Tuesday, September 27, 2011

this is not a poem.

it's been a run on sentence kind of day
a couple of days ago i took a heavy clunk to the head
which is up there on the list of
really bad things that should not happen to someone with a neurological disease
and found myself dyslexically writing certain letters of the alphabet backwards afterwards.

i am too sad to write.
maybe it's the year of the rabbit, which is said to take issue with my kind.
maybe it's pms.
maybe it's that life is so damn hard all the time.
it's so hard sometimes, that All i can do is write.
and spit it out onto paper
like puddled black spattered ink.
as if it's my comment on this shitty day.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

sunshine made from rain

today, i've been teetering along tears
i don't know what or why
to stay in bed
or get into a car and go
go somewhere that might take me away.

there's a grief inside me
though i don't know its name
it reaches up into my throat
with its clenched fist
making it difficult to swallow.

the cluck cluck of chickens
comes through the open window
floating in from the farm
it's magic born from sadness and suffering
it's sunshine made from rain.

Friday, July 15, 2011


i look over at my favorite pair of shoes
once white
now that faded farm stained color
no laces
and frayed
around every exposed edge

and i think,
i know exactly how you feel.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

writing about cfs

"It isn't just my story that I am telling though I am here to tell it. It is the story of millions of people. It is a story that has been hidden instead of shared to its demise. Its invisibility has only perpetuated its mistreatment.  "

With all of the news coming out around Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) I felt it was time to tell my own experience with having this disease for the past 16 years. I've written an autobiographical short story: http://bealightcfsawareness.blogspot.com/2010/09/short-story-written-and-told-from.html.

Please let me know any thoughts, ideas, critiques on this piece of work. I do believe that these stories need to be out there. People are reading about the evolving science, but don't necessarily understand the significance without understanding the experience.

Amberlin Wu

MV Voice
new yorker

sun magazine?
new york times?

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Perched Miracle

I saw a miracle yesterday.
It wriggled in under the door frame
before the heat of the day had settled in.

It stretched its willowy wings
perched on the foot of my bed
and looked softly into my pained eyes

A promise, it said
that despite the forever it's been
of viral warfare
in twisted, knotted nerves
and what they say about there being no cure
and all that has been taken away

The brightest of lights lie ahead.
This, I promise you.

It gave me a squeeze on the shoulder
the reassuring kind
that tells you to believe
and in a twirling trail of hearts
opened the door and left.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

In Ecuador

Waterfall spatter
across my sun shined face
riding past the craggy granite
in the wild rainforest

With heavenly wings
I am a dandelion seed
carrying precious wishes on wind
a floating feather
dancing in the spray
of cold Ecuadorian clean

Racer back tank
camel back bag
I stand to lean into the pedals
"Let's go faster!"

A memory,
my memory
of before
living under the shelter
of down and linens
Propped pillows and a laptop.

It's soot colored clouds today.
The window pane says
"Burr, it's cold."
I guess I'll stay in
maybe check the forecast.

published on voxpoetica.com 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Advocacy Success in San Franciso!

PRENOTE: A second small yet successful demonstration for the rights of people with ME/CFS was just held. A key goal of these mini-demos is to inspire more of the same; we hope you (those who are able) will hold a mini-demo, too. Only 1-5 people are needed to pull one off, get some press attention and make some waves. Make your own signs, or we can send you our pre-made 25-foot banner. All 3 goals of this Mini-Demo Strategy are found below.

WHO CAME:  On May 25, 2011, an ME/CFS public demonstration was held in front of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Region 9 headquarters, in San Francisco, California.
Despite the rain, eleven people came: two people with ME/CFS, Susan Kreutzer and Andy Au; three family members (mother, mother-in-law, spouse), including the protest co-organizer, Bobbi Ausubel; and six able-bodied friends. The multicultural group included people of Asian, Latino and Caucacasin decent, gay and straight, young adult and seniors. The people with ME/CFS came in spite of all the obstacles and barriers this illness throws in their way.

