Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
By Lucy Burdo
Growing up I was always healthy, and my teenage years were filled with soccer, cross country ski racing, dance, gymnastics, and outdoor exercise. When after starting college six years ago, I could barely make it through my daily dance classes without exhaustion, I knew my health had seriously deteriorated. Even with my will to push my body as hard as I could, it took a supreme effort to keep myself from fainting or collapsing on the floor from weakness, dizziness, and a chronic fever and sore throat.
These symptoms had been slowly emerging. While still in high school, I developed swollen lymph glands in my neck which didn’t recede no matter how much vitamin C I took. And my bouts of sore throats, fever, and general low energy had been increasing. I had visited a homeopath and a chiropractor with some degree of improvement, but still was steadily declining. But nothing could have prepared me for the total loss of health I experienced in January, 1990.
After a week at college for a new semester, I physically couldn’t get up in the morning. I had to drop out of school immediately. I had severe night sweats and a chronic fever. When I was able to get up around 11:00 A.M., I was barely able to cook for myself. I visited my physician who suggested that there was nothing physically wrong with me, as I wasn’t in a wheelchair. I should accept that I had no energy to function. The only treatment he could suggest was to remove my swollen lymph glands. However, in a later conversation, he suggested that I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and might benefit from alternative medicine.
One of the alternative health care providers I consulted performed live blood cell analysis on a drop of fresh blood extracted from my finger. Apparently this is a popular test in Japan and is useful in getting a complete picture of the functioning of the blood and overall health. As we saw the cells come into focus on the video monitor hooked up the microscope, the practitioner turned to me and exclaimed, I don’t know how you’re sitting here. You’re going on will power alone. My white blood cell count was low, and the cells were poorly formed and were dying almost as soon as they were born. They were so overloaded trying to escort toxins out of the immune system that they would break and spill their load right back into the blood sample we were watching.
Next we examined the red blood cells. They were small and poorly formed also. Furthermore, there were huge clumps of candidias yeast drifting through them. My blood wasn’t able to do its job, and my immune system was incredibly weak.
I left with images of my weakened T-cells and poorly shaped red blood cells fresh in my mind and armed to the gills with all sorts of symptomatic remedies to boost my immune system and strengthen my blood cells. These included Chinese herbs, shark liver oil, and homeopathic remedies for radiation and environmental toxins. This was to be my inspiration and gave me the visual imagery I needed to heal.
Fortunately, about two weeks earlier, my boyfriend’s mother had given us a Christmas/Hanukah gift of a consultation with a macrobiotic counselor. This proved to be the catalyst toward health and my saving grace. As we drove to Massachusetts, my intuition told me this was my chance to get a piece of the big picture. I also knew that if this didn’t hold the key, I might never know how to regain my health. Symptomatic cures were no longer effective; I needed to go to the heart of my illness, the roots and causes and address them.
The counselor patiently answered no as I asked him if all my favorite foods were included in the daily macrobiotic diet. I learned that no tomato sauce, soy cheese, brewers yeast, chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, or grilled cheese sandwiches were included. As we were going out the door, I felt my energy fading rapidly and accepted a simple looking fresh rice ball as a snack. Although desperate, I wouldn’t usually have settled for a plain snack. A chocolate bar or cookies were what my hands reached for, even as my intuition lodged a quiet protest. Imagine my surprise when I felt my energy come slowly, steadily, and evenly back.
I arrived home filled with curiosity about this new diet and cooked my first macro meal of chickpeas, short grain brown rice with umeboshi paste as a condiment, and boiled broccoli. As I was eating, I felt some energy clear around my head, as if coming out of a dense fog. I wouldn’t have paid attention, except that my boyfriend said, Lucy, this may sound weird, but I just felt all this energy clear around my head as if a fog lifted.
Hello umeboshi! Well, the experience of this meal spoke to something deep inside me, and I realized then and there from the inner recesses of my soul that I was going to be macrobiotic the rest of my life. Since I had the rest of my life, I decided to allow myself to transition slowly and gently. For breakfast and lunch, I enjoyed eating very plain, very boiled macro meals, while for dinner I pulled out all the stops. I was working evenings in a four-star restaurant where I ate widely, including sugary fruit tarts, mocha butter cream cakes, rabbit in cream sauce, and macaroni and cheeses.
When I completely crashed three weeks later, I had already begun to transition onto a path and diet which were to be my lifeline, sustaining my body and thus my soul.
