, dizzy … cramps everywhere. We cut the run short.

During the week I felt better, more alert despite headaches, brain fog, random sharp aches and a super sore throat. Athletes live with pain. I wondered, “am I a wimp or is this ‘bad’ pain”? I had Gorge Waterfalls 50k coming up and wasn’t going to lose fitness over a common flu bug.

The following weekend: same scenario. I went with Adam, Jackie and Dana. Halfway up Cypress Mtn my body started shaking. At that point I was furious, ready to murder something.


Last two weeks of running attempts: Crown, Squamish, Capilano, Brother's Creek 

Seven weeks of flu? This can’t be right. I was even on vacation, lounging with Netflix and sleeping a tonne - why was I not recovering??

I begrudgingly cancelled my trip to Oregon forcing a full stop to training. To make sure this was the right call, I tested my body on a fun-run with Aran and friends, which confirmed what I actually needed was to seek medical attention.

Doctor A visit #1: “It could be Lupus or Lymphoma, or Thyroid and we’ll for sure check for all the Cancer markers, and anemia …”

Doctor A visit #2: “Your Ferritin is low but that doesn’t explain the symptoms you’re experiencing. The ultrasound shows you have over ten masses in your throat, but they appear to be soft nodules, not a concern but we’ll send you to an Oncologist for biopsy, and continue with Lab tests”.


March 21, 2015: Aran & friends, my last run

The 2.5 weeks vacation ended, I returned to the office with the intention of negotiating reduced hours because my energy level was ridiculously low. In a weird twist of fate, incredibly poor timing or perhaps a blessing, I was laid-off that day due to a re-org. Escorted out with a severance package. Ouch.

Doctor B visit #3: “… we’ve eliminated Mono, Gout, Lyme, Cancer, and a bunch of other stuff. I’m sending you to an internal medicine specialist. It could be Acute Adrenal Fatigue or CFIDS/ Fibromyalgia … or MS …”

My symptoms:
  • Exhaustion, made worse by physical exercise
  • Low-grade fevers, recurrent flu-like illness
  • Constant pharyngitis (sore throat)
  • Severe muscle cramping and joint pain
  • Painful lymph nodes (especially on neck and under arms)
  • Unrefreshing sleep, night sweats
  • Headaches
  • Parasthesias (numbness, painful tingling feeling, itchiness)
  • Frequent dizziness and nausea
  • Impaired cognition (attention, memory, spatial disorientation)
  • Dyspnea (labored breathing) and chest pains
  • Heart palpitations
  • Multiple sensitivities to medicines, foods, and chemicals
  • Random allergies (including pets)
  • Intolerance of alcohol
  • Dry mouth (constant feeling of being dehydrated)
  • Mild mood swings

Doctor C and Doctor D visits #4-5: “You have Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, it was triggered by a virus however the cause is unclear. CFIDS tends to affect people who are generally healthy and highly active. Some never fully recover …”

My first reaction was “I don’t buy it”. Chronic Fatigue sounds like a mystical illness, and my misery is very real. No cure? No way. I will fight and win.

Turns out, there is plenty of info on this syndrome and useful resources. I was able to build a treatment plan, which is keeping me positive. I’m very lucky to be unaffected by some of the worse CFIDS symptoms which include depression, anxiety and psychosis. Since being diagnosed, I already feel as though the worse is behind me.


Saying goodbye to my kitties due to allergies, working from home,
short walks in my neighbourhood, and with friends in the forest.

The key is self-management, essentially building on the same principles as with a training program. I’m told to expect anywhere from six months to get back to baseline/normal, and up to two years before returning to a training regime, with careful monitoring of course. (See athlete with CFIDS blog).

I’m motivated to keep mobile and very grateful to friends, family, and random strangers who have shown me sincere kindness and provided much encouragement throughout this scary ordeal.


Memories of adventures with friends keeps me going. I will be back!