Hanging in There?

How it going on Disulfiram…

I’m not sure where the time has gone. With school closures in March, my SO and I were working every day trying to keep up with the changing directions for remote learning. I’m really not sure why/how time has slipped by so fast!

Without a true final day for the school year (at least for teachers), I didn’t actually segue to summer until like maybe the beginning of July. And now, we’re waiting patiently to hear if/how our district will deal with the beginning of school which as of today is August 24th. As teachers, we’ll be back earlier but we’re not sure in what capacity.

It’s a lot to think about and with things changing daily at the state level, I’ve just tried to opt out right now. There’s no sense stressing over something that might change tomorrow.

While I honestly was not a fan of remote teaching overall, it did give me an opportunity to keep my health in decent shape. I actually was feeling good with only a few lingering symptoms hanging on. There were still days where I would have flares I guess I would call them, but they were few and far between. I was able to do things most of the day, hitting a wall about 4-5 p.m. with a short period of resting.

However, back in May, one of my LLMDs suggested trying out Disulfiram because of my lingering joint pain, sleep issues, fatigue. And after doing some of my own research, I decided I would try it out.

I’ve been on a super low dose for about 2 months now. I was rolling right along with no issues and I was thinking, well, what’s the big deal? Nothing is happening. I started to doubt that it was working at all. And then, bam! At the end of June, I had about 3 full days of feeling like hell. I spent most of those days in bed. All kinds of symptoms were going on fatigue, headache, joint pain, stomach issues. I wasn’t worried about COVID because these were all too familiar to me.

Since then, I’ve felt somewhat better. Symptoms kind of come and go so overall, I’m not feeling great. I had a phone appointment with one of my doctors last week and the doctor said yes, everything I’m dealing with are side effects of the Disulfiram at work. It’s stirring things up and killing bacteria. With the die off comes the symptoms if the body can’t keep up with detoxing. Sounds crazy, right? But it’s called a herx. I’m starting some new supplements that will hopefully help with this process.

Overall, I’m having a bit of a tough time dealing with this both physically and mentally. Physically, I’m trying to keep things stable and I’m trying to listen to my body when it tells me something like I need to lay down. This has been somewhat of an adjustment after these past few months of feeling better and being able to not worry about not feeling well every minute. So an adjustment for sure. Mentally, it’s been kind of messing with me. I feel like I’m being thrown back into being sick all of the time (I mean I’m chronically ill but I was on an upswing), and it’s both scary and depressing all at once. My main goal is to try to remind myself that This Too Will Change. And damn, it’s hard! But things have changed before and they will again. If I’ve learned anything with this disease, it’s that for sure.

Now, you might laugh because after all of this, I’ve decided to switch from one doctor’s protocol with this medication to another’s whose approach is a bit more assertive. This means that in another week, my dose will increase, and so too perhaps will the herxing. Now, I can always, always lower the dose if things get too crazy. Why not stay on the super low dose? Because that means I will have no change in dose for 3 months straight. And from everything I’ve read, dosing should increase periodically. There are other reasons, but I’ll leave it at that for now. So, ironically, I’m pretty much doing this to myself!

However, people really are seeing results from using this medication. People who have suffered years and years with Lyme disease. It took me awhile to decide whether to do this or not, and if I’m going to do it, I want to try to maximize results. Wish me luck!

I hope all of you are doing well and staying safe out there. Happy weekend! – belle

Should I Keep Trying to ‘get well’?

Oh, yes. The elusive treatment that will bring the “cure.” I’ve been down that path a few times.

Oh, yes. The elusive treatment that will bring the “cure.” I’ve been down that path a few times. When is it okay to be okay with where I am right now? It sounds like “giving up”, but is it? When does pursuing treatment actually become harmful?

Honestly, I don’t know the answers to these questions, but in a week or so, I am coming up on the 7 year anniversary of my Lyme diagnosis. And it’s already been a decade at least that I have been ill in some form or fashion. So, these questions are on my mind.

I can’t change the fact that in the USA, Lyme disease isn’t treated as serious even though according to the CDC, more that 400, 000 + are infected yearly. Even these numbers are low due to reporting issues. I can’t change that almost no monies go into to researching this disease, that testing is only maybe 30-40% accurate and that there are only experimental treatments beyond the IDSA doctrine of 4 weeks of antibiotics. I try not to think about any of this anymore because it is a waste of brain power. See more about what the CDC says here: https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/postlds/index.html

But this leaves me, like thousands of others, in limbo: do we continue to try things that might help lessen our suffering or do we accept where we are right now? These other optional treatments can break the bank and are certainly not covered by insurance, and in many cases, they work for a bit, but then we are back where we started. Now what?

