My Life whilst battling M.E is soon to be published by the M.E Association and i have never felt able to publicly admit this until now. I hope my story inspires the thousands of people battling this little known condition the world over. Please feel free to donate to the marvellous work that the M.E association continue to do despite a severe lack of funding. We are the forgotton .........
My name is Melanie Andrews and I was 21 years of age when I last remember being of normal health. That was in October 1985..........
I was 3 days into my honeymoon in Belgium, when I suddenly collapsed, fainting on the beautiful Ostende beach.
My new, handsome, charming husband was not great at dealing with drama or indeed sick people, so this was not a great start to our wonderful married life together.
However, he managed to carry me back to our hotel, and I was flown home immediately with a suspected brain tumour.
After 2 long weeks of tests and GP visits to my new home- "The Bedroom", I was given a diagnosis of Coxsackie.
My symptoms at onset were extreme dizziness, extreme fatigue, nausea, Palpitations, depression, sensitivity to light and sound, balance issues on standing, muscle aches all over,deep in the body.
Nobody knew what on earth was wrong with me, I was the healthiest of 4 children, never a day sick, and never had any illness as bad as my siblings, a picture of health. I had a great diet, i was very fit and very happy. And now I was confined to a bed, unable to move a limb or even have the energy to talk, talking was exhausting.
I searched endlessly and tirelessly for specialists or even individuals that had heard of this weird "Coxsackie" and at the time, nobody knew anything about it.
Mobile phones were not about like they are today so it was a lot more isolating and frightening.
A friend found a book by Claire Francis, she sailed round the world single handedly twice. I don't even remember the name of the book, but Claire suffered from this mysterious illness by the name of Chronic Fatigue syndrome or M.E. Coxsackie was mentioned in the book, a revelation!
For me, it was a major relief, to find out that somebody famous and hugely fit and successful, also had this very same illness that I had. How could it be so rare? How does nobody know anything about it? Why does the medical profession know nothing about it or are able to help me ? Why are all the tests that are being carried out on me, showing nothing? When will I ever get Well again? All these millions of questions I had but had nobody to ask them to.
I was offered every pill under the sun, for all the hundreds of symptoms I was displaying, almost on a daily basis.
I refused every single one, the betablockers, the antisickness pills, the sleeping pills, the antidepressants, the ulcer pills, the valium, the pain relief,the antivirals ,the lot !!
I still believe to this day, that I would not be where I am if I had gone down the pill route.
The GPs and Specialists were at a loss to treat me as the generic tests did not show anything wrong, so all they could do was to treat the symptoms and there were hundreds!!
After 2 very long, dark years bedridden and housebound, an advert appeared in the local paper, 2 local boys were looking for a little known charity to do a fundraising for.
I answered the advert and told the boys my story and they were heartbroken at my age, my state of health and the fact nobody knew anything about this condition. They cycled over 3,000 Miles across America in 1987 in aid of M.E and the proceeds went to the M.E Association.
This was my first window of clarity, finding the M.E Association back then.
I was still very ill for about 6 more years but it was around this time I managed to walk about the house more, walk up and down my street more, walk into the back garden more and most importantly Bake more - Baking was my whole life.
All this set me back for weeks but it was worth it to get out.
I kept a diary in the early years and recorded every step forward and every step back.
I used private clinics to get extensive health checks yearly and compared the changes from one year to the next.
It was in 1992 when my first breakthrough came, when I decided to open my first Tearoom, much to my husbands protestations- "Your not well enough, your ill, how will you do this ?"
I thought I could just bake for the shop and have somebody run it for me if I was too ill.
It turned out to be my salvation. I was forced to go into the shop ,even when I was too ill, or fatigued or not capable.
The shop had opening hours that I had to stick too, ill or not. It had staff that frequently didn't turn up and I had to fill in. It had customers relying on me.
It forced me to do what I genuinely believe I would never have done without it.
It was 1993 when I had my 2nd breakthrough, I fell pregnant with my first child.
I felt so much better all of a sudden, hair was brighter, skin brighter, more energy. Was it the hormones!! ?
From 1994 onwards I was about 60% recovered and to this day I manage the ongoing daily symptoms of fatigue and ill health.
I went on to have 2 beautiful children, 3 Tearooms, 2 successful companies and gained an MBE in 2017 for my services to the Hospitality Industry in Scotland.
M.E is now part of me in 2022 and doesn't define or rule me. I would never have believed I could have said that 37 years ago.