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- What is chronic fatigue syndrome?
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Diet
- Exercise and rest
- You CAN get well

 

 

 

 

Searching For An Answer

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My faith in the medical profession quickly evaporated as several doctors told me there was nothing wrong with me. My blood tests were all "normal". Furthermore, I didn't look sick. I was lean and suntanned, and, as one friend put it, I looked "as fit as a buck rabbit".

The general consensus among the doctors I visited was that my problems were all in my mind. One prescribed tranquilisers. I took them for two days, but felt so drowsy and miserable I threw them in the rubbish bin.

Somehow, I managed to hang on to my faith in God. I prayed for an answer, and the first glimmer of hope came about three months after I returned to New Zealand when a friend suggested my problems could be caused by food allergies. I knew several people with so-called food allergies. They were all pasty-faced and anaemic-looking, and I didn't feel I fitted that description. But I was desperate to get well.

A few weeks later I was sitting in the consulting room of a food allergy specialist in Wellington. His nurse gave me a series of skin tests to find the foods I was allergic to. She came up with about 30, including wheat, dairy products, eggs, citrus fruit, potatoes, apples and corn. Essentially, they were all the foods I ate most of.

So I had to totally change my diet. Initially, it was a source of much amusement among my flatmates, who turned up their noses at the transparent-looking tapioca I was eating for breakfast, and the bread made from whiter-than-white gluten-free flour. It all tasted pretty insipid.

But I was determined I was going to get well and followed the allergy specialist's instructions to the letter. I was encouraged initially by the disappearance of my acne within a few days on the new diet. That was nothing short of miraculous, I thought. I stopped taking tetracycline.

But my head still ached constantly, despite the diet, and after meals I often got a more severe headache accompanied by a general feeling of dullness and lethargy. Each time I got such a reaction from a meal, I assumed it must be something I had inadvertently eaten, to which I was allergic.

I telephoned the allergy specialist several times, seeking advice. He told me that food allergies could change. For example, if I overate of any particular food it could create a new allergy to that food. The answer was to 'rotate' foods, never eating too much of anyone thing. It made life enormously complicated. But still I stuck with it.

During this time, I was studying Business Administration at Canterbury University but
found it increasingly difficult to concentrate on my work. I eventually quit the course at
the start of the final term and worked as a part-time gardener for a few months, then as a
part-time window cleaner. The outdoor work was easier on my aching head, but my
energy was so low that I could not work a full day. Often, I collapsed into bed exhausted
and aching all over.

In mid-1979 I heard of a doctor in Auckland who treated food allergies by injecting tiny
amounts of the offending foods into the patient - rather like immunisation. I went to see
him and spent several weeks having injections in both arms as he tried to come up with a
"formula" which would cure my allergies. I spent a large amount of money on this
treatment. It was money I did not have. But I was convinced I would get well, then get a
job and repay the debt.

Finally, after three months, during which I got worse rather than better, I abandoned the
treatment. I then turned to an osteopath for answers. He was confident that by
manipulating the "kinks" in my spine he could release the "blockage" causing my
problems. But after spending yet more money, the end result was the same. The treatment
made me worse, not better.

However, there remained within me a burning desire to get well. The more knock-backs I
experienced, the more determined I became. The source of my indomitable spirit was
largely my faith in God which never wavered, even in the darkest moments, and I clung
to Bible verses I had memorised which promised answers to prayer, even if they might be
a while coming. I believed without a shadow of doubt that eventually I would get well.
By this time, I had started reading extensively about nutrition. I became convinced that
"nature cure" was the answer. I heard of a health centre in Australia where people had
been cured of all sorts of illnesses through fasting, drinking fruit juices and eating raw
foods, and I decided I would go there myself. A friend, whose generosity still
overwhelms me when I recall it, gave me the money to travel to Australia.

But my trip to the health centre turned into yet another disappointment. After five days of
fruit juices and little else, I had lost a huge amount of weight and felt weaker than ever.
The naturopaths at the centre assured me my body was "eliminating toxins". But I was
not convinced. My instinct told me the treatment was wrong - at least for me. I left the
centre with my money spent and my spirit at a very low ebb.

I decided to stay in Sydney. There was more chance of finding the answers there, with so
many nutritionists and other health professionals, I thought, and I found a doctor
sympathetic to "food allergies" who gave me the necessary letter to claim sickness
benefit.

It was the first time I had been on a benefit. I found it humiliating but at least it allowed
me to survive financially.

I devoted my days in Sydney to studying nutrition. With my limited money, I could not
afford to buy many books, so I searched libraries for information about diet, and also
browsed in bookshops. Being a fast reader, I could often absorb an entire book within 30
minutes, standing in the shop.

