So I never came back as I promised to, did I? Until now.
Where have I been? At the end of 2007, right after Christmas, I very suddenly became bedridden. It happened almost literally overnight. And I thought I would bounce back some, as I always had up to that point, but I didn’t. So two weeks into 2008, I resigned from my job, which I had been doing from home since mid-2006.
What caused it? I stopped being able to sleep in October 2007. One night I went to bed and I just couldn’t fall asleep. Same thing the next night, and then the third night I slept for two hours. Then two days without sleep and then another two hours. We started trying over the counter stuff, which didn’t work, and then prescription stuff. After a few months of almost no sleep, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t stand, couldn’t sit up. Bedridden.
In the process of trying to find something to get me to sleep, a doctor who failed to warn me what I was getting into had me on 2 mg of Klonopin, which quickly turned on me. I started a six-month hell of withdrawal in March of 2008. In May, we moved me from California to my mom’s house in Indiana, via air ambulance. And I went downhill all the way through 2008. In the fall of that year my sleep drugs failed and I again went months without sleeping. Already totally bedridden, I believe I came pretty close to dying. I couldn’t lift a glass, couldn’t move my legs, my heart was going crazy, and the lack of sleep and another poorly-tolerated drug threw me into a sheer hell of paranoia and delusion. At the beginning of 2009, because of a fortunate leftover forgotten prescription for a soporific muscle relaxant from that same stupid doctor who’d prescribed the Klonopin back in California, I survived a couple months by finally getting a little sleep. Then in spring of 2009, with the combination of an off-label prescription for an anti-psychotic and a new beta blocker (both of which I’m still on), I started to get some full nights of sleep for the first time in a year and a half.
Soon after that, we heard from Dr. Cheney, a prominent ME/CFS doctor whose waiting list I’d been on for a year and a half. He could see me in June. So in June 2009, we took me – lying down in the back of my mom’s SUV – from Indiana to his clinic in Asheville, North Carolina. I spent two full days with him. He told me that of all the patients he’d seen in his twenty-five years of treating ME/CFS, I was among the half-dozen most severely affected.
When we left North Carolina, we took me to Pennsylvania, where Chimp had bought us our first house, near the college at which he’s now teaching. Once we got there, it took me a couple months to recover from the trip. While that was going on, it took about 90 days to add each medicine and supplement Dr. Cheney had prescribed, carefully, one by one, to avoid confounding any negative reactions.
Slowly, after about another three months, I started noticing tiny, tiny improvements. After six months, a little bit more. I could pet a cat a little. I could type a sentence or two. I could participate in a conversation for a few minutes. By Christmas Day 2009, I was able to walk the twenty feet from my dayroom to lie down in the living room to visit with my in-laws, who’d come up from Maryland. By March of 2010, I was able to walk to the bathroom again – something I hadn’t been able to do since 2007.
At this point – a bit more than halfway through 2010 – I’m still technically bedridden. But there are gradations of bedriddenness, believe me. In 2008, I literally could not get out of bed and walk across the room. Right now, I wake up in the morning in my bed, walk the 20 feet to the couch in my dayroom, and lie back down there, where I spend my days. Most days, if I want to, I’m able to get a snack out of the pantry five feet away. I can walk to the bathroom a couple times a day. If I’m having a particularly good day, I’m able to get up and walk 10 feet or so to the kitchen table and sit there for a few minutes, talking with Chimp. I’d say I’m about 98% bedridden.
So all of that’s why I’ve never been back. And because I remain bedridden, I don’t have any plans to start blogging again. I miss the food business. I miss cooking even more. I miss the grocery store and my friends at the farmer’s market. I miss blogging somewhat less than all of those things, I’ll admit, but I did enjoy it.
The other thing that’s happened since I disappeared is the paper in the journal Science about the retrovirus XMRV. That’s what Dr. Cheney thinks my illness will eventually proved to be caused by. (I’ll be tested sometime this year, when the “green fluorescent protein” assay is introduced.) The XMRV discovery is huge, and it’s done so much for my sense of hopefulness – even though it possibly means I have an incurable retrovirus! Someday – hopefully soon – there’ll at least be some treatment for my illness, and those of us who are suffering will be believed – and vindicated.