Duck, Duck, Doc…#1 The General Practitioner

*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

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Doc Talk v. 3

Update, my pretties! 

Today, I had my 6 week follow-up with my doctor. Six weeks ago, after the 3rd CDC positive Lyme test in the 4 years I’ve been treating (not a new infection), my doctor put me back on antibiotics. I had been off of ABX for about 18 months. 

My doctor wanted to try Rifampin. It is an older Tuberculosis medication but supposedly, some patients who have been sick with Lyme for a long time and who continue to have bands show on bloodwork are finding this medication is helpful, particularly in treating persister bacteria. I figured “Why Not?” Let’s give it a go.

So here I am six weeks later. The fatigue is definitely better but it’s still there. I have some short bursts of energy (or energy for me at least!) periodically. At least the fatigue is not as ridiculous as when I had to take medical leave from work in March. Oh, Snap! I don’t think I mentioned that before – time for a post about THAT and soon. But otherwise, I don’t feel much different than I did 6 weeks ago.

migraine

Luckily, I’ve had no issues with this particular medication. I’m just trying to take probiotics religiously!! Since my doctor takes insurance, I literally see her for about 8-10 minutes per visit and today was no exception. In fact, today, I think we had a whole 5 minutes together. Insane.

Yes, there are other doctors I could possibly see. However, in Texas, the options for docotrs who know and BELIEVE in Lyme disease are very, very few and far between. Yes, I’ve had some more wise and more dedicated Lyme patients tell me to “Go out of state” and/or “do experimental treatments.” (Uhm, yes, there is a saracstic tone in the last sentence). While I sincerley wish I could do and try EVERYTHING to try and get better, the reality is that I don’t have the money for all of that. Not even close. I’m just doing the best I can with what I got.

Conclusion of said visit? Keep taking the Rifampin. Check on Lyme and the fatigue through blood work (results in 5-7 days). Revisit in 2 months. Like I said, short, short visit.

I will see my other out-of-town doctor mid-May. She is no longer taking insurance so I’ve been saving up my shekels so I can at least have an hour with her. This will run $299+. This will not include any extras. I would love to do a Vitamin C IV ($175) and a Glutithione IV ($175+) but that isn’t going to happen. Honestly though, I am looking forward to spending a whole hour with my doctor. An hour! That’s more that I spend with my doctor here in town in a year. No lies, people. 

Lyme disease, once chronic as it is for me now, it a very difficult and complex beast to tame and treat. I know that seeing a doctor for 5-10 minutes every 3 months isn’t working anymore and probably hasn’t for awhile. I’m really counting on this May visit with my other doctor to be awesome. I’ll keep you in the loop!

Hoping all is well in your world. I’m going to do my best to post more frequently. Let’s just say that March was a real *biatch and leave it at that.

Peace – b

Doc Talk v. 3

I have 2 Lyme doctors now: one in town and one out of town. The doctor here is the one who tested me and diagnosed Lyme disease about 4 years ago. I have been in treatment since. I see my doctor in town about every 3 months.

I began seeing my out of town doctor (OT) a little over a year ago. Selecting this doctor was based on the fact that the office accepts insurance and also based on recommendations from a Facebook Lyme group I frequent. Getting to these appointments involve a 3+ hour drive one way and a stayover if at all possible. This doctor likes to see me every 4 months.

However, my OT doctor will not be accepting insurance anymore at the beginning of March. Visit costs will start at $300 and up. My insurance will not reimburse me at all for these visits. So, now what? Treatment with this doctor has entailed using herbal drops and supplements. Treatment has also focused on a more holistic approach at least for me since now I am on the chronic stage of this disease.  Visits last usually a solid 30 minutes. OT doctor has caught more issues with my thyroid and added medication that seems to be helping with energy levels. OT doctor’s approach is multi-system, an approach I think is in my best interest.

My doctor in town (let’s go with IT from here) continues to accept insurance. And while I have much respect for my IT doctor, the past few years, I have made little progress in my recovery with this doctor. Appointments require my taking a day off of work (it takes a good 90 minutes to just get to the office). I no longer have any sick days which means I am docked pay. I used up all of my extensive bank in the past 4 years. Then, I may get 8-10 minutes with the doctor, or, like this last time, with the PA. Now, don’t get me wrong; the PA is very sweet but not on top of what is going on with my treatment. Yes. I have a file about 8-10 inches thick, but again, they spend a like 8-10 minutes total on a visit with a patient.

