2009 College Scholarship winner Alexandra Volper's Essay

Life with chronic fatigue syndrome is a nightmare - always struggling to wake up, sometimes struggling to get to sleep, constantly feeling sick and exhausted. There are always headaches, stomach aches, and pains in my arms and legs. These are things that people with CFS deal with everyday. Chronic fatigue syndrome is something that most people do not understand, or they are just not willing to believe. Many think it is a non-existent illness and an excuse to be lazy. That is definitely not the case. My Dad always thought I was faking and my school administrators thought I was just being irresponsible.

I am eighteen years old and have been dancing since age 2. I always had trouble sitting still when I was as a child, so my Mom sent me to dance lessons to burn off some of my energy. My sister is two years older and I was always trying to sneak into her dance classes. In elementary school, I always was getting in trouble for tapping my feet under my desk, or for singing in the hallways. I just couldn’t wait to get to 5th grade so I could be in chorus and band.

Even now, if music comes on you can see me start to move. I could never help myself to stop doing that. Dance takes my heart and my mind to an imaginary place that I love to be in. I never stopped moving until one day a few years ago when I was just too tired to do anything.

My Mom would take me to dance class and after abut 5 minutes of dancing I would be totally exhausted, when before I would be able to dance 6-7 hours straight. I’d tell my Mom to take me home because I was too tired to dance and I’d go home and go to bed.

I was very dedicated and loved to dance, so I would push through a class. I would come home and cry because I was so tired and cranky and wanted to dance. You know how cranky teens can get and I was beyond cranky. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t dance anymore.

After weeks of trying to push myself and failing miserably, it just became too much. My Mom knew from the beginning that something was wrong if I couldn’t even make it through dance class. So, we began the rounds of doctor visits. I was at the doctor’s so much, I am surprised they didn’t give me my own room. My first pediatrician said I was depressed!  I’d leave the doctor’s and tell my Mom, “I AM NOT DEPRESSED!!” My Mom knew that I was sick and so we went to another pediatrician.

After ridiculous amounts of blood work, nothing seemed to be abnormal except my Epstein Barr level, which we already knew was high. I was so upset that every day I cried saying, “They are never going to find out what is wrong with me.” My Mom was on the computer talking to people all the time, doing research and trying to get a clue as to what was wrong with me. At my next doctor visit, my Mom brought up chronic fatigue syndrome and the doctor agreed that could be it. I finally had an answer about what could be wrong.  

I went from the pediatrician to an allergy and immunology doctor, an infectious disease doctor, a rheumatologist and a sleep doctor. Low thyroid?  Not it. Lupus? Not it. They tested everything and finally they came up with the same diagnosis….chronic fatigue syndrome. Not what we wanted to hear…but at least we knew what we were dealing with. The doctors all tried numerous medications, but nothing helped. I finally went to an endocrinologist who again said, “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” and sent me to get 15 vials of blood drawn. He has given me a medication that does help with the dizziness.

On the bright side, today I can dance again. I dance several days a week and am an assistant teacher in several classes, mostly working with the tiny ballerinas and little tappers. I still have to push myself but I am doing better. Dance clears my head of negative thoughts. Everyone needs that outlet especially with the amount of mental stress CFS creates.

I have developed a lot of compassion for people who are sick and can’t do much. I am the co-director and choreographer of a dance company. Every Saturday, we get together and work on dance numbers which another Senior and I choreograph. I love working with the younger girls and inspiring them to dance better and to use their talent to help other people. A lot of dance companies compete to win trophies, but that’s not what we do. We use our love of dance to bring smiles to others (we hope.) We perform at community events and also go out and do shows at nursing homes. My favorite part is going around and visiting all the patients after our shows.  They are fun to talk to and tell us lots of interesting stories.

I would like to pursue a career in dance education and/or dance therapy. I love working with children and I love sharing my love of dance with others. Since I have loved dancing since I was 2, I can’t say that my chronic fatigue syndrome influenced my decision to be a dance major. That just seems to be something I was born to do. The chronic fatigue syndrome has made me more aware of what it is like to be sick all the time, have problems functioning and not being able to live my life as a normal person. In that respect I think CFS has influenced my decision to incorporate the dance therapy into my career plans. A combination of being able to dance and to help others at the same time seems like an ideal career.