Am I in a better place than I was 7 years ago? Heck yeah. And for that I am grateful. But I’m still dealing with fatigue, memory issues, word loss, joint pain, and insomnia. One doctor tells me that most likely, this will be as good as it gets. Another tells me to try alternative therapies that cost an arm and a leg and/or have not been researched enough. Which way do I turn?

I absolutely love my Integrative doctor, do not get me wrong. This doctor helped me out of a very dark place about 3 years ago, and I have made progress with this doctor. S/He definitely has a good heart and wants to help me. But the last treatment we tried – a nasal spray to be basic – costs a lot. Now, S/He encouraged me saying, ‘it really can be a game changer.’ I couldn’t pass something like that up! I did the pre-testing $200 (to make sure my body was ready for the treatment covered by insurance) – and I ordered the spray – one month supply $250 (not covered by insurance). And while for some this isn’t much money, for my family it is. When I ordered the first month supply, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to continue if needed another month at $250. I figured we could manage it somehow, especially if it were working!

I began the nasal spray – 4 times a day – around Thanksgiving. I stayed on schedule, making sure I didn’t miss a dose. I mean “game changer”, my people! But you probably already know the outcome – meh. Nothing seemed to change at all. When I asked the doctor through our patient portal is I should continue, the answer was yes, but only if I were seeing results. So.

To say I was disappointed that there were zero results is an understatement. But was dumb of me to put any stock into the possibility that this could be The Thing to help me progress in my ‘journey towards wellness.’ Then I had doubts about my own possible culpability. Was it something I did to somehow mess up the treatment? Did I miss a few doses somehow during the holidays? What did I do wrong?

All of this is just plain old exhausting, isn’t it? While I surely do not expect ‘a cure’ I would like to make a little progress from where I am now – about the same place I’ve been for a couple of years now. But maybe this is it. This is the best it will get. And if so, can I be OK with this?

I’m not sure, friends. I’m just not sure.

Duck, Duck, Doc…#1 The General Practitioner

What is causing all of these symptoms?

*I’m now in year four of Chronic Lyme disease treatment. I wanted to share my journey in trying to get and find a correct diagnosis (not my treatment pilgrimage mind you). Please know that my experience has actually been much easier than many other Lyme patients. Some visit 20, 30, 40+ doctors trying to find a root cause for their symptoms.

I searched for answers for my illnesses from 2009 – 2013. I had many doctor visits with many different types of doctors, some simultaneously. However, I am trying to do a separate post for each doctor. If only all 7- 8 doctors would have paid attention to one another and to me, maybe I could have started on my healing journey faster, but that’s probably not realistic at all, especially in the Western Medicine sphere.*

#1 – The General Practitioner (my doctor since 2006):

The earliest I can remember having symptoms that then continued on for years was in the fall of 2009. I was starting to have other than normal tiredness and that fall, I got the “flu” and I was sick for several days. I remember sitting out on the deck in the sun hoping I would feel better soon. I’m not sure why I remember that moment but I do. I think I realized in the back of my mind that something just wasn’t quite “right.” I was wishing I could stay out of work just one more day to rest. 

The flu like symptoms continued off and on as did the tiredness. When I went to my family doctor, a family practitioner, she of course blew it all of to the daily grind. To working a lot. I didn’t have the flu anymore and nothing else was wrong (supposedly). She told me that my thyroid was borderline but did not send me to an endocrinologist. “We’ll just keep an eye on it,” she said. I got better so I didn’t worry.

But a few months later, I was back to the tired. I went ahead and decided to go to an endo doctor. After blood work, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. My thyroid wasn’t working properly. My GP said “great” and we moved on. I felt a little better once my thryoid meds were adjusted. I also thought “great” and moved on. On the summer of 2010 I had a weird rash on my legs. My GP told me to get someone else to do the lawnwork. I think she gave me some cream and it cleared up. No biggie.

But then in the fall of 2010, the tired was back. I felt sluggish. At this point, I was diagnosed with reactivated Mono. I tried to ask questions like “why” and “how” since the blood work showed I had in fact had Mono before (I had NO idea that I had Mono when I was 25 (in 1995) because it was in combination with a horrible strep infection so the Mono was missed and never diagnosed!). My GP said to stay hydrated and rest. I took a few days off of work which didn’t help, and then I got back to it. It took a few months to feel better but I did eventually.

