TABLE OF CONTENTS
Living With CFIDS
By Karen Svanoe Westgate
harp music is a way to help people unwind from the stresses of life. I have been doing just that for years.
I began my musical studies at an early age, but it took years for my parents to find a harp teacher and
a used harp, an instrument I had always wanted to play. By the time I was in junior high school, I was
making weekly two-hour treks to study the harp.
As there were no harp teachers at my college, I
graduated with a degree in sociology and became a social worker. But my love for the harp resurfaced.
I began playing again and took concentrated lessons. Eventually, I returned to college at the University
of Akron with plans to earn a music degree.
During this time in my life, I was raising a family,
teaching music at a private school, directing a church choir, playing organ and piano for another church
and had a private studio of harp and piano students. My two daughters began playing the harp when they
turned three years old, and the family was in demand for concerts at churches and civic organizations.
I was able to finish my college program, I fell ill with chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome
(CFIDS). Life came to a sudden standstill as I was unable to attend college, teach lessons, play at church,
clean my home or even do the laundry. I would find myself lying in bed for 20 hours a day, sometimes unable
to even walk down the stairs.
Along with the debilitating fatigue came arthritis-like symptoms,
and even on days when I was strong enough to play the harp, my mind would become muddled and sometimes
my fingers would just “not work right.” I realized my harp-playing days might be numbered and wanted to
capture my creativity on audiotape.
Several harpists with experience assured me that it would only
take one “long” weekend to finish a harp recording. After finding a recording studio that was sympathetic
to my condition, having my mother drive me back and forth to the studio and asking my family to make no
other demands on me, I was able to finish my first album after not one long weekend, but one long year!
wanted my first album to be sacred, as a way of thanking God for the many bless-ings in my life. The album
was titled, “In His Presence,” and I included my own arrangements of my favorite hymns, such as “Amazing
Grace,” “How Great Thou Art” and “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”
I loved the feeling of accomplishment
that recording gave me and began work on a second album, “Christmas with the Harp,” a soothing and relaxing
recording to help people with this illness unwind from the stress of the holidays with familiar yuletide
Rather than focusing on the things that I could no longer do, I chose to devote my few
useful hours during the day to practicing my harp and sharing my music with others. Determined to not
give in to my illness, I persevered for another year and finished another release, “Harp by Candlelight,”
which is soothing enough to put you to sleep. I dedicated this album to all those afflicted with CFIDS.
health has improved and I can function normally on a limited basis. I have to pace myself in everything
that I do, even down to how far I can walk from my car to a store, but I’m still able to play my harp,
for which I am very, very thankful.
I’ve just finished album number four, “Karen at the Lodge.”
No one knows what tomorrow will bring, but my secret is to be happy with what you do have and to trust
in the future.
Karen Svanoe Westgate is a PWC
from Ohio whose love of music
helps to sustain her through her illness.
To order a copy of any of Karen Svanoe Westgate’s CDs
send $10 per cassette or $15 per CD plus $2 shipping and handling for the first item and 50 cents for
each additional item to: Karen Westgate, PO Box 1949, Sandusky, OH 44871-1949. If you mention that
you are a member of The CFIDS Association, Karen will donate part of her proceeds to CFIDS research. You
can also visit her web site at www.Harpgate.com or e-mail her at