Keira Curtis: Recovery and Degree Success
Keira was one of the early members of MEDALS. Keira had been at the University at Norwich for just six months when she was first diagnosed with ME. She eventually had to come home from her course in the Easter of 1993. Keira won a Social Security Tribunal to gain Income Support in 1993, and during her studies, she has received Severe Disablement Allowance. She spent 2½ years away from University. She took some Italian evening classes to keep her brain going; read books and watched videos.
In 1995, she transferred from the University of East Anglia to the University of York, which has a degree in Biochemistry with a modular structure so, with the university's support, she was able to work at a reduced pace. As her health improved, she was able to increase the workload, and she finally graduated in the summer of 2000 with a First Class Honours Degree in Biochemistry. From October 2000, Keira will be studying full time at the University of Cambridge for a Ph.D. In Cambridge, she will receive a full grant as a postgraduate student. It has taken a long time, and she still suffers from bouts of tiredness, but she is mostly recovered and intends to hold down full-time studies. We wish her every success for the future.
A success story in M.E. management.
My name is Liz McDonagh. I was a home economics tutor in my 50's at Rotherham college. Life seemed to going fine until one day I became ill. I had a chest infection, and consequentially I was given antibiotics by my doctor. But things were not quite right. As first things seemed to settle down and I was improving but then I found I had a new set of strange symptoms, violent stomach pains, general aches and pains. Being a conscientious worker, and not being advised otherwise, I soldiered on, ending up collapsing at work.
I was confused. I had problems with my fingers manipulating things. Cooking tasks became a multistage problem. I had problems with walking and getting about. Within three months I was diagnosed with Post Viral Fatigue Syndrome. I eventually took early retirement from my job. I had fallen into the classic M.E. trap of stress and overload.
Fortunately the indigestion problem could be treated successfully with conventional antacids. My doctor prescribed 'Prozac', possibly thinking I had depression. I took two then stopped because they made me worse. At that point I looked for further medical advice. I came across a doctor in Manchester, who suggested fasting for four days. So being at the point of scraping the bottom of the treatment barrel I decided to try it. I had withdrawal symptoms at first, I wouldn't recommend it, but it did prove that food in some way was contributing to my illness. The paralysis and other problems disappeared like magic. So the way forward was an elimination diet to identify what was causing the problems. Porridge & cabbage were identified as culprits. On stopping these the indigestion went as well.
During my illness I joined Action for M.E., the M.E. Association, and Action against Allergy. I joined the local Don & Dearne M.E. group, eventually becoming chair-person. I researched the subject myself looking for answers myself. At that time there was much speculation about the cause on M.E. as there still is today. It was known that in M.E. the immune system is somehow damaged in the sense that is dysfunctional and does strange things. It had been known for many years that people with compromised immune systems from other diseases suffered from fungal overgrowth of a yeast called candida. I thought this could be one of the mechanisms propagating my illness. So I tried a strict 'anti candida' diet just as a experiment at first, but eventually for around 3-4 years. This meant avoiding products containing yeast or sugar e.g. bread which by experiment I know made me worse.
It worked! The confusion, 'brain fog' whose onset was last to arrive went away first. Things became much better and more recently I've taken up Scottish dancing and treated myself to a dog.