I still believed my problem was food allergies. The general consensus among the authors
I read was that food allergies were caused by "stress" and the need for extra vitamins and
minerals was also a common theme. So I started experimenting with various
supplements. I also visited a doctor who recommended megavitamin therapy - taking
huge doses of certain vitamins in an attempt to stimulate the body to get well.
But megavitamin therapy turned out to be just as disappointing as everything else I had
tried. The vitamins gave me terrible headaches, particularly Vitamin A in large doses.

The doctor was mystified. And I knew then that megavitamin therapy was not for me.
One Sunday after church, a saintly-looking older woman approached me and said: "I hear
you have food allergies. You can cure them, you know". She offered to draw up a diet for
me to follow and I readily agreed. A few days later I was sitting in her living room,
listening to stories of how she had helped people get well during her years as a nurse both
in Australia and on the overseas mission field.

The diet initially involved two days drinking nothing but carrot juice - freshly-made in a
juicer which I bought specially. I rested for those two days and felt remarkably well. My
head cleared and I felt light and energetic, and naturally I was excited. I felt I had finally
found the answer to my problems.

The next stage of the diet was raw vegetables and fruit, chosen to avoid anything I was
"allergic" to, like citrus fruit, and chopped into salads. I ate three such meals a day and
continued with carrot juice between meals. I noticed some of the fruit meals gave me
headaches and I felt weak after them, but the vegetables agreed with me.

The only problem was, I started to lose weight at an alarming rate. My adviser added
some chicken to my diet, to counter the weight loss, but she was adamantly opposed to
starchy food, saying my body needed time to eliminate toxins. I persevered. Despite my
loss of weight, I was still convinced I was on the right track. I rested more as my energy
declined due to the sparse diet.

One afternoon I was lying on the sofa and was overcome by a feeling of weakness. My
weight by this time had dropped to 8 stone 10 pounds, which for my height of 6ft 2ins
was verging on emaciation. I was suddenly frightened.

I telephoned my parents in New Zealand and said I was coming home and when my
mother saw me a few days later there was no disguising the look of dismay on her face.
She immediately made me a drink of warm milk with chocolate. I was too weak to
protest, despite the fact I still believed I was allergic to milk and had not drunk it for three
years.

The milk tasted great. And I felt better for drinking it. I fell into bed and slept like a baby.
When I woke up, I had a wonderful feeling of God's love surrounding me and an absolute
conviction that I was going to get well. I had drunk milk and not suffered any ill effects.

Had I been miraculously cured of my allergies? For breakfast, I had fried eggs on wellbuttered
toast for the first time in three years, and again I felt great I really was cured, I
told myself.

I was on something of a high, emotionally and spiritually. I believed God had healed me
and although I was still very thin and weak, it would only be a matter of time - and rest
before I was completely well, I thought.

For two weeks, I was on cloud nine. Then, I decided to speed up my weight gain by
drinking a product which you add to milk, full of vitamins and minerals, and
recommended by the local chemist. I started consuming this drink in great quantities.
And I started feeling sick again. However, I did not immediately connect my relapse to
the milky drinks I was having. All I knew was that somehow I had lost the wonderful
recovery I had. I fell into a deep despair - the worst period of discouragement of my
entire life.

I felt deserted by God. But there was still a remnant of hope within me and I clung to it
for several weeks as I spent most of my time in my bedroom, too depressed to venture
outside or see people. One of the few outings I made was to church and there I heard
about a Christian radio station, Radio Rhema, which needed a journalist. I knew I had
writing ability and applied for the job, offering to work only part-time because
of my health problems.

Starting work at Radio Rhema took enormous courage. Because of my depression, it
seemed I was thrusting myself into a hostile environment and I was barely able to look
anyone in the eye - so badly had my confidence evaporated. I clung to the remnants of
my faith in God, drawing strength from the Christian music of the radio station.
Gradually, I came out of my depression. And slowly, my energy increased and my
headaches became less severe.

I decided to forget about food allergies. I knew I could eat bread, milk, eggs and
everything else because of my experience after arriving home from Sydney. I wanted to
recapture that experience. I decided to eat a sensible, balanced diet with three meals a day
and avoid junk food. That seemed a reasonable dietary path to follow. And it paid
dividends. During the 18 months I spent at Radio Rhema I recovered my health almost
entirely, gained back the weight I had lost and even started running again.
I met my wife, Angie, in October 1981 and we were married in May 1982. Life was
wonderful. But I did not know then that several more years of poor health lay ahead of
me.


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