What Price Glory?

Laura Hillenbrand, author of 'Seabiscuit,' discusses her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how the book affected her life.

BY: Interview by Anne A. Simpkinson


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So this physician was able to diagnose the problem, but couldn't do anything for you?
Not really. The reason so many doctors had shrugged me off was that this illness was only then being recognized. In their defense, there wasn't anything in the diagnostic manual. But because they didn't want to believe that they didn't know everything, they wanted to find a reason why it was my fault.

The following year the Centers for Disease Control recognized CFS and NIH began researching it in earnest. Today, there's enough research on CFS to be able to give it a definitive diagnosis.

Are there prescriptive protocols for people with CFS?
There are some things they tell you to do. A lot of it is very simple. You can't stress yourself. You can't push too far because if you do, your whole body will collapse and you can wind up for six months or eight months back in bed again.

You learn that right away because you make mistakes. I made a really big one. I was starting to get better when, in 1991, I tried to take a car trip to Saratoga Springs, New York, with my boyfriend. It was a really stupid, enormous mistake: I collapsed in a little town in New Jersey and went into shock.

I got much sicker than I'd ever been before. I spent the next two or three years completed bed-bound. The vertigo started with great ferocity and it was hell on earth. I've never come back from that and that was ten years ago.

Writing the book took physical vitality out of you. But do you feel that the book fed you emotionally, psychologically, spiritually?
I identified in a very deep way with the individuals I was writing about because the theme that runs through this story is of extraordinary hardship and the will to overcome it. That is the fundamental struggle of my life, trying to get over this extremely devastating physical condition. There are times when I think, "I can't stand this any more." But you find a way to do it.

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