At seventeen I fainted at a funeral, and it had nothing to do with the funeral. It was 100+ degrees out, and it was humid. But it is strange to be only seventeen, and fainting in this great big crowd of 80- and 90-year-olds. Amazing Grace will never sound the same again--they were singing that as I was fighting to keep consciousness. What’s worse is that I succeeded. If I ever faint again I won’t fight it. I don’t think it can possibly hurt as bad as that struggle of mind vs. body to hold on and stay standing and control how you go down. You have to just let it go.
I still loved Bocelli’s music, and I was learning to cook Italian. I loved the whole Italian culture now. Before this I had only cooked stuff that came as a mix in a bag. But I learned I was a good cook and that I enjoyed it, despite the pain in my wrists. They would go numb after enough work. The pain would hit the next day or the day after, but it would be numb for a while so it was well worth it.
We were still making soap. I was having allergic reactions to the artificial fragrances we used to make the soap. We had also put a backyard garden together. Most the plants died that year. We aren’t vegetable gardeners, but I did so much shoveling to make that garden, and I went out there to tend to it. I was the only one who did much gardening. I was hoping that growing our food would be my way to change things.
At eighteen I was sick with my second sinus infection in the fall, a couple weeks after my birthday. Mom was on her annual “Let’s change the kitchen around on Thanksgiving week!” kick, and I was too exhausted and out of breath to help out except for the little stuff. I was clearing a bookshelf, and Dr. Doris Rapp’s book Is This Your Child? fell onto the floor. I picked it up and was out of breath, so I sat down and skimmed through. I read the page on yeast allergy. I went to mom and said “Look at this; this is our problem!” I’d been reading Mercola fervently for a year and the answer hadn’t clicked. But the single page of Rapp’s book was the first puzzle piece I could do anything with.
So we started on the anti-yeast diet on Thanksgiving Day, and I led the battle. The little bit of energy I had all went into cooking and drill sargeanting my sugar-addicted family. “Don’t feed the yeast colony!” I had an answer to something, and I was going to get to the root of the problem. This diet helped me tremendously. In a few weeks I had read the tome by Dr. William Crook on yeast, and I was cooking every meal, and making everyone take their goldenseal.
In January, I was eighteen, and we finally took a trip to my LLMD’s area. We set up appointments for the whole family. Why not support this nice doc, huh? Most of the family was fine--it was me who had the obvious problem. I have one brother with Lyme as well. We focused on him for a year or so, but he’s not good at following orders. Thankfully there have been some major improvements for him. My mom and the rest of the family were over their yeast problem. I was the one who still had yeast to battle, and mono on top of it. It was there that I learned mono can be chronic.
I’ll never forget that day. My doc looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you do what you do…” I probably just grinned and said something like “Well, I’m Scots-Irish.” He also had to be careful about how to say that I had Lyme. He had to help me get the yeast and mono under control before touching the Lyme, which often is hard to explain to a patient who is eager to get all of this stuff dealt with NOW. That was not the time for Lyme. He just said my joint pain was from a bug bite.
My only question was why ticks seemed to prefer certain people, mosquitoes liked other people, and fleas different people. Ticks liked my brother, and mosquitoes and fleas liked me, and it was a different combination for each family member. He said he didn’t know the answer, and said I could look it up and email him. So I looked everything up, wrote him a little paper citing my sources, and emailed asking for another project because I liked it so much. It turned into an internship one year later!
There is also a really good chiropractor we began seeing. This chiro is great at giving adjustments suited just for what your body needs, and knowing what supplements a person needs. His recommendations for me have been consistently accurate and benefit rich. We had remodeled our kitchen in June, in three weeks. I was suffering badly from the chemicals, loss of sleep, and bad diet induced by the craziness. Then we immediately went on a trip for a week to a place that served what I swear is plastic food. I got back home and felt like I was going to have full-blown mono again. Then the chiro said to use a homeopathic for the yeast, and be sure to continue the homeopathic for the mono as well. In three weeks the yeast and mono were down to being a non-issue.
Not long after I was doing well clearing up the yeast, in early July, we had a French exchange student come and stay with us, and my friend also came for a week. I hadn’t been feeling the best in my abdomen, having those "take you to the floor” type pains. I had one while swimming that didn’t go away. Mom fussed at me for not standing up straight. I hurt so bad I couldn’t stand up straight. I couldn’t stand straight for a week. I continued in pain and had more frequent bouts that felt like they would take me to the floor. One time they did. After that I was standing even more bent. I looked like that shot of Mandy in the Under Our Skin film where she couldn’t stand up straight.
