Category Archives: Congenital Lyme Disease

Blog This SH*#$

Thanks to a dear friend and fellow blogger, I’ve got my fingers on the keys, again. Not that the nudge will get me back to blogging regularly, but today, I will. And maybe tomorrow. Facebook and twitter just seem so much easier. So much faster. But I miss blogging. So here goes.

My sons were never vaccinated. I get grief about it from people quite often. But never from doctors. With the history in my extended family and with my kids living on the edge, it’s just a good thing that I didn’t do it.

But, the whole PANDAS diagnosis/research seems to volley around the issue of vaccines. What does an unvaccinated kid who gets a “strep on steroids” infection look like? How do we treat him?

The answer so far? We don’t know.

So, yesterday, I packed a rental car full of things to do and food to eat and went to see a doctor that seems to get both Lyme and PANDAS, at least a little bit.

The journey was worthwhile, as always. I made him laugh. The little guy made him laugh. He made me cry. All in a day’s work for a mom parenting kids who live on the edge. And he told me that you usually see a connection between a PANDAS diagnosis and vaccines. Not in my world. So it seems more complex, again.

Sometimes I forget how sick my kids are. Especially the little one. I just keep keeping on, and the doctor visits are highlighted with all the good. The “upward spiral” and the “good grades”. And other days, we look at the shadow. The under belly. The sh#%(.

My kid is sick. Some days, I just don’t even want to talk about or think about how complex his issues are. The hardest part is that so far, I haven’t been able to find anyone who really gets what’s going on with him. If I were a different kind of parent, I might just look at him, ignore the dark circles under the eyes and just keep keeping on. But I don’t. I push for answers. I push for him to get well. I hope that the teenagers frankenstein-looking lymph nodes doesn’t mean another flare is on its way, or that I’m too busy helping one kid that I’m playing ostrich with the life of the other. I search for treatments, money, the next great hope for a cure. Heading down to the lab to get some subclass deficiency and immune issue tests. But waiting until AFTER Valentines Day. Blood draws WIPE this kid out.

It’s not one thing. That, I know. If it were, I’d be selling some sort of MLM product that had cured us all. Instead, I’m back to the Rubik’s cube. Or just STILL HERE.

 

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Rubik’s Cube, Revisited

I know one person who has lyme that is well. ONE. And I only know her virtually. She has saved my life on more than one occasion. And my marriage. She lived in hell, like the rest of us, but now she has clarity. She KNOWS that all this ‘fighting for our lives’ business is worth it. Good thing, because most of the time there is nothing in my life to make me believe that. So, I need to trust her.

But, why is she well? And how does one person being well give me hope, when there are thousands who are not, many who have died this year alone, and kids being born to moms with un-diagnosed lyme every day?

Because if one person figured out treatment for her particular form of this insipid disease, then more of us can. It is like a Rubik’s cube. My friend Leland can do one in no-time-flat. Me? Not so much. My son works it with the instruction booklet. Try one twist to the right. One to the left. Get ahead. Step backward. Get boxed into a dark alley by Bartonella. Waltz around with Babesia. Try another herb, another antibiotic. Add another layer, try another probiotic. What about frequency therapy? Sauna? How about light therapy? Diet? Raw Foods?

Yep. If I know 200 people with CHRONIC LYME disease, there are 200 different rubiks cubes to solve. When I used this analogy, my kid with serious cognitive trouble glares at me. “But MOM! I can’t solve the Rubik’s Cube!” Nope. Neither can I. That’s why we have Anne coming over with Freddy to help us on Wednesday. Carrie in the afternoon. Dr. P. sees me on Wednesday. Isabelle is going to sew some casings and hems to get some curtains on our windows, finally. That frees up the little energy I have to make appointments for the acupuncturist, check in with the frequency therapist, administer coffee enemas, the coconut oil, the homeopathics. We just keep twisting until we find something that feels like it is working.

Too many cooks spoil the soup? Is it like a big wapatooie party where everyone throws the liquor in the Kool-Aid and everyone gets loaded? Kind of feels that way. . but it isn’t. We have to find the right combination because there is no protocol that works for everybody. Nothing like a life threatening illness to make you learn to trust yourself. Nothing quite like it.

