If you read my last post regarding seasons, you may remember that I mentioned my utter dislike of ticks. I’m not sure that anyone is particularly fond of ticks, but I have what may be categorized as a hatred for the little buggers. If any of you have had the unfortunate experience to hike or camp with me, you know and have seen that the threat of a tick bite is something I think about….a lot….when outdoors. While I have improved some over the past few years (really, I have), each time a family member or I step outside, whether it be in a field, a wooded area, a campground, a blueberry patch, or my own backyard, my blood pressure rises a bit. I will admit that this is something I am working on; I need to release this fear to the Lord because He is in control of all things…even tick bites, even Lyme Disease.
You may be wondering why I feel the way I do. Well, I want to take the next few blog posts to explain that very thing to you. These posts will serve as my own personal, public service announcement of sorts. Lyme Disease changes lives. It has truly changed mine, and, if in sharing my personal experiences, one person can be helped or made more aware, than it’s worth it! All of what I have to say is true and was experienced first hand by me. My story will be factual, and I will be quite careful to avoid exaggeration and hyperbole. I know that my story is not unique, for I have read the stories of countless other people, young and old, whose lives were turned upside down by Lyme Disease.
So, here goes; this is my story…
At the age of twenty four, I married my best friend. At the time, I was healthy, active, and full of life. My husband and I enjoyed hiking, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, bike riding, and just about anything that took us outdoors. Prior to that I had enjoyed working as an aerobics instructor; it helped me earn some much needed money for college and provided some great fun and exercise. I was strong and had great stamina. Although never thin, I was a healthy weight. In short: I was the picture of good health.
In 1999, my husband and I were ecstatic to find out that we would be expecting our first child in early 2000. I remember my pregnancy well. I never experienced a single bout of sickness; my weight gain was minimal, and I literally felt the best I had in many, many years. I even went into labor on my due date; our son was born the next day. He was healthy, and we were blessed! After my maternity leave, I finished out the remaining few weeks of the school year and tendered my resignation. I would now turn my attention to raising a family.
Being a stay at home mom was a big change for me. I had been fortunate to have worked full time almost immediately after my college graduation. I was used to the busyness. Being home was a blessing, but to be honest, I struggled a bit in the beginning. I loved my son, and I loved being a mom, but I was lonely. When my son was about three months old, I began feeling very tired and exhausted. I also was experiencing a foggy feeling in my head. I couldn’t attribute it to lack of sleep because my son slept soundly through the night after six weeks. I eventually went to my doctor who promptly ran some lab work, which included a test for Lyme Disease. The results were in and the only minor problem that was noted was a very small amount of blood in my urine. I was given a round of antibiotics to clear up what was likely a minor infection. Within two weeks I felt great.
Shortly after my visit with the doctor, I discovered that I was pregnant again. Joy would soon turn to sorrow after I experienced a miscarriage at around the eighth week of my pregnancy. Soon after the miscarriage, the Lord would bless us again with another pregnancy. This pregnancy would be much like the first, free of problems and full of health. Seventeen months after giving birth to my first son, my second son arrived. What a blessing.
With two children under eighteen months old, life was tiring and exhausting, yet oh so wonderful at the same time! But, yet again, I was stricken with severe bouts of fatigue and fogginess. I also began to experience aches and pains for no apparent reason. I found that simply putting my feet on the floor in the morning produced sharp, piercing pain in my feet and legs. Within a few hours the pain would diminish, but it returned with a vengeance each and every morning. My husband suggested that I return to the doctor, which I did. Again, lab work was run, including a test for Lyme Disease. All was normal with the exception of some blood again in my urine. Once again I was administered a round of antibiotics and told to return in a few weeks for a follow up. Within due time the antibiotics left me feeling like my old, energetic self.
During this time I was busy with the boys taking day trips, going to the park, playing in the yard, and the like. I was busy enjoying motherhood. I was blessed with a wonderful husband and two great children. Living on a single, blue-collar salary had its challenges, but the Lord provided for us each step of the way. The busyness of life allowed me to ignore the physical ailments that seemed to come back only stronger after each antibiotic treatment I had been given. In addition to the fatigue, fogginess, and aches and pains, I was now gaining weight and losing hair. After each shower I would clean away the clumps of long hair strands from drain and stare at the mass in disbelief. While my once thick head of curly, long hair was thinning, my waistline was expanding. Admittedly I was less active than I was before children. I was no longer teaching at the gym, but I did walk and was active. I also ate very well. I cooked all of our meals, refrained from junk, and ate wholesome, nutritious food. The noticeable weight gain didn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Late in 2004, I gave birth to my third son. This pregnancy was different than the others. I was exhausted beyond measure. I attributed this to being pregnant while caring for two young children. I figured it to be completely normal. However, within a few months after my son’s birth, I knew another doctor’s visit was in order. In addition to all the other issues (which were intensifying in strength), I now had an intense, constant pain below my lower left rib cage. My old doctor had left the practice, so I told my tale of woe to the new physician. He ran the normal lab work, including a Lyme test, yet again finding blood in my urine. This time, I was sent for an ultrasound, then a CAT scan, and finally for a visit with a urologist. The urologist performed lab work and a scope to check for a tumor in my bladder. All of the lab work and diagnostic tests came back normal. There was nothing wrong with me. It was simply determined that I was one of those people who just normally had a bit of blood in their urine. All righty then!
I continued to press on. My oldest son began first grade; he attended a Christian school at our church. I would drive to school in the morning and stand among the other moms in the hallway. It became commonplace for people to tell me how tired I looked. I had developed dark circles under my eyes. I was pale, and now, I was beginning to trip over my own words. I became so frustrated. I had trouble recalling names, common names of people I had known for years. My tongue felt tied up. I also began to have an intense ringing in my ears, and the pain that was once isolated to my feet, ran from my legs, to my hips, to my back and all the way up to my neck. I was only in my early thirties, but I felt like I was an old woman. My husband who couldn’t help but notice the changes in his once healthy wife, asked me to go back to the doctor. I really didn’t want to, but I did.
Next up: Depression, Testing, and a Ray of Hope!