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A Profile in Courage

"Dr. Friedman,

I noticed that this scholarship is for students in their second year and that I won't be eligible because I won't be completing my first year this spring. No matter. I actually opened the mail not because I was interested in applying for the scholarship but because I was interested to see what kind of scholarship had to do with CFS. I've had CFS (for lack of a better term/diagnosis) for almost 8 years now. I've delayed entering medical school because of it and, upon entering, had to take a medical leave because of a combination of my longstanding symptoms and those brought about by treatments I got at UMDNJ for it (first antidepressants and then fatigue/sleep treatments from Dr. Natelson). I'm not finishing my first year now because I'm on a decelerated path upon my return.

I'm reluctant to say that I have CFS (though it IS the easiest answer to give people when they ask what's been wrong with my health) because it is either a blanket term for symptoms and not etiology (or it seems to imply one etiology for all patients, which is unlikely), and because so many of the doctors I've seen have been content to say, "You have CFS, this is just how you are, so go home and rest and do some light exercise and you'll be fine. There's nothing more that can be done." I currently see a homeopathic doctor and though the results of my treatment are modest, I feel more of an alleviation in pain and fatigue on a more consistent basis with this treatment than with any of the symptomal treatments I've had with other doctors. Plus, I experience less side effects and find him to be more systematic than other doctors I've seen (basically, he'll never tell me to take a certain medicine until I start to feel better. He uses his--unique, let's say--diagnostic tools to determine whether I need to take a medicine/supplement and reevaluates that need as I take it).

Anyway, I'm really writing to tell you that I'm happy that someone's encouraging medical students to do this sort of research. I've had a unique experience up to this point. I cannot demonstrate the arrogance and all-knowing attitude of many other students and doctors because I know too well from first-hand experience the fallibility of doctors--at least in this field. I also feel strongly that different patients probably have different causes (and therefore cures or treatments) for their CFS symptoms and that we should look into those things rather than just relief of symptoms and things like occupational therapy. I know from experience that when this is done, my body feels much more "at ease" and normal, while any medication I've taken for sleep, energy, pain, blood pressure, or mood effects has only made me feel less like myself and added to my discomfort.

If you have any routes for treatment, or any providers that you would recommend to me (other than Dr. Natelson, whom I found to be a much better and more dedicated researcher than care provider), please tell me. I know that this experience will only make me a much greater doctor, but it's hard for me to believe most of the time that I'll overcome or survive it well enough to be a doctor at all."