Now, back to the rubik’s cube.

Compassion Fatigue vs. Unconditional Friendship

This is a repost of an earlier entry.  Feeling abandoned by friends is a feeling that ebbs and flows.  I am NOT in this place right now in any way.  Nothing has changed with the old friends, but I have cultivated a new, more stable support system.  I’m posting this again, for those of you that are struggling with this right now.

Please join in a conversation via the comments and share liberally.  These conversations are just as important for Lyme Disease Awareness as details about how to remove a tick.

This is more of an inquiry than a post. And trust me, if you are reading this post, it is unlikely that I am talking about you. Really. Unfortunately, this inquiry will NOT be viewed by the people I most want to see it. I want to speak to the people who have dumped me, cut me off, let me go, but they aren’t here reading my blog. They aren’t the ones who will be willing to answer, because they have vanished.

I had a dear friend tell me that she had taken a break from me after my diagnosis because I was “all-Lyme, all the time”. It made me realize how easy it is for me to drive people away without intending to. But, at the same time, I struggle with the meaning of friendship. It makes me wonder why we, in this culture, think it is necessary to take breaks from friends when they most need us. I can’t take a vacation from Lyme Disease, even though you can take a vacation from me. I can’t pretend that my kids aren’t sick. I have to live out loud. If that is uncomfortable for you, I really do want to know why. I have no intention of changing it, but I do want to know.

Struggling with a life threatening illness, one that you now share with your husband and your children is not easy. There is no cure. There is no protocol. In order to make progress, we need to be continuously aware of our diets, our environment, our treatments, our exercise, our stress levels. That would consume the healthiest of people. Yes, 17 months down the line, I have a better container around our illnesses, but frankly, it is still Lyme, most the time.

I want to be brave. I want to yell to those friends who have left me: “TELL ME WHY YOU HAVEN’T EMAILED ME IN 11 MONTHS?” or any number of questions.

I want to know what the challenges are to reaching out to a sick friend. Theorizing alone is no fun, so I’d like to invite my readers to weigh in on this.

Why do friends let people with chronic illnesses suffer alone?

If you sigh every time one of your friends emails you about their illness, posts something on Facebook about their illness or invites you to events surrounding their illness, why? What is underneath that sigh? Is it regret? Is it fear? Do you roll your eyes, wishing they could just go on with their lives? Do you want them to “cut the drama” and go have a beer? There will be no judgment for your honest answers. Just share them. Use an alias. I’ll take my restrictions off for comments so they can be private for this post! Share for me. Share for my readers, many who struggle with invisible illnesses as well.

How can we, as “friends” offer help to someone who is consumed by their illness when what we really want to do is just click “delete” or “hide” when we see their name in our inbox or on our newsfeed?  I can assure you, they are more overwhelmed by their illness than you are.

Is running away, cutting them off, making excuses the best way? For you? For them?

And to those of you who have the strength, the courage and the willingness to stand by the side of your friends with chronic illness, why do you do it? What draws you to support when others are repelled?

What sustains me in this illness is my Faith in people (which is sometimes flimsy, at best), Trust in friendship, and having companions on this Journey. I have no understanding around conditional friendship. Maybe you can teach me.

As my mother used to say, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” To all the beautiful friends of people with chronic illness who refuse to leave the kitchen, many thanks.

Forgiveness

I’ve had a whole lot of therapists in my time.  I’ve dumped a few, one has died, others I just stopped going to and they never called to check in on why I left.  But there’s one that keeps coming back into our life.  My husband saw him 13 years ago for Life Coaching, and then on and off we’ve seen him as our relationship coach (makes it sound like we are proactive about the relationship, rather than trying to put out fires, doesn’t it?)  We’ve been seeing him for the past couple of years as we deal with all the relationship issues that tend to spin around a couple that is dealing with a chronic illness (or 2 or 3 or 4).

I got a text from hubby this morning, reminding me that we had an appointment, but he had to work, and would it be okay if I went on my own?

Ugh.  It’s a lot of money to waste, so I went.  And, I was okay with that.

