Sunday, March 26, 2017

Weekly Inspiration: Laura Hillenbrand - My Hero & Role Model

I am a long-time admirer of Laura Hillenbrand, author of the best-selling, critically-acclaimed books, Seabiscuit and Unbroken, and ME/CFS patient. Just her accomplishments alone - writing these amazing books while too sick to get out of bed - makes her an inspiration to me, but I also admire her strength and perseverance in the face of such challenges, much like the unsung heroes she writes about in her books.

When Hillenbrand first became famous for Seasbiscuit, I was hopeful that ME/CFS had finally found its celebrity - our very own Michael J. Fox who would bring our devastating disease into the public eye. But she was far too ill to be a spokesperson. She didn't leave her Georgetown townhouse for two full years, and she wrote much of her books while lying flat in bed with a pad and pencil - with her eyes closed! - due to debilitating vertigo.

Fast-forward to today. Laura Hillenbrand is doing much better. She has finally found some doctors who could help her and some treatments that have helped (as I always say, nothing helps ME/CFS a lot, but there are a lot of things that can help a little, and those add up). Her quality of life is much-improved, and she even moved across the country. And...she is giving an occasional interview, much to my delight.

This latest interview was with Stanford Medicine (they have conducted a lot of recent, ground-breaking research into ME/CFS). I couldn't find a way to download the podcast or to embed it here, but you can listen to this 44-minute fascinating interview with Laura Hillenbrand at this link.

She talks about her books, her writing, her life, and yes, her ME/CFS. She describes what living with ME/CFS is like and exactly how debilitating it was at her worst. She talks about how she's improved (though not details about precisely which treatments have helped) and what her life is like now. And, she talks about dealing with the people - both family and "friends" as well as doctors - who have treated her badly, mocking her, not believing her, etc. I found that part of the interview the most inspiring - she has some great insights into coping with the kinds of resentments that we all harbor from mistreatment.

I hope you find her interview as inspiring as I did. She doesn't say what her next book will be about, but I can't wait to find out!

[P.S. Although she doesn't specify which treatments have helped her improve, I have heard elsewhere that she was finally able to see one of the top doctors in ME/CFS who has worked with her on a variety of aspects of the illness. These top docs are not exclusive - anyone can see them, and there is no magic to what they offer - just a wide variety of treatments that focus on different aspects of the disease, chipping away at it, bit by bit. For examples, this post describes the treatments that have helped my son and I the most (some from our primary care doctor and some from the experts). It takes a lot of trial and error - and a considerable amount of patience and persistence! - but it is possible to improve your quality of life, a little at a time. My son and I are both quite functional now.]

Have you read Seabiscuit and Unbroken? Did you like them? I hope you are as inspired by Laura Hillenbrand as I have been!

Seabiscuit An American Legend
by Laura HillenbrandTrade Paperback 


Siobhan (Chronically Siobhan) said...

I haven't read either of her books, but follow along with her media appearances with much interest. She does make a very articulate and intelligent spokesperson for the ME community. I'd love to read her biography if she chose to write one!

Sue Jackson said...

She's an excellent writer, Siobhan. I think you will like her personal essay that ran in the New Yorker - it's basically a mini-memoir! The story of her life since getting ill:

Siobhan (Chronically Siobhan) said...

I love that essay, and recommend it to everyone I can as an insight into ME.

infiniteknot said...

The New Yorker (I believe) did a wonderful article about her. I am so impressed with her dedication to her craft.

Sue Jackson said...

Yes! A wonderful essay - I linked to it in the comment above yours :)