YAY! Summer is here! The sun shines, the birds sing, the days are longer, and we are all excited about our summer vacations! Yet, amidst the bright days and warmth of the season, a dark predator lurks. The Tick.
The Tick has three life stages: larva, nymph and adult. In each stage they feed by sucking blood from animals, then transmit dangerous bacteria into the host through its saliva. Lyme Disease is transmitted by nymphal ticks, and here is the scary part — they are smaller than a poppy seed! In fact, they are so small they often look like a mole or tiny scab!
On the West Coast, the Western Black Legged Tick can transmit Babesia, Lyme Disease, Bartonella, and Ehrlichia… the same as the Deer Tick on the East Coast. Besides deer, ticks also attach themselves to small animals and birds, and thusly have crossed all state lines. In fact, today, Lyme Disease has been found on every continent except Antarctica!
My personal journey with Lyme began nearly 20 years ago. While vacationing on a lake in Maine (one of the most densely populated regions for Lyme Disease) I was bitten by a deer tick. Unfortunately, I did not know it at the time. I never saw a tell-tale ring rash which would have alerted me to take antibiotics immediately. The odds are very high that if you can see the bite you will have a good chance of killing the dangerous spirochete bacteria, called Borrelia Bergdorferi, that invade one’s brain and other organs very rapidly. But, without immediate treatment, the bacteria multiply rapidly creating havoc on one’s nervous and immune systems. Antibiotics often fail to kill off all the spirochete and they remain active for years causing arthritis, extreme fatigue, neurological problems, brain “fog”, and depression. In fact, there are over 300 symptoms reported with Lyme, which is why it is often called the “Great Imitator” because it can mimic many other illnesses and is often misdiagnosed.
It took the doctors 10 years to diagnose my Lyme Disease! 10 years of going from doctor to doctor telling my story of fatigue, headaches, lack of focus, and a desire to hide from the world. During this time, I had opened my first Dojo, and was teaching long hours everyday. When I teach, I go full out. Kids get a great workout and laugh all the way through class. Even when in top physical shape, trust me when I say that it is hard work to keep four-year-olds interested and focused for 50 minutes!
But teaching is good medicine, and though I was tired, I loved every minute of it. Yet, at the end of each day, I barely make it home only to climb into bed. My story is not much different than millions of people now suffering with Lyme Disease, but the interesting part of this tale is that my doctors never did actually diagnose me. One of my favorite parents approached me and wondered why he hadn’t seen me around. I had given my classes over to other instructors as I was just too tired to teach anymore. He asked where I had been and I confided that I was in bed about 20 hours per day. I explained how the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me… it looked like Chronic Fatigue but it wasn’t, it looked like Epstein-Barr but it wasn’t, it looked like ALS but it wasn’t… so what was it?!
This wise parent said, “It sounds like Lyme Disease.”
“But I’ve had the Executive Screening Tests,” I replied.
He explained that one has to ask for the Lyme test. It is a separate test.
The next day I took a Lyme test and it came back positive. It was sad news, yet a relief, to finally know what was wrong with me. By this point, nearly 10 years since my vacation in Maine, I was diagnosed with Late Stage Lyme Disease. Scans showed that my brain and heart were infected and I was put on a cocktail of antibiotics for six months; including a PICC line with two months of intravenous antibiotics. I combined Western medicine with other therapeutic and holistic remedies including magnets, rife machine, infrared sauna, hyperbaric oxygen, and a daily dose of 50 herbs and vitamins. I was determined to blast these bacteria out of me.
Today, 10 years later since my first diagnosis, I am currently in my third round with Lyme. Yes, this is sad. The Lyme bacteria and sub-infections are smart bugs that mutate and know how to hide from the medicine. My plan is to ultimately obliterate this disease from my body, and I will hold that thought. I tell you this tale today to stress that this is not an easily diagnosed or treated disease. In fact, over 200,000 new patients of Lyme are reported yearly, and the CDC considers Lyme to be the fastest growing infectious disease in the country!
Though we cannot live our lives for the “what ifs”, we can be aware of our surroundings and use our best judgements for preventative medicine. Meaning, that while you are sipping lemonade on your grassy knoll, please take the time to consider your environment. If you go hiking, wear light colors and repellant, try to stay out of tall grass, and avoid sitting on logs or piles of leaves. Stick to the trails.
I am determined that Lyme will not stop me from experiencing the blessings of nature and the lightness of Summer. Today, I just look at things a little more closely, which gives me even more appreciation of what I see. And that is definitely a good thing. So, I say to you be cautious, but nevertheless, fearlessly drink in the light, and the love, and the fun! Yay! It’s Summer!
For more information on Lyme Disease and other Tick-borne infections, please visit: www.lymedisease.org