SETTING UP:  At 1:30 pm, the protesters positioned themselves on the busy, highly trafficked sidewalk in front of HHS Region 9, also known as the Federal Building. They unfurled a 25-foot banner that read: "Obama, Sebelius, HHS: Shame on you for abandoning 1 million sick and disabled Americans with ME/CFS and XMRV (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and a newly discovered retrovirus). Clinical trials now!" (This banner was first used on May 10th at HHS national headquarters in Washington DC:
SECURITY:  Security came out immediately in the form of one person. He appeared to be the Head of Security for the Federal Building/HHS. Bobbi told him what they were doing and how she had been told by the city police that they could be on the sidewalk without a permit, as long as they didn't have a loudspeaker. The security officer agreed, took some of the demonstrators' literature and went back inside. It was all very relaxed.

PRESS:  The protest co-organizers, Bobbi and Rivka, a mother/daughter team, had spent the days prior reaching out to the press. Success! The New York Times reporter who has covered ME/CFS in the past came "to say hi" (no article expected, but good to keep relations going) and a San Francisco Chronicle reporter and cameraperson came as well. The resulting article is found here:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgibin/article.cgi?f=%2Fc%2Fa%2F2011%2F05%2F25%2FBANA1JL1AH.DTL  Though this article was disappointing in the usual ways, its publication was still good news, as the SF Chronicle is one of the largest papers in the region. Plus, the reporter said she hoped to do an additional story on kids with ME/CFS. And to our knowledge, this is the first time an ME/CFS protest has made news in the U.S.

ACTIONS:  Standing in front of HHS with the banner for 1 hour, the protesters videotaped prepared and spontaneous statements (see resulting video), handed out flyers to passers-by and in a surprise action sang the song, "Clinical trials now!" (Also seen in this 2010 video:

Also surprising, after the demonstration, there was a group meeting for a half hour with Eric Alborg, Regional Outreach Specialist of HHS's Region 9. His boss, who was out of the country, is Herb Schultz, the Regional Director of Region 9. In the hierarchy, Alborg is positioned directly under Schutlz. (Alborg's job main is to implement the new health care program.) Alborg had thought he'd be meeting with just one person, Bobbi, and had not known about the demo in advance. But after checking with someone (we don't know who), he agreeded to meet with the whole group, that is, the two protesters who have ME/CFS and their three family members. Alborg was open to listening and wanted to know why the protesters were there. People talked about the concerns and needs of people with ME/CFS (funding and clinical trials!). The demonstrators put the struggle regarding ME/CFS in the context of HIV/AIDS, linking the possible retrovirus connection (XMRV). This discussion made sense since HIV is historically a key issue in San Francisco, due to a large and politically active gay community. The protesters emphasized to Alborg that HHS should have an understanding of the politics of all this, due to HIV/AIDS. They also told him that the information about this demo, and the meeting with him, would not be limited to the small group he was presently gathered with, but would be rapidly disseminated all around the globe via the internet, and that ME/CFS was an issue that was not going to go away.

Alborg's suggestion to the protesters: 1) Call/lobby local institutions and legislators; 2) build coalitions with groups with other disabilities and chronic illnesses -- groups that have already-established power and influence. (Though he did not say it, one protester went away thinking HIV/AIDS and Autism groups).

Bobbi gave Alborg copies of a letter she had written with her own personal statement on top, followed by a list of basic needs/demands from our ME/CFS community. Bobbi's letters were addressed to HHS Secretary Sebelius, NIH Director Collins, NIAID Director Fauci and Schultz (Head of HHS Region 9). Alborg promised to make sure the letters were given to each.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen to angels

As I have proceeded through 17 years of having CFS, I have encountered more and more individuals who also suffer from this terrible disease. I have had conversations with people who struggle to have the will to keep going even one more day, seen videos of people who cannot roll over in bed or even speak, people who have not left their homes for decades or have had to move from one home to another year after year because of financial dilemmas that have resulted from this disabling illness. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is among the cruelest of diseases. There are no words to capture how it takes that moment where the train goes off the tracks, crashing into the earth in flames and makes that moment every moment of your life.

All of this is terrifying to an undefinable degree, but what is most amazing to an equally undefinable degree, is that these same people are consistently the kindest, most generous, caring people I have ever encountered. I see people reach out to others they have never even met with the care and love of a parent or a partner. I see a connection and sense of community, where we are all acknowledging one another's brilliant and bright existence, outside and in spite of this illness. I don't know if CFS simply strikes the bright and the kind, or if the experience makes us so. Regardless, I wanted to share this with all of you who have CFS, and also those of you who don't and may not have the privilege of bearing witness to this community of humanitarians.

