Sometimes, I forget…

Sometimes, I forget how very sick I have been. I wonder if this is a survival technique the body uses to keep us going.

Sometimes, I forget how very sick I have been. I wonder if this is a survival technique the body uses to keep us going. Perhaps it keeps us from lingering too long in the abyss.

Just recently I’ve had a few experiences that have thrown me back to 3 years ago, or 4 or 5 years ago when all I knew was sickness. Years upon years of 24/7 torture. When it was all I could do to get to work 3-4 days out of 5. When the daily headaches and fatigue laid me out and if not, then the nausea and the mental confusion took over. When I was so exhausted minute to minute but then I couldn’t sleep. I was in a haze, a fog; if there is a hell, I was in it. And in it for years on end.

It’s so hard to describe to other people, people who are healthy or even semi-healthy, how sick I’ve been. Even for me, trying to remember how bad it has been is a challenge. Finding the words are very difficult, finding analogies that will convey the pit of illness are not easy to find.

When I was in the Worst of Lyme disease (at least I hope it turns out to be the worst of it), there were so many symptoms, both physical and mental that were going on simultaneously and sporadically that keeping track of these was near impossible for me. I tried writing things down, but that took just way too much energy and energy of which I had none to spare; I couldn’t manage it. I tried tracking apps but even those proved cumbersome.

Maybe it’s like being in a pool underwater and trying to talk to someone. You’re asking for help. You’re holding your breath, but also trying to communicate, but you are also running out of breath. It’s not an easy feat and in the end, no one understands what you are trying to say and there you are, left alone.

All of this is to say that obviously, I am making progress in my recovery. It’s just sometimes, I forget. In fact, I told some of my friends the other day that while I definitely want to keep improving my health, if this is it, if this is as good as it can get, I will take it. I still have lingering symptoms. I still have flares and cycles where things take a downturn and I’m sinking into the pit once more. But much of the time, I am better than I have been in a long time and damn, that’s something and something to hold onto.

Friends, I hope this finds you and yours safe and healthy. I’m thinking of you all.

Peace – 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.

Still Chronically Ill

Am I still chronically ill?

I’ve been less focused on writing lately. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Reflecting, I think it is because, well compared to say 2 years ago, I think my health is a bit improved. Honestly, it’s hard to say and hard to measure. But in my mind, and my husband agrees, I am doing better overall. And so, I find that this makes it more difficult to write than when I was much sicker. Weird, right?

I think this is due to my wondering: what can I write about as a semi-sick, semi-healed person that people would actually be interested in reading? If you have any ideas, please let me know!

While so many of my symptoms have all but disappeared, I am still trying to work on insomnia, joint and muscle pain, memory and concentration issues, and fatigue. Sometimes, these wax and wane, although the insomnia issue and the fatigue are cornerstones of this Lyme journey that continue to remind me that I am chronically ill. Oy.

One other issue I am struggling with is actually accepting the fact that I am chronically ill. It was much easier to embrace it and own it when I really felt so very terrible every single day. For years on end. Now that I have some relief, and there are times I can participate in life in ways that haven’t been options for me – again for years – it is much harder to keep in mind that I am in fact, still chronically ill.

My mind likes to play tricks on me, or maybe it is more my body that plays the tricks. An example would be this: I used to have terrible migraines. I had never dealt with anything like this before Lyme disease. The migraines started about 18 months into treatment. And they continued for about 12 months. A good one to 2 a month. Learning to deal with those was only one part of a puzzle I still do not think I have all of the pieces to. And then, they stopped. I haven’t had a migraine for quite awhile. So, one more symptom I don’t have to deal with and I think, hey, I’m ok. I think, I’m so much better off than so many others. I’m making progress. I can’t really say I am chronically ill because, well, I had migraines and now I don’t.

How can I be both better than my worst 3 years ago, or 6 years ago, and yet, still be chronically ill? This is something I am truly trying to figure out for myself. I don’t have an answer. I savor the minutes and sometimes hours I feel better, and I survive through the ones when I don’t.

I hope all of you are doing well and that Thanksgiving was good to you and to yours. Take care. – B

Happy Summer!

What are you up to this summer?

