Australian CFS/ME Recovery Legends – Leigh Hatcher, Alastair Lynch and Duncan Armstrong

Leigh Hatcher, a TV news presenter, Alastair Lynch an Australian Rules Football Star and Duncan Armstrong an Olympic Gold Medallist Swimmer have all had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome / Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) and recovered to return to successful professional careers.  What helped and inspired them?

Leigh Hatcher

Leigh Hatcher is a news presenter for Sky News.  He’s had a very successful career as a broadcast journalist for radio and television in Australia and he is also a successful author, having published a book about his experience and recovery from CFS/ME.  His book is entitled ‘I’m not Crazy I’m just a little unwell’, a great insight into Leighs’ experience and recovery.

Before Leigh became ill he was working as a Channel 7 news reporter.  He suffered with viral hepatitis which developed into CFS/ME.  Even though he had a high profile position he was unable to work for two and a half years due to the illness.

Leigh found it very difficult to accept and cope with the lack of understanding and support from people within his work and church community.  Even when he did eventually make it back to work he found that it took time before he built his confidence about his own ability and health and felt that he could prove to himself and others that he could handle stress and didn’t have an aversion to work.

Leigh found inspiration through Johanna Griggs’s experience with CFS/ME.  Johanna was an Olympic swimmer who lost two years of her life with her battle in the early 90s.  Leigh followed her lead of frequently eating good food that sustained the body and incorporating slow and steadily increasing exercise.

I was amazed to hear that he returned to work to his dream job of reporting on the Sydney 2000 Olympics.  You can imagine the looming pressure knowing you had a deadline to get better by or you would miss out on your dream.  It brought tears to my eyes when I read that he was able to make it back in time to live out that dream.

Incredibly Leigh returned to this demanding role of 12-18 hour days, 7 days a week.  Pretty hard to believe that he did that and actually got through ok, but he did.

A totally inspiring and informative read, I highly recommend it.

Alastair Lynch

Alastair is a former Aussie Rules (AFL) footballer, best known for being a three-time Premiership full forward for the Brisbane Lions.  He’s now retired from football and commentates for Brisbane Lions’ matches and occasionally for the Fox Footy Channel.  Alastair has published a book, co-written by Peter Bulcher ‘Taking Nothing for Granted: From Chronic Fatigue to the MCG’.  It is a great book, especially if you are a football fan, well worth the read.

Alastair lost time out of his football career when he came down with CFS/ME in 1995.  He was unable to play AFL for 12 months, pretty much the whole season for that year and generally slept for 18 hours a day throughout that year.

Before he became sick he was thought to be one of the top three AFL players in the game.  He had a lot going on at the time that he got sick – a car accident, an injury, a death in the family and a bit of overindulgence.  He came down with what seemed to be a mystery virus that just didn’t get better.

Alastair shared the similar frustration at not being able to get a proper diagnosis, as many sufferers do.  He tried a whole ranges of supplements which didn’t give him any results.  He tried everything – all that was recommended by doctors and alternative therapists, even psychiatrists.  He even travelled to the Chronic Fatigue Institute of Orange in California and participated in research carried out by the University of Newcastle.  “Give me a knee construction any day over CFS/ME” he says “at least I know what I’m in for and when I’ll be back playing footy”.

Alastair was similar to Leigh in that he found inspiration through connecting with other professional athletes who had overcome CFS/ME.  One in particular was Ramon Andersson an international Kayak paddler who overcame CFS/ME and returned to top level training and competition.  It really inspired Alastair that he could return to such a high level of endurance.

Alastair found that exercise using very light weights and minimal exercise, plenty of fruit, no sugar, no alcohol and nutritional supplements were the key for him, along with a program to manage difficult situations.  He was really well supported by his Football Club and Medical Team, who developed a tailored plan for him after his relapse.  This prevented him from being exposed to things like really hot days and long distance travel which just didn’t help his recovery.

Alastair has long been a big supporter of raising awareness for CFS/ME.  Even though it has changed his life he believes it has made him a better person, able to appreciate the important things like friends, family and good health!

Duncan Armstrong

Now I didn’t have much to go on about Duncan Armstrong until I found this podcast.  It’s truly inspiring – a radio interview with Alastair and Duncan and their experiences and recovery from CFS/ME.

Duncan Armstrong made his name as a Gold Medal Olympic Swimmer for Australia, he retired in 1993 and has since enjoyed working as a television and radio presenter, motivational speaker and charity worker.

