What Price Glory?

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

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For about two weeks, I was very sick. With CFS, it's typical to have a triggering problem. It could be food poisoning, a bad flu, pneumonia. I woke up two weeks after getting the food poisoning and I simply couldn't sit up in bed.

The biggest problem has been exhaustion. I've spent about 6 of the last 14 years completely bedridden. At times, I have been unable to bathe myself. I have gotten so bad I couldn't really feed myself and a couple of times I needed someone to spoon feed me. I have had trouble rolling over in bed.

Right now my exhaustion is bad enough so I'm 100% housebound. I've only been out of the house three times since my book came out two months ago.

I have vertigo. Vertigo makes it feel like the floor is pitching up and down. Things seem to be spinning. It's like standing on the deck of a ship in really high seas.

No matter what happens with this illness, I think it is possible to carve out a dignified and productive life from it.


Almost everybody gets night sweats and chills. I've had a fever for 14 years. Some people have very severe joint pain and muscle pain.

You've said that the first year you were sick was very tough, mainly because you couldn't get a diagnosis. Talk about that first year.

It was extremely frightening. I lost 22 pounds in the first month and I didn't have that weight to lose. I lost all my vitality. My hair started falling out. I got sores all over my mouth and my throat. I was running fevers all the time. I would go to doctors and they didn't know what it was, and their inclination was to assume that it was psychological or that it was an effort to get out of doing school work. It was really enraging and upsetting because when doctors don't support you, you lose the support of family and friends, just about everyone.

Because they begin to doubt you?
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Interview by Anne A. Simpkinson
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