2008 College Scholarship Winner Christine Tynes' Essay

Life has its ups and downs, as well as unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes things take a turn for the worse, but we have to learn to struggle through and get past these obstacles.

Having chronic fatigue syndrome has been like a roadblock in the way of accomplishing my goals, but where there is a roadblock, there is always a detour.  My way of getting around this illness has been keeping a positive attitude and continuing to try my best. It will become easier to reach the end of the path to success because of the hard work and dedication I put into everything I do.

 Last summer was when I started having symptoms.  One night, I suddenly felt extremely tired and weak.  I had no idea what was going on, and most of the doctors I went to didn’t know either.  After many long months of waiting with no answers, going to several doctors, having three MRI’s, and getting so many blood tests I lost count, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 

At first I thought that it would be something I would have to deal with for the rest of my life, and I’d be too exhausted to do anything. However, almost a year later, I am still an honor student at school, in the top eight percent of the senior class. This year, I have become the online editor of my school newspaper, which requires a lot of work to keep it current and up to date. Although I have symptoms that get in the way of doing my schoolwork, I try to not let them affect me.

 My health has not affected my career decision because nothing will stop me from doing what I love.  When I was younger, my goal was to be a teacher or a writer, and I practiced by teaching my sister and writing and illustrating stories. My career goals have changed since then, but I am still just as ambitious as I used to be. I have always loved art because it gave me the opportunity to express myself and be creative. In high school,  I discovered that I love graphic arts, and I plan on studying graphic design in college this fall.

 Although I don’t think chronic fatigue syndrome has changed my career direction, I do believe that it has made an impact on the way I perceive things.  I am stronger than I was before, and whenever I am faced with a difficult situation, I have the willpower and determination to fight through it. I am a better person today because of all I’ve been through and experienced in the past year, and I am going to continue to maintain my optimistic attitude in the future.

2007 Scholarship Winner Ashley Ozery

Ashley Ozery 2007 Scholar Winner    Ever since I’ve been young, I’ve dreamed big. Fantastic notions of the future filled my head and I changed my “career” as often as my clothing.  People had always told me that if I worked hard, I could achieve anything.

     Unfortunately for me, merely working hard was not an option. When I was twelve years old, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. That diagnosis was accompanied by that of Pertussis (Whooping Cough) and the Epstein - Barr Virus. Finding out this debilitating illness was probably going to last many years was devastating to me as a child.

     Still, I realized I could not let this stop me from achieving greatness. I would just have to work harder.  I struggled with many subjects in school, especially mathematics. Despite my weakness in this subject, I have taken math every year, even beyond the requirements. Today I am in the Advanced Placement Statistics. My struggle has been very important to me, and despite the hardships I’ve faced, I’m glad things have worked out the way they have. If I had the power to change my past, I would not. I would simply not be the person I am today.

     It is important to face adversity. As the wise old adage states, life’s not fair. Learning this lesson early on prepared me for life’s challenges, both academic and physical.

     Despite my imperfect health, I volunteer with the Englishtown-Manalapan First Aid Squad, helping those with medical issues far worse than my own. It truly puts life in perspective. It would have been so easy to wallow in bitterness and self-pity. Instead, I feel lucky to be alive and don’t take a single moment for granted.

     This fall, I’m going to Lehigh University as an International Relations major. My ultimate goal is diplomacy—as previously stated, I will continue to dream big. The lessons I’ve learned these past six years cannot be taught in any classroom. I’ve learned to struggle, and to win.

     Life will never be easy. Not for me, not for anyone. I do, however, have an advantage by knowing this already. I am ready to take on the world. My dreams continue even after my ever-so-frequent sleep ceases.  While I hope I’ll need less rest in the future, I’ll never stop dreaming.