I hate to complain. I know that I am really LUCKY, not only to have insurance, but to have a doctor closer to me who takes insurance. But then again, if I am not really making any progress……I just don’t know. I want more from my IT doctor, more information, a more detailed treatment plan, more time with the doctor at my appointments. Yet, this is not going to happen.

Staying with the OT doctor is going to be pretty costly. None of the herbal drops nor supplements are covered by insurance (the additional thyroid med is not that is it). I’ve managed to pay for these in the past but if now there is another $300+ per visit…you get the picture. Of course, bottom line is improving my health.

I have one more appointment with OT doctor before the change to no insurance so I am hoping I can get some more solid information from OT about possible costs, etc. if I continue to be a patient. I want to stay in treatment with OT. We’ll see.

At this point in the game, my case of Lyme is chronic. There is no way around it.  Of course if I had my choice with no worries about money (as if any of us have this option!), I would want to see Dr. Horowitz and/or Dr. Jemsek in D.C. For either doctors (if I could even get in – some wait 1-2 years for appointment) it would then cost thousands for treatment.  It is criminal that Lyme patients do not get the needed nor correct care in this country.

On that note, friends, I am off. Time for a nap. Best to you and yours – B

Doc Talk – v.1

**Disclaimer:  I share my experiences not to  whine nor complain, but to hopefully allow others some insight into the day to day of a Chronic Lyme patient. Keep me in check, my peeps! Please, if I start to take on a “poor, poor me, whiny baby tone,” I beg of you to tell me!!  I need help with this because many times, my brain does not function correctly!

My ultimate goal in sharing is not to have pity bestowed. A multitude of other Lyme sufferers and Chronic illness patients are in serious need more than myself. My goal is to pull back the curtain that hides much of the truth about Lyme disease and its co-infections, the curtain that many do not know even exists, (I had so little info when beginning this Lyme gig), and to share and explore this disease while also educating and assisting others as much as I am able. My goal is also to try and process and figure out this crazy journey of life now that chronic Lyme is in the picture. A disease so controversial and misunderstood, it leaves in its wake immense suffering, blatant ignorance and denial, and untimely deaths as it continually grows at unprecedented rates everywhere in our nation as well as across the globe.

In the past two months, I’ve had 6 doctor visits. Please don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful for many things in regards to my health care: I have insurance, both my main doctors take the insurance I have from my work, many labs are covered at 100%, and right now, I can manage to pay for the insurance, for the visits, and for the meds prescribed as well as pay for a majority of uncovered (this word is not right but …Lyme brain) supplements, shots, massages, and such. I’m telling you this because as Lyme patients, finding a knowledgable doctor, an afforable doctor, and a doctor who takes insurance for Lyme treatment is near impossible. Finding one who has these qualities is like winning a trifecta!  

Now, none of these visits were your regular yearly appointments for check-ups, physicals, etc. And none of these were other visits were with other needed doctors, such as dentists or optometrists. No, all of these visits were an extension of chronic illness issues.

My usual Lyme doc visits happen every 2-3 months. Oh, hold please. Redo. My visits here with my local  Lyme doc happen once every 2-3 months. My visits with my out of town Lyme doc happen once every 4 months. This means that if everything goes as planned (cue laughter now), I will go to 8-10 visits for the year. Honestly, this isn’t too horrible. Except for the fact that because my immune system has basically been hijacked by the Lyme bacteria, and as a teacher I work in a Petri dish, I get sick with other things very easily on top of the Lyme.

You know, the run-of-the mill coldest, flus, bronchitis (bronchitises? LOL). Last year I managed to get a cold and bronchitis in the fall and then in the spring, another cold, maybe a flu (although these symptoms are similar to Lyme symptoms, and then a strange rash that knocked me out of work for a full week.

This summer, the rash that I had late spring came back again at the end of June. It made my left eye swell up and it was also on my left cheek, left jawline and on my chin. And omg, it itched fiercely!  This was a few days before the 4th of July. After seeing my doctor here and then a dermatologist, and taking steroids then applying steroid cream to the areas, it finally went away. Both doctors said dermatitis. Thanks for the insight, docs.

Many times, going to the doctor(s) is a bit depressing. Progress moves at a literal snail’s pace, if at that sometimes. And quite often, probably most of the time, we change or tweak the protocol, but we don’t immediately see any results (sometimes, we see no results). But I guess that deterioration of my body also moved very slowly. I really have no idea how long Lyme has been in my system, chipping away at my immune system, neurological system, et.all!

