The story of a contestant on the hit show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? grabbed my attention this week. It's an amazing story that just shows how quickly things can change in life which is something those of us dealing with ME/CFS and other chronic illnesses always need to keep in mind!
Thirty-three year old Marie Chesterfield from Brighton, England suffers from myalgic encephalomyelitis
(ME)/chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and had recently lost her job as a carer due to the toll her illness was taking on her work.
The very next day Marie, still in shock and wondering how she and her husband were going to cope financially, went to the filming of Who wants to be a Millionaire, and made it through the initial round to the main game.
She told the Daily Mirror newspaper that when she went on the quiz show, she was "a nervous wreck". "I felt under a huge amount of pressure because all of a sudden everything in our lives was in jeopardy," she said
"I was getting through on pure adrenaline. Every question was torture because I risked everything on the answer."
Despite her nerves and all that had happened over the past few days Marie is said to have reached the £50,000 ($100,000) mark, although the exact amount she won is not being revealed until the show airs in the UK on May 6th.
Marie did reveal that she and husband Michael had been able to pay off their mortgage and also plan to take a holiday.
Amazingly the couple received some more unexpected news to top off their rollercoaster week as they discovered that they were expecting their first child.
Marie said: "I was on cloud nine and just kept thinking that things like this didn't happen to ordinary people like me. I felt like the luckiest person alive."
When I heard about Marie's story I felt really happy for her. It's great to hear that someone who really needed the prize money was able to get so far on the show and turn round what would have been very stressful circumstances having been made jobless.
What makes the story even more inspiring for anyone who has ME/CFS or knows someone who does is the fact that Marie was able to do so well on the quiz show considering the 'brain fog' that is part of the condition. At the best of times us ME/CFS sufferers have trouble remembering the simplest of things so for Marie to answer questions in front of an audience under the lights and cameras of a TV studio is just fantastic!
Obviously this kind of thing is not going to happen to all of us suffering from ME/CFS and other chronic illnesses but it is still a great example of how things can change for the better in an instant exactly when things are looking like they couldn't get any worse.
As I have struggled with my own illness I have read a lot of self-help books and flirted with philosophy and uplifting eastern religions such as buddhism. One proverb that has always stuck in my head goes something like:
"The darkest time of night occurs right before dawn"
In other words, just when things look their worst, better things are right around the corner. This phrase really resonated with me as I first heard it when I was suffering very badly from seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D). So very literally I waited out the dark times of winter and the world once again became a much happier place for me as Spring came around with the extra light and sunshine.
To this day when I am really struggling and feeling like giving up I think of this saying and know that things will look up once again. Of course you can't always sit back and expect things to get better by themselves but if you make an effort, however small, things can certainly turn around whatever you are struggling against.
I wish Marie and family all the best and hope that everybody reading can ride out the bad times and once again enjoy all that life has to offer.
About: Matthew Hogg ("Maff")
Diagnosed with M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome aged only 11 years old and subsequently associated illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Despite his own struggles he has constantly sought to educate and support others suffering from such "invisible illnesses" through his website, The Environmental Illness Resource. He fully recovered from MCS using his own approach and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Health.