CFS/ME & Fibro

A History of ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia: Does It Run in the Family?

For the #May12BlogBomb this year, I’ve decided to take a different tack. I’m looking back in time rather than forward. I’ve written before how I’ve never had the best of health, even as a child. For a long time I wondered why I seem to be the only one. A meeting with a great aunt changed that.

My great gran in 1929
My Great Gran in 1929

I was about 17 years old when I took a trip to Wales for a long weekend break with my parents. My Mum’s sister mentioned that one of their maternal aunts was now living in Wales with her married daughter, so Mum got the address so we could make a visit. When we got there, a neighbour said that they had gone on holiday, but that Aunt Elsie had been put in a care home for the duration. When we arrived Aunt Elsie recognised my Mum as soon as she saw her, even though it had been many years since they last met. She was about 93 years old, bright as a button and lucid in her many recollections. One of the first things she said to me (after introductions) was:

“My Mum had pale skin just like yours.”

I’ve always had rather pale skin, more so than others in my family. To know that my Great Granny had the same (lack of) skin colour was rather a relief. It also turned out the Great Granny also had poor health, that she seemed to pick up every virus going around. This was another relief to me that someone else had been as unwell as I could be. I didn’t know much about CFS back then, but now it does make me wonder if she had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Great Granny died of cancer in 1930 aged 52.

Even my maternal Granny never had very good health in her life. But even seemingly strong and healthy people can fall to a chronic illness.

Great Uncle Ernest - Royal Marines Artillery
Great Uncle Ernest – Royal Marines Artillery

I recently found the service records of two great uncles, on my Dad’s side, who served in the Royal Marines Artillery. One of them Ernest, enlisted in 1921, about five months after he married. He kept good character throughout his career and fought in World War Two. He was discharged in 1943. The reason given was Fibrositis – which is an old term for Fibromyalgia. With Fibromyalgia, as well as CFS, it seems to need a trigger to kick into life; an illness or an accident for example. It may be argued that fighting in World War Two would have been trigger enough. But also on his service record is that he had an appendix scar – so maybe that operation had an impact on his health.

I am by no means the only one in my family to have ME/CFS. My eldest brother has had ME for at least 25 years now, if not rather longer. He works for himself, doing what ever he can whilst looking after himself by keeping to a good diet. One of my sisters also has ME and more recently has been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Her situation is more difficult as she also has arthritis and has a nine year old son with ADHD to cope with. One of my nieces had ME from a very young age, but seems to have fully recovered now.

The question I asked in this post is, does it run in the family. From my perspective, seeing that I can trace it back in my family tree, gives me an answer in the affirmative. There does generally seem to be a weakness in our bodies that means we are more susceptible to our health breaking down in this way. This is not the same for everyone, as it just as easily come out of the blue.

If you would like to read my blog bomb post from last year, you can read it here. Also you can read my blog post from last years Fibromyalgia Awareness Week here. If you would like more information on ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia, each post gives a list of UK associations who can help.