I walked into the office with the DSM IV under my arm, a little light reading swiped from the bookshelf in the waiting area.  Clearly, I sent a message of, “I mean business,” and “I’m ready to pathologize myself!”  ; )

I thought I would be nervous. . but we jumped right in.  John has a way of getting to the core of issues. . inviting you just to crawl into the belly of the beast.  One session with him is like 6 months worth of a mediocre therapist, and believe me, I’ve seen plenty, I’ve gone to school with a few, and I’ve heard about even more.

I told him that paying him was like doing my own psychic reading, and having him as a witness.  And it was worth every penny.  My heart just cracked open and I saw truth.  Well, at least after we argued about my enneagram and its fondness for suffering.

I need to forgive myself.  For being ill.  For not opening my arms and my heart to the Faculty member at my college who cornered me in a hallway and told me that she thought I had a chemical imbalance, soon after the bite, instead of pushing her and all the people who cared about me away.

I deserve to forgive myself for not allowing myself to be vulnerable.  I was trying to make a name for myself in a male dominated profession.  I believed I had to hide behind my toughness–my ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

I need to forgive myself for believing that my natural treatments, my holistic work, my diet and my yoga were the first line of defense to my issues.  I need to let go of the “what ifs” and the “if onlys” and just accept what is here.

I need to forgive myself for passing these infections to my kids and to my husband.  And stop pretending I’ve already forgiven myself.

I deserve to forgive myself for not having all the answers.  For not knowing that my kids were infected.  For not knowing that all of my seemingly little issues were actually really big, and far beyond what I could handle myself.  For denying my gut feelings.  For trusting people who said they could help me, and for not recognizing that they were full of ego, not care.

I deserve self-forgiveness.

I get to soften to myself–stop thinking that I have somehow failed because my novels aren’t published, and I’m not famous.  I need to forgive myself for not “being all that I could be” like the guys in those Army posters, or the people I went to College with.  I need to stop believing that because I haven’t accomplished all that I thought I would by this age, that I haven’t made an impact on the world.

I need to see myself as a beautiful result of every moment, every decision, every happening in my life thus far.  The joy, the initial infection, the hope, the chronic nature of my illness, my creativity, the difficult treatment.  All of it.

Radical Forgiveness.  That’s a tough one.  But I’m giving myself the invitation.  If I get through this lesson, I might actually start believing there is divine order in the world.

That would be a miracle.

What’s The Big Deal About Lyme Disease, Anyway?

This is a repost from last year sometime.  Thought it might be a good one for Lyme Disease Awareness Month.  Please share the link on your facebook wall.  Anyone can get lyme.  You don’t have to love the woods, you don’t have to own a dog, you don’t even need to leave the city to get it.  So learn about it.  And do your friends a favor by sharing information about it.

I’m thinking there are a whole lot of people who would like to ask a whole lot of questions of me, directly related to my illness. But I don’t know. Part of me thinks my house could be on fire and no one would notice. Everyone is busy. Life is full. Most people keep their drapes drawn and hope that the sick family is okay. Maybe they think we should be well. . and think we must be crazy since we aren’t well.

I start to wonder what people might ask if they didn’t feel like they were being petty or judgmental. So, I’m going to imagine this little question and answer, all the while, wishing people might just ask us for the answers. If people were asking these questions about our illness we might feel a little less isolated.

Question: Why aren’t you well yet? The IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America) says you should be well with 4 weeks of treatment. It has been more than a year since your diagnosis. What gives?

Answer: Lyme Disease is a complex disease that rarely involves just one infectious disease. Ticks are cesspools of bacteria, parasites and viruses and when they yack into a human (or animal) body, you get it all. Even the IDSA agrees that you need 6 weeks of treatment for Babesiosis. I was never tested for Lyme, for Babesiosis or any other co-infection. So, in 1985, when I got the rash and got sick, I had 10 days of antibiotics. Because of the manipulative power of the bacteria/parasites, my illness went into my nervous system, did all kinds of hiding, and I had beautiful remissions when I was pregnant. So, these little critters have been fruitful and multiplying in every part of my body for 25 years. It is a wonder I am alive.

Question: Why do you say your kids have CONGENITAL Lyme Disease? How can a tick bite be congenital?