Yep. Summer has arrived. I’m on break, and I’m trying to make the most of it.

I promise to do a longer post soon. But I just wanted to check in and say hello! I hope your summer is of to a great start. So far, mine’s been good. I’ve had a few doctor appointments and a visit to one of my previous hometowns to visit family and friends.

We don’t have massive plans and that is totally fine with me! My husband will be taking a trio to Colorado with his parents soon. I’ll stay home though to take care of our numerous dogs. There’s just too many for anybody to handle and so it is what it is. I’m a little bummed but also traveling can be tough on me so it may be a blessing in disguise.

I’ll get you caught up on the latest of my Lyme journey ASAP. Again, I hope you are well. Take care, – b

River Staycation

Yes, Newt has a shark life vest!

We decided to do an overnight trip to a major river about 3 hours from home this past week. My husband loves a particular spot, and the river is spring fed so it is nice and cold. Temperatures here are now are hitting 95-100 degrees with a heat index of 105+. It’s really hard to find fun things to do that do not require you to be outside between say 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.! Fer reals. I just can’t do the heat at all.

We also decided to take one of our several dogs, Newton, as he has made a trip to Colorado (17 hours in a car) and did very well. He is also very well tempered and loves to socialize. We weren’t sure how he would do in the hotel, but we figured worst case, we could make the trip home that night if needed.

Needless to say – he had a blast! He met all kinds of new people and other dogs. He swam a bunch. He had many adventures! Staying in the hotel went well. He barked just a few times but nothing major. He passed out and slept all through the night. We will definitely be doing this again!

As for me, I did pretty well, too! I’m pretty rested up from not working, and the river has great places that are shaded so I didn’t overheat. My fatigue has lessened over the past month or so and I was able to keep up. Overall, we had a wonderful time. It was great to be outside and to enjoy being active!

Hoping your summer days are joyful – b

And the Thunder Rolls

What am I doing all summer?

It’s 9:20 p.m. and lots of thundering going on. Not much else though. If we get rain, that would be awesome. It rained all day on the 4th which is unheard of for the most part here in this area of Texas. We were grateful then. If we get more tonight then, boy, howdy!

The summer seems to be speeding right along and while I’ve learned over the years, unwillingly I might add, not to have nor to set any crazy goals for summer break, I do it anyway in the way back of my mind. I know I’ll be disappointed because well, chronic illness. All the magical thinking I conjure doesn’t change the facts that there is much I just can’t do anymore or I can’t do for any extended period. Ugh.

I wanted to start adding some exercise. Maybe yoga. I used to get up early before work years ago and do a 35 minute yoga session daily. I loved it. But that’s way too much right now. I got a yoga stretch DVD. I’ve done it a few times but nowhere near what I thought I would/could.

I need to work on school stuff but every time I sit down to do it, I just can’t stay focused. I reset but it only helps for a bit and then- what was I doing?

The more time goes by, the more I realize what I haven’t done, what I haven’t accomplished, what I haven’t produced. It’s all just expectations I’ve put on myself. I know this fact, but I still feel unsettled about not doing more with my time off.

But it’s been good to be off of work. I can rest when I need to. I can do basic chores. I can cook. I can clean. We’ve gone to the lake a couple times-just for a few hours- as the heat is killer for me. I’ve also been reading a lot. Picking up reading again, longer pieces, has been a true joy. I lost the concentration skills when Lyme showed up, and during my first 4 years of treatment I was so sick I just couldn’t manage it well at all. I have like 10 ebooks checked out from the library and several others on hold. I’m very happy about being able to read longer texts again!

Well, the thunder has moved out of here with nothing to show for all of the drama. I guess it’s just a heat storm.

I’m going to try to get some sleep. Happy dreams, friends. xoxo – B

Shall We, YouTube?

I can’t proclaim that I am actually branching out but I am venturing into some possible video options to add to this blog. I’ve never done this at all so thanks for trying it out with me! It’s something I’ve wanted to experiment with for awhile now, but honestly, I was too scared to do it. For lots of reasons. But watching my husband use Snapchat and Instagram all the time, I figured, “why not?” 

I hope my first video isn’t too horrible. I know I need serious practice with this medium. I hope your Sunday is going well, and thanks for checking out my first video and my YouTube Channel! Take care, friends!

