Someone once told me the best place to start a story was at the beginning – so here it goes.
In the beginning God made Heaven and Earth. He started sometime Monday morning, worked right through to Saturday night, had a few too many drinks to celebrate his newest creation and so had to take Sunday off to ‘rest’. Now this is a couple of thousand years before the start of the story I’m referring to, therefore, I’ll miss out the stuff about Adam, Eve, the Romans and how one shouldn’t covet thy neighbours house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox or ass and jump straight ahead to Spring 2008.
If this was movie, the title sequence would start with the camera sweeping across a clear blue sky on a warm summers day, it would then pan down and the audience would be transported back to 2008. I would be driving Marty, my 11 year old Ford Fiesta (that due to a faulty exhaust, emitted a bang that sounded like a gun shot every time I drove over a bump) whilst listening to some Bruce Springsteen at top volume and singing along at a pitch only dogs could hear, ‘Cause baby we were born to run’ Unfortunately, this isn’t some big budget Hollywood production with a highly paid actress being cast in her greatest role to date as the wonderful Samantha McInnes.
I was 20 years of age and the girl who was most comfortable in skinny jeans, a band t-shirt and red converse topped off with the signature biker jacket and scarf. Due to my hair always being a mess and the fact I liked to dress to like 1970s homeless punk, I regularly looked like I was auditioning for a role in a an all female Ramones tribute band. I imagine they’d be called The Romanellas. Due to my 5 ft 10 stature I feel the only band member I could portray realistically would be Joey Ramone, plus I could so pull off a pair of those glasses. Every one of my days had a soundtrack, I lived on music from the past; Bob Dylan, The Band, Joni Mitchell, Springsteen, Patti Smith. Most days I could be found dancing around to these legendary artists. I say dance but I don’t know if you can really class my moves as dancing. It looked more like I was having an upright epileptic fit. Now and then, I would even retrieve a mop from the kitchen and pretend to be performing on stage to a stadium full of my hardcore fans, who just couldn’t get enough of my epic miming abilities and spasm dancing.
I had just finished university with a degree in Politics, or as I prefer to call it, a colossal waste of three years studying a subject that commented on what changes should be made to make the world a better place, rather than actually doing something about it. The first signs of the recession where showing, Heath Ledger had been found dead in his New York apartment and Katy Perry was taking over the world and promoting Lesbianism with her hit song “I Kissed a Girl” and apparently she did like it. To celebrate never having to pretend to be interested in Social Contract theories ever again, my good friend Jennifer and I decided to spend our summer inter-railing around as many European cities that would could fit in with very little money, surviving on nothing but water, bread and on very special occasions, packets of tortilla chips that we would dip into some very questionable chocolate spread.
As Jennifer is likely to be mentioned as much as myself throughout this tale of the unexpected, I should probably tell you a bit about her. Jennifer and I met at 16 when we were both slaving away in the same clothes shop. We are like two sides of the same coin, similar in many respects but vastly different in others. For instance both of us enjoyed partying, going to see many a shit band that thought they were going to be the next big thing, and getting free drinks. However both of us had very different methods to get said drinks. Jen being blessed by Mother Nature in the breast department used them as a tool for a cheap night out. Big Mamma however was not as kind to me, instead I got height which meant two things; one, small men would get intimidated by me and feel the need to belittle every word out my mouth to prove their own masculinity and two, tall men bought me drinks due to my very long legs. With Jennifer you get something that is a rarity, complete and utter honesty, many have called it a harshness, I prefer to believe these people just can’t handle the truth as I tend to agree with 90% of the things that come out her mouth. She hates the pretentious intellectual types who start off every introduction with ‘Hi, I’m Eugene and I have a joint PHD in the mating habits of bed bugs and the effects of furniture polish on the IQ of household cats, What do you study?’ as they judge her as being an idiot because she never felt the need to continue studying after she was no longer forced to. The irony is that Jennifer may be one of the most intelligent people I know; she just doesn’t feel the need to force it down everyone’s throat. And despite being a big boobed, harsh, hater of the highly educated, she is one of my best friends.
After travelling around Europe and returning to Glasgow, like many graduates who finished university, I realised that throughout my time in the education system I along with many of my peers was lied to by authority figures who repeatedly told us that going through further education, working hard and getting a degree would practically guarantee us all a job (lied to or my teachers never realised the economic downturn that was around the corner). Instead I went full time job working in the clothes shop. Not only did this teach me that if you wear green and red together you will look like either an elf or a Christmas tree, I earned enough money to keep partying it up like I was still a student (I would like to take the time to point out, without the use of illegal drugs). Now this may seem like my life at this time was just all work and drinking, I am not going to lie that did take up the majority of my days, along with my hallway dancing, but I was also very outdoorsy and active. I ran for an hour every second day, regularly went hiking, camping and was ready to take on the world and all its challenges. The only health complaint I had was every now and then I would suffer from migraines and sickness which one Christmas did lead to me being sick over my friend’s room mate whilst ice skating. However, he wasn’t that pissed off with having to clean puke off his trousers and the sickness and migraines never usually lasted very long or happened frequently enough to cause me any concern.
