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19 MIN READ TIME

“I REFUSED TO LET ILLNESS STOP ME”

Words Louise Chapman

“Looking back, I realised that my illness started after having meningitis and flu jabs in my first year of university. I had three weeks of flu-like symptoms and never fully recovered.

I was a long-distance triathlete – training for up to 18 hours a week and I was a potential for the 2004 Olympic squad, but I kept being hit by periods of total exhaustion. By my second year, I was struggling to concentrate on even a simple conversation. My GP diagnosed post viral chronic fatigue – a condition that causes long-term disabling tiredness. No one fully understands what causes it, or how to treat it. My doctor said there was no medication – all he could do was sign me off university and send me home to rest. That’s all I wanted to do: it was a relief to have ‘permission’. I expected to recover fully after a period of rest. It’s only recently I’ve finally accepted it’s a long-term chronic illness I have to manage, rather than something I’ll beat.

For six months I just rested. Every time I tried to do something – even read used to take me five minutes but part a book – it exhausted me. My muscles ached. I was so tired it hurt to move. That September, I dragged myself back to university. In hindsight it was too soon. After lectures I’d just sleep.

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August 2016
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