 

 

Let’s do the Monster Rash

This same rash began again on my face and proceeded to foremarms, stomach, legs…

Hi fellow travelers! Just a thought, if you are interested in even more mundane things I focus on, then please follow me on Twitter @readbtwnthelyme 

First, let me pre-empt the onslaught of my complaining to say I’m Hella Glad it is Summer! I’m not sure I would be able to semi handle this stupid, horrible rash as such if I were actually working. 

So, you may remember this Monster Rash attacking me..YES! Attacking me! in November 2017 with The Damn Rash is Back and again in March 2018 with Rashes, Rashes, We all fall down….. and here we are again. JOY! Now, I did have this similar rash back in April 2016 and June 2016 as well but let’s just keep it as simple as with my muddled brain this is as best I can do right now! Lord! 

In June 2016 I was seen by a dermatologist who declared NO SKIN LUPUS and Excema and sent me on my merry way. No FU. Luckily, I thought the worst was over and did not have another incident until November 2017. This incident in November also started on one side of my face, then tops of hands. It stayed fairly contained, and I was able to treat it with topical creams and OTC allergy meds. I thought I was in the clear.

Again, though, things got really messed up in March 2018. For a scintallating read see Rashes, Rashes, We all fall down….. This same rash began again on my face and proceeded to foremarms, stomach, legs…..my LLMD (let’s loosely use that term at this point!) started me on allergy shots and things blew up again. I was in rash mode almost all of March. It was horrible to say the least. The solution at this time according to my LLMD? was that I have allergies, and I needed to try allergy immunotherapy. I trusted my doctor. After the crazy reaction to the FIRST allergy shot, the vials were diluted, I was given another pack of steroids and sent on my way to find a dermatologist. Needless to say, I stopped the shots and I could not find a dermatologist I could get in to see at this point (all were 3-4 week wait) before the rash cleared up. 

Look, I knew I was looking for trouble now in retrospect. Not on purpose though. Again, I trusted my LLMD and thought, Well since I’m out of school for summer, Maybe I can try to do the allergy shots again? See how it goes? Let’s just say that I’m a DUMBASS. And also that I have learned my lesson not to ever trust my doctor who is pushing a side scheme to have my best interest at heart. Granted, I’ve had this rash before, before doing any allergy shots, but it is my belief that the shots set it off again on a course that has been a dreadful one.

I began doing these shots at home a few weeks ago. Yes, they sent the vials home with me. Yes, I was administering these myself every 3 days. Now, after seeing an allergist (who was shocked and dismayed that this was happening!) I realize that this was a really bad plan. But honestly, I had no idea. I administered my 3rd shot on Tuesday, June 19th. By Saturday evening, I had one red streak under my left eye. I hoped I was wrong, but withing 24 hours, my entire face was swollen, itchy, my eyes were so swollen, the tops of my hands were itching and the rash was moving up my forearms. The Monster Rash was back!

I arrived Monday morning at my doctor’s office as soon as they opened. After telling my tale of the sequence of events, LLMD? stated that in fact, it could not be a reaction to the allergy shots because there was no way I could/would have a reaction 3-4 days after the injection (again, the allergist didn’t seem convinced). I have no idea. I am not a doctor. I recieved a steroid shot along with a 5 day pack of steroids. I was referred to a dermatoligist – again.

While the steroid shot helped my face a bit, I was beyond miserable. The itching continued to spread. I now had spots on my neck, my shoulders, and my ankles. I saw the dermatoligist I was referred to the very next day. She had no idea why I was there. I just assumed since my LLMD? had sent me to her that communication had taken place, but no. I explained about Lyme, FMS, CFS, about the history of this rash, blah, blah, blah. She looked me over. She said maybe atopical excema? But it isn’t all of the time? Maybe contact dermatitis? But again, no new products? Maybe allergies, but still a strange deal? She told me that I am a complex case. Thanks?!

Dermatologist Diagnosis: I DON’T KNOW. COME BACK IN 2 weeks or 2 months…..!!!??? I was prescribed a much higher dose of steroids for 14 days and prescribed steroid cream for both my face and body. 