A final thought. It strikes me in my heart whenever I hear of another person with CFS that this sort of thing isn't supposed to happen to angels.
But it does.
Millions of them.
And as an angel would, these people gracefully spread their wings and continue to fly about the earth doing what angels do.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


"To the CDC and NIH scientists who’ve been doing this ludicrous research for three decades and sweeping a worldwide human catastrophe of 17 million people under the carpet, I say to you:  Have you no sense of decency at long last?" 
by Mindy Kitei, a science reporter who's covered ME/CFS for 20 years

To read this fiery, frighteningly true article about the gravity of the disease and the levity with which it is dealt go to: http://www.cfscentral.com/2011/05/next-manhattan-project.html

Thank you for telling it how it is, Mindy.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

May is ME/CFS Awareness Month!


Put a ribbon on your Facebook profile picture to show your support!


***Once you have placed it on your photo, YOU NEED TO GO INTO YOUR PHOTOS AND CHOOSE THE NEWLY RIBBONED PHOTO AS YOUR PROFILE PICTURE. (sorry for shouting, it's just that everyone misses that part.)
Make the invisible VISIBLE! 

xo♥ amberlin

Friday, May 6, 2011

One man's deciding to come "out of the closet" with CFS

"Until now, I've told no one except a small inner-circle of family that my mysterious breakdown in health, vitality, and cognition that started the night of May 5, 2007 was not due to an exotic virus I picked up in the Congo while on assignment for National Geographic. The truth? I'm actually a textbook case of someone with CFS, a syndrome I sniffed at until it happened to me. For the sufferer CFS means a total health breakdown, like a plane that inexplicably begins tearing itself apart mid-flight. Together, all the various dysfunctions associated with it leave the patient in a state of health more debilitating than chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, or multiple sclerosis. " - John Falk

To read the article, click here:

Dr. Andreas Kogelnik’s Talk on Re-Evaluating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Immunology

This is an extremely thorough summary of Dr. Kogelnik’s talk “Re-Evaluating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Immunology” at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View on April 19, 2011.

Re-Evaluating CFS and Immunology

An Interview with Laura Hillenbrand

Some excerpts:

What advice would you give to others out there who suffer from ME/CFS?
The most important thing I have learned in my 24 years with this disease is to listen to my body. Everyone with this disease has different boundaries, and we find out through trial and error where they are. It’s critical to know where they lie, because when ME/CFS patients overextend themselves, the result can be utterly disastrous. Several times, I have overdone it, leaving myself bedridden and desperately ill for years. Because many patients have been accused of merely being “lazy”—something I heard all the time in my first years with ME/CFS— they often push themselves too hard to prove they aren’t malingering. I did this myself, and paid dearly for it. So my advice is to always put your body first, listen to what it is telling you and respect those signals.

What are some natural treatments and/or ways you use to cope with
I’ve been doing yoga for about a decade now, and it has been a godsend to me. Even when I’m quite ill, there are a few poses I can still do, and it’s wonderful for my body, keeping it flexible and maintaining muscle tone. It’s even better for the mind. Yoga relaxes me, alleviates stress, and quiets my thoughts. There is a beautiful and nourishing mindset that attends yoga, focusing on acceptance of yourself and your situation, living in the moment, awareness of the interconnectedness of all things, and cultivating gratitude for your blessings. There is so much loss, so much anguish, and so much stress involved in being as ill as I am; yoga helps me cope with it and love my life and all I have been given.
Along with yoga, I practice meditation. No matter how sick I am, I can always meditate, and it always refreshes me and fills me with optimism. In spite of what the disease does to me, I’m a very happy person, and I credit meditation for much of that. In my sickest years, I sometimes meditated three times a day.
I am also careful about the chemicals that go into my body. I try to buy products that are natural. I buy products from companies like Loving Naturals, which sells products that are organic, simple, natural and absolutely safe. I try to do this especially with products I use every day, like moisturizers and lip balms. Also, we only use nontoxic, natural products in our home, because we don’t want to breathe in harsh chemicals, and we don’t want to pollute the environment.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What We Give Up

I tried to reach you tonight
but you are probably already curled up with a book
or doing some other winding down from the day activity.

I heard this song today and was taken back to you
the sadness seeped out from my heart
which had been carefully locked with a promise
that this would be best
best for my ever so fragile health
which could not bare to acknowledge the grief and loss
of so many dreams.