I took the approach that healing from this debilitating illness was the most important thing in my life and had to be my total focus. Now that I knew what to do to make myself feel better and regain my health, I would do whatever I had to heal. I didn’t have anyone to pay my rent, so practically speaking, my decision was one of necessity. I quit sugar (one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but that’s a whole other discussion!) and ate boiled rice, tofu, vegetables, and beans for three months.
In the beginning, after Id quit sugar and was experiencing daily the benefits of more energy, I would have intense cravings for cookies, ice cream, or a blueberry muffin. I would make a conscious choice to not eat the sugar, as I so clearly connected the fact that if I did, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed or function the next day. And I treasured having this new energy to get up. Sometimes I would stand there and cry, as I had not yet learned how to cook healthier sweets for myself at home.
After about two months, I remember feeling 20 minutes of real wellness and health coursing through my body and mind! I was out cross-country skiing with two friends, trying to be a good sport as I dragged myself along, unsure if I could go another 20 feet. All of a sudden, a wave of well being hit me, emanating from deep within. I stopped in exclamation and shared my experience, relishing each moment of exhilaration. After all the depression, despair, and monotony of helpless, hopeless feelings engendered by not being able to function physically, this feeling surprised and totally inspired me. I imagined feeling that way all the time! And today I do.
It was an arduous road at first, and the key was macrobiotics. As I got tired of boiled rice, boiled broccoli, and boiled tofu, I took cooking classes and bought cookbooks. The food became new, exciting, and creative. My health improved slowly with many dips and curves along the way.
Since I took the complete approach of including my mental, emotional, and spiritual health, I also visited my chiropractor, therapist, and energetic bodyworker regularly for support. I took responsibility for myself on all these levels and found they all complemented and enhanced the other levels. But the foundation of my new attitude and lifestyle was macrobiotics.
Today I see macrobiotics as a lifestyle which includes all the energy I take in from the environment, not just food. I’m deeply grateful and happy to have been able to create dynamic health in my life through macrobiotics.
Lucy Burdo studied at the Kushi Institute and is now writing a cookbook in Putney, Ver. where she lives. This article originally appeared in the One Peaceful World Journal, Spring, 1996. © One Peaceful World, all rights reserved.
By Lizzz Klein
I was a real go-getter! I became successful at an early age by using my admittedly type-A personality to acquire several businesses and even co-invent and patent a product. I pursued a very productive and dynamic lifestyle. While living in the fast lane, I had to have breast re-constructive surgery in 1985 followed by silicone breast implants. Afterwards, I was plagues with colds and flu that would not go away, extreme fatigue, headaches and sleeplessness. These immune deficiencies were the first signs that something was not right.
My body continued to deteriorate. The doctors could not figure it out. My hair started to fall out, I lost my eyebrows and most of my eyelashes and my sight began to deteriorate. I lost my sense of smell and taste and started to gain weight at alarming rates unrelated to my caloric intake. My memory lapsed, night sweats and insomnia were commonplace and muscle fatigue started to set in. Over the next few years, I became a candidate for the person with the most symptoms in the Guinness Book of World Records. They included chronic fatigue, bowel problems, urinary and bladder problems, irregular heartbeat, depression, neuromuscular, and finally breast lumps that let to tumors. My whole body was breaking down.
At the end of the seven and a half years, I deteriorated to the point that I was confined to a wheelchair. I lost the use of my left arm, then left leg, right leg, and finally most of my right arm. Medical testing found damage to the left lobe of my brain and my thinking process was impaired. Like a stroke patient, I could understand what people said to me but could not communicate back. For a talker like me, this was torture.
Medication didn’t seem to be able to touch the pain. My connective tissue was on fire, an extreme form of fibromyalgia and migraine headaches lasted until I almost passed out. Certain areas of my skin felt like a burn victims and I couldn’t tolerate even light cloth. A frame was built over my bed to lay the covers so I wouldn’t scream in pain with the pressure of the blankets on my overly sensitive skin.
I could find no relief. I could not find my spirit. I prayed for the only relief I could imagine: to pass away peacefully, quickly. I was dying a slow, agonizing death.
As my sickness multiplied, I lost or sold all my businesses, investments, homes and possessions. The doctors did the best they could, but were really at a loss. I learned of the problems of breast implants and had them removed, but this time my body was already too far gone. The doctors finally told me I might have two to three weeks left and that I should start to plan my funeral. Ill never forget that judgment, but I was ready and wanted to die at home. I went home, planned my funeral, and waited for the end to come. Among the few personal items left were my books. My bed was surrounded by reading material books on healing, cancer and every illness imaginable. There were medical books, self-help books, herbal books and books on prayer and meditation. My nurse thought I was crazy. Although I was virtually blind, unable to communicate, and could hardly turn a page, some primitive impulse to survive remained. My fiancé was a scientist and had taught me the value of research.
