Imagine being struck down in the prime of your life.

Imagine not being able to stand for more than 5-10 minutes in the grocery line because of the severe pain and weakness that grips your legs.

Then imagine having to walk home from the store because you have no other choice; you’re so disabled that you’ve lost your job, your car, and can’t afford a cab. So you walk slowly and collapse at home with excruciating muscle spasms, as if you had walked for miles, even though it was just three blocks.

Imagine becoming so weak and almost paralyzed with stiffness that you can barely push yourself up out of bed in the morning, if you can get out of bed at all.

Imagine the fear of losing your concentration and short-term memory at a young age, grasping for common words that just a year earlier came so easily.

Imagine “life” with a chronic, disabling illness that without proper medical specialists, cutting-edge lab tests, and sufficient rest, can last for many years, even decades.

Dr. Nancy Klimas M.D., who has treated more than 2000 patients, said there is evidence that patients with CFS experience a level of disability that is equal to patients with late-stage AIDS, patients undergoing chemotherapy and patients with multiple sclerosis.

Award-winning artist Dan Becks has suffered from CFS* for 13 years. This is his story…

Jean, Danny, and Laurie Becks, circa 1962.

Jean, Danny, and Laurie Becks, circa 1962.

Born and raised in Seattle, Dan Becks has been drawing and painting since the age of five, learning to draw by copying his favorite cartoon characters from the Sunday comics and cartoons on television.

an early masterpiece...

an early masterpiece…

He continued to show an interest in art throughout his elementary and middle school years…

Pastel drawing at age 13...

Pastel drawing at age 13…

…and at age 15 he studied with Jerry Stitt, the top watercolorist in the Pacific Northwest. Dan has called him “the best teacher I ever had”.

"Lighthouse" by Dan Becks, age 16

“Lighthouse” by Dan Becks, age 16

Dan also enjoyed taking pictures, both still photography and home movies. After high school, Dan received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the Burnley School of Professional Art (now the Art Institute of Seattle) where he studied with William Cumming and won the school’s top scholarship award four out of five times.


He worked in the Graphics Department at Boeing for four years, but left to pursue a career as a freelance commercial illustrator and portrait artist.

Clients included the Seattle Brass Ensemble, the Pike Place Market, KIRO Television, The Rainier Square Neighborhood, Generra, the Poncho Theater, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and the Seattle Public Library, among others. The “Greenlake Ducks” painting below hangs in the Emergency Room lobby at Swedish Hospital’s Cherry Hill Campus (500 – 17th Avenue in Seattle).


Dan did many portraits as well. Here are two; the first, a watercolor he did of his nephew Danny in 1983…


…and the second is one in oil he did as a wedding gift for his friends Tony and Gina Gable, in 1990. Here’s a close-up taken while he was finishing Tony’s face…


…and the end result, finished just three days before their wedding.


Portrait of Caterina Serato, painted ‘digitally’, Dan’s last portrait to date.


Dan’s mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1987, and a year or so later, with partial dementia as well. For the next four and a half years, Dan, along with his aunt, took care of her 24/7. She would sometimes wake up 6-7 times a night, knocking on Dan’s door, not sure what to do, not sure if she had taken her medicine. In early 1992 the family had no choice but to move her to a nursing home. She died in November 1993.

“While I am so glad that I was able to help my mom, I often wonder if I ever really recovered from the physical and mental toll that so many long-term caregivers experience,” Dan said.  He was beyond exhausted and fell into a numbing depression, not sure what he was capable of doing next.


…Dan was offered a job managing a large, beautiful old apartment building called the Belroy. It was a pet-friendly building, which gave him the opportunity to take dozens of pictures of some of its colorful residents for a book idea he had planned to show to publishers.



Dan did okay there for the first 2 years or so, but very slowly and surely, an overpowering fatigue  and disturbing muscle spasms started to take over. While it may never be known, there’s a possibility that the paints, solvents, cleaners, pesticides and fungicides he used as part of his job, along with exposure to black mold on the job may have contributed to his becoming so ill.   This was no ordinary ‘fatigue’ like one gets after a long day or a hard workout — it was as so many patients with CFS/ME describe — “bone-crushing”.  Every now and then he’d have a ‘better’ day, maybe several in a row, only to come crashing down a day later.

Then on June 3, 1998, Dan ended up in the ER — so worn out, so beyond fatigued that ironically he could not settle down or sleep. A drug for sleep plus an antidepressant were prescribed, which helped for 4-5 months, but eventually had to be stopped because of the side effects.

Quite a few other antidepressants were tried in late 2000, but each one made every symptom worse than ever. Upon stopping the drugs, Dan rebounded again, for about 10 months, until late August of 2001. He had to quit his job in February 2002.

As mentioned above, Dan has suffered from CFS for thirteen years.

“Some days I feel like I have MS, with muscle twitching/tingling and numbness in my legs and feet, and muscle spasms in my back. Some days I can walk about five or six blocks, other days I can’t leave the house. I’ve lost 20-22 lbs since becoming ill, and in the last three years I’ve lost so much muscle that I can’t even do ONE push-up.”

“I must nap twice a day, and still don’t gain remotely enough “energy” until early evening, when I can function for 2-3 hours or so, and to some, appear “normal”. Then the next morning comes, and I feel like I’m 90 years old and terminally ill.”


Dan’s sister Laurie recently asked him what he’d like to do when he is well again:

“That’s a great question. I’d love to be able to paint again, especially in oils, which I haven’t been able to use in almost ten years due to the fumes. Perhaps I could teach painting or photography while creating my own work on the side.

I’ve thought about going back to school to become a counselor, but no matter what job I end up in, I’ll be so grateful just to be back among the living. And I know that art, in whatever form, will always be a part of my life.”


And together we can inspire others struggling with CFS*…

While no donation is too small, The Daniel J. Becks Special Needs Trust is offering signed Prints of some of the work he’s created over the years, to thank those who can give a gift of $100 or more to help raise funds for the medical tests and treatments that Dan needs.


Please click here or on the “How You Can Help” link at the top of the page for more information.   And check out the Updates page for the most recent news.  Thank you!



*What is CFS?

CFS is a very serious, complicated neuroimmune and mitochondrial illness that can leave strike people at any age, and leave them disabled, even bedridden for years, often decades. It’s also a disease that goes by many names, most of which don’t even begin to describe the severity of the illness; CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), ME (Myalgic Encephamyelitis (in the UK), CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome), etc.. Rather than argue which name is the best, please take moment to read how it is described by the top experts in the country:

In my experience, (ME/CFS) is one of the most disabling diseases that I care for, far exceeding HIV disease except for the terminal stages.”(Dr Daniel L Peterson M.D.: Introduction to Research and Clinical Conference, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, October 1994; published in JCFS 1995:1:3-4:123-125)

Dr. Nancy Klimas M.D., who has treated more than 2000 patients, said there is evidence that patients with CFS experience a level of disability that is equal to patients with late-stage AIDS, patients undergoing chemotherapy and patients with multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Paul Cheney M.D., one of the country’s leading experts on CFS testified before the FDA Scientific Advisory Committee that “The worst cases have both an MS-like and an AIDS-like clinical appearance. The most difficult thing to treat is the severe pain. Most have abnormal neurological examination. 80% of cases are unable to work or attend school. We admit regularly to the hospital with an inability to care for self”

More information about CFS can be found on the “Recovery” page.





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