The tears came
leaving salty trails
down my cheeks.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Should have died on Sunday

The poison wasn't strong enough
or the air was too fresh
but i should have died on sunday.

and now

i take the gossamer threads of my life
made of the laughing sea
and the reflection of scarlet lady bug wings
in the eyes of those who still believe in magic
and i wrap them
it hurts
i burn
it aches
i wrap them about me
in a cocoon
a shell
so tightly woven
that only the light can seep through.

i will wait here.
for the pain to stop throbbing
for my heart to start beating
for my soul to start breathing

you cannot catch me
in your black, tarred depression
i will merely
slip out of my ballet shoes
let you devour them
and return to my cocoon
i have returned to myself.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Blessing for a Friend on the Arrival of Illness

by John O'Donohue

Now is the time of dark invitation
Beyond a frontier that you did not expect;
Abruptly, your old life seems distant.

You barely noticed how each day opened
A path through fields never questioned,
Yet expected deep down to hold treasure.
Now your time on earth becomes full of threat;
Before your eyes your future shrinks.

You lived absorbed in the day to day,
So continuous with everything around you,
That you could forget you were separate;

Now this dark companion has come between you,
Distances have opened in your eyes,
You feel that against your will
A stranger has married your heart.

Nothing before has made you
Feel so isolated and lost.

When the reverberations of shock subside in you,
May grace come to restore you to balance.
May it shape a new space in your heart
To embrace this illness as a teacher
Who has come to open your life to new worlds.

May you find in yourself
A courageous hospitality
Towards what is difficult,
Painful and unknown.

May you use this illness
As a lantern to illuminate
The new qualities that will emerge in you.

May the fragile harvesting of this slow light
Help you to release whatever has become false in you.
May you trust this light to clear a path
Through all the fog of old unease and anxiety
Until you feel arising within you a tranquility
Profound enough to call the storm to stillness.

May you find the wisdom to listen to your illness:
Ask it why it came? Why it chose your friendship?
Where it wants to take you? What it wants you to know?
What quality of space it wants to create in you?
What you need to learn to become more fully yourself
That your presence may shine in the world.

May you keep faith with your body,
Learning to see it as a holy sanctuary
Which can bring this night-wound gradually
Towards the healing and freedom of dawn.

May you be granted the courage and vision
To work through passivity and self-pity,
To see the beauty you can harvest
From the riches of this dark invitation.

May you learn to receive it graciously,
And promise to learn swiftly
That it may leave you newborn,
Willing to dedicate your time to birth.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I've been asked to write a paragraph about living with CFS.

My life with CFS was kicked off with a harrowing 3 months of pneumonia. I tried to pretend it wasn't happening by continuing pre-med classes, and dance, only to find myself in bed and in bone cracking pain at every minute I wasn't in lab or rehearsal. Slowly, piece by piece I watched the things that made my life mine fall away. Instead, it became doctors that didn't believe me, living back at home and wishing my parents a good time when they went out dancing at age 22. I broke down in anger and tears weekly, trying to cry out the unfairness. That was 16 years ago. CFS and I have a different relationship now. I realize it has sent my life down a very unusual path, one with unrelentless suffering, but also one that gives a person a lot of time to think and watch how people live. This horrific disease has given me the opportunity to really put together how and who I want to be, and that, oddly enough, has been precious.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What do you do when you are too sick to do anything.

I have had CFS for 16 years and more than anything, I think it is a challenge of endurance. I have taken up full time employment in being happy. I ask myself throughout the day, what will make me feel even a wee bit better? and that's what I do. I have a million hobbies that come and go. It's different for everyone, what brings you joy, but I do feel it is essential. It takes the spirit of a warrior to carry on under such circumstances. 
a bit of writing.
a work in progress of course...

I am in fierce pursuit of joy.
I write.
I paint.
I play guitar
and then I don't for months and months.
Sometimes it just looks too heavy over there
propping itself up against the wall.

I share my story
I believe that purpose can be made of all of this suffering.
I photograph my chickens as each finds her way to bed at sunset.
They make me laugh.
They know how important it is
to remember that life is not so serious.

Somedays, it's still hard.
Of course it is.

