Tight duo battles chronic fatigue

16:00, Feb 07 2013
Wendy and Sophie Matthews
TIGHT TEAM: Mother and daughter Wendy and Sophie Matthews draw on each other for strength in their fight with chronic fatigue syndrome.

For most people catching the flu is just a bit of a nuisance - an interruption to the routine of daily life.

But for Whitford mother and daughter Wendy and Sophie Matthews catching the flu ended up being a defining moment in their lives. And not in a positive way.

After a number of visits to the doctor and trips in and out of hospital the pair was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis, more commonly known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Although it is often not hereditary Wendy says there is a gene doctors can identify showing a predisposition to the illness.

Wendy, 58, who was diagnosed at 39 noticed something was wrong when she started walking to the left.

"It got to the stage where I could only shuffle. Then I ended up in bed for two years.


"It hits every system in the body and you get all sorts of symptoms. The things most people do naturally I struggle to achieve," she says.

Wendy dreaded waking up in the morning knowing it would be a challenge just to make it through the day.

"In the really bad times I would watch the clock and just try to get through the next five minutes," she says.

Wendy and her daughter have become a lot closer through their shared illness and understanding of one another.

"We spend a lot of time together and know each other well enough that when we have cognitive issues we understand without words."

Sophie, 24, was the top of her class and had aspirations of tertiary education, travelling and living happily ever after.

Instead she watches her twin sister live out the dreams she once had for herself.

"Having my twin out in the real world has been both a challenge and a reward.

"I try really hard to not be jealous because I would hate it if she was jealous of me. It's kept me in touch with what is happening outside the walls of my house.

"I've gone through so many things in my life that are hard already. You become numb to pain and learn to not dwell."

Because each case of chronic fatigue is different doctors are unable to say whether or not Sophie will recover.

"It can either be character-building or character-breaking," the 24-year-old says.

Despite the crippling illness that riddles the mother and daughter, the strength they draw from one another has created a tight team determined to fight chronic fatigue to the bitter end.

A community fundraiser will be held to raise awareness of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at 7.30pm, February 9, at Howick's Uxbridge Arts Centre.

The event is called You and ME and is a live art auction showcasing work contributed by East Auckland artists.

The night will feature live folk bands, speakers on chronic fatigue syndrome and provide information to allow people to better understand the condition.

Proceeds will fund the development and commission of a local area field worker to aid and assist administration of East Auckland CFS Support.

Email eastcfsgroup@ gmail.com for more information.

Eastern Courier