One day I was lying there, crying in pain and using one of my good arms to slowly turn the pages of a book on alternative health care, the words Macrobiotic and natural healing suddenly came into focus. That instant is vividly engraved in my mind to this day. Something about those unfamiliar words made me place my hand on the page and wait for my fiancé to come home. He picked the book up, started reading, and then I heard my first miracle a scientist snapping his fingers and exclaiming, That’s it! It makes sense.
Over the next few weeks we continued to read up on macrobiotics the miracle of great life. My helpers cooked for me, plastered ginger compress, massaged and body-scrubbed me and sang silly songs to lift my spirits. Three weeks later, I stood up from the wheel chair! We were stunned, then elated, crazed with relief.
Over the next few weeks and months, my body continued to rejuvenate with healthful foods: brown rice and other whole grains, miso soup, beans and bean products such as tofu and tempeh, fresh garden vegetables, and small daily amounts of sea vegetables.
My hair started growing back, overall pain lessened, and my eyesight returned. Soon the seizures stopped and the ability to talk returned. (You cant shut me up now!). Thinking processes normalized, all bodily functions strengthened and the tumors naturally melted away.
I got up from my deathbed (and the wheelchair) in 1994 and have not stopped since. My macrobiotic practice has gone forwards, backwards and even upside down. But I continue to make progress and keep healing. I have gone through many physical and emotional discharges, especially to release the old animal food, dairy, sugar, and chemicals that, from the macrobiotic view, were the underlying cause of my manifold ills.
I have seen and felt many miraculous things on my macrobiotic journey; moments of pain, strength, fear, and surrender. But most of all, as my health returned, I experienced more moments of unbridled joy than I can count!
By Doreen Saliba
My name is Doreen Saliba, and I am from Malta, an island in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. I am 40 years old and have had lupus for 10 years. All this time I have had pain, plus my organs were weakened by medications and steroids.
My chest, hands, feet and back have had red marks from a combination of the lupus and the medications.
I came to Kushi Institute this June, after seeing the recovery story of Meghan Pagnam on the TV show The Incurables when it aired in Malta. Meghan had very similar symptoms to mine, and she tells on the show how much Kushi Institute helped her achieve her full recovery. Following what she learned at Kushi Institute her skin lesions disappeared and she was able to get off all medications, and live a life pain free and a life full of energy. So this gave me great hope that I could do the same.
When I arrived for Kushi Institutes Way To Health Program, I immediately started following a macrobiotic diet, which is primarily whole foods and plant-based. I had a private Macrobiotic Consultation and the counselor recommended certain foods and remedies that would help my body heal the quickest.
In the Way to Health program I learned all about the power of healing foods and which foods I need to avoid for health recovery. After only 4 days of being at Kushi Institute the pain I suffered for the last 10 years was gone!
Some people with Lupus are told by their medical doctors they will need to be taking medications all their lives. I am now choosing to make food my medicine and the Kushi Institute to help guide me.
I received so much support from Kushi Institute teachers, visitors and other students, learning everyday what I need to do to help regain my health. Even in the short time I’ve been here, because of macrobiotics I am feeling stronger and stronger. I have a 10 year old son that is so proud of me for having the strength to research alternative health. My only wish is to live a happy, vibrant, life full of LIFE.
I am leaving Kushi Institute on July 17th after staying here for 3 full weeks. I have the patience and perseverance to continue macrobiotics back home until I am fully recovered.
By Meghan Pagnam
As a child, I was always in nonstop motion, bubbly, laughing, athletic, considered a fireball, always on the go. As a student with a type-A personality I was always very involved with sports, taking on after school activities and also working part-time. I was always burning the candle at both ends.
When my body first began to signal something was wrong I was too distracted to notice. After ignoring early symptoms, my condition began to spiral rapidly. My pointer finger swelled, puffed up like a sausage. I was overworking and didn’t think anything of it. Next I was having inflammation in my hands, all my fingers were swollen, and then my feet swelled. As a waitress, I walked with a little bit of a limp. I woke up one morning in March and I couldn’t walk. I was in so much pain: my hands were crooked. I was losing weight, and my skin color was off.
