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Runner Goes the Distance for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Patients

  [ 16 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • April 17, 2002

By Harry Hitzemanm Daily Herald Staff Writer

Posted on April 15, 2002

When Jennifer Dominguez runs 26.2 miles in the 106th Boston Marathon today, she won't be thinking about achieving a personal best time.

Nor will she be wondering about where she will finish in the race of 15,000 people.

The thoughts of the 30-year-old Wheaton woman will be squarely on her mother, Lois, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. Her goals are to finish the race, raise money for research and increase awareness and empathy for people suffering from the debilitating disease.

"Chronic fatigue is misunderstood because people don't believe it is real because there aren't a lot of tests to take (to confirm it)," Dominguez said.

Gail Kansky, president of [an association for CFS] in Needham, Mass., said word of Dominguez's run has lifted spirits of patients from Maine to California.

"She's done so much for the spirit of the people who have this illness, it's remarkable," Kansky said. Money that Dominguez is raising will go toward to the not-for-profit, all-volunteer organization, which will channel the funds to research.

CFIDS stands for Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome, which Kansky believes is a better term to describe the disease. Kansky said the term chronic fatigue syndrome only feeds the misconception that people with the disease need to try harder and simply get out of bed.

"It's like saying to someone who is blind 'If you stop bumping into something, you'll see better,'æ" Kansky said. The most common characteristic of patients is flu-like symptoms that can last for months. Patients also experience rashes, frequent fainting, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and even numbness and burning in their extremities.

Dominguez's mom can't tolerate extreme temperatures, and even has problems with certain scents, such as flower pollen and cologne.

When Lois, who lives in Pennsylvania, first got chronic fatigue syndrome 15 years ago, it was very sudden. Within a week, she was bedridden.

Dominguez's mother has tried dozens of treatments over the years. "It's just been an ongoing battle and there hasn't been any relief from it," Dominguez said.

Kansky said researchers must first determine how the disease takes hold and what causes it before a treatment can be laid out. "You can't tell a patient 'Try this and you'll feel better' because there's no one treatment that will help every patient," he said.

Kansky said Dominguez will become only the second person to run the Boston Marathon to raise money for [an association for CFS] since its inception in 1997.

The first person was a chronic fatigue syndrome patient whose disease went into remission. He finished the race, but the disease returned in a more debilitating form.

Dominguez's goal to finish the race evolved over time.

She ran long track events in high school and her first marathon 1997, the Wineglass Marathon through New York's wine country. "I found that I really enjoyed it a lot," Dominguez said. "I know I am pushing myself physically."

She also participates in local races, such as the Run for Animals in Wheaton. She ran the Chicago Marathon twice to qualify for the Boston event.

Running also helps Dominguez deal with the hectic pace of life in DuPage County and her job as youth education coordinator for Downers Grove Township.

"It's hard to describe, but it has strengthened my perseverance in different areas," she said.

Dominguez, a member of Glen Ellyn Bible Church, also said her faith in God has strengthened her.

She also depends upon the support of her husband, Matt, a Glen Ellyn native, and their two dogs, who often run with her on the Illinois Prairie Path or at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.

Dominguez runs between 5 and 20 miles a day, five days a week, and loads up on carbohydrates at meals. For inspiration, Dominguez thinks of her mother's strength and persistence.

"That's one of the main motivators for me," she said.

Dominguez said that regardless of what happens at the marathon, the entire process has given her a greater appreciation of the gifts that God has given her.

She is thankful at the end of each run.

"I feel so blessed that I can get up and do this," Dominguez said. "Having an attitude of thankfulness, which definitely has been cultivated by this experience, has been very positive."

Copyright 2002 © Daily Herald.

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