In the meantime, I had been in contact with my integrative doctor who is located about 4 hours out of town. It was suggested I add a few natural histmine blockers and see an allergist for possible food allergy testing. The days passed, and I was in utter misery. Trying not to itch, trying to have a minute of comfort, trying to figure out what the hell is going on with me? The mega steroids were maybe helping – no new spots – but they also were tearing up my stomach. I kept at it. I finally saw an allergist last Friday.

While the allergist is nice enough, and I am glad to add another decent doctor to my “team”, I honestly don’t know that I am any nearer to figuring out what is causing this rash each time it decides to rear its very ugly head. The allergist also had to have my history, with Lyme becoming a focal point and one for interrogation. That’s never a fun time.

Allergist Diagnosis: Contact dermatitis. Get rid of all products with perfumes. Perfumes and fragrances are what cause 99% of contact dermatitis cases. But doc, I ask, if contact dermatitis then why/how is it all over my face and then also on my legs and arms and…..? Well, doc says, if you are really extra sensitive, it could possibly be spreading without contact at this point. Oh, like a reaction to the orginal spot? Yes? Maybe? I had so many questions but the allergist was done. I was diagnosed and sent off to change out all of my products, to take even more doses of steroids and not much else. Follow-up is in a month assuming no new rash occurs. If it comes back sooner, I go in and we begin allergy testing…….Not sure why we are waiting but……

Monster
Running from the RASH!

I would like to say here that I am not trying to discredit any doctors nor say that I know more that they. Obviously, I don’t AT ALL!!! I believe deep down that each doctor is trying to do his or her best. But as a patient with complex and chronic diseases, sometimes I feel like I am just pushed along. I’m sure all of you have felt this before. It sucks. 

**And hey, if you are still reading – THANK YOU! I promise, my tirade is almost concluded. 🙂

So here I am, day 11 of The Monster Rash (Season 2, episode 6). The steroids are kicking my ass….more like my stomach and my mood. My face is back to normal (win!) and many of the spots are almost gone. I still have a few places where it itches, mostly in the evenings and early mornings. I’m in the process of changing out all products I use that have fragrances and/or perfumes. The big ones are easy like soap, shampoo, laundry soap. But now I keep running into things like hairspray, dishsoap, shaving cream! It’s all a matter of deducing which possible products might have an ingredient I might be allergic to….OMG. It’s all very overwhelming. And all this ASSUMES it is actually contact dermatitis and not something else.

I see my integrative medicine doctor at the end of July. I wish this doctor was closer. Since being in treatment for Lyme, etc. my IM doctor has helped me the most. She’s never actually seen me with the rash during a visit, but she is leaning towards a possible food allergy and/or Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

I’m going to do what I can on my end. This includes no allergy shots anymore from my LLMD. It also includes my not putting too much faith into this particular doctor anymore. It is what it is. I doubt I will go back to the dermatoligist again. What would be the point? IDK.  I’ll stick to the allergist and see what my IM doctor might have to say about all of this when the times comes.

And of course, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed The Monster Rash does not return once I finish up the steroids by the end of this week. Please, just no. It’s been exciting and frustrating enough for the time being. 

Thanks for listening! I hope that you and yours have a safe and wonderful Independence Day! – b

Happy New Year 2018 with Many Thanks

Thank you so very much!

Hello and Happy New Year! I know I’ve been a bit silent lately, but it isn’t for any particular reason. This winter break is going way too fast. My husband has been battling the flu. It hit him the week of finals and is still hanging on. The doctor said this flu hangs on for sure. I think he’s finally on the mend. My fingers are still crossed that I will indeed NOT get this flu.

We had a great Christmas, very sinple. I hope you and yours had a good day as well! I haven’t been up to much really. Keeping the house clean, puppies fed, husband nursed. All things I am so grateful for as a matter of fact. Being off of work has allowed me to rest and do things I normally just can’t manage to do while working full-time mostly due to fatigue and other symptoms. Goingout  to a movie and out to eat are definite treats!