Duncan suffered with Glandular Fever at age 12 and had to manage it ever since.  However, he lost traction with the management on the way to the Olympic games and started to get slower and slower till he finally fell down with CFS/ME.

He experienced depression and lack of self belief like many others.  But he was lucky enough to have found a doctor who was pioneering the way in vitamins in Australia.  She got Duncan onto a range of vitamins including Vitamin C which he received intravenously in a hospital for 2 months.

Duncan was one of the lucky ones and managed to get on top of it in a very short period of time.  His words… “I’d heard about people being sick with it for many years, but I was determined that wasn’t going to be me”.  He took a lot of vitamins, trained differently to before, took digestive enzymes and lots of protein.  He had a few relapses where he wasn’t managing himself properly but learnt to listen to his body.

Alastair and Duncan’s words of support and tips:

  • It is worthwhile finding your way through, you come out tougher for it in the long run
  • Find out what is working for you and when by keeping a journal
  • Believe that you can get it right, this is your anchor
  • Beg borrow and steal from family, friends and fools to pay for the treatment necessary to get back on top of life and pay them back
  • You develop healthy habits cause you have to.

What inspires you?

Yes these men are special.  They have an inner drive that has definitely helped them with their recovery.  But I believe I too can access that drive…..I just need stories like this to remind me that it is possible.

What gives you hope and strengthens your belief that you can overcome CFS/ME?  Or have you overcome it?  Want to share your story?

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There Are 14 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Edie Summers says:

    I absolutely believe in recovery. There is solid research out there on the causes of this condition as well. Deep nutrition, gentle exercise, lost of high quality sleep, stress management, and the right supplements make all the difference.

    • Green Girl Mel says:

      Thanks Edie, great to have more positive affirmations around the topic. How long did it take you to recover from CFS/ME?

  2. Edie Summers says:

    Hi Mel, I’ve had two bouts with it. The first time was after surgery. Once I got educated on health and nutrition, it took my body a few years to adjust back to normal, minus new sleep issues because of the imbalance. I now use 5htp for it. It lights up the signal between the brain and the adrenals.

    The second time was after a very stressful marriage. My body fell much further, and it has taken me a lot longer (~ 6 years) to climb out of the hole due to trauma. I consider myself out of the woods, but still on the edge of the woods. I still have to take extra care of myselfl. But I have faith in my body to leave the woods behind altogether, just like last time. Especially because this time I have many more skills and knowledge than ever before.

    What about for you? Btw, I believe CFS has a few causes, including not detoxing properly (poor methlyation), and is really hypocortisolism, also known as tertiary adrenal insufficiency. Deep nutrition, lot of sleep and taking it easy, gradual exercise, and a few key supplements are what did if for me, including Cell Food for muscle (mitochondrial) energy, green superfoods, and gota kola for healing the hypothalmus.

    • Mark says:

      Edie:

      Interested in your comments on hypocortisolism; I also believe that this is the root cause of CFS but I am finding little if any mainstream support for this position. Have you ever taken meds such as Cortef?

  3. perder peso says:

    Todavia necesito buscar mas sobre todo esto para poder elegir la opcion mas de acuerdo para mi. En estos momentos busco informacion sobre lo que comentan de la “dieta dominguera”.

    • Hi Perder,
      Unfortunately I no entiendo (not even sure if that is the right spelling!), but I have a trusty friend who has done her best to translate your message for me and I think it says “still need to look for more about this in order to choose the best option for me. At the moment I am looking for information about what was said about the Sunday Diet”….could that be the Sugar Diet?
      That sounds great Perder, definately best for you to look into what you think is best for you. Let me know what you end up doing and how you go!
      Thanks

  4. Joe says:

    Heya Mel,

    Rad article thanks for putting it together. I couldn’t agree with you more, I think researching and reading recovery stories is the single most useful thing we can do with our time.

    Alastairs story particularly blows me away considering the high impact nature of AFL and that he pulled through after 8 years to win 3 premierships. I’d be happy with 3 bronze medals in my local table tennis tournament but why not shoot for the stars hey?!

    It seems being famous really ups the odds of recovery. Interesting isn’t it? I wonder if it’s due to the time and money factor or if it’s because they had to be tenacious enough to make it big in the first place.

    Maybe we should team up, write a smash hit pop song and increase our odds of recovery?

    I’m just about to publish a similar piece on my site and will chuck up a link to this post if that’s cool with you.