Congratulations to the 2006 Scholarship Winner

Ashley Frankel

     Every morning, it gets harder and harder to open my eyes.  They are always heavy feeling, as though I have weights on my lids. They are constantly pushing shut. I cannot wake up, but I have to.  I have school. Getting out of bed in the morning, to me,  is like climbing a mountain. Slow and hard, and sometimes you might want to quit and just go back down, or in my case fall back asleep, but you cannot because goals have been set and you want to prove to people that you are still strong, even at your weakest moments. Yet it's still a hurdle I have to overcome.
      After I finally wake up and get ready for school, I take a deep breath and brace myself for the rest of the day.  Luckily, I am a senior and I have the privilege to get out of school at twelve-eighteen. Although I have a short day everyday, maintaining straight A's is not exactly as easy for me as it is for most seniors. Because I have chronic fatigue syndrome, I miss a significant amount of school, which is excused by my doctor and thankfully my teachers are extremely understanding.  I keep up and make up all my school work and, in my eyes that is a big accomplishment, considering how I feel physically all the time.
      The worst part about having chronic fatigue syndrome is that a lot of people do not understand it, or agree with it.  A lot of the time, from fellow students I get, "Well, I'm tired all the time too, does that mean I never get to come to school?"  What they do not know is that it is a lot deeper than that.  I do not feel like a normal eighteen year old. I want to be active, I want to get a job, I want to hang with my friends after school but normally I cannot.  I come home every day at twelve-eighteen, eat something, and take a nap usually until five o'clock. I then eat dinner, and afterwards I do my homework or studying and then I go to sleep.
     Despite my difficulties, I have extremely supportive friends and family to help me through this. They truly go above and beyond to help me, keep me healthy, happy, active, in high spirits, and proud of myself.  I have recently been accepted to Lynn University, which is in Boca Raton, Florida.  Sunshine does everyone some good.  As of right now, I am interested in majoring in communications, I want to be a famous medical news reporter. I want to keep people informed and aware. Having chronic fatigue syndrome has definitely influenced my goals for the future. I can almost look at it as a blessing in disguise; I have to push a little harder, and walk against the wind, but at the end of my race I always feel like I am a winner.


Congratulations to the 2005 Scholarship Winner

Christopher Garrod

C. Gerrod     When you think things couldn’t get worse, have you ever thought to yourself, “Why me?”  When things aren’t going your way, I learned that giving up is not the answer.  After all, things could be a lot worse.  I have come to the realization that everything that is happening to me is part of God’s plan for my life.

     Ever since I was very young, I had a keen interest in science. I always strived to get the best grade I could, was in a gifted and talented program, and always had straight A’s. I was called “the brain” in a family with a history of learning disabilities. My mom would jokingly say, “Can you believe he wants to be a scientist?  One of our kids!”

     My prolonged and continuing battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome began when I discovered that I had been infected with mononucleosis from someone who sat next to me in class.  After struggling with this infection for the rest of the school year, I was sure that the symptoms would wear off and I would soon be back to normal. Unfortunately, things just got worse.

     I felt tired, so tired that words can barely scratch the surface of what seemed like a bottomless chasm of grief and despair. Mornings have become a tiresome fight with my mom shaking me and yelling to wake me up; no alarm clock is loud enough to wake me. I wake up with intense muscle and joint pain all over my body. At times, I felt like I just wanted to be left alone.  My whole day was living on autopilot; being dazed and confused in the “mental fogginess” that those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome know all too well.  I became forgetful, distracted, and disorganized; friends nicknamed me the absent-minded professor. After all, how can you think clearly when you’re half asleep? I am struck with headaches that seemed to last for days like a painful reminder of an overwhelming fatigue that would haunt me all day long.  At last, when I got home, I thought I would finally find peace in sleep. But, no matter how much sleep, I feel the same the next day. Each day is part of an endless cycle of desperation.

     I had went through so many tests, got stuck with needles so many times I felt like a pin cushion, and yet they couldn’t find out what was wrong. I went through tests from Lyme disease to an underactive thyroid gland, but all the tests came back negative. After ruling all of those diseases, I found out that all my symptoms matched those of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

    I struggled to keep my grades; I was exhausted during school and slept right through the rest of the day at home. My teachers would wonder why I had trouble finishing homework; I had trouble figuring out when I would be awake enough to do anything.

I soon fell behind, which is hard to recover from when you’re taking Advanced Placement classes. I had reached my ultimate emotional low when one of my teachers thought that I wouldn’t pass the class and that I would have trouble making it into the college of my choice. It appeared that all my dreams were being shattered. With my slipping grades, my class rank fell to around 16%. My childhood dream of being a scientist seemed to be slipping out of reach.

