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Dance King Flatley Lucky to be Alive


From The Globe

Superfit Michael Flatley is full of life and energy as the host of the hit new NBC show Superstars of Dance. And millions of viewers would never guess that two years ago he feared he was going to die from a mysterious illness.

The Riverdance star, famous for his fancy footwork, was so ill, in fact, that he went months without walking. To prevent the frightening condition from coming back, Flatley now keeps in tip-top condition by working out five days a week, playing golf and eating a special high-protein diet.

"It's taken me two years to make a full recovery," he says. "But I've still got to be careful about what I take on and how much work I do. I was recently offered a big U.S. dance tour, but turned it down."

The 50-year old showman was felled in November 2006, shortly after he'd married his second wife, Niamh O'Brien.

"I didn't have the energy to get out of bed. I had a hacking cough and I was hyperventilating. Everything looked blurry and it felt like I was underwater. I was so ill there were times I was fighting for my life.

"Initially, the doctors thought my time was up, and said if I pulled through I wouldn't dance again. Years of dancing night after night, living out of a suitcase, was bound to catch up with me."

He underwent a battery of tests, and eventually doctors concluded he probably had the debilitating disease myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also known as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It can cause extreme mental and physical tiredness. Symptoms include muscle and joint pain, heart palpitations and memory loss.

"My wife and I had spent our honeymoon in the hospital. After two weeks, I was allowed to leave, but I had to have total bed rest."

For the next year, he never left his home in Ireland. "It was more than exhaustion, I was totally incapacitated. Being a dancer and not being able to take one step was frustrating," he says. Flatley eventually stopped taking prescription drugs and tried alternative medicine, including a session with hands-on healing therapist Michael O'Doherty.

"When he came to see me, I hadn't walked in months, my body was bloated, I had eye-bags, and although I could talk, my mind wasn't clear," the dance king reveals.

But the therapist held his hands over Flatley's body to "get energy flowing" - and it worked. The star walked a mile that day and over the next 18 months made a full recovery.

"When I wake up, I put my feet on the ground and count my blessings that I have all this wonderful happiness around me and that I can still dance," he says.

"I love dancing. It's my life. I want to be dancing until the day I die."

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