Maija Haavisto: Author factsheet

Maija Haavisto is a 24-year old journalist and medical writer from Helsinki, Finland. Eight years ago she got sick with CFS/ME. Soon later she was kicked from her home. Haavisto got her own apartment and started working as a tech journalist at the age of 16. She made her living with this job for the following six years, also hosting two of her own columns in a Finnish computer magazine.

Haavisto also wrote articles for decoration magazines, but her primary interest had always been medicine, which eventually led her to become a medical writer. Her illness didn't make it easy, however. She was plagued by increasingly severe cognitive problems. At times she didn't have enough stamina to even eat. In late 2006 she almost completely lost her ability to walk. "I don't think I would have ever regained it if it wasn't for proper treatment," she says. Many patients are totally bedbound and I could be one of them. I hope I will never forget the second chance I was given."

The onset of Haavisto's illness was very sudden. She can still recall the exact day it happened, August 28th, 2000. "One of the worst things about CFS/ME is how suddenly it can hit. One day you're fine, and the next day your health is gone. It can happen to anyone with no prior warning - something that people tend to be unable to comprehend." Like most patients, she has been very unhappy with the way doctors have treated her.

"An endocrinologist told me my fever would go away if I stopped taking my temperature. Obviously it doesn't work like that, because I still have it six years later. Another doctor diagnosed me as probable myocarditis after looking at my very abnormal ECG. I only found about that diagnosis years later - he just told me to exercise more. I think that's quite peculiar advice for someone you've diagnosed with inflammation of the heart muscle!"

Maija Haavisto's book, Reviving the Broken Marionette, was born out of this frustration. She knew she could be treated, but it took years to find a doctor who shared this belief. In 2007 Haavisto finished the Finnish version - originally supposed to be just a brochure - and started working on the English version soon afterwards. She maintains the only Finnish website about CFS/ME. Some of the members of the site bought as many as five copies of her Finnish book to give to all of their doctors. Their encouragement has been the prime motivator for her work with the book and patient activism in general.

"It is not easy writing a book when you're ill," Haavisto says. "I could have never done it without my doctor, who agreed to prescribe me these medications. I still don't know how I did it. At times my body was begging me to stop. CFS/ME doesn't cause just physical fatigue, it makes you feel like your brain is fried. The only doctor who ever understood what that means was a neuropsychologist, as she had seen so many people with multiple sclerosis who get that too."

Despite her illness, Haavisto tries to find the energy for many hobbies, such as reading, writing fiction and poetry, indoor gardening, painting, cooking, digital art and photography. Her poetry has been published in several Finnish anthologies. She hopes that in the future she will get well enough not only to be a professional writer, but a photojournalist as well. "But most of all, I wish that everyone with CFS/ME and fibromyalgia would get the treatment they deserve and could go chasing their dreams."