Hanging

After that, the cycles continued. Between 2010 and March 2013 (when I was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease – CDC+), I had “reactivated Mono” about 6 times. My GP was pretty nonchalant about it. But I wasn’t. My research revealed that usually a person has Mono once in his lifetime and then builds a resistance to it. It supposedly doesn’t reactivate!  Everything I read said that reactivation of Mono (Epstein Barr virus) “rarely” and “hardly ever” happens. And with every cycle the symptoms seemed to last longer. Chronic Fatigue was starting to be thrown around but the GP wasn’t willing to diagnose me with it. On the flip side, according to my endo, my thyroid was working nicely now on the medication prescribed. So what could be going on??

By the fall of 2012, I was exhausted. But I was getting married in November, I was chair of a department of about 40 people, I was sponsoring clubs, etc. I just figured it was all par for the course. Oh, and I trusted my two doctors, the GP and the endo. Yet, on the 6th diagnosis of “reactiviated mono” in October of 2012 and just a few weeks before the wedding, I’d had enough. I pushed my GP on the WHY was I continuing to experience Mono??? I wondered also WHY she wasn’t more concerned? At this point, I figured my immune system was not doing a good job, but WHY not?

She finally and not very willingly, referred me to an Infectious Disease doctor. My appointment was not until January 2013. But that’s another post, my friends!

Conclusion: my first doctor, my GP, did not help me get to the root of my issues.

Coming soon – Duck, Duck, Doc…#2 The Endocrinologist. Stay tuned!

I hope your weekend was a calm and joyful one. -B

What’s Going On?!?

HOLY MOLY! I feel good!

WOW! So my out of town doctor (OTD) at my last appointment in May looked over my labs (the ones where my ITDoc said my thyroid was “fine”) and said the numbers weren’t where we should have them. OTD then added more thyroid meds and told me to start tirtrating up from 5 mcg and to continue to add another 5 mcg weekly until I hit 20 mcg. OTD told me to stop at the dosage anytime I began to feel better and more energetic. Since the middle of May, I have added the thyroid meds and maxed at 20 mcg around May 28th. Again, this is medication in addition to the Synthroid I have been taking for years on a daily basis for Hypothyroidism.

With the first 5,10, 15 additional mcg I really didn’t notice much. Maybe a little more pep but nothing too noticable. Then, I hit the 20 mcg. Again, not much felt different the first week of this dose. But after about 2 weeks, BOY HOWDY! This past week has been seriously amazing.

Some things I’ve been able to do this past week that I haven’t done for months on end……and that I definitely haven’t done all in one week for YEARS are: Go out for dinner with friends, go to a movie (at night!), go grocery shopping (I am not kdding), go to lunch with a friend, mow the entire yard (like an acre), clean the house, do laundry, cook dinner, go do errands and actually enjoy said errands! Stay upright most of the day! I also have added small increments of excercise on my old elliptical machine.

No Way!
Source: Netflix GIF

I’ve had the best time! I know that most of the above a normal person can do without much thinking about it, but for me, it has been something else. Have I still had some joint pain? Yes. Have I still hit some energy walls? Yes. Am I not working right now? Yes. But still!!!

Now granted, I probably have absolutely no idea what “normal” is anymore. After 4 years of treatment and about 7 years of being ill what I can remember is most likely skewed. But I honestly haven’t felt this good and full of this much energy in….well, I have no idea how long. While I have had some hours and maybe a few days sporadically over the past year where I felt well enough or I had enough energy enough to do a few things, I have never had an extended period of time – a whole week! – where I felt like this.

I’m savoring every single minute, my people. Every. single.minute. My husband says we’ll take what we can get, and I say Amen to that. I know I’m not “cured.” I also know that my being off from work for the summer helps. I also realize that I’m starting a new treatment protocol of combination antibiotics and high doses of those antibiotics in just a few days. There will be fallout from this treatment. I will have to detox, to deal with new symptoms, to handle herxes. I know. I know. The thought  of lsoing this momentum makes me want to not go ahead with this protocol. But, I need to try it. I’ve never been treated with combination therapy and if I’m going to do it, the summer is the best time for sure.

But until I start the new meds, I’m going to kick it up as much as possible. I’m going to try to squeeze in everything I physically can while I feel good. So I’m off to do some projects. I hope your weekend is wonderful. And a Happy Father’s Day to all you dads out there. Take care of yourselves.

Peace and joy- Belle

 

 

What’s the Sitch?

Where you been?

