An Olympic Athlete With CFIDS
Originally published in
Youth Allied By CFIDS, Fall 1996
They call her the best women's soccer
player in the world. With exploding speed, a penetrating shot and discerning
maneuvers, Michelle Akers has helped make women's soccer a nationally recognized
sport. Named the All-American for Shorecrest High School three times, the
All-American for University of Central Florida four times and the All-Time
Scorer for the U.S. National Team prepared Michelle for her crowning glory when
she became the proud recipient of a gold medal this past August in the 1996
Olympic Games. With all of the impressive titles this world-renowned athlete has
obtained, it would only seem right that she be a picture of health.
Unfortunately this is not so.
Late in 1993, during a soccer match at the
Olympic Sports Festival in San Antonio, Michelle, delirious and greatly
fatigued, collapsed on the field. Doctors soon diagnosed her with chronic
fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS).
Michelle has now struggled with CFIDS for
three and a half years and has found it to be a difficult and challenging
journey. One of the hardest things for her to deal with has been the possibility
of losing her identity as "the soccer player" or "the best player in the world."
CFIDS took all of her strength, and she realized that she could no longer be all
that she had once been. Her condition forced this Olympic athlete to come to
terms with who she really is. "How did I realize this?" she asks. "Through my
faith. I finally understand and believe that God was/is the one in control. I am
special despite my illness or limited physical or mental abilities."
When asked for her advice to teen athletes
who feel they have lost their identity to CFIDS Michelle replies, "Know and
BELIEVE you are not the illness, as well as you are not the soccer player, or
the football player, or whatever. You are YOU. God made you special and unique,
and it is the inside that makes you who you are. and thank God that inside part
of you can never be taken away." It has become a daily choice for Michelle to
remember that she is worthy despite her illness and not because of her trophies,
honors and soccer ability. It must become a choice for other athletes with this
On behalf of athletes and others with CFIDS
and Michelle's desire to educate, support and inspire them, she has started the
Michelle Akers Fund. This fund is intended to help those with CFIDS understand
it and overcome trials despite the illness, and to create a support system
between the healthy and the sick. Michelle also hopes the fund will be used to
educate those who know CFIDS sufferers. "It is a tough disease for ALL of us,"
Her future plans? Michelle hopes to compete
in the 1999 World Cup and will also give her best shot to win the gold medal at
the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Then she plans to retire. Until then she is taking
the time to do things that she enjoys such as hiking, weight lifting, traveling,
resting and speaking about CFIDS and her faith to groups around the country.
Michelle has learned to overcome opponents
with the grace and agility of a champion. She has learned to find victory
through her faith and determination. But these attributes are not only used on
the field. This persevering athlete has had to display these abilities as she
suffers through a debilitating illness. And she has been successful. Michelle,
in every way, is a champion who has learned to overcome.