Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Remembering a Life I Once Knew--Martha B
As I sit with pen in hand, weighing upon how to give an account of my battle with Lyme, I have no recollection of a tick or mosquito bite resulting in a bulls-eye rash or flu-like symptoms. I question how I got to this place in my life. I remember a life I once knew--what it felt like to run three miles a day, freedom to socialize with friends at a favorite neighborhood restaurant, eating without thought of the biological aftermath, and living without annoying and debilitating symptoms every moment of the day. I dream of a day where I can be free of Lyme, and will find normality as I join others in living.
My journey into a life with Lyme began unknowingly at the age of 31. I was a newlywed. I married a wonderful man at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Memphis, Tennessee, on March 1, 2003. It was not an expensive wedding, but a beautiful one. Shortly after, we began to train for the Peachtree 10K in Atlanta, Georgia. We had planned it early on and had been looking forward to it for months; it would be the first race would run together as a married couple.
Three weeks before our July 2 departure, I woke one morning to find I was severely constipated, and I knew at that moment that it was not just an ordinary episode. I did all I knew to relieve the symptoms, but was unsuccessful. The symptoms stayed with me all day and all night, and were more intense than anything I had ever experienced. I felt awful, but made the trip and successfully ran the six-mile race. Once I returned, the doctor’s visits began.
I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome approximately eight times by different doctors, underwent four colonoscopies, was prescribed a multitude of pharmaceuticals, and was given the run-around when I mentioned other possibilities. A year later, I was lying on an operating table and was diagnosed with stage-four endometriosis, now believed by many gynecologists to be an auto-immune disease. It had adhered to my colon. Subsequently, during an eight-month period, I went through three laparoscopies, forced menopause, and more pharmaceuticals before undergoing a full hysterectomy--all of this while working a full-time job that required 60+ hours a week. I look back and know it was the strength God gave me that got me through it.
After the hysterectomy, I gradually showed improvement in my symptoms, and although I dealt with daily bowel symptoms, I adapted. I continued to work and felt 70% better than I had over the previous two years. My physician prescribed Miralax and CALM magnesium to help manage my bowel symptoms.
Three years after my hysterectomy in 2007, I began experiencing chronic burping spells in which I belched every ten minutes. One can only imagine how annoying and embarrassing this was. The three spells I experience within a year’s time lasted up to a month each before resolving themselves. In 2008, shortly after eating a meal, I became very ill. I felt a heavy pressure in my stomach and all through my esophagus, not similar to the pressure one would feel with acid reflux or indigestion. Even drinking water exacerbated my symptoms. This lasted for seven days before subsiding.
I began experiencing these episodes more often until they were occurring after every meal. Sometimes it simply took a sip of water or couple bites of food to get the symptoms rolling; other times it took nothing at all. At the age of 37, when my average weight should have been 115/120, I had lost 57 pounds in less than six months, arriving at 93 pounds. Food had become my enemy. It was frightening to look in the mirror. I wondered if I was going to make it, and how I was going to reverse my weight loss.
In July 2009, I developed bladder pain that was ruled out as a bacterial infection, and was prematurely diagnosed as intestinal cystitis. After a year of gastroenterologists, urologists, exams, tests, labs, x-rays, medications, thousands of dollars spent, and a lot of prayer, I felt blue and hopeless.
Prayers can be answered when you least expect them; a friend of mine encouraged me to visit her doctor who was able to diagnose her at a vulnerable time in her life. During my initial visit, he sat me down in a 1950’s examination chair, felt the temperature of my nose and feet, looked into my throat, and listened to my medical history. I thought, What am I getting myself into? Within thirty minutes, he was convinced I had somehow contracted a stealth infection. I was happy to have a possible diagnosis after being told by my gastroenterologist and urologist that they felt my symptoms were untreatable and incurable.
As more testing began, I gained hope. Then came the verdict. My Lyme IGeneX test results came back questionable, but because of the number of bands that were positive, my doctor was suspicious that I may have contracted Lyme. He sent me to an LLMD near our area who clinically diagnosed me as having Lyme. A second test came back positive for Lyme-fighting antibodies.
Lyme does not discriminate, nor is it selective; it feeds where you are weakest and attacks. My endocrine system was where it chose to settle. My LLMD started me on antibiotics, but seven months later I had not made progress, and we discontinued antibiotic treatment. It was then that God led me to a naturopathic doctor who practiced four hours away. A month after my initial visit with this doctor I found out that the health department closed down my LLMD's practice for failing to adhere to the four-week treatment the CDC allows.
In May 2010 I packed my bags and, with my friend, headed to San Angelo, TX for my initial visit with the naturopathic doctor. I am not going to deny that I was in a distressed state—I was desperate for answers. At 9 a.m. we walked into a small dark, but warm-natured clinic. What I learned there, I believe, will play a significant role in how I treat myself: understanding how the immune system and digestion go hand-in-hand, the importance of hormonal balance in organ function, and how we need to treat our whole self in order for our immune system to do what God intended it to do—to heal.
I finished my final lab tests requested by my naturopathic physician and received the results on June 25, 2010. I have many issues to deal with, hormonal imbalances, pathogens, bacteria, allergies to milk, soy, eggs, and gluten, possible roundworm, and fungal growth. You would think that I would be distressed by what I see on my reports, but I am actually relieved. Finally, a test that came back positive! I am eager to continue my journey as I begin alternative treatment for Lyme. I believe this journey will make me stronger, and one day I will find the freedom that I desperately crave. God is with me, and I believe that one day I will be healed.
Martha B., Texas