Answer: Well, I had the bite and was only partially treated in 1985. Chances are that the infamous bite of 1985 was NOT the first time I had been infected with these diseases. I grew up having imbedded ticks and we traveled often to the East Coast. Both of my parents had obvious symptoms of Bartonella, including difficulty making decisions and society anxiety. When did it enter my system for sure? Nobody knows. But all the infections crossed the placenta, and/or entered the babies during gestation or breast-feeding. When? I know for our little guy, Ezra, it likely crossed in the second trimester, when he died.

Question: Why aren’t your kids well now that they’ve been treated for over a year?

Answer: Well, Lyme and co-infections set the terrain of the body to allow all kinds of viral and parasitic opportunistic infections into the body. My kids were born with chronic lyme. There is no definitive cure. Yet. I hope my kids get well. All I can do is help them change the terrain of the body to better handle the infections and parasites within.

Question: I hope you guys are doing okay over there. I think about you often.

Answer: Okay, so this isn’t a question. If you are THINKING about someone with a serious chronic illness, if you are sending them love and light, if you are hoping for the best, you could be doing something practical for them. They are have issues with memory, often have issues with executive function like returning emails, phone calls, or responding to requests for help, and are most likely extremely isolated as they fight for their health and for the health of their children. They might be depressed. They might spend their evenings surfing craigslist for pets they want to rescue but could never take care of.

Show up on their doorstep, just like the Mormons do and start doing something. Don’t try to plan it, or ask them if you could help, just show up. Do the dishes. Throw in a load of laundry. Organize something like a meal making night, a laundry fest, a cleaning day, or just take the dog for a walk.

Isolation is a nightmare. Anything helps. A simple thing is NOT too little.

Question: So, when is your treatment going to end? Well. . probably never. Will we get better? We hope so. I’ve been sick for 25 years. My kids were born in the chronic phase of the illness. Their immune systems are compromised and they are pretty darn fragile. There is no protocol for Lyme Disease. Every doctor does it a different way, and most doctors do it differently for every patients. And every treatment plan is a crap shoot.

Question: So, here is what I don’t get. You complain about your “herxing”, you talk about how crappy you feel, you say that your kids live on the edge. Why the heck do none of you look sick?

So, my challenge to this question is this, “what does SICK look like”?

Does it look like somebody who only has the energy to bathe once a week?
Does it look like someone who hasn’t had the energy to get a haircut in close to 6 months?
Does it look like someone who can’t push her 4 year old in the swings at the park because she gets out of breath?
How ’bout someone whose kids look like little rag-a-muffins?

That’s what sick looks like. No chemo scarf. No bags under my eyes. To be told I look great though, is to deny how shitty I feel. I joke with my friend Ellen, “you look great, but I bet you feel like shit”. That’s the best thing to say. Acknowledge my illness. Having my struggle ignored makes me feel even more isolated. I feel isolated even when I’m not.

Question: So, what about Lyme rage? Didn’t that chimp have Lyme?

Answer: Yep, the chimp that ripped the woman’s face off was being treated for Lyme. I’m not going to kid you about Lyme and Bartonella. Some people don’t have mood issues with either. Some have anxiety. I have that. And I get confused and lost and sometimes my brain feels like I’m trapped in a Steven King novel. That is why I need so much help. I’m trying to parent children while I have a horror movie going on in my head. It isn’t always there. But when it is, it is really hard. Really scary.

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And No, It isn’t Munchausen Syndrome

I went to Physical therapy for a total of 64 sessions at one clinic and about 15 at another over the past year. My locked hip thawed, and my left hip developed an impingement. My Right shoulder started to freeze, then fully froze and now my left shoulder has an impingement. I’ve been told many things while I have had this shoulder problem.

“She appears to be a malingerer,” says the very young PT whose notes read more like the notes of a psychic than a health care practitioner.

“Her arm appears to be fine,” says the Psychiatrist who interviewed me while I had my hands in my lap. This was the same psychiatrist who told me that I was obsessed with a fictional disease that I didn’t have. (Note to the doctor that I named, “The Dragon Lady,” no one can actually have a fictional disease.”