I went to a Rheumatologist and everything came back negative. He told me I had an autoimmune disease. Doctors wanted to give me very strong drugs which I was fearful of so I declined all the immunosuppressants. Because I was nonfunctional, I agreed to go on an anti-inflammatory, called Mobic. Mobic helped for a little while and then my health began to decline again. The drugs are worse than the symptoms of the disease. I was sick all the time. I was exhausted. I was so anemic I could barely stand. I realized very quickly that medication is not the answer for me.
I was given a book by a doctor which talked about the Raw Food Diet and fasting. I decided to give it a try. Basically it was a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables and nuts, raw juices, a lot of pea soup, a lot of bean soup, every single day. The doctor also wanted to wean me off the anti-inflammatory medication, which kept my swelling down and pain in check but the medication was interfering with the healing from raw food diet. I did the Raw Foods diet for 6 months. Initially, I credit it for saving my life. I feel I would have died if I had not started the Raw Food diet. My body was just that far gone at that point. But then I started being in pain again and having no energy again. The Raw Food diet and fasting kept many of my symptoms at bay but the relief was short lived. One by one the horrible symptoms began creeping back into my life and leading a normal existence was not possible.
At this point I dropped out of college; my kidneys and my liver were not doing well. My spleen was gigantic. I had internal bleeding, severe anemia, respiratory problems, heart palpitations, and beginning to lose my hair. My whole body was covered with redness and sores. The medical treatments were not helping. My first dermatologist misdiagnosed my symptoms as acne, and gave me acne medication. It turned out later to be psoriasis.
Dealing with psoriasis was very difficult for me. It was the beginning of the disfiguring. Id look in the mirror and say, Who is this, How could I have come this far? Red marks covered 50 percent of my body, it was incredibly painful. It looked like a contagious infection and it wasn’t. My skin would crack and bleed and ooze. It was itchy. My own reflection frightened me. I realized the Raw Foods diet was not going to work for me. My body needed to heal and the raw food diet didn’t provide the nutrition my organs needed. I lost all hope at this point. According to my doctor the blood tests explained nothing.
What allowed me to get up in the morning was the faith I had that God wasn’t going to allow this to go on and it was going to come to an end. I kept exploring alternative medicine, even though the Raw Food diet had failed me. I went to see Dr. Scunziano, who said You’ve got to go to the Kushi Institute. The doctor explained the concept of the Raw Food diet. If a body is sick or diseased, it has an even harder time absorbing the raw food. Macrobiotics applies heat to most of the food. In June 2005 I flew to the Kushi Institute, in Becket, MA. After taking the orientation class of the Way To Health Program, I felt that this was going to work and help heal my body.
While I was at Kushi, I had a private Macrobiotic counseling session with Luci Baranda. She sat down and walked me though my symptoms. The first thing she noticed was that my kidneys and intestines were weak. She could tell I was anemic by looking at the white of my eyes. When your kidneys are not functioning properly your body secretes toxins through the skin, which is what caused the psoriasis. In Macrobiotics, you eat foods that have a neutral effect on the body. And therefore allows your body to heal. In Macrobiotics, you eat balanced foods and that has a healing affect on all the organs of the body.
I stayed at the Kushi Institute for 1 week and after 1 week I understood the healing power of food. I learned I needed to change my behavior by eliminating stress and eat food that is healing. I was put on a very specific healing diet that was tailored to my exact symptoms. When I started to eat better food my blood quality improved. The skin spots started to disappear little by little. I began to notice a difference immediately from the first day I was at Kushi more energy because the medications had really drained me.
When I left Kushi, I looked brighter and felt more optimistic and was filled with hope. When I returned home from Kushi, I was well enough to prepare my own foods and went shopping to the health food store and shopped for udon noodles, whole grains, vegetables, beans, sea vegetables and miso soup. I immediately started cooking healthy delicious meals. The only thing differently I did was to change my diet. Modern medicine could not provide the answers that I needed and I had the strength to take matters into my own hands.
My search for answers paid off when I found the Kushi Institute. Macrobiotics healed my kidneys and stopped the anemia, my hair and skin fully recovered. Macrobiotics has helped free me to lead a normal life. I continue to do Macrobiotics and in December 2005 I was able to come off all of the steroids. I graduated from college with a bachelors degree. I started working full time in January 2006. A change in diet can save your life. Macrobiotics has helped me to slow down and take more time with things, not rush through things, and to lead a more balanced life.
Megan Pagnum’s recovery story is aired frequently on the Veria Television Network on the The Incurables television show.