A patient who chooses to live reacts to one who chose to die

I blogged a couple of days ago about Anne Örtegren, a patient long suffering with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome who chose to end her life after much deliberation. Her poignant last blog written before she died attracted a lot of attention outside and in the community of sufferers.

Here is a brief but insightful response from Wilhelmina Jenkins, who chooses to live and try to inspire others in that choice.

A bit of background about Wilhelmina. She became ill with ME/CFS in 1983 while working on her PhD in physics at Howard University. She described to me the experience of feeling her brain had shut down so that she couldn’t even comprehend the chapter she already written. She became totally disabled in 1987. She was not formally diagnosed until 1988  and became a part of support groups and advocacy efforts since then. Her daughter became ill with this disease in 1991 as a high school student.

ME/CFS is a devastating disease. There’s no question that it burns to ashes the life that you thought you had and leaves you with sickness and pain and a quality of life lower than any other major disease. Many people, after a long struggle, decide that they can’t go on any longer. I understand that. I have felt that way many times. But if you can stay, please stay. We need you. We need every voice in the fight for health equity for those living with this disease. We need your witness. We need your stories. And we need to know that you stand with us in the struggle. I do not care if we agree or disagree about anything – I still want you here. You are unique. You are valuable. Reach out if you are in doubt about going on. There will be a hand there for you to grasp, because even when things are darkest, you are a part of a community and you are loved. And when you choose to stay, if no one else has ever said it, I will – you are my hero.

Follow Wilhelmina Jenkins on Facebook.

Readers may also be interested in  The illusion you will be able bodied forever and the limits of empathy.


One thought on “A patient who chooses to live reacts to one who chose to die

  1. This response has been needed. It has been impossible for me to read Anne’s last blog . Too, too sad. Sad that ME proved too much for her to cope with and that there are so many people worldwide who empathise with Anne’s decision and her brave actions. It’s not just the pain, suffering, loneliness and despair of this illness but the medical world’s neglect and abuse of ME sufferers, also the misunderstanding of society at large that makes it feel at times unbearable. The ME community that is so often berated by those who call us vexatious and militant is the very same community that gives each one of us support from people who truly understand. It is so important to remember there are peope who understand because we suffer the same as each other and that we suffer the loss of Anne because she was one of us and we wanted her and we want you to live. There is hope and there is mutual love and understanding from a huge community of people, everyone of whom will help anyone feeling as Anne did. Reach out if you are feeling despair – you will find many others who feel the same and can support you to battle on.


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