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Chronic fatigue syndrome defies healthy logic
Craig Moore, 51, first noticed something was wrong with him back in 1990.
He was constantly exhausted and in pain. His memory repeatedly failed him.
“It was horrible. I couldn’t find words,” he said. “I started having muscle cramps. Severe muscle cramps. The kind that would make you roll on the ground.”
He also began to experience problems with math skills, which were required for his job as a crew chief in the Air Force.
“There’s all kinds of calculations you have to do on the aircraft... I was having extreme difficulty just keeping my equations straight,” he said.
Moore said he felt as though he were running on one battery, while everyone else was running on 12.
Moore was suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, although he wouldn’t be diagnosed for another eight years. First, he would go through countless visits to doctors, psychiatrists and other specialists who doubted that anything was wrong with him at all.
Military doctors, the first that Moore went to see, told him his problems were all in his head. They sent him to see a psychiatrist.
Meanwhile, Moore’s symptoms got worse.
“It was exceedingly hard for me to even do my duties. It was a nightmare,” he said. “Just getting up was difficult. Getting up in the morning, getting dressed and going to work took everything.”
Moore left active duty in 1992 and joined the Air Force Reserves. He also worked as an electrician. He was treated for a variety of health problems, but nothing seemed to cure him.
His wife left in 1994.
“She’d had enough,” he said. “At this time it was so bad I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t function.”
Moore moved to be with family in Florida. His mystery illness continued to get worse.
“I was falling asleep at inappropriate times. I would fall asleep sitting in the chair. I was scared to death to drive,” he said. “I couldn’t read a paragraph and remember what I read. I couldn’t talk to somebody on the phone and remember who I was talking to.”
Moore considered checking himself into a mental hospital.
“I couldn’t take care of myself,” he said. “I was forgetting to take my medicine.”
After suffering for more than five years, Moore began researching his symptoms on the Internet. He found a doctor in the Puget Sound area and travelled across the country in pursuit of an answer to his ailment. Finally, in 1998, Moore was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome affects more than 4 million people in the United States, according to the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America (CFIDS). It is most prevalent among people ages 40 to 59 and is characterized by medically or psychiatrically unexplained fatigue that persists for more than six months.
People who suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome experience post-exertional malaise, non-refreshing sleep, impairment of memory and concentration, muscle and joint pain, headaches, sore throat and tender neck or armpit lymph nodes. The syndrome can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis and other chronic conditions.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is difficult to diagnose and is diagnosed by a process of eliminating other possible causes of the symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that less than 20 percent of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers have been diagnosed.
There is no known cure for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Treatments aim to relieve symptoms and improve quality of life.
Finally discovering what his ailment was and connecting with the folks at CFIDS provided Moore with a huge sense of relief, he said. He gained the tools he needed to deal with his illness and manage his life. He found others like him.
“I think they gave me ‘You’re not alone. You’re not the only one. It’s not all in your head,’” he said. “I’ve been able to rebuild my life and actually find some peace.”
Moore manages his illness by planning his day so he doesn’t overexert himself. Chores such as dishes, laundry, showering and vacuuming use up valuable energy.
“All these things we take for granted as individuals are actually chores for somebody with chronic fatigue,” he said.
Upon awakening in the morning, Moore evaluates his energy for the day and plans accordingly. Sometimes, all he accomplishes in one day is his personal hygiene routine. Other days are better, and he finds the energy to leave the house. It is impossible to plan for days ahead because Moore never knows how he will feel.
Moore said he hopes that people who may have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome will hear his story and be inspired to seek help. He hopes they will take comfort in knowing that others share their experience.
“It’s important that anybody out there suffering from this know that they’re not alone,” Moore said. “If I hadn’t found those people, I would still be lost.”
For more information about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, visit www.cfids.org.