What’s new in my world?  It’s been a tough spring, I won’t lie. In March, I had to take a medical leave from work. I was just dragging at everything, missing work days, spending every minute at home laying down. It truly was torturous. I couldn’t manage to gain any ground at all even after resting all weekend long.

It was depressing as hell. It was like watching a movie. You could see what was going wrong but no control in changing it. I was just a zombie. The chronic fatigue was impenetrable. I was out of work about 3 weeks. I tested positive for Lyme and EBV again (not new infections but chronic ones) and my doctor put me on antibiotics. I was a little better when I went back at the end of March. It was still a challenge daily to get through each day but it has progressively improved.

Sick and tired

I’m still on antibiotics. I’ll have another follow-up on June 28th, so we’ll see. School is out for the summer and that helps too. I considered not working next year, but I’m hopeful I can gain ground this summer and honestly, I’m scared to not work. I know, it’s weird. It’s all very emotional and right now; I am planning on returning to work in August.

I’ll post an update about my doctor visit I had in May with my doctor out-of-town. She’s offering up some treatments being done overseas that sound both promising and expensive. I’m trying to do some more research. More to come and soon!

I hope your summer is off to a great start! I’ve missed blogging, and I look forward to reconnecting with you all!

Peace – b

I found this book to be the most helpful when I started my Lyme journey.

 

More Fatigue and No Surprise

Lyme disease – Year 4

The only metaphor I know that makes any sense in trying to describe how I have been feeling since the beginning of the New Year is this: I feel like that for about the past three months, I have been holding my breath underwater, and I am just now breaking through to the surface. Hell, I know this is an old and used up cliche/metaphor. But it is a good one. Maybe it is also like having your head under the covers for too long; it gets hot, you can see, but you just want to come out for fresh air.

As I shared here Lyme test, after 4 years of treatment, I have tested positive again for Lyme. This is not from a new / recent tick bite. This is from the infection I have had all of these years. That was at the beginning of March. So in order to catch you up and not in the really long boring way, here are the highlights:

March 2 – I’m suffering from crushing fatigue and have been for several months. My attendance at work has been patchy at best. My doctor decides to put me on medical leave (honestly, such a relief). Tests for Lyme disease, Epstein Barr Virus, and thyroid are conducted.

March 8 – Results are back and I am once again (3rd time) postive for Lyme disease. The EBV is also reactiviated. Thyroid is ok (other than the Hashimoto’s). I’m a little freaked out that I’m positive for Lyme again. But this is at least the 15th or more time in the past 7 years the EBV is active again. All of my symptoms in the past few months have pointed these things, but since I feel bad that I am not at work, at least the tests validate my need for rest.

March 15 – Follow-up with my doctor. I haven’t been on any antibiotics for about 18 months. I’ve been treating the Lyme holistically. And I am happy taking that route. However, with the Lyme being active and in force, we decide that another round of an antibiotic I haven’t tried might be in order.  I am put on another week of medical leave and I add a six weeks regime of new ABX to my treatment.

 

Sleeping dog image by zipclick on Photobucket_1263059849863
Source: thesleepingdogs.net

March 27 – I head back to work, and while I am glad to get back, I am also very, very aprehensive. While at home, I rested a ton. I was able to keep to my routine treatment wise. I actually could do a few things such as sweep the floor and make dinner (not every day but still!), things I can barely if at all manage while working a full-time job. I also realize that for the past 6 months, since school started back in the fall, my like has been so limited due to the illness and to the severe fatigue. In fact, I realize that my life has literally become this cycle, Rest, Work, Rest. Every afternoon evening of a eork day is Rest. All weekend: Rest. No outside functions, no regular activities others  can accomplish such as grocery shopping, running to the bank, etc. My world has become so limited, and I am beginning to understand that the approach I have used in tackling Lyme and friends for the past 4 years is just no loner working.

April 1 – I did alright after this past week at work. But I can feel the fatigue sneaking back in. I will see my dotor for a 3 week follow-up on Wednesday. We’ll see how and if the medicaton is working and if it is helping. If I had to give a report today I would share that really not much has changed. While I do feel a smidge less fatigued, I don’t know if that it because I just came off 3 weeks of complete rest and minimal stress or if indeed the medication is helping. I’m hopeful but I just can’t be too invested in the outcome.

Today – I have to rest. I have to physically and metally prepare for the week ahead, both work and otherwise. I’ll plan on cooking us dinner this evening and possibly do a bit of laundry but only if I can manage it. It’s a rainy day and so I’m dealing with joint pain and just overall soreness and pain so we’ll see if anything actually manifests. 

