My Lyme Journey
Presbyterian Wellness Ambassador
The Great Imitator
For the last 12 years, I have been battling Lyme disease. To some, Lyme disease is an easily treated bacterial infection transmitted via tick bite. For others, like myself, it is a misdiagnosed condition for so long that the quickly multiplying bacteria wreak havoc on the immune system and organs.
Ticks that carry Lyme disease are often smaller than a poppy seed and rarely detectable to the naked eye. According to the Centers for Disease Control, Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne infectious disease in the United States. Often called the "Great Imitator,” Lyme disease is frequently misdiagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia, ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease), or even clinical depression/anxiety disorders. Named after the Connecticut town in which it was first identified in 1975, Lyme disease is incredibly difﬁcult to diagnose in a timely fashion due to its mimicking capabilities. People who have Lyme disease often experience flu-like symptoms that progress differently in each person, depending on where the bacteria are multiplying the fastest. For me, it was extreme fatigue, joint/muscle pain, headaches, and severe memory and speech issues. My symptoms progressed so severely after four years of being misdiagnosed that I became bed-ridden and was unable to work.
If treated with antibiotics within four weeks of infection, many people can fully recover. For those of us who have progressed to late-stage, chronic Lyme disease, the symptoms are debilitating and there is no cure. Unfortunately, I am not alone in receiving a diagnosis too late. Many people struggle with this same problem, and sadly some succumb to the disease because they are unable to survive long enough for treatment to help them. For me, it took six and a half years to receive a proper diagnosis. During that time, I saw 19 different physicians while unsuccessfully trying countless treatments for other diseases.
Once I narrowed down my symptoms and found a "Lyme literate" physician in Colorado, I finally had a conﬁrmed diagnosis and a treatment plan. I had validation that these symptoms were not in my head and that there was a true cause for my ailments. Within two months of being on antibiotic therapy, I could walk for more than a minute at a time and I could stay awake for longer than an hour. I knew that I had ﬁnally found the proper treatment that was going to help me feel more normal. For the first time in a long time, I had hope for my future.
How Lyme changed my outlook
Before I contracted Lyme disease, I was working in the financial field. After completing my MBA at University of New Mexico, I became a bank manager for a major bank in the Washington, D.C. area, and later became a mutual fund associate for a Santa Fe mutual fund company. After I began treatment in 2011, my progress was slow, but I realized that my memory could handle all things medical. While I still struggled to remember certain words or where I parked my car, I could remember medical terms, symptoms, medications, etc. I was determined to work again, because I am not one to enjoy sitting around. I used my time on disability to rest, recover, grow stronger, and look for a new career in the healthcare field. My end goal was to find a job that allowed me to work from home to earn money while continuing to recover. Medical coding was something I knew I could handle due to my love of details, and in 2014, I took an in-depth online course, followed by the CPC certification exam. I was lucky enough to land a job at Presbyterian in a field that I absolutely love.
While some days are better than others, I am grateful to get up every day and have a job that I enjoy. I am grateful that most mornings these days, I feel well enough to get out of bed. My new victory is being down from 25 to fewer than 10 medications/antibiotics and supplements to control my disease.
My battle with Lyme disease led me to apply to become a Presbyterian Wellness Ambassador, because it further motivates me to strive toward my best health. I know how important good health is now, because I know what it is like to have no choice. While I still have some limitations and struggles, Lyme disease has made me a stronger, healthier, and a more centered person. For anyone who struggles with any debilitating disease, just remember that you are not alone in your battle and you can do this thing called life!
For information about Lyme disease:
Reading on Lyme disease:
“Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic” by Pamela Weintraub
“Why Can’t I Get Better: Solving the Mystery of Lyme and Chronic Disease” by Richard Horowitz
“Under Our Skin”: http://www.underourskin.com
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