     Still, “The Lord is my strength and my song” and I still had trust in God that everything would be all right even when everything isn’t all right. By knowing that God has a plan for me, I can hope even in the worst of times.  After reading the book of Job, I realized that things could be worse. Job was a man who had everything one could want in life: wealth, good health, friends, and a great family. As time went by he lost all of these, but he kept his faith in God. In the end, “The Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning.”  The adversity of his life serves as a testament of his faith for countless generations.

    Even though I felt so terrible, I never let it get the best of me; as persistent as CFS is, so am I.  I always manage to break into a smile, and make others happy; that’s one of my aspirations in life that keeps me going. After my dad became disabled from complications with Diabetes, my mom had to become the breadwinner of the family with her children’s entertainment company. I always help out and work as a clown and balloon artist in the business. My greatest reward is to see the smiles on the children’s faces. I started and headed the “Undies for the Needy” underwear drive for the homeless and the Crisis Pregnancy Center. My family and I also donate our time with in “Buddy Ball” for the handicapped children for the past four years. This year, we received a plaque for our years of outstanding dedicated service and support to the Buddy Ball League.

     I try to stay involved in extracurricular activities at school. I was inducted into the National Honor Society in my Junior year, and I am involved in Student Council and the Science Club. Not only did I manage to get through my AP classes, I also got a perfect score in the AP Biology Exam with my name on a plaque in front of our school. As for the teacher that said I wouldn’t make it, I managed to bring my grade up to a B+ this last marking period. Now, I’m busy studying for this year’s AP exams and hoping for another perfect score.

     I am a senior at Oakcrest High School, am I am currently enrolled in Rowan University for the fall semester and plan to major in chemical engineering. I plan to get my master’s degree and further my education all the way to the doctorate level. My ultimate goal is to be in a career that allows me to use my skills for the benefit of others.

     So, having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has affected my goal for higher education; it has made me stronger and encouraged me to pursue a growing scientific field of study that could benefit others like me. It has pushed me to go further; to discover, create, and use the gifts that God gave me to help cure such debilitating diseases that others suffer. As it is written in Job 8:21, “He will yet fill your mouth with laughing, and your lips with rejoicing.”  God has a plan for all of us. At last I am beginning to understand his plan for me; everything is meant for a reason. Because of all of this, I have learned to see peace and happiness in the mists of uncertainty and adversity, while helping others do the same. 

Congratulations to the 2004 Scholarship Winner Ryan Vill'Neuve

Ryan Vill'NeuveI was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome shortly after having arthroscopic knee surgery as a freshman in high school. I went from being Junior Varsity, starting goalie, being a part of the school’s marching band and sound and lighting group, participating in Best Buddies, as well a Venturing Boy Scouts and Native American Dancing to barely being able to get up in the morning.  Attending school on a full day basis was extremely hard, and most times I would find myself falling asleep during class, even during marching band.  Medications that I was, and still am taking, allowed me to sleep at night, but over-lapped in the morning, making it hard to get up. I was put on a half-day schedule, receiving homebound instruction for my morning classes, and then for my afternoon classes when I fell behind. Yet there were times that I was so tired I couldn’t even handle that.  I only worked one day a week, and even then would have to call out at the last minute. If I got sick, I would be out of school anywhere from three weeks to three months. Injuries triggered the fibromyalgia in my back and would send me into muscle spasms, putting me back into physical therapy three or four times a week. I would be doing good for a few months and then I would suddenly “crash” as my mother puts it. I began to cherish the times that I was able to make it to school or work.

     Summers were easier, the warm weather and absence of normal, everyday stress made it easier for me to function. I worked as much as the doctors and my mother would allow me, and after a few years was able to buy my very own car. During that time, my church and I became involved in the Appalachia Service Project, a program much like Habitat for Humanity. For one week during the summer, I would go to West Virginia or Tennessee and work for a week building a roof, or someone’s first indoor bathroom, or repairing a house or church. I finally found something that I loved doing, and even thought I was killing myself to make it through the week, doing everything I could to keep moving, it became something that I looked forward to each summer, and at times the thought of going back was the only thing that got me through the school year.

