Organizing an annual charity golf tournament while working a full-time job and serving as vice mayor would be a major accomplishment for anyone, but Apache Junction’s R.E. Eck manages all of the above despite suffering from constant fatigue, soreness and flulike symptoms.
Eck was diagnosed in 1985 with chronic fatigue syndrome, an illness doctors don’t understand and have not been able to cure. However, he isn’t about to sit back and wait for a breakthrough — he’s trying to help create one.
For the fifth year in a row, Eck has organized a fundraiser to benefit the Arizona Chronic Fatigue and Pioneer Research foundations. The golf tournament and luncheon will be Saturday in Apache Junction. The event — which Eck has organized with the help of his wife, Cynthia, and children Jami, 19, and Juni, 15, — raised about $4,000 last year.
"We’re just trying to do our own little part," Eck said. "We’re trying to help ourselves."
Since he was diagnosed with the disease, Eck said his condition has worsened — he can no longer work out or even play golf. Initially he was diagnosed with depression, but he knew the problem was physical, not mental.
The medical community doesn’t know what causes chronic fatigue, but the symptoms include a persistent feeling of exhaustion that sleep doesn’t alleviate, severe short-term memory and concentration problems, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle and joint pain, headaches and long-lasting malaise after any type of exertion.
"Some days the patients just can’t even get out of bed," Eck said.
Chronic fatigue sufferers have a twofold problem, which is why the tournament has two beneficiaries. The Arizona Chronic Fatigue Foundation helps sufferers by organizing support groups, educating people about the disease and even providing legal help to those whose employers don’t recognize chronic fatigue as a legitimate illness, Eck said.
The Pioneer Research Foundation provides funding to doctors who conduct research on the disease’s cause and cure.
For Eck, managing his busy life is an everyday struggle, as if he had a heavy weight around him at all times.
Still, he said he’s been lucky because he inherited his mother’s high-energy genes.
"She just can’t stop, and I’m the same way she is," he said.
Eck said the golf tournament, at Apache Creek Golf Course, is sold out, but contributions can be made by calling Stephanie Hopkins at (480) 924-2299.