What Price Glory?
Laura Hillenbrand, author of 'Seabiscuit,' discusses her Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how the book affected her life.
And other people. I got to interview more than 100 very elderly people who had actually lived this story. They gave it so much color.
I guess none of the principals were still alive.
They weren't, no. The last one, Marcella Howard [wife of Seabiscuit's owner], died in 1987. Red [Pollard] died in 1981. George [Woolf] [a jockey who rode Seabiscuit when Pollard was recuperating from an accident] had been dead a very long time. But a lot of people who were very closely associated with them were around. Alfred Vanderbilt, who arranged [Seabiscuit's] match race with War Admiral, was a huge help. George Woolf's best friend; Red's sister and children; a lot of Seabiscuit's exercise riders, grooms, stable agents. I was very fortunate. I'm right at the end of living memory with this one.
It's such an individual journey. But what I would say is, no matter what happens with this illness, I think it is possible to carve out a dignified and productive life. This illness takes everything away from you, and you have to find completely different ways to define what your life will mean to you. But I think it's possible to make a good life. I have been happy in the time that I've been sick. It requires a real redefinition of everything, but I think it is possible to do.
You sound at peace with your situation.
I wouldn't say I'm at peace; some days I really struggle with it. I have times of despair. When my vertigo came back and I lost the ability to write, it was a very difficult thing to adjust to. But I have learned to have very low expectations. I am not somebody who thinks I am entitled to good health or to a good peaceful happy life.
We are fortunate when we have them, but when we don't have them it's not that someone's taking them away from us. It just happens. [This attitude] has made it easier for me to deal with [my illness] than someone else who thinks, "Why me?" I've never thought that. CFS is definitely a very difficult thing to deal with. I go through times of real despair, but I pull myself out of it and keep going. I have no choice.
Are you living independently?
I am not really. I have a boyfriend who's wonderful, who's been with me since before this illness. We've been together more than 14 years. He does a lot of the things I can't do like get the groceries. He does the laundry. I do the cooking. I do some of the cleaning--and I earn the money. He is the most wonderful person in the world and I'm very fortunate in that.
If you're still struggling with CFS, will you continue to write?