Posted 1/25/2014 3:25 PM (GMT -8)
I've had CFS for just over two years now. I'm around your age, and I also live in New Zealand.
I don't think anyone has the right to tell you to give up on your dreams and goals, or that CFS does not go away. Yes, there is no proven cure. However, there are cases of full recoveries.
The idea is to be aspirational, and work towards being one of these people that make a full recovery. This is a goal that I have made significant progress towards (though I started from a low base). Admittedly it is an uphill battle.
I talk to a lot of people with CFS, and I find that those who achieve the best results have four things in common:
1. young (something in your favor)
2. open to trying a range of treatments
3. take time out to recover fully
4. start with a less severe case of CFS
On 2. (treatment options), here are what I consider the most likely to get you back on your feet before your first semester of medicine:
Diet is so commonly cited by patients with CFS that it would be foolish not to give it a try (also, dietary changes are easy to implement as they require no prescription, and take around one month to know if they're working). Most CFS-diets have the following in common:
- No sugar (includes cutting down on fruit intake)
- No processed or refined food (e.g. margarines, pre-prepared sauces, potato chips, biscuits)
- No gluten
- No dairy
- Minimal refined carbs (e.g. pasta, white rice, flour)
Some people also find it helpful to reduce their fat intake.
Yes, the dietary approach is quite strict, and yes the mechanisms by which diet helps CFS are unclear, but so many people attest to diet aiding their recovery (myself included) that it's worth a shot.
IV vitamin C
This is a controversial one, and something that your future doctor colleagues certainly won't endorse! However, there are a lot of positive testimonials for IV vitamin C. It is said to be an anti-viral, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent. It is also said to stimulate the immune system and mitochondria (both things that seem to be implicated in CFS).
I think the basic concept behind IV vitamin C treatment is that it kills a lot of 'stuff' that may be perpetuating your CFS. You don't need to make any assumptions what may be keeping you ill, as it kills such a broad range of viruses, bacteria, etc.
Most people with CFS find it difficult to sleep. In my experience, the best treatment for this, is a tricyclic anti-depressant.
In small doses (well below the dose required for depression) these medications promote sleep. The most common is Amitriptoline. However, I prefer to use Dothiepan, as Amitriptoline seems to give me postural hypotention.
It's likely you'll need to find a doctor that takes a special interest in CFS. I'm happy to recommend some in NZ if it's helpful.
I've heard great things about LDN, so I'd be interested to hear how you got on.
If you're not feeling well enough to start your medicine degree, then I see two options:
1. Ask if you can delay your start until next year. If you're honest about your situation and how much the degree means to you, I'd be amazed if they weren't sympathetic. This would be a great option as it would give you a full year to focus on recovery. It's best to ask sooner rather than later, as you'll know exactly where you stand.
2. Slog out the first year or two, then drop out of the programme for a couple of years to recover. I know somebody who did this for Optometry at the University of Auckland. The idea is that once you're in the programme, and completed a year of two, the university is reluctant to let you go. Therefore they are quite accommodating if you want to take time off
I wouldn't worry too much about the debt - as you'll know, this is interest free in New Zealand and you only have to make repayments when you earn over a certain threshold.
I can certainly sympathize with your situation. I also had to make a difficult choice about a career due to my CFS. Like you, I underwent years of hard work to earn an A to A+ GPA and get into the career of my choice.
I hope this response has been helpful. I have a list of a 100 more things you could try, so feel free to get in touch if you're interested!