    Best 🙂

    Joe

    Ps. The table tennis thing was a lie. I’d need a silver medal to be truly satisfied….

    • Hi Joe, love your sense of humour!

      Yes I’ve toyed with the idea of coming up with some CFS/ME songs, they would probably end up being quite folky knowing me but I think you are onto something re a pop song. Fame could provide us with the injection of cash needed to take this thing out!

      No seriously I do think that these famous athletes who have overcome CFS/ME have a little more of that mind over matter power than perhaps the average bear. They are taught to push on no matter what and they are truly an inspiration for others following in their wake. I do also believe that if you have the money to throw everything at it that would also help.

      Duncan mentions beg, borrowing and ….well not quite stealing, but sourcing money from wherever you can to throw at it with the idea that once you recover you can pay it all back. I have quite a bit of debt racking up in my sphere but not with anyone that is going to try and repossess my house!

      Love your drive – go for gold!

      Thanks Joe, yes a link would be fantastic. Look forward to reading your article.
      Mel

  5. Sam says:

    Hi Mel,

    I have just been diagnosed with CFS after being ill for 2 months. Thank you for posting this brilliant article, there is so much negativity on the internet surrounding CFS/ME and to hear about these success stories provides me with a hope that i didn’t think existed.

    I’m sure there are hundreds of other people that have read this article and it may have brought them back from the edge, as it has me.

    Good luck to everyone that is recovering from this infliction.

    Sam

    • Thanks for your comment Sam, yes you are so right. There is a lot of distressful info on the internet about CFS/ME and it can really put you into a panic. I recall feeling that if this was it, and if there was very little chance of getting my life back again, then well….what really was the point. The whole point of my starting this blog was to bring myself back into a positive place and it really did work. Focus on baby steps and slowly chip away on improving your health, it will happen, it is just a journey. Thanks again!
      Mel

  6. Gillian LEISHMAN says:

    Just to say Hi to anyone who is suffering from CFS.
    I’ve had it for 4 years. I have finally found an amazing Doctor who practices integrated medicine.
    I went to 5 different doctors before I found someone that just didn’t think I was making it all up and wanted to put me onto antidepressants.
    He has suffered from CFS himself and so clearly understands,which helps enormously..
    We do lots of trialling and erroring!!(is that even a word??) Anyway,I have spent a fortune on different treatments.(without much luck!),before I discovered this Doctor.
    I now feel I am on the road to full recovery.
    I take lots of supplements,exercise every second day,try to pace my life. My diet has always been pretty healthy,but now I am a super healthy eater ..
    My Doctor says only type A people develop CFS,so that we find it very hard to adjust our lifestyle and of course get very frustrated.
    He also says we will live a very long and healthy life,because of the adjustments we have had to make to our lifestyles.
    We must find calming activities for the days when we are really struggling eg.. listening to music,reading,meditation,yoga,movies,small sessinos of socialing is important as well.
    Also on the bad days have short 1/2 hour rests in between doing what we have to get done. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
    STOP and smell the roses OFTEN!!
    So that’s a bit of my story.
    At present I am researching a new product range.
    I am going to triall it,starting next week.
    I will report back if I get the results it is promising.
    Good luck to my fellow sufferers.
    We will find a CURE.
    Gillian

    I also have regular blood tests to check Vit D and B12 ,DHEA levels
    I have a weekly B12 injection and have DHEA supps,as my levels were almost nil. This helps my cortisol levels and all the benefits of normal DHEA in the body.
    I am quite fascinated with this syndrome and love to help other sufferers because I know how very sick we are when we do a ‘crash and burn”. I am a registered nurse,so am always researching and trying new things.
    I am looking at some other products at the moment taht apparantly are benefiting CFS sufferers enormously,so I will keep you posted!!
    Watch this spot !! Ha!

    • Thanks Gillian,
      Fantastic stuff! Great to hear you have found a good Doctor. Would you like to let us know who that is and where? Some people may be interested to visit. I also did some DHEA which I found helped as well. Funny how you forget over time. I did try a lot of stuff as well and yes, just kept on with the things that I could actually see some progress with.
      Thanks again
      Mel

  7. Andrew young says:

    Dear Mel (my wife’s name!) and Edie

    Thanks for the very helpful blog! I have CFS……I was just wondering if you would mind sharing which vitamin supplements (if any) you have found make a measured improvement in recovery?

    Assistance appreciated….

    Sincerely

    Andrew

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