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The Search for Chronic Wellness
Perspectives on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
or rather, perspectives on the nature of chronic or degenerative illnesses.
Key indexing words: chronic fatigue syndrome CFS , ME, myalgic encephalomyelitis, fibromyalgia FMS, glandular fever, Epstein-Barr, post-traumatic stress disorder, stress related illness, Goldstein protocol, StAmand guaifenesin phosphate protocol, Lowe protocol, anxiety, depression, environmental illness, chemical sensitivity MCS, cold body, low body temperature, hypothyroidism, mitochondrial function, thyroxin T4, triiodothyronine T3 Cytomel, progesterone, pregnenolone, DHEA, vitamin A, vitamin E, apoptosis, oxidative metabolism, hypoglycemia, hypoglycaemia, steroidogenesis, Peat, lyme disease, disease taxonomy, reductionism, steroid, corticosteroid, adrenal, HPA axis, endocrine system, nervous system, Cushings Disease, Addisons Disease, osteoporosis, arthritis, food intolerance, eating disorders, calcium magnesium, chronic pain, perinatal health, genetic illness?, mind-body, psychosomatic, somatoform.
April 2002 - I am aware of the need to update this
page, it's in the list of things to do.
There is a lot of my more recent writing in the archives of the FMS-Recovery list, between 1998 and July 2002
(I have given that away) at
to use that site you need to register
In 1998 I wrote a number of papers, as my ideas on how I might treat my own illness (stress related, producing symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, though I don't much like such labels).
The perspective I developed and the approach to treatment seemed to work. I have not left behind the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of chronic illness present for a decade and a half, or more, but it no longer disabling as it had been. I have not been able to get back and revise the papers I wrote in 1998 or properly update them, having for a year now been looking after my wife Margaret, who has the worst kind of brain tumour. Margaret's history is on the web, here, along with family photos, etc.. Since I wrote this text, Margaret has died, on 9 September 2001 - the history is now complete at the linked web site. My doctor seems fairly impressed that I have been able to be an effective carer in this period. Margaret was given a matter of months to live at diagnosis in April 2000, almost certainly not a year. We are nearly at one year, and though we travel between MRI scans every two months knowing that this type of tumour has a cell duplication period of as little as 15 hours, and that in a two month period it can grow to 2 or 4 or more centimeters in diameter, the amount of tumour present in February was slight and less than in December 2000.
I am also struck by many of Margaret's symptoms, arising from the tumour itself or from the medications she has had, and the way in which they involve those associated with 'chronic fatigue' - leaving aside those clearly arising from brain disturbance from a tumour mass, oedema (fluid) pressure, radiation treatments, and two open craniotomies to remove masses of material the size of a peach. This reinforces my view that modern medicine and our own habits of thought about health and illness are falsely compartmentalised to a degree which prevents us dealing with causes of illness, and alleviating those, and makes for a professional and community focus on the names of particular diseases and their treatment, often without fixing the factors that have precipitated illness. The obsession with naming diseases is evident whenever anyone fills out a medical form at work or for insurance, etc. This obsession has deep cultural roots in Semitic-European culture. It is useful to read the first two chapters of the Book of Genesis, to see the preoccupation with the notion that the right to name creatures and things is a source of power, given to man, while god denies man, in this Jewish account, the right to use god's name. Pity he or she who suffers an unnamed disease, what power will that person have....
My central hypothesis is this:
1: Every organism, including each human, is subject to a myriad stressors (I use the word stress in the broadest sense) and when such stressors strike, the individual's response reflects preexisting qualities and history of exposure to other stressors (bacteria, viruses, nutrition, air and water quality, chemical exposure, family health, mother's health around time of birth (perinatal health), genetic inheritance, family, work and social environment, trauma and accident, etc.) and there is a compounding effect, with health consequences. The critical issue should surely be in assessing the basic health state of the individual, but instead we work hard to classify the reactions instead into categories (notably the separation between psychological and somatic). This seems to me to serve cultural-intellectual preoccupations rather than aiding understanding of illness.
2: In each individual organisms, the response to stressors has impacts of basic kinds on reproductive, immune and nervous systems.
3: These impacts and stresses on basic functional systems gives rise to a myriad different patterns of development, adaptation, degeneration, and often illness and eventual decline.
4: a great deal of the practice of medicine is focused on stage 3, the identification and description of particular forms of degeneration, 'abnormality', deviance or illness. Medicine is practiced primarily as a skill in correction of these outcomes, rather than attempting broader understanding and treatment of the whole individual. Professional specialisation has become compartmentalised, showing extraordinary use of remarkable technological achievements, but too often with a loss of broader perspective or ability to deal with root causes.
5: There is dependence in medical advance upon a style of reductionist research which cannot easily lead to comprehension of whole systems, but rather tends to support the marketing of substances and procedures to correct perceived deficits in parts of health or bodily systems, which may have negative repercussions elsewhere - too often corrected with another layer of medication and treatment, so that is it very difficult, where a person has presented to a number of doctors with a number of symptoms and been variously diagnosed and treated, to know to what extent the health problems were there in the first place and to what extent they are iatrogenic (arising from medical treatment).
6: Faddishness abounds in the pursuit of cause, as in the current expectations of the fruits of genetic research, which absorbs masses of funding, promises much, but is blind to other, neglected issues in biology, and thus flawed.
7: It is possible to try to establish a perspective which allows us to address chronic illnesses. In some cases irreversible changes may have taken place, as with severe arthritis, or, alas, brain tumour. A person with a hard to hard to name, hard to describe illness, with elusive symptoms, may be a very lucky person, and may not be well served by achieving a disease name or a 'marker' for illness.
The papers which are linked to this paper were written in 1998. I hope to bring them up to date at some time, but am busy. Meanwhile, in response to requests, here they are.
1: Hypothesis February 1998 How I got to the sort of perspective further developed in later papers, by trying different treatments and notions about my own illness
2: Hypothesis April 1998
3: Perspectives on Health, May 1998
4: Thyroid and mitochondrial function, June 1998
5: Mitochondrial function, June 1998.
6: "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" - a fresh approach November 1998. This text needs formatting, being a crude 'save as HTML' from word processing - some of the images are unclear and not in the right part of the text.
The ideas in these papers have been relevant to my health.
Please do not dive in in search of a treatment to be a magic fix for some problem.
Life's not like that.
But I hope the reader will enjoy the read, find it of some value and meaning
and perhaps relevance to personal health.
Think kindly of me, exposing my ideas on the web, and write with any comments.
[Click here to email me]
© Dennis Argall 1998, 2001