Other days, I plant a fresh crop of arugula
curl up in a sleeping bag 

on the backyard bench
and see the water colored sky
over the puddles on the nasturtium
and know that rarely have I been better.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cover Story in this week's Mountain View Voice

December 2, 2010

'Some days are worse than others, and today isn't the worst, but it is far from a good day. Since she first began noticing symptoms, she has had periods -- which can last for months -- when she has felt right as rain. Of late, however, she hasn't left the house, or her bed, much at all.

"I don't have any plans," she says in exasperation. "Everything I've ever planned in my life got cancelled."'

To read the article, click here:
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired by Nick Veronin

Monday, November 29, 2010

Laura Hillebrand, author of Seabiscuit, sufferer of CFS speaks out.

"'You have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,' he said. He explained that it was one of the most frustrating illnesses he had encountered in his practice; presented with severely incapacitated patients, he could do very little to help them. He suspected that it was viral in origin, although he believed that the Epstein-Barr virus was not involved; early lab tests had liked the virus to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but subsequent research had demonstrated that some patients had had no exposure to the virus. He could offer no treatment. Eventually, he said, some patients recovered on their own.
'Some don't?'
'Some don't.'
That night, for the first time since March, I didn't dream of being an athlete. I dreamed of being ill. In my dreams, I was never healthy again."
 - from A Sudden Illness - How My Life Changed, by Laura Hillenbrand

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Newsweek addresses legitimacy of CFS

For years, chronic-fatigue syndrome has been dismissed by the medical establishment. Now researchers may be closing in on a culprit.


Friday, November 5, 2010

I am trying to remember

I am trying to remember
what life was like before CFS.
how it was to
do things
watch things
climb things
without worry or concern.

I'm trying to remember what it was like
never to have to construct a plan B and an emergency kit
for every outing
to say "Yes, I'd love to!" to any invitation
to dance to pounding loud music
or float across the floor in a ballgown
to hike up mountains
and feel the strain and glorious pain in my legs
rewarded by magical, far reaching views
to swim in the cool of the ocean
and feel the water wash through me.

to be in crowds of people and hear the hush
before something wonderful is about to happen
to be in a swarm of people and language that is different
dizzy from the richness of a life and enthusiasm
painted by a different palette of colors.

I think it's freedom that I remember.

And what will I remember from now?
I hope to remember the freedom to live by my own clock,
exempt from the frenzy of silicon valley speed.
I hope to remember a life brimming
of art, animals and love.
A connecting of people with hearts
passionate about a common goal
the healing of me,
the healing of all of us.
Of squeezing the life out of each day
even if it's watching the sky stroll by my bedroom window
A living of paying close attention to myself, to others
and making decisions mindfully and in my own time.
That however hard they spin you, tornadoes pass
and love will find you wherever you may be tucked away.

I hope I will  remember. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

just weather

i am the sky.

and the feelings
the huge feelings
that rattle in my heart
and shake the very roots from which i grow
mere thunderstorms passing through.

how easily we are fooled into believing
thoughts carelessly grafittied on the walls of our minds.

how carefully we must remember to remember.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What Were You Taught in Med School about CFS?

A dear friend just wrote me that she has been reading all of my facebook posts. She said that they really helped her understand more about the disease and made her a better doctor. She said she was disgusted with what she was taught in med school. So I asked, her,
"What were you taught?"
"You're not going to like it," she started out.
"We were (and I bet most med students still are) taught that people with CFS, fibro, vuvlodynia, interstitial cystitis, etc - are basically crazy people with a psych problem and some physical components."
(Chicago Medical School, circa 2005)

It all starts to make sense.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The most recent shockingly unsurprising, appalling visit to the emergency room

written on September 19, 2010 at 12:48pm
I'm weakened from the most recent episode at the ER where they treated me like crap as soon as they heard that I have CFS. They shot me up with all kinds of pain meds for my brain shattering 30+ hour migraine and bone cracking body pain. None of them worked, but only made me super drugged out and then they literally threw me out in less than ten minutes after giving me the last shot.

The ER doc told me that my health problems were not viral (Does anyone in the medical field read the science section of the frikkin news???!? CHRIST!) and needed to be "dealt with at home." Infuriating.

So my hope is I tell all of you about this and you tell everyone you know and maybe it leaks out to doctors so they treat all of these very sick and suffering people with some dignity.

Private pain -> public purpose.