Overall, my health has been steadily alright this semester. I gained some ground over the summer, and I feel like I have managed to keep a grasp on most of that ground. I see my holistic doctor in a few days, and I am curious as to where we go from here. I’m still dealing with afternoon fatigue. My thyroid is not working properly – AGAIN – and a few weeks ago, I started having slight numbness on the lower right side of my face. Nothing that itches or hurts. It just feels like there is pantyhose covering that small area. It is a strange feeling.

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Newton and I taking a New Year’s day walk. COLD!

Yes, I told my doctor here (my original LLMD) this information when I saw here last week – oh wait. I didn’t see her; I saw her PA. Now the PA is a very sweet person, but now it has been 6 months since I have seen my primary LLMD. Seriously.

Anyway, I told her about the numbness and she said, “Wow. Yes, I am sure that is annoying.” That was all. I’m still waiting for my labwork to come back and for the doctor to advise me on what is next. Honestly, I don’t expect much. I shouldn’t be irritated. This is one of the many reasons I went and found a secondary holistic LLMD 2 years ago. However, my 2nd doctor is a 3+ hour trip away from home and does not take insurance and so I have 2 doctors – one near, and one far. I count myself extremely lucky for sure as I know many Lyme disease patients who have no access to an LLMD at all.

Thank you for all of your support throughout my humble journey with Chronic Lyme disease thus far. This blog and this space with you, my friends, has been such a wonderful gift. You have listened to me, encouraged me, understood me, and loved me. I couldn’t ask for anything more. From the bottom of my heart, I embrace you and wish you each the best of everything in this beautiful year to come. Here’s to 2018!

With Love and Joy, Belle

 

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LuAnn is all ready for the freezing temperatures we are experiencing here in Houston!

Out of Sorts

The past few days have been a real challenge. Thanks, Chronic Lyme.

I’ve got the Holiday, er, I mean Christmas, I mean Holiday tunes on right now. They’ve been on for hours now. I was really hoping it would cheer me up and make me happy but I guess it isn’t that easy. For this past few days I’ve been feeling out of sorts. I’m pretty sure I know why but i just don’t like to admit it.

It could be all the mess going on in our govenrment right now. I can’t seem to find a balance between apathetic and activist. At least in my brain. There is so much to try to process, so much that is wrong, so much just plain meaness, racism, etc., it’s overwhelming. I keep taking off the Twitter app on my phone, then readding it. On, off, on, off. I try to keep up with the news, but again, it feels like we are getting bombarded from all sides with just MESS. That may in fact be the strategy. To silence people through deliberate chaos. Who knows. But it’s all been demoralizing. For a year now….no, longer.

It could be that we’re in between holidays right now and close to the first day of Winter. Don’t get me wrong, I like the holidays, especially all of the time off to enjoy, and Thanksgiving this year was awesome. But it’s dark when I leave for work and by the time I get home, the shadows are beginning to close in. Living here in Southeast Texas we certainly aren;t starved for sunshine, but I think the short days are affecting me.

And of course there was the rash on my face. It’s clearing up now but it’s just a constant reminder that Lyme is still around. It has more power that I want to give it credit for, and I don’t like the lack of control. You would think after so many years of this shadow companion I would be more accepting and humble. Well, not so much.

And on that note, Lyme disease is the bottom line instigator of this feeling-out-of-sorts mood. I’ve been reminded by the rash, by the increasing joint pain, by the headaches and periodic nausea that indeed it is an illusion to think that I’m a regular person. “Ha ha” laughs Lyme right in my face. HA HA! And while I am grateful that I have had a couple weeks where I only had to deal with Lyme symptoms minimally (they never go away comepletely), I still don’t appreciate the false feeling of “being better.” I get it, but I don’t have to like it.

I’m trying really hard today to shift my focus and not dwell on the fact that I’ve been sick for all of my 40s. That I’ve been treating for 5 years, that I’m still testing positive for this damn disease, that I am still SICK. That the medical community seems clueless in the face of this epidemic and that so many are suffering. That I feel sick today, like a hangover but I haven’t had a drink in months. I could go on but I’m sure you are over my whining by now! Thanks for humoring me!

stormy_road

 

I think I am going to do my best today to put the Holiday back into Happy Holidays. Wish me luck, friends. The road is a hard going and a dark one right now. 

Hoping your day is one full of joy.

-Belle