On free Slurpee day (7/11), I went to urgent care with a mysteriously swollen right knee. It had started bothering me the day before, but both my knees have been a little wonky since my days of forcing my turn out and jumping higher than my infuriatingly shallow plié could support (like a good little ballerina), so I initially didn’t pay it much attention. But when it quickly escalated to the point of near immobility and was accompanied by a blinding headache and dizzy spells, I thought perhaps some sort of THING was happening.
And as anyone with an Internet connection and a list of symptoms knows, THINGS are never good.
And that’s how I found myself in urgent care. And then, a week later, on the phone getting my lab results. Lyme Disease.
Oh, THINGS. Why you gotta be like that?
Based on my symptoms, I played host to a tick at least six months ago. (Possibly years ago. There’s no real way of knowing. I was not aware that I’d been bit–but most people don’t notice–and I did not develop the tell-tale bullseye rash–but only about 1/3 of people do.) This means that I most likely fall into the category of what’s called “late disseminated Lyme Disease,” and that the disease will be harder to fight than it would had it been caught earlier.
Even under the best of circumstances, Lyme is very difficult to fight. There are a few reasons for this:
- It’s often caught late, giving the bacteria plenty of time to settle deep into the body.
- And it does settle deep: literally boring into bone, nervous system, and internal organs.
- Borrelia Burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease, is capable of transforming into three distinct bacterial forms: spirochete, cell-wall-deficient, and cyst. Each form has different characteristics and weaknesses and each form must be treated differently.
In other words: All systems, prepare for battle.
The standard treatment for Lyme Disease is a long-term course of antibiotics, usually lasting 4-6 weeks–or longer. This is usually enough to clear the infection if it’s caught and treated soon enough. It’s less likely to clear the infection the longer you’ve had the infection. AND the antibiotics don’t kill the bacteria, they merely keep it from replicating. The rest is up to your immune system. And since antibiotics suppress the immune system, this presents a bit of a challenge. And, of course, antibiotics indiscriminately attack both bad and good bacteria so there’s some repair work to be done there as well.
The trick is to blast the body with the heavy doses of antibiotics, while simultaneously supporting the body to reduce the amount of other “stuff” it has to deal with (reducing total body load).
So, now I take a lot of pills.
And I’m on an anti-inflammatory diet to support my immune system, which means no caffeine, no alcohol, no sugar, no dairy, and no gluten. Low carbs all around, and plenty of green leafies. And I’m really, really, really trying to get 8 hours of sleep every night. That’s proven most difficult so far, but I’m working on it.
In the meantime, if life was a competition for who’s carrying around the most pills in her purse, I might just win.