I’ve got another Group Appointment comng up in about 3 weeks and then my doc visit here a few weeks later. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that no other health issues come up between now and then. When I come down with regular illnesses, my body always responds in a weird, awkward and unpredicatable way so everything then is intensified and lasts longer. Like a cold. Most people can move through a cold in 5-7 days. Granted, we all hate having a cold! What misery. But for me a cold can linger on and on and quite possibly become something else, like Bronchitis.

But I do not have a regular GP anymore. I’ve tried a few new doctors out for this position, but inevitably, they know absolutely nothing about Lyme and/or brush it off as no big deal. So it just becomes a waste of time, money, and energy to go anywhere other than to my Lyme doctor. Of course, trying to get in to see the doc on the fly is nearly impossible.

Do you know someone with Lyme disease yet? You will and soon.
Check out: http://danielcameronmd.com/understand-lyme-disease/

It truly is criminal that more doctors are not trained in the area of Lyme disease, especially since it is the fastest growing infectious disease in our nation. I saw an infectious disease doctor before being diagnosed back in 2013. He was one of the steps to go through to rule out other possibilities other than CFS and FMS. He took no blood. He did NO BLOODWORK. A month later, I tested CDC positive for Lyme disease. 

Lyme disease is in many, many cases such as mine, not easily diagnosed, not easily treated and acknowledged. If this trend in medicine continues, more and more of us will be contracting Lyme and not being treated promptly nor properly.

Watch out for thos ticks, my friends, Make sure you are using preventatives  and doing tick checks every time you come in from outdoors. I certainly do not want you to become a member of the chronic Lyme club. 

Happy Sunday. Namaste. -B

My Life is Fleeting One

Hello people, it’s been a long while. And as we all say, so much has happened and yet nothing at all has happened. First, maybe, is that indeed, I have made it to Thanksgiving break at work. This is a huge hurdle for me, and I am very grateful to have cleared it, circa 2015, with all limbs intact. There were about 3 weeks there in late September that I honestly thought I would not be able to make it, and I would have to take a medical leave; I was really worried that I was getting worse. Then, things turned around, albeit slowly. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that living with a chronic disease, things can change on a dime and they do. Although I am not a fan of this at all, accepting this as a reality has been somewhat helpful along my journey into the unknown.

Seeing another doctor has also happened. We made a 3-4 hour trip from home to the new doctor’s office a few weeks ago. The visit was a long one in which I talked too much, my husband reported to me afterwards, and we left with a few bottles of tinctures. Personally, I like this doctor, the approach to treating Lyme through more integrated and functional medicine, the way the doctor listened and validated mine and my husband’s experiences over the past 2 and a half years of treatment. I have stopped the abx and switched over to the herbal drops. The goal is to get to 25 drops 2 times daily. Right now, I’m struggling with 5 drops 2 times a day. I can do 4 and make it alright. But the past couple of days when I tried to get to the level 5, by about 4 p.m. I am herxing big time. I also have detox drops for the herxing, and I have added those as needed, but wow, there is s distinct difference, at least for my body, between the 4 – 5 drops. We are working on it. 🙂

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! This break I’ve been able to do a few things I normally can’t / don’t do while working such as, and don’t laugh: grocery shopping, house cleaning, pie baking, dinner out, laundry – lots! While most of these things are not huge in any way, I have just not had the energy to do them much while working. And I actually did some simple Christmas decorating! It really has been pretty awesome getting to do these things without feeling so fatigued and overwhelmed. While several of these afternoons and evenings I have been in bed with nausea and headaches, I still feel like I’ve had some of the best days I’ve had in a very long time. I know I have pushed myself a little much, and I’ve eaten several slices of pie, pumpkin and apple, so my sugar intake is in the red, but it’s all been worth it! I feel like I have been partying it up, people!

Best wishes to you and to yours, -B

First Aid Kit

P.S. The above band is worth checking out. This song, “Fleeting One” is stuck in my head. Enjoy!

Irony or Fate?

Hello out there! Here’s my story for today:

We now have a new insurance; it usually changes every 2-3 years. However, now I cannot have my labwork done at my doctor’s office. I can only use a certain lab that is not available there on location. So, I had to find a lab I could use in my area. Done. No big deal. I had my visit with my doc Thursday and headed to the lab on Friday after work.