     I am explaining all of this so that you, as the reader, will understand why I have chosen the career path that I have.  I have been accepted to Sterling College in Sterling, Kansas. Not only that, but I have also been accepted into their Habitat for Humanity program where I will major in Social Entrepreneurship. My career goal is to work with and for Habitat or ASP. The past few years I found that I don’t mind wearing myself ragged if it means doing something good for someone else. The smiles and tears and hugs that I find at the end of the week are all I need to keep myself going. Sure I might go home and sleep straight through the next few days, but I always find myself wanting to go back and do more.

     Also during my time at Sterling College, I wish to pursue a double major in Secondary English Education. English is a passion, I love to read and write and I find the English language fascinating. I have been encouraged to follow this by teachers and my mother alike, but I realized that I wanted to teach after witnessing possibly some of the best teachers I have ever had the privilege of having. The first was my English tutor during my first year on homebound instruction. Here name was Mrs. Costa. We were reading “Romeo and Juliet”; I was amazed at the way she made the play come alive right before my eyes. It was from her that I found my love of Shakespeare. My second influence was Mr. Craig, my junior English teacher and now my senior tutor. He has a different way of teaching. He doesn’t just follow a paper and pencil routine, but incorporates music and visuals, hands on teaching and the student’s own creativity. Everyday in his class was a new experience. I realized that I wanted to be just like these two teachers.

     An over-achiever I am not, but I have been taught and I have learned that I have to fight through the CFS condition to get to where I want to be. I’ve seen so many teenagers with the same condition just give up and stop trying. I’m lucky enough to have a mother, when I wanted to just give up, she was there to encourage me and push me along. So yes, having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has influenced my career decision. It has introduced me to two people who I highly respect and want to model myself after. Most importantly, it has brought me closer to my mother. Without her I don’t know if I would have been able to make it this far, and for that I will always be thankful. 

2003 Winner: Lisa A. Bernice
    Singer/songwriter Jewel once said "We let ourselves off the hook by saying, I'm only human." Only human?  That's a gift, not a weakness. I strongly agree with this insightful declaration. This gift of life was given to us by God, and by knowing and trusting this, I firmly believe that He does not give us more than we can handle. Through the eyes of faith, anyone can overcome even the darkest of situations. It was my faith that kept my spirits high during such a difficult period in my life, a period when I became ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is this faith that has also made me into the person I am today.Lisa A. Bernice 2003 Scholarship Winner
        It has been my personal desire from as far back as I can recall to one day attend college and become a teacher. This has been my mindset for many years. I was further inspired by my seventh grade teacher who had such a profound effect on me personally. My dream from my first year in high school was to one day attend The College of New Jersey as an education major. A dream that seemed to fade when I suddenly became ill from an unknown source.
     My first symptoms flared up towards the end of my eighth grade year. However, I didn't think too much of it. I was just a little more tired than usual and I experienced a bout of blacking out. I just assumed it was nothing of extensive importance until my freshman year of high school. In January of 2000, I became rapidly ill with increased sleep requirements and flu-like symptoms. Unable to attend school on a normal basis, I finished my first year of high school under the care of Bergen County Special Services.
     In the mean time, I was back and forth from doctors, to specialist, and test sites trying to diagnose my illness. My school administrators had become annoyed with the duration of my illness. I was told by them that my condition was psychological. Their lack of understanding or willingness to understand and their misinterpretation humiliated me and greatly affected me emotionally. While at my Catholic high school, I was told that I must leave.  Being a Catholic institution that promotes compassion and helping the sick, I was terribly disturbed. I was fifteen at the time, and never had I encountered a situation of this magnitude. I had now known what it felt like to be discriminated against.
     My parents and I fought the school's decision and I was able to continue on complete home instruction. However, despite my qualifications, I was not permitted to be a member of the National Honor Society or even attend my Junior Prom. By not physically being able to attend school, I was being deprived of all the usual traditions and joys associated with teenage life. I was excluded from and by my school.
     On the higher note, the whole period was one of great emerging. I experienced my physical, emotional, and spiritual states on extreme levels. My perception of myself, people and life changed. Through this difficult time, I developed deep convictions of faith in God and His power to heal situations and people. I always had valued prayer, but I even started to pray for all my antagonists.
     During this period, I was introduced to adversity. Not only was I introduced to it, but I preserved and attained a greater insight into my strength and myself. I transcended to a higher level of spirituality, which now allows me to deal with circumstances of any size and to see the good in all people even when it seems difficult.
     I still hold many of the same virtues as I have always had. I am still driven to reach my highest self and become the best person I can be. My determination and drive have been my desires and goals from as far back as I can recall.
     As mentioned before, my dream has always been to study education at The College of New Jersey. In the fall, my dream will become a reality. I have been accepted as a Deaf and Hard of Hearing/Elementary History major. The gift to touch another person's life for the better is exactly what we as humans are all about. Just as I was inspired by my seventh grade teacher, I realized that I also want to have that same positive effect on others. Now I will be given the chance to do just that. Although now, my incentive is far more passionate than it was five years ago. I know how it feels as a student to be misunderstood, humiliated, and discriminated against by school administrators because you have a physical disability. This is all the more reason why I not only want but need to help children. After coming down with CFS my career goals expanded to help children with disabilities and it influenced me to apply to the teaching program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing at TCNJ.  All children need advocates and need to feel secure. My parents have been my advocates and are the ones who have made me feel secure. I have been blessed to have the parents I do. Unfortunately, not all parents are like mine and that is why I want to be a teacher for those special children and hopefully make a difference in their lives.
     I have grown up immensely during these past few years. I am now doing better physically, I am now back in school and active within a new school environment. These difficult times have altered my perceptions on life and I am truly grateful for all I had to endure and all that I have. This gratitude serves as my inspiration and motivation in life. I have now realized that my strength, independence, and determination come from this source. The best lesson I have learned is: in life your biggest trials can become your greatest triumphs.
     Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has made me a better person. It may sound absurd, but I am grateful for it and the effect it has had on my life. If I could go back, I would not change a thing. If all this hardship was God's purpose for me, I have no complaints because I trust in Him and His work.  We all have our crosses to bear, some are just a little heavier than others. Yes, I'm only human. My cross may be heavier than most, but that is fine by me because in "my gift of life", I do not consider myself weak.


