"I was a very hands-on kind of mom and would get on the floor and play and run around in the yard with the children. I remember thinking how much I couldn't wait to ride roller coaster with my kids. I was a front-seat, hands-up kind of girl."
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Little did she know, she reflected, how drastically her life would change.
Malott said it was March of 2006 when she began to experience hand pain for about three weeks.
"I didn't feel well," she recalled. "So I went to my primary care doctor who sent me for carpal tunnel testing, which was negative. Then, about three days later, I just felt really tired — flu-like, but also lightheaded."
At the time, she said, she was taking a spinning class three to four times a week. When she got on the treadmill at the fitness center and started walking, "I felt like I was going to pass out. I told my husband I didn't feel right and thought I needed to go to the emergency room. I went, and as it turns out, my heart was beating irregularly and my potassium was low."
Malott said she had a cardiac catheterization and other cardiac tests that came back normal.
Six months later, she once again began suffering from extreme hand pain, as well as a fever and body aches that lasted 10 days.
"I could barely function," she said. "All I could do was lay down and get up for meals and go to the bathroom. I felt like I had a severe case of the flu. It went away after 10 days, but came back again in two months and has been there ever since."
Malott said the low-grade fevers were concerning to her doctors, as well as the hand pain, cardiac irregularities and low potassium.
"I noticed a decline in my short-term memory and my ability to concentrate at work," she said. "I also developed severe insomnia, making it difficult to function day to day. I lost 60 pounds in about four months, which was another baffling piece. This was a real telltale sign that something was wrong, as I have fought the battle of the bulge most of my adult life."
Malott visited a rheumatologist at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in 2007, who was the first to tell her she might have CFS and/or fibromyalgia, a syndrome also associated with fatigue and muscle pain.
"She told me Hopkins didn't have anyone who specialized in this and she couldn't help me," Malott said. "I did some research online and found a physician in Charlotte, N.C., Charles Lapp, who has devoted his practice to patients with CFS and fibromyalgia and is one of a very few doctors who has received money for clinical trials for a drug called ampligen, which has had mixed results."
Malott saw Lapp in July of 2009 and was told she had a classic case of CFS.
"I continue to work with Dr. Lapp," she noted. "We Skype two times a year, but I can email him anytime with questions and problems. He has agreed to stay on as my consulting physician and works in conjunction with my doctor, Gail Callaway."
Malott said the course of her illness has fluctuated.
In the early stages, she became so tired and weak that she was allowed to telework until her condition worsened in 2009 and she had to quit.
"I can't tell you how difficult that has been," she said. "I have a bachelor's degree in nursing and a master's degree in community health promotion. I got my education the old-fashioned way. I was a nurse's aide and put myself through LPN school. I then got my RN and was totally committed to my career."
She now manages her illness with a medication regime that treats symptoms.