Laura Hillenbrand’s seminal CFS essay, published in the July 7, 2003, issue of The New Yorker, gave voice to the experiences of millions of people who were living their own version of “A Sudden Illness.”
Stricken by the sudden collapse of her health while at college in 1987, Hillenbrand has spent the last 25 years defining herself not simply as a person with CFS, but as a best-selling author who, through her powerful writing, thrusts herself fully into the physical exploits of fantastic – and fast – creatures in a wry triumph over her own bodily limitations.
“I climb into these stories because I don’t want to be here,” she said in Elle magazine in December 2010, just after the release of her latest literary success, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. “I don’t want to be in this body and I don’t want to be in this place …”
What Hillenbrand does want, like every other CFS patient, is a treatment, if not a cure.
And it’s that desire, coupled with the success of her books, that compelled her to make a $250,000 gift to The Catalyst Fund, the research initiative’s largest to date. “I'm thrilled to be able to make a major commitment to the CFIDS Association of America. This is a pivotal and enormously promising time for ME/CFS patients, and I'm tremendously excited about the organization's innovative, inspired, dynamic, research-focused approach,” Hillenbrand says. “Guided by a scientific advisory board comprised of the leading luminaries in the field, they're funding cutting-edge research that holds the promise of unraveling the ME/CFS mystery and unearthing treatment and a cure. And through their SolveCFS tissue and blood BioBank, as well as their comprehensive research literature database, they're greatly facilitating and accelerating the study of the disease and bringing the research community together in a coordinated effort to solve it. I believe in the work they're doing, and I believe in the people who are making it happen.”
This woman, whose powerful prose carried Louis Zamperini, the subject of Unbroken, out of his California home and straight back to a hellish Japanese POW camp as he read it, finds herself unable to articulate her suffering and loss caused by CFS. “But I've never been more hopeful than I am now. I believe a breakthrough is imminent, and the CFIDS Association is helping lead the way to it. I want to do everything in my power to help, so I'm delighted to be making this commitment now,” says Hillenbrand. “I hope others will join me in supporting the CFIDS Association, so everyone who suffers from this disease can finally be set free.”
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