“Her pain doesn’t follow the typical course,” from my functional capacity test.

Well today, a little too late, I was vindicated. Yay! This amazing Surgeon said that surgery for frozen shoulders are common place and yet there is no evidence that the surgery does any good. And he isn’t going to cut into my shoulder.

Because I have repeatedly “Refused steroids,” I am considered by many, a patient that doesn’t want to get well. But here, this famous surgeon was saying, it’s too late for steroids. And, if the left shoulder begins to freeze, we could do injections of steroids, but they would only last 2 months and with the auto immune component, he wouldn’t do it unless my primary doc agreed, and she won’t.


Apparently, there are a few things that I have going against me with this whole frozen shoulder thing.

1.) I am a woman approaching menopause (theoretical hormonal causality).
2.) I am fair haired, light complexion (theoretical hereditary causality).
3.) I have what the surgeon called a “hyper auto immune issue” that means there is really nothing that can be done to speed up the healing and physical therapy is the WRONG approach.

I’ve heard from other therapists that those who do the best with frozen shoulders don’t have auto immune crap going on.

My question is, “What is my auto-immune crap?” It doesn’t appear on any labs, really. Not any common ones. You have to dig into a specialized test at a specialized lab in order to see my auto immune condition. But it is there.

Not for one moment did he add Munchausen Syndrome to my list of challenges. Nor did he say, “Somatization disorder” is possible.

But today, none of that matters, because THIS doctor did me a great service. He told me that the fact that my peronius longus muscle in my left leg hurts every time my OT or bodyworker manipulates the trigger points in my right bicep, doesn’t make me crazy, nor does it mean that I’m faking it.

He told me that It doesn’t matter that my pain doesn’t make sense. I’m wired differently, that’s all. The man gave me no options and no solutions during our visit, but he didn’t treat me like an anomaly. He recommended I learn some baseball/shoulder stretch, and I’m meeting with his PT asap to learn those. It’s funny, he gave very clear instructions to the therapist. “Conservative Protocols: 4-corner stretch; reverse Codman’s; ceiling punch; No passive motion/stretching.” And a final note: “Be gentle.”

He treated me like I mattered. That my pain mattered. That my illness is causing my pain. And he admitted that he likely can’t help me. And that he can’t stop the left shoulder from freezing. Still, I walked out of there knowing that I’m okay. Despite my illness trying to tell me otherwise.

That, my friends, is a fine Doctor.

What Does it Mean to show up for a screening of Under Our Skin?

Tonight, there was a showing of the Award winning Film at my local Movie night. The fabulous woman who runs “movie night” wanted to show this to honor my family and our struggle, but she did so much more than that.

This is the night that many restaurants in my city participate in Dine Out For Life! By eating out at your favorite establishments, a portion of your meal price is donated to this organization. The restaurant my husband works at was donating to The Aliveness Project. Fabulous organization. Fabulous cause.

In his book, Healing Lyme Disease Naturally, Wolf Storl compares what’s going on with Lyme Disease with what happened in the 80’s with AIDS.

I look forward to the day that Lyme Disease, and all the wicked co-infections and opportunistic infections that find their way into our already sick bodies can be as visible, as supported and as understood as AIDS/HIV.

I’m not saying I want LESS support to go to AIDS/HIV. Look at all that has been done in the past 20+ years! I just want, for my kids’ sake, to have the light shine on the fastest growing infection in the world. I can’t wait for twenty years.

My son saw the film for the first time, tonight. He looked at me with pain in his eyes when the little boy says something about just wanting to be normal. I just want my kid’s illnesses to start being understood. AIDS awareness and support grew one moment at a time. And Lyme awareness grows one moment at a time as well.

A showing here, an article there. It doesn’t move fast because so many of us have the desire, but not the energy, the want, but not the will. This disease has robbed us of so much, so it becomes the friends and the neighbors and the people in charge of the Movie Nights that keep it going.

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, Eastside Co-op, for advancing Lyme Disease Awareness. And thank you to the people at the showing for just showing up. Even if you attended because you were curious, or because you knew someone with lyme, I believe you were there for me. And my family.

Lyme Disease: It’s bigger than the warning on the bug spray can.