I know the medical building where the lab is located because it is in the area, and I have been there before to see another doctor of mine. As I exited the elevator on the 3rd floor, I looked to my right first to see if the lab was on that side of the hallway. BAM! The name if the Infectious Disease doctor I saw before being correctly diagnosed with Lyme Disease, was glaring at me. I started to swell with anger. I wanted to march in there and punch him in the face. Really! I said out loud, “You have to be f***ing kidding me!”. Luckily, no one was in the hall to hear my sailor mouth. My mind started swirling with all kinds of thoughts from that visit I had with him over 19 months ago.

When I was was referred to him by my PCP, it was a last ditch effort on her part. She is my family doctor, and both of us had been trying to get to the bottom of my fatigue, sleep disturbances, nausea, back pain, etc. for the past 3 years, I was in her office about every 4-5 months with symptoms, the worst was the crushing fatigue and every time, I tested positive for an EBV infection. I had been tested for everything and probably twice such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Vitamin D, infection, Thyroid, you name it. For the joint pain and numbness in my feet, I had seen an orthopedic doctor and a neurologist and had had a spinal and brain MRI. Nothing. After about the 5th time testing positive for an EBV infection, I was referred to the OD doctor. What was causing the recurring EBV? All my blood tests for the past 3 years were sent to him as well as any of my medical record from my PCP. He had my whole life in his hands.

By the time I headed to his appointment in the early spring of 2013, I was a complete mess. I was so exhausted, I could barely make it through the day at work. I was in pain much of the time. I was having headaches of which I had never before in my life. I wasn’t sleeping well, I had severe neck and lower back pain, shoulder and hip pain, stiffness, indigestion, nausea, you name it! I also was worried. By this point, I had been ill off and on, with symptoms cycling and becoming worse for the past 3 years. I knew something was really wrong. My PCP had been talking about Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome but she wanted to rule out any other options and so I had my appointment with the ID doctor.

Now, I am no sissy pants. I take things as they come, and I am a problem solver. I have always had a crazy awesome work ethic, and I take pride in what I do. At many junctures in my life, I was working 2 jobs. I exercised, and I was social. But in the past year for sure, a lot of that had changed due to my health. I looked forward in a way to this doctor visit because it would assumingly help rule some things out and perhaps even help me find an answer. Let’s just say, I had a lot invested in this visit, and I had faith in my PCP’s referral to this ID doctor.

It was the worst doctor visit I have ever had in my life. Literally. The doctor came in and began asking about why I was there and my symptoms. I explained the EBV activations. He stated several times that EBV is not recurrent and that the odds of this happening were slim to none. Ok. I asked about the blood work showing the EBV infection. Oh, your doctor didn’t run the correct labwork. Everyone shows “exposed” to EBV as mono. Ok. As far as my exhaustion, I needed to relieve some of the stress in my life. Really? For my daily horrible headaches, which I never experienced before, Drink more Water. At this point, I am starting to get aggravated, as much as I can in the exhausted state I am in. For my neck pain? Well, well, you are a woman, so I am sure you carry your purse to one side. Maybe you need an MRI? No, doctor, I just had an MRI this past summer and nothing, NADA, showed up. Lower back pain? Hmm. Right hip pain? Go back to your ortho doc. This went on for about 30 minutes. For every symptom, he had an answer and a stupid one. By the end o the appointment, I was even more confused, angry and emotional than I had been walking in. At the very end, I asked about the soreness all over my body. He pushed on some pressure points and said, Yep, you probably have Fibromyalgia. I asked for a doctor referral. He told me he would not refer me and that I had to go back to my PCP for a referral. OMG!! WTH. Are you kidding me?!?

I cried all the way home. From sheer exhaustion, from getting no answers whatsoever, and from getting no help. I felt so hopeless. I was drowning in all of this unexplained pain and fatigue and there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Although I drove away angry at him for his condescending manner and his refusal to even so much as take blood, I didn’t realize how terrible he really was until I was actually diagnosed. Two months later, thanks to my researching online and finding a doctor whose specialty is FMS and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I tested full blown CDC positive for LYME DISEASE.

So, now, after being in treatment for 18 months and still plugging along, I walked off the elevator and I was taken back to my visit with HIM. I will have to have all of my lab work done there, 4-5 times a year, and I will have to pass his office. I am still trying to understand why this has come back into my path after all of this time; I wonder what I am supposed to make of it. Any suggestions or ideas? I know what I want to do, but it wouldn’t be productive nor healthy for me.

If you think of a productive way I can deal with this doctor, please let me know!  I feel like my doing nothing just condones his ignorance and his unbecoming attitude. It feels wrong to do nothing, Like he did to me.

Peace, -B