The Power of Positive Support
By Meghan Brawley, Association
Lesa Ingraham played
golf whenever she could,
walked four miles four to five times each week, danced with her husband at the local
country and western establishment and lived her life to its fullest potential.
That was a glimpse of Lesa’s life four and a half years ago.
On June 4, 1999, Lesa came home from her full-time job as a
high school guidance specialist not feeling well. One week later she was
diagnosed with mononucleosis and pneumonia. Her summer vacation was spent
recuperating. However, upon returning to work in August, Lesa realized something
was horribly wrong. She could no longer perform even routine tasks. “I was
flooded with overwhelming fatigue, weakness and a feeling that I was
disintegrating from the inside out,” Lesa remembers.
“Prior to this illness, I was an outstanding employee who
rarely took time off due to illness and could always be counted on to stay late,
come in early and take on the project no one else wanted to tackle,” Lesa
recalls. Lesa’s co-workers eventually prompted her to speak with the school
principal, who arranged for her to take a medical leave. Lesa hasn’t worked
Now, forty-six-year-old Lesa describes herself as unreliable,
confused, weary, quiet and distant. A far cry from the active, fit, enthusiastic
and capable woman she once was. Despite Lesa’s limitations, she still yearns to
be the person who will go the extra mile and works each day to stay positive in
her fight against CFIDS.
Fortunately, Lesa is one of the lucky
PWCs who has a support
system firmly in place. Lesa’s husband, Larry, is a huge comfort because he is
such a great communicator. “We talk a lot about feelings and that whole thing,”
said Lesa. When Lesa doesn’t feel well enough to join him, Larry is still able
to do things independently, and he is great at recounting events and making her
feel okay even though she can’t be there with him. Their mutual sense of humor
is also essential to their relationship. Lesa and Larry do a lot of laughing
Lesa’s parents and two sisters have also provided the
communicative and emotional support she needs to see the light at the end of the
tunnel. “My mom and dad have always been there for me. That sounds very cliché,
but it’s the truth. I cannot think of a time they’ve let me down,” she said. But
the illness still takes an emotional toll: “I know my parents say that I’m great
to have around because I act like I’m more their age now. I love hanging out
with them, but I’m not 70,” Lesa laments.
Lesa has also always been close to her
sisters and considers them best friends. “My older sister, Di Ann, prays for me
often and that warms my soul,” said Lesa. Her younger sister, Kellye, is a child
life specialist at the Children’s
. “She is excellent in helping me
understand how a chronic illness affects not only me, but my family members as
well. Even when she was little, she had amazing insight and a way of saying just
the right thing to make me feel better. This has not changed.”
Lesa may feel lousy, but she loves her life. She hopes that
those people struggling to be taken seriously or get diagnosed will keep pushing
until they can find a physician who knows about CFIDS and who believes in them.
“You get so many negatives coming at you that you really have to fight to stay
positive,” Lesa insists.
The importance of Lesa’s faith in God and the growth in her
faith since the beginning of her fight with CFIDS has been an important
blessing. Despite the days when she feels down, Lesa has never been depressed.
“I try to look at all the good things and my faith. I know that God has a
plan for my life and I trust Him completely. And if this is what He wants me to
do, I’m going to do it and do my best at it,” Lesa explained. Lesa may have
found a way to live with CFIDS in a manner that is personally satisfying to her,
but she hasn’t resigned herself to it. She just stays optimistic with the
continuous encouragement of her family.
“It is possible that tomorrow may be the beginning of my true
and complete recovery. In six months, I may be back to my old active self and
working hard to keep myself in shape,” Lesa hopes. A complete physical and
symptomatic recovery from CFIDS may or may not be in Lesa’s future, but judging
from her positive attitude and generous support network, she has found her own
way to adapt to the illness.