Posted by: Through the Eyes of Women | June 7, 2015

June 8, 2015 Host Kathleen Marshall Speaks with Writer and Filmmaker Jennifer Brea About Living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and the Making of her Film, Canary in a Coal Mine

Jennifer BreaJennifer Brea has Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.  Four years ago, while a PhD candidate in Harvard University’s Government program, she became ill with flu-like symptoms. She endured 10 days of 105* fevers, chills and muscle aches from which she never seemed to quite recover.  A year later, out to dinner with some friends, she could not manage to write her own name on her credit card slip.

ME/CFS is a debilitating illness of unknown origins.  There is no single effective treatment for all patients and there is no cure.  It’s symptoms include fevers, chills, headaches, muscle pain, debilitating fatigue unrelieved by rest, insomnia, exercise intolerance and brain fog.  As the illness progresses many people develop severe allergies and chemical sensitivities.  It is an exclusionary diagnosis.  In-other-words, it is diagnosed after dozens of conditions, such as degenerative neurological disorders like Multiple Sclerosis; endocrine disorders such as Hypo- or Hyperthyroidism; autoimmune disorders like Lupus; and esoteric bacterial infections, are tested for and ruled out.  It renders some people bedridden, while others can have milder symptoms.  For all, it wreaks a profound negative change in life’s ordinary and extraordinary routines.  It affects more women than it does men and was, historically, labeled ‘consumption’ or ‘hysteria’.  While some strides have been made in acknowledging ME/CFS as a legitimate disorder, the vast majority of sufferes still have difficulty being diagnosed and are stigmatized by the medical community charged with helping them. Jennifer Brea with Husband Omar

Jennifer is currently on indefinite medical leave from Harvard University.  She spends a good deal of her time looking for relief from her symptoms while being a vocal advocate for increased research funding.  She is also making a movie about her experiences, and the experiences of four others, with ME/CFS, Canary in a Coal Mine.  All this she does remotely, using web-based technology, from her bed.

Jennifer talks about ME/CFS, her journey with it and the making of her film.  She joined TTEOW for this interview via SKYPE calling from her backyard in New Jersey, where she is currently living in a tent escaping the allergenic effects of molds in her home.

Canary in a Coal MineTo learn more about Jennifer Brea find her on Facebook.

To learn more about Canary in a Coal Mine visit

Host Kathleen Marshall has been living with, or in spite of, CFS for 23 years.

“To listen to and/or download this segment click te following link.”6-8-15 Kathleen_Jennifer Brea


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