'I was so weak I could not EVEN lift my arm to turn the alarm off'

Anna Coogan

Sharon Monaghan (37) was a gym bunny with a successful business and a wedding to plan when she woke up unable to move from her neck down. she tells Anna Coogan about her two-year journey back to health and her battle with me and chronic fatigueI'm a go-go person, and would have been in the gym four times a week and if I wasn't there I was out walking my two Yorkies, Mia and Kim. I regularly travelled to Paris, Milan and London to buy for my boutique, Shadore in Greystones, and I also had my wedding to plan so you could say I was in my element.

"What happened was totally unexpected and I don't imagine I'll ever feel as frightened as I did that morning in February 2010 when I woke up unable to move from my head down. I couldn't lift my arm to turn my alarm off.

"I was bawling my eyes out and my fiance Mark called an ambulance and the first thing they did in Vincent's was check my heart and run a brain scan to make sure I hadn't had a stroke.

"They couldn't find anything wrong and I was sent home later that day, and woke up the very next morning unable to move again. From this point on, my life as I had known it for 35 years was utterly changed.

"I've looked back for any clue that something was wrong before this dramatic turnaround, and I remember slurring my words a bit in the run-up to taking ill. I was also working six days a week and by Sunday I wouldn't be able to get out of the bed until 1pm.

"Also, 10 years previously I had been hiking with my now husband Mark in Wicklow, when I suddenly had to lie down, unable to move my body. But I was fine the following morning.

"What followed was a deeply frustrating and emotionally upsetting time in my life. They began to run all sorts of tests, and I was so weak at this point that when I went with my mum, Doreen, to a fashion show in London she had to push me around in a wheelchair.

"I was due to marry Mark on July 21, 2010 but by April I was so weak I knew this wasn't going to happen. I was also losing a lot of weight because I would start eating and, because it was taking so much out of me to chew my food, I would simply give up.

"All the neurological and physical tests came back clear, and doctors began to talk to me about stress. I was asked again and again if I was suffering from stress or was feeling stressed?

"I would tell them I am someone who thrives when I'm running around as busy as anything, and that there was nothing I wanted more than to be back at the helm of my business and to feel properly tired and not totally and unnaturally wiped out. At this point I had moved back in with my mum and dad as I needed someone to cook for me and Mark had to work because one of us had to.

"I spent nine months bedridden in my parents' house. My mum would bring up my breakfast and ask me to wiggle my toes. It would take me two hours to make any progress if I tried to get up. I could only have really good friends over, the ones who don't mind if you sit there in silence, as I couldn't cope with anyone asking anything of me.

"Imagine the worst flu you've ever had and make it 10 times worse. I was on the ground, it was like my muscles were dragging me down, and my brain was utterly foggy and not functioning at all. For an avid reader not to be able to get to the end of a sentence is devastating.

"At one point I was having weekly multivitamin treatments which were costing me hundreds. Trying to get better was taking a serious toll on my credit card, and in the beginning I wasn't being offered any real solutions by doctors and I would have given them my apartment and every cent I had if they could just have given me the possibility of a cure.

"It was a relative who put me in touch with someone they knew in London who had had similar symptoms and had got great energy back from using the Perrin Technique. It's a technique devised by an osteopath from Manchester called Raymond Perrin who believes that ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is caused by the body not being able to get rid of chemicals and bacteria and viruses.

"His massage technique stimulates the lymphatic system -- which carries cells which fight infection around our bodies -- and helps to drain the bad toxins away, and is combined with craniosacral therapy.


"I'm a year having the treatment in The Willows Clinic in Glasnevin where I was immediately diagnosed with ME and chronic fatigue, which explained why my body was totally depleted and I had no energy and was suffering terrible aches and pains.

"It's a real commitment because Mark has to give me massages every evening to help with the lymphatic drainage but the change in me has been immense. I'm now back working up to four hours a day and I am out walking again with Mia and Kim.

"We had a fortnight in Italy last September where Mark and I finally got married in front of our families and friends. We've been away from a weekend since, too, and I actually made it down to the dining room in time for breakfast which is a major achievement for someone who struggled to get out of bed for so long!

"Before I was diagnosed with ME I had doctors shaking their heads and talking about stress. There is no way for me to describe how frustrating that was. Being diagnosed with ME is devastating, but I've learned not to push myself and to take my recovery as it comes and I have my optimism and ambition back and I can't tell you how good that feels."

For more information on ME log on to www.imet.ie.