Light at the end of the tunnel

When Londoner Arzu Unel, 36, eventually had to quit her job after a seven-year battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), she gave up hope of living a normal life again.

Little did she realise a chance meeting in Noosa National Park would change her life and not only lead her to recovery, but also to a husband, a child, a new home in Noosa and now the chance to help others recover from this dreadful disease.

Arzu says: “It’s hard to describe what CFS is like. Imagine having the flu and the worst hangover ever and then running a marathon.”

With the diagnosis of CFS came the news there was no cure and Arzu must accept a slower pace of life, at most part-time work and a reduced social life.

“I was head of marketing for England’s largest charity, with a budget of $16 million,’’ she said. “I was devastated. It took over my body and I felt helpless.”

The symptoms of CFS are varied for each sufferer.

Arzu says: “I hadn’t had a refreshing night’s sleep for years. I couldn’t handle looking at bright lights or even computer screens. My whole body ached and my skin felt like it had ants crawling under the skin. Worst of all people would tell me that I looked so well.

“I lost friends and eventually had to stop a job I loved.”

It was then Arzu decided to take a break after seeing a picture of Noosa in a magazine.

“The sunshine and break from the stressful job helped a little and then, one day, I fell in love with Noosa and a man, Ian Cleary. For a time I was doing well – part of the variable nature of the disease.

“Ian moved to England (to be with me) and, bang, I crashed again and my symptoms returned with a vengeance. Ian became my carer.

“We dreamed of a normal life and doing normal things. We moved to Australia, back to Noosa.”

Ian says: “We thought that Noosa’s weather and beautiful surrounds would make our lives a little more bearable. But mostly it just highlighted how little she could do.”

Like the estimated 60,000 sufferers of the debilitating disease in Australia, Arzu believed the medical profession when they said there was no known cure.

But then, in January 2007, a friend rang about a program called the Lightning Process. The friend had made a complete recovery after 10 years of CFS and pleaded Arzu to fly to London for the program.

“I was both excited and sceptical,’’ Arzu said. “I’d tried so many things that didn’t work. I was also terrified.

“This really felt like my last hope. What if it didn’t work? Back then it was only available in London so I flew over. The results were so dramatic.’’

Arzu returned to Noosa a new woman. When asked how her health is now, she smiles: “I actually feel better now than before I had CFS. Once I didn’t dare allow myself the dream of having a family and being active. Now I love hiking with my son on my back.”

But the story doesn’t stop there, as Ian explains: “Our life had been on hold for so long and the Lightning Process changed that.”

Ian was so impressed he decided to train in London to become the southern hemisphere’s only practitioner.

Ian is passionate about his work and said: “The Lightning Process is not for everyone but what I would say to those suffering is that recovery is possible so don’t settle for merely managing your symptoms.”

The Lightning Process is a three-day training program where people are taught how to influence their autonomic nervous system (the part of the body that turns on the “flight or fight” and “rest and digest” responses, and is responsible for a wide range of basic body functions).

It takes from some of the principles of osteopathy, neural linguistic programming, hypno-therapy and life coaching.

Currently more than 1500 people a year make a full recovery from CFS and related conditions using the Lightning Process in Europe. It is currently not covered by Medicare in Australia.

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