One day in May, after working all week I decided to do my usual, head out with my friends, dance until my feet bled and shot tequila like a gay cowboy trying to forgot his pending nuptials to the boss’s daughter. It’s true what the song says; it really does make you happy (I would like to take this time to point out that under no circumstances do I recommend binge drinking, unless it’s a Saturday, then is practically the law). Now, I do not remember this weekend for the wild partying and the copious amounts of alcohol consumed, what I do remember was the morning after the night before. Instead of waking up with the usual dry fuzzy mouth, sore feet and memory lapses you get after a night of tequila, I awoke to find my mouth full of blisters. Needless to say not the kind of look I was going for. My first thoughts were not “OMG there is clearly something wrong as I have awoke to find that I have leprosy of the mouth”. It was actually “Oh shit I have now drank so much tequila that my brain thinks my mouth is a foreign entity and is trying to reject it”! I immediately got up, dressed and headed to pharmacy where I purchased any product that had the words throat and mouth on it, I didn’t care what the hell they were for, I just thought that if I sprayed enough of them in my mouth it would return to its previous non-diseased state. Over the course of the next few weeks no matter what I used nothing would shift what I had now became convinced was the result of an airborne toxin that had accidently been released from a secret underground lab. Concerned that the mouth leprosy may be getting worse, I decided it was time to see the doctor.
When I entered the GPs surgery I was surprised to see a young student doctor I had never met before behind the desk. Being a girl in the prime of her life I did what any normal girl would do when faced by a young, hot soon to be doc, I tried to act cool and sophisticated, well as cool and sophisticated as one can be when they have a mouth full of boils. I never took in much of what this perfectly formed specimen in front of me was saying, as I was too busy trying to psychically convey how ethics and boundaries did not need to come into play in our doctor/patient relationship and it would be totally appropriate for him to ask me out on a date. The brief parts I did manage to catch were; it was probably nothing, I was just run down from all that hardcore working and partying I was doing, but just to be on the safe side he was going to send me for some blood tests. As I then got up to leave, trying still to impress the hot doctor by smiling and giving him the eye, I tripped and fell head first out the door.
After my fall my health started to deteriorate, at first I thought it was just a by-product of the embarrassment I felt, but common sense kicked in when I was unable to get halfway through my shift without my body giving up and refusing to do anything. I was suffering from really sore heads, but not the usual spewing whilst ice-skating migraines that I was used to. I had that crappy feeling you get right before you get a severe case of flu or the shits and was just generally exhausted. A week after my initial consultation with the hot doctor I received a phone call from the surgery asking me to make an appointment straight away with the head Doctor, Dr Gregory. The disappointment of not being able to redeem myself from my trip out the door with the hot student doctor was displaced by the worry I felt about what was actually wrong with me.
When I returned Dr Gregory told me that overall my blood was a bit shit The general ingredient that make up your blood such as your Iron, Vitamin B12, ferritin etc were all alarmingly low. So to find out why that was, more tests were needed. I was tested for anything and everything that you can possibly be tested for: Coeliac Disease, Pernicious Anaemia, Diabetes, Crones Disease, Aids (now I don’t know if they actually did check for that last one but with the amount of tests they ran I wouldn’t be surprised). Throughout this time I started feeling worse, the exhaustion took over me completely, I awoke in the middle of the night with severe muscle cramps in my legs and no longer felt like I was about to get the flu, I now felt worse than I had with any flu or virus I’d ever experienced. After all the test results came back negative, I was referred to the hospital to meet with a lovely Gastroenterologist who was ever so kind as to stick a camera up my ass and down my throat (and no it was not the same camera), but yet again the same results – nothing wrong. After a few months of taking iron supplements and vitamin B12 injections I started to feel better and my blood count normalised. So thinking that this was all just some freak abnormality and that everything would be fine, I stopped going to see my doctor and went back to my normal daily routine. What I didn’t know was that this freak abnormality was actually one bastard of a virus and this would be the start of my relationship with M.E. I use the word relationship here as to me having this illness is like having a really crappy boyfriend. One of those guys who keep fucking you over time and time again, but for some reason you just can’t seem to dump him.
Being a bit of a geek I refer to my pre M.E self as Anakin Skywalker, young and full of potential, and the post M.E me as Darth Vader, basically fucked. Over the course of the next year and a half, things started to change. I would go through phases of feeling just like my old Anakin Skywalker self again, ready to take on the evils of the universe. Whilst other times I would feel terrible, I had no energy left at all and would feel as if the dark side had literally consumed me, “Luke I am your father”. During these times I would go and see the Doctor again and get my blood checked, thinking that it had to be something to do with that, but each time they came back with the same result; all within perfect ranges. I grew to think I was just getting older because it’s perfectly normal to feel like that at 20!
After a while I started running again, but a few months into it I had to stop as instead of doing my usual and spending an hour running several miles I struggled to leave the borders of my small town housing estate. I stopped going out as much. I was no longer the Tequila loving Sam. Instead I was one Tequila, two Tequila, now someone has to pick Sam up off the floor and put her to bed as she has just passed out AGAIN! As time went on exhaustion took over, my friends would phone and make fun of the fact that I was in bed at half 6 having came home from an 8 hour shift at work, but it all happened so gradually that it took me a long time to notice the vast change in my energy levels or the fact that I never really felt well. Looking back, I think that maybe I didn’t want to have to admit to myself that something was wrong. After a while, feeling ill just felt normal.
Then came 2010…