2002 Winner JAMES L. GLENN

(Don't miss info on his video:  "Bigger Than Life: A Teenager’s Journey With CFIDS")

James Glenn    Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome influences all decisions and functions of those who it victimizes. It creates an alternate perception of our every day lives.  Day planners are no longer for planning, but for reminding. Tylenol and aspirin become more like daily vitamins. Every season becomes a flu season, and suddenly short walks feel like a twenty-mile triathlon.

    Living with CFIDS has severely limited my physical and mental activity, one of the worst punishments that a stubborn perfectionist can ever endure. However, I have found strength and ability in my disability. My stubbornness pushes on, and makes me want to succeed even more than before. Seeing others with this illness, friends that have become like family, I feel indebted to help improve their quality of life.

    You see, while the physical pain that came along with CFIDS has left scars on my body, the disbelief and opposition I encountered has left an open wound on my heart
When I first became ill, to the point where I could barely stand on my own two feet, I was told by several "specialist" that I was tired, or lazy, or didn’t want to go to school anymore. I was told by my school nurse that I was "not physically ill, but depressed." I have been a straight A student since first grade, right up through high school. Since the day I became acquainted with the word "success", I have been independent, determined, and college bound. Now all of a sudden I just want to shatter every dream I’ve had since I was a little boy? Think again, doctors.

    I recently received my letter of acceptance from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, where I will be majoring in Psychology in the fall of 2002. My goal of higher education is to go as far as I can possibly go, pass the finish line and keep on running. One of the major misconceptions of CFIDS is that depression is a cause. I believe that in most cases, depression is secondary to the horrible symptoms that come along with the illness. I hope to someday use my professional career as a psychologist to be an advocate for CFIDS patients, as I have chosen to do in my personal life. I would also like to continue making CFIDS documentaries, and
inspirational videos. Creating "Bigger Than Life: A Teenager’s Journey With CFIDS" is one of my greatest accomplishments, and one that would not have been possible without so many other wonderful people that have dedicated their lives to helping others and making a difference. I hope that I can do the same.

