By Tara Cushing (@TheBravoBlonde)
Lyme Disease, you would think it’s something new, considering all the press it’s recently gotten. Thanks to people like Yolanda Foster (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) and Avril Lavigne, and the internet phenomenon known as The Lyme Disease Challenge, Lyme has recently gotten some long awaited attention, extremely long awaited.
Flash back more than 20 years ago, when I was just a teen, and not even a blonde. I was a little bit of an earth child, listening to bands like Steve Miller and the Grateful Dead and shopping for perfectly worn in jeans and flannels at the used clothing store that became very trendy where I lived. When the warmer months came I refused shoes, going barefoot any place that would let me get away with it. I sat under trees reading books by Thomas Harris and John Grisham, while adults from the camp I attended called my mother saying they were concerned that I often chose to be alone over socializing. I spent a lot of time in the grass bonding with nature and not caring what others thought of it. I also didn’t care when I got warned that there was a new disease being spread by ticks in that very grass.
Teenagers are unaware of their mortality, and it’s that invincible feeling that makes those years so exciting. I laughed off the notion that my penchant for refusing to wear shoes could even make me sick. “The grass between my toes is good for me,” I’d retort. Diseases happened to “other people” who were really old or in After School Specials, they would not happen to me.
When I was about 16 I started to feel different. My knees ached, I was tired, I was moody…and not in the regular hormone infested teenage girl way. I would cry hysterically without reason. You could ask me, “What’s the matter?” and I would answer “I don’t even know!” The pain in my knees started spreading and I would feel it in my elbows, my toes, my wrists, another friend who had it described it as “a mouse running around your body” which is exactly as it felt. It was like the pain was a pinball and it would bounce from joint to joint causing terrible pain.
My pediatrician first diagnosed me with growing pains, but as my fatigue and pain increased he ran out of ideas. He told my mother to take me to a shrink. That these perceived symptoms were all in my head. My mother knew better than to do that, but we didn’t know where to go. Then one day at a family gathering I made a beeline for a relative’s bedroom and went to sleep. I woke up in a panic, I could not lift my arm, which was throbbing in pain, off of the bed. I begged my mother to help me find the right help, expressing that I feared I would end up wheelchair bound if we didn’t find somebody who could help.
A rheumatologist diagnosed me with Lyme after I showed borderline positive on a blood test (it was so hard to diagnose that even the slightest sign of a positive is taken very seriously). I was treated for 4 weeks with strong antibiotics. The first two weeks I got sicker (called the Herxheimer effect) and then in the final two started to feel better. There was a life back in me that hadn’t been seen in so long. My mother said that the “soot under my eyes” lightened up. I started to feel like the old me again. Then the doctor pulled the meds, saying four weeks were enough. I sunk even lower than before. My short term memory started to fade and the exhaustion was back with a vengeance.
Through a neighbor we found a doctor who was gaining fame for treating Lyme about an hour from our home. He said there was no question that this is what was making me sick. For two and a half years he fought this disease with me with antibiotic cocktails until I was symptom free. He saved my life. To this day he is my hero.
Life after Lyme is never the same. I have early onset arthritis that makes it hard for me to write on some days. When it rains my ankles and wrists swell. I need to make sure I get enough rest or it could knock me out for a few days. But I am happy to say that for the most part Lyme is behind me. What I am unhappy to say, however, is that the disease still exists and more and more people are getting sick, very sick. Lyme Disease is no joke, it’s serious, though often misunderstood. Please view my Lyme Disease Challenge video below and take the challenge yourself. Let’s save some lives one bite at a time!
*For more information about Lyme Disease and The Lyme Disease Challenge please visit lymediseasechallenge.org .