“Pawty with a Purpose”- for West Seattle author Val Mallinson

By Keri DeTore
Reporting for West Seattle Blog

“Imagine the worst flu you’ve ever had — aches, fever, stomach illness, and feeling like you want to die. Now imagine that lasting for a year.”

This is how Val Mallinson, author of The Dog Lover’s Companion…” books for the Pacific Northwest, describes the effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), which she has been struggling with since 1987. Val’s particular type of CFS comes in waves of relapse and remission, and it was during times of remission that she and the “Wonder Wieners” (Cooper and Isis, her rescued miniature Dachshunds) did the research for her travel books.

Her most recent relapse began in March of 2009; as of July, she says, her part-time employer, PCC in West Seattle (WSB sponsor), found her an easier job to do while she dealt with the effects of CFS. However, the physical impact of this particular relapse has continued so long and so severely, that she hasn’t been able to work since December.

Unable to continue in her job at PCC — Val and her husband Steve are quick to note that PCC was very supportive of Val and provided her with medical benefits for as long as they could — Val applied for disability benefits through her insurance company. Her application was denied, she says, because many insurance companies don’t recognize CFS as a legitimate disability.

Her disability claim is being appealed with the help of a lawyer through the organization Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness, but in the meantime, the medical bills are accumulating. Friends suggested a fundraising party, which Val initially balked at – but now, it’s on.

She admits, “I feel guilty asking for money for myself, but my friends encouraged it and pointed out ‘the (health care insurance) system failed you.’”

This “Pawty with a Purpose” next Saturday will raise funds to offset medical costs for Val, and will donate 10% of the proceeds to Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness — the group helping Val with her appeal. Live music, raffle prizes, autographed “Dog Lover’s Companion…” books, and food prepared by chef Daniel Joram, “The Sailing Chef,” will be featured during the festivities.

The event takes place Saturday (June 12) from 6-10 pm at the Duwamish Cohousing Common House — 6000 17th Ave SW (map). Parking is available across from nearby South Seattle Community College on 16th Ave SW, and balloons and signs will indicate the pathway from 16th to the Common House. Despite the theme of the “Pawty,” dog owners are asked to leave their canine companions at home and enjoy themselves off-leash.

Along with the “Dog Lover’s Companion…” books that Val co-authored with Cooper and Isis (“They’re the reporters, I’m just their stenographer…”), Val has written for magazines such as Seattle Metropolitan, City Dog, Northwest Travel, and Bark. For someone whose livelihood involves constant travel in order to update her books and write articles, CFS can be particularly debilitating.

She adds that CFS is a very isolating and sometimes-invisible disability. Without personally knowing someone with CFS, you may never see the effects of their illness – the times they have to brace themselves against a wall to walk down the hallway, or sit down just to get through a shower. Despite this, Val says: “I feel so lucky to have periods of remission — there are some people who are wheelchair-bound or bedridden.”

Regarding CFS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note: “CDC studies show that CFS can be as disabling as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, end-stage renal disease…and similar chronic conditions.” (The CDC website provides further information at www.cdc.gov/cfs)

More information about Val, the fundraiser, and the Wonder Weiners is available at nwdogbook.com.

Photos used with this story are courtesy Val Mallinson; top portrait, with the Wonder Wieners, is by J. Nichole Smith of dane + dane studios

8 Replies to ""Pawty with a Purpose"- for West Seattle author Val Mallinson"

  • Meghan June 7, 2010 (7:38 am)

    Isn’t it incredible that well 20 years after CFS was first diagnosed, thousands of cases later, insurance companies (and even some doctors) still deny it’s an actual disease? Do they think all these people are making it up? Crazy? Lazy? I for one will buy this book. In a country like ours where it’s “every man/woman for him/herself”, I guess it’s up to us to help someone who the system is not working for.

  • ValMalGal June 7, 2010 (10:46 am)

    Wow! A huge thank you to West Seattle blog for this beautiful article, helping to inform people about CFS and promoting our fundraiser. It should be a ton of fun! Thank you Meghan, for your insightful comment; so true.

  • dsa June 7, 2010 (12:52 pm)

    Val I can’t find an email address for you. I think you should take a serious look at http://www.hkpp.org. Many of our members originally were first diagnosed with CFS. And as you know got little to no relief from their symptoms.

  • Joan June 9, 2010 (2:23 pm)

    “Some days I feel like I can set the world of fire, and other days… I can barely light a match.” – I have CFS.

    Thank you for sharing Val’s story and bringing attention to this debilitating and often misunderstood illness.

  • JoB June 11, 2010 (12:32 pm)

    Val, I already own your books..
    and i share your illness…
    i don’t know that i can show on on Saturday night
    but you have my full support and understanding.

    thank you WSB and Keri for publishing this story… even though this is one woman’s story.. it is a reality for too many of us living full lives quietly in the spaces that well people delegate to running errands between the events that matter.

    Most of us have kept pushing and working part time and temporary jobs too long to receive the kind of disability benefits our working lives deserved.

    Far from being malingerers, people living with chronic fatigue syndrome are some of the most hard working people i know.. no one who doesn’t live with this illness can understand how much of our energy it often takes just to get out of bed.

    It takes a lot of courage to focus on what you can do instead of wallowing in regret for the life you lost.

    Pets are my saving grace.. as i suspect they are Val’s. The need to get out of bed to feed and groom them has allowed me to push myself that little extra that allowed me a life many a day.

  • ValMalGal June 11, 2010 (3:26 pm)

    Thanks JoB, your comments are so right-on, they made me cry. I hope to meet you soon. Let’s coffee.

  • Wendy Hughes-Jelen June 11, 2010 (4:27 pm)

    Thank you for letting us know about Val’s party – I am a fan of her book and so is Sophia (Spring 09 City Dog mag cover dog).
    Thank you also to “dsa” for the link to hkpp. I have been affected by what seems like rheumatoid arthritis/fibromyalgia symptoms since 2004, and only began experiencing what seems like CFS symptoms for the last year. Yes, taking care of Sophia gets me out of bed every day – and also gets me to nap when I need to since all she wants todo is cuddle on the bed in the sun.
    The HPKK sounds a bit like what my major symptom is, of not being able to lift or let go of hand tools after using them, and having to wear gloves even in the summer because the air feels cold and socks to bed because the sheets hurt.
    I will review HPKK with my rheumatologist at my next appt.
    I also work part time, I am a real estate agent and also have a few other meaningful irons in the fire. But the thought of an 8-5 job puts me in terror since I know I will never be able to get through a day like that without a nap. I do best on the days where I wake up when I am ready – no alarm. I can get by a couple days otherwise but eventually I get flattened so I have learned to space out my activities.
    I hope to come to Val’s party!

  • Margaret F June 14, 2010 (7:38 am)

    I would leave the medical profession behind; live your life and save your money for your new life- a maintained existence is better than with all the expensive and frustrating false hope. Good luck to you!

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