James Glenn's Video

In 2001, James produced a video documentary entitled "Bigger Than Life: A Teenager’s Journey With CFIDS" about his experiences living with CFIDS. His video (number V69) can be borrowed by our members from the NJCFSA Lending Library (see the Library page for instructions on how to order it and other material). NJCFSA is proud to support James and his efforts to continue his education. James is a graduating senior from Egg Harbor Township High School in Egg Harbor.  He will be attending Richard Stockton College in Pomona this fall and intending to major in psychology.

Thanks are owed to Scholarship Committee Chair, Betty McConnell, and committee members and judges Jacqueline Niederle, Beth & Laura Warren, Peggy & Sharon Walk, and Jon Sterling for the fine job they did in deciding this year’s winner from so many excellent candidates.

The NJCFSA Scholarship is open to New Jersey High School Seniors with CFS who wish to continue their education. Scholarship winners have $1,000 donated to the institution of higher learning in which they are enrolled. Applications forms can be obtained by writing to:

Scholarship Committee
Attention, Betty McConnell
P.O. Box 328
Port Republic, N.J. 08241
(609) 748-3559


    The Scholarship Fund needs your financial support to continue to help young patients and their families as they struggle to pursue their educational goals. To make a tax deductible contribution to the NJCFSA Scholarship Fund, make a check out to "NJCFSA Scholarship Fund" and send it to:
P.O. Box 804
Millburn, N.J.  07041

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Two Scholarship Winners for 2001

Michelle C. Meade

Michelle C. Meade        When people say to me 'I feel so horrible,' I think to myself, "they have no idea what feeling horrible really is." I have, for the past two years of my life, been living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. After fighting with mononucleosis for most of my sophomore year, I thought my life would return to normal. I was entirely wrong. I continued to wake up each morning feeling tired and could not seem to rid myself of a swollen, painful knee. Although my parents and doctors were concerned for my health, I seemed to be the only person who was taking this seriously. After numerous tests for almost, every disease imaginable, my doctor concluded that I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. This, however, did not fully account for the fact that the pain in my left knee continuously bothered me. It was not until after I was tested for rheumatoid arthritis, and put through months of physical therapy that I was, diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in addition to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which meant, the pain was here to stay.

        Every day I wake up with some degree of pain and fatigue, but I have taught myself how to adapt and deal with my illnesses as a normal, but important part of my life. I now know that I can be myself without having to compromise anything because others often consider me "sick." My life has changed in a tremendous way, and I have become a better person because of this experience. The future that lies before me is the same one that did before I was diagnosed with two conditions that not many people have ever heard of. My dreams and aspirations of becoming a veterinarian have not been deterred based on my health. This experience has thankfully made my values slightly different. I appreciate every day that I can go out with my friends, watch my brother play sports, walk my dog around the block, or sit down and talk with my parents. I do not think "Today I'm going to be sad', "Tomorrow has to be fun." I simply live each day as it or is presented to me in the strongest way possible.

 In my mind, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia are not two paralyzing illnesses; they are two of greatest sources of strength. I have been able to recognize the fact that I will have to live with these conditions for the rest of my life. I know no one can truly understand what I experience on a daily basis, but my family and friends have become more aware of what and how I'm feeling. I not only have the powerful memories of being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, I have the strength to deal with these illnesses. I'm looking forward to graduating in June, and while it; has been necessary to make adjustments to get to this point, I have managed to maintain balance in my life.

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Jennifer Marie Larson

Jennifer LarsonJennifer Larson (left) with NJCFSA Youth Trustee Beth Warren

As an ambitious woman, I have always aspired to prestigious careers such as architecture and forensic pathology. After several years of contemplating a medical career, veterinary medicine has captured my heart. My intense understanding, perception, and caring for animals compliments my adoration for medicine and desire to help those who cannot care for themselves. I anticipate the day I will be called "Dr. Jennifer Larson, D.V.M."

The fact that I have spent years debilitated with Chronic, Fatigue Syndrome, or CFS, has not once factored into my career choices. Many people, including a few of my teachers, have told me that my situation is "hopeless" and that I should scale down the difficulty of my classes and rigidity of my schedule, and choose a career that is less rigorous. However, I, being the stubborn person that I am, have repeatedly refused to let go of my dream of becoming a veterinarian. I have no doubt in my mind that I can successfully complete my schoolwork and manage my illness in college.