I hope you and yours have a wonderful Sunday! Peace to you – Belle

 

 

 

Dear Western Medicine: The Break-Up Letter

Time to move on……

Dear Western Medicine,

While you and I have had a long, steady and committed relationship, it hasn’t always been a bed full of roses. However, I would like to begin by celebrating what has worked for us. First, thank you for delivering me into this world safe and sound, and making sure my mom had a speedy recovery. Also, thank you for doing this for my two younger brothers as well. You had a good heart at the beginning.

Your diligence and kindness did help me through my teenage years; I wasn’t sick very often so there wasn’t much of a strain on our relationship. Things were simple then, and we had a strong bond. I knew I could count on you if anything minor would happen like a broken arm or leg (don’t all kids long for a cast?) Check-ups went well with no major injuries or illnesses, well except for a severe case of mono and strep in my mid-20s.

We coasted along you and I, only periodically needing to reassess our relationship, always determining that we were continually committed to one another. But then things started to become tenuous. In 2009, I began suffering from fatigue and malaise. At first, you told me that I was having another episode of mono. I believed you. I rested, and I got better. Yet, this cyclical issue continued for 3 years. The answer for my sickness was always the same: mono – again. By 2011, you diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s. Ok, I thought. All relationships go through periods of growth and change. Compliantly, I added thyroid medication to my routine and assumed that I finally understood what was happening to me. But our relationship continued to be rocky.

Alas, Western Medicine, you deluded me.  By the fall of 2012, I had already experienced 4 relapses of mono or Epstein Barr Virus and the fatigue was getting worse and lasting longer. I began having daily headaches and joint pain. The lower back pain and the neck pain were the worst. I began having trouble getting through a day at work. I saw 7-8 doctors of yours who all professed a specialty. I put my faith in these doctors. Batteries of tests were run. And yet, every result came back negative. How could you fail me this way?

Letter writing
Breaking up is hard to do.

You took away years of my life! If only I were diagnosed in 2009 with Lyme disease (which I tested 100% CDC positive for in March 2013), maybe, just maybe, I would not now have chronic Lyme, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and chronic EBV along with a few other choice conditions. If only you would have seen me as a person, as a person dealing with REAL symptoms, as a whole person rather than just parts, maybe we could have stayed together and worked things out.

But you pushed me aside for bigger and better things, for easier diagnoses and for illnesses detected and treated in the 8-10 minutes you are able to give each of your patients. You told me that my symptoms weren’t real, that my daily headaches were caused by dehydration, that my neck pain was from carrying my purse on the same side all of the time. You told me that chronic EBV doesn’t exist. You did MRIs and told me that there was no reason for the neuropathy in my feet. I was sent on my way at every turn without answers and most of all, without any support.

It was because of my own perseverance and my own belief that indeed there was something wrong I was able to get a correct diagnosis finally. That all of the symptoms I was experiencing were in fact REAL. And just because you couldn’t figure out what was going on didn’t mean it wasn’t happening to me. But even after my Lyme diagnosis, I stuck with you, scared to go on without you and your “modern ways.” I subjected myself to the self-doubt, to the scrutiny of a multitude of Western Medicine doctors, including my Endocrinologist who, when I told her about the Lyme, repeated my Lyme diagnosis in disbelief and disdain.

Even after all of this time, you are able to deny me the care of another. For more holistic and natural approaches, I can’t use my health insurance. You dictate that Lyme disease be treated with only 3-4 weeks of antibiotics and that is only if one of your doctors knows even a smidge about Lyme (and most know nothing).

It is time to let me go. I need to move on, and I need the opportunity and the freedom to explore other relationships. I deserve the best possible care for the chronic conditions I am experiencing right now. I need to be believed and not neglected because I don’t fit into the role of the good patient you want me to be. So, from here on out, we part ways.

While I wish you the best, my main hope is that you can someday soon expand your horizons and build better and more positive relationships in the future.

Sincerely,

Your Ex-Patient

 

CDC Global Credibility in Jeopardy over Lyme Policy | Jenna Luche-Thayer | LinkedIn

Lyme is National Health Crisis NOW!!

This is an excellent in-depth article about our healthcare crisis here in the USA in regards to Lyme disease and co-infections. Please take a few minutes to read and process the continued negative results of the CDC not addressing this EPIDEMIC.

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https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/cdc-global-credibility-jeopardy-over-lyme-policy-jenna-luche-thayer?trk=hb_ntf_MEGAPHONE_ARTICLE_POST<!–