Mom called the chiropractor because at this point she really was worried this could kill me. (Her aunt had died at 16 or so of some “female” disease.) The chiro sent me a homeopathic remedy. After taking that, in a few hours I was standing straight again, and had healing-type pains--mild, pulsating, warm pain. It took a while for my body to get rid of the junk, but the remedy got me there. I think the chiropractor saved me not just from the ER, but likely my life as well.
After that I thought I MUST be well. I was a little offended at first by Schaller’s attitude in his writing on why Lyme treatments fail; but I know he has the right to believe (among many other good things), that we have poor judgment about when we are better. We think improvement = cure, but it doesn't! With each little thing I’ve thought “Ok, I’m cured now! I can live my life.” Thankfully only once did I get truly sick again before realizing my error. I, in my Lymie brain, thought I was cured--still with joint pain and brain fog. I went to spend a week with my friend during her second year of college. It was fun, but proved to me that I was still sick.
I had a couple weeks to recharge from that experience before I saw my LLMD again in August. This is when he told me I had Lyme from the bug bite I must have gotten. The yeast and mono weren’t an issue anymore. We could now focus on “Lyme and Co.” It was really no big deal to me. I just took what he told me to, and was going to see him in January of the next year. I did great on the things he had me start doing. The picture was really simplified; we could address Lyme now.
I went home and didn’t bother with research. I herxed a week after I got home, and wasn’t scared by it. It was like I knew that would happen, and was ok with it. I knew I had this internship coming up. I could ask the doc all my simmering questions then, huh? Despite being told otherwise, I thought I was cured as soon as joint pain and brain fog were down a little bit. I stopped taking stuff in early December. I thought that at nineteen I was done with Lyme. I probably was told something different, but I hadn't listened to that part.
I felt good from September till mid-January, about two weeks into the internship. I even had my first painless menstrual cycle. Then I picked up a virus at the clinic and felt completely wiped out. I didn’t feel bad for long, because they took good care of me. I knew enough about Lyme now that I had to conquer this thing. I did wonderfully, keeping up with the internship and half-herxing most of the time! A couple times it tipped over a little far, but I still didn’t miss a day.
When I say herx, I mean feeling really slow and icky. Thankfully my only big neurological symptom was brain fog, and one herx when I went and lay down after getting home. I cried because I hurt so bad, and my heart gave me pain and skipped a beat. I could muck through that because I’d lived with brain fog and had learned things anyway, for years. By the end of the internship, I was feeling GREAT. I’d come to help others and learn, but God blessed me with good people there, and I got help too. It was truly the great feeling that I had never experienced. That feeling was something I became used to, but I was very thankful for it.
Once I got back to NC, I applied for a job and got it. I began planning for the schooling it takes to get a doctorate in naturopathic medicine from an accredited school.
In a way, Lyme has been God’s way of giving me a definite direction! Always search for Lyme’s hidden gifts, and trust fully in God. Our contentment must be in Jesus if we want to get through this!
I got bitten again in May’09 and was in a 30 mph rear-ender in the same week. I got a rash from that bite. Lyme became a new beast. I continued with my natural stuff and a not-as-perfect diet, and actually did ok (though not like I was before my last tick bite), until October.
It helped just to ask my LLMD what to do, and I went to see a naturopath in June. He also had me on enough to keep the Lyme from attacking badly. I think that stuff would have been more successful if it weren’t for my working in a store and then adding college in the fall semester. I kept the part-time job until mid-terms, but resigned when I was tired of feeling bad every time I went home after work. I hurt so bad, and felt crushed emotionally. I would get home and just cry. I crashed, hard, on finals week. It is a miracle that I left with A’s. I spent the next two weeks in bed.
It has taken a few months, and two more visits to my LLMD, but I know I’m back on track to getting well. I’ve had a few spells of better functioning in school like I did before I got sick last semester. I just got a job. It is something that is a perfect job for a Lymie trying to recover. Being reinfected and having whiplash made Lyme a very different beast, but I’m learning not be afraid of the way it behaves.
Lyme is a journey, and I will get better in God’s perfect will. I know it is possible! This experience will help me better understand patients when I’m a practitioner. So many blessings have come out of it. I think if someone asked me if I had the choice of life as it is now, or life without Lyme, I would choose exactly the life I have.
I'm twenty years old now, and I’m not completely recovered. But I've come a long way.
K. C. Smith, North Carolina