Ever since my freshman year of high school, I have worked as hard as I could get my body to function so that I could excel academically and still have my friends and some sort of social life as I battled the fatigue that plagues my body.  So, I have fought back against the CFS as well as against those who told me I would never make it and graduate with my class. And yet, here I am. The sand in the hourglass of my senior year is slipping away and graduation day is creeping nearer. In June, I will make my triumphant walk across the stage to accept my diploma, along with all of my friends and classmates. I am also preparing for my freshman year at the University of Delaware.

Although I know I will be a dedicated veterinarian one day, I am not foolish enough to believe that the road to my profession will be easy to tread. I will struggle at times; I am certain that there will be days when the CFS gets the better of me and will force me to stay in bed. Also, I know that I will need to make sacrifices to preserve my fragile health and stay on track. However, I am determined, and have faith that as long as I refuse to acquiesce to my disease, I will reach my goal.

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2000 NJCFS Scholarship Essay

by Dominique Soeldner

Learning to live each day to the fullest
Initiating change and taking an interest in things
         Fulfillment of dreams and ambitions
                    Encouraging everyone around you to do their best

Dominique SoeldnerFor the past four years I have been plagued with an unusual illness which was finally diagnosed two years ago as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). I was also found to have an Autonomic Dysfunction causing me to pass out at any given time. The inability to be diagnosed caused my family and I a lot of frustration. I went from a student who loved school and participating in many extracurricular activities to someone that sat in bed because of an illness. When I felt good, I tried my hardest to attend school, which was to no avail. Teachers and students did not see my symptoms and therefore believed my illness was actually psychological. The only things that kept me going were the love from my family and my interests in so many subjects. I have included the above poem, which I titled "LIFE', to show how CFS has helped me and made me who I am today.

Due to my illness, I have learned to appreciate every moment when I feel good and to take advantage of it. I have broadened my horizons. At the moment I don't know what I want to be when I grow up because I'm like Baskin Robins ... thirty one flavors. Depending on the day, I'm interested in Pre-Med., Pre-Law, Engineering, Economics, and Performing Arts. My family's love and support have been my "lifeline" for these dreams; And yes Regis, "That's my final answer." Every day of my life my family and the people I have encountered support me and make me realize that no matter how lousy I may feel at times, dreams can happen. Chronic Fatigue has made me who I am. Whether I become a doctor, lawyer, or singer, I know that CFS has made me stronger, more compassionate towards others, and more passionate about life.


1999 NJCFSA Scholarship Essay

by Joseph Amoroso

“As the moon camouflages itself by the dawn’s early mist, we awake to a new day, or shall I say a newAmoroso beginning where obstacles, awards and disappointments are expected, but can never be predicted…”

The personal statement is a saying that I had written and etched on the memory of my mind and heart, when Chronic Fatigue Syndrome plagued my body with sickness.  In life we all have expectations and dreams. Sometimes, due to an evil influence those dreams remain dreams and assurance is forever lost, but in my visions I do not see Chronic Fatigue Syndrome as a threat, but as a memory, for when you get knocked down you get back up and fight for your life.

It seems that Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, thrives on the weakness of the body, but remember that it also feeds on the loss of faith and hope.  In relation to my sickness, I got knocked down for a year, and it seemed that all faith in dreams were lost in a world where nothing thrived, but I conquered this. You must band together and never lose faith in God or family, for diseases prey on the vulnerable soul. For me, family and God were my only remedy. However, since Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has left its mark on my body, I will never forget the tears and pain that my family and I went through; but for now nothing will stop me from achieving my goals as a Biology major and for a higher education. 

To conclude, the sickness that sleeps in my body will forever be there, dormant, till the next time it is awakened by a week moment in my body.  As for now, I will work diligently, for one day when I become a Biologist, and specialize in certain a certain field, the torch of enlightenment will be passed on to me, and I will be added to the vast teams of doctors and scientists that will hopefully find cures and vaccines to stop these deadly diseases in their tracks of destruction.

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