Saturday, September 21, 2013

Part Six: Living with Chronic Lyme Disease: a long and difficult journey

Part Six: A New Convert and a Serious Warning

It is not surprising that with our move came a conversion of heart and spirit. I needed strength beyond my own and though I prayed and had a strong Christian faith, I converted to Catholicism at this time. Attending a Stations of the Cross Service brought meaning to my suffering that I needed. I realized as never before that a crucifix, didn't just symbolize faith and salvation, but was also the the very symbol of suffering. I was beginning to appreciate that in embracing my life, I would also be embracing suffering, as I was diagnosed with having a chronic illness. I needed even more faith to take my life, full of uncertainties, on a day to day basis.

A bonus to being Catholic also meant that I also got extra "earthly Fathers” to watch over me and my family. Our priest before moving, warned us to be sure to practice a lot of forgiveness during and after our move! He knew what we did not: that we were biting off a real challenge in the midst of already being seriously challenged with my ongoing health issues and Vermont, though beautiful, would be no utopia.

I was already sick and tired and we weren't just moving across country, changing our home, jobs and friends, but changing our life style from city to rural living as well. It was a new adventure and our chance for a new life!! Without a commitment to this dream of a better life, we likely wouldn't have made it. My husband had rented us a big old farmhouse, with emphasis on the old, on a three hundred acre farm, for no more than our house payment in Denver and thus began our new life in Vermont.  It was a move that we have never regretted, though it did make us question our sanity for years to come.

Falls followed, quite literally, and were to be my next symptom. I didn't even stretch out my arms to catch myself and just simply went flat down! These falls, I knew, were different from falls caused by ankle instability. Despite their “inconvenience”, it must have been that I experienced blood pressure or balance issues and they happened so quickly that I fell relaxed and remarkably did not seriously injure myself with them. My new country doctor never did know what to make of them and fortunately like everything else about this illness, they came and went and we continued spending the summer painting rooms and planting a garden, which has been the subject of previous blogs. (Everyone Needs a Farm)
I was still chronically tired, but fortunately my country doctor  knew a lot about my most recent diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue/ Fibromyalgia. It was known as CFIDS for short which stood for Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. I had suspected that my bizarre symptoms would add up to something that medicine would one day be able to explain.  My mysterious illness now had a name, though explanations weren't so easy to come by and a cure was even more elusive..

Our new doctors were encouraging as they didn't seem to be fazed by our health issues.  Even the kid's pediatrician in nearby Middlebury seemed familiar and comfortable with my youngest daughter's severe Pectus Excavatum (indented breast bone birth defect) and the extra krink in her bowel that caused severe constipation issues since birth. Country doctors seemed to be "common-sense sort of doctors", practical, accepting and pleasant. Our pediatrician smiled as he warned us to expect dramatic physical changes when my youngest daughter hit adolescence as she would look more developed than usual as her chest was so inwardly concaved. The digestive issues and other health issues were just a matter of taking them one by one. More fiber, more fluids and we were advised to be flexible about her eating habits as she would regulate what she ate according to how well her bowels were moving. My doctor came with expertise about CFIDS, for he himself suffered with it and moved to the country just as we had done to decrease the stress of his life as well. This was reassurance that we had made the right choice.

We didn't miss the city, except for our family and friends left behind in Denver, and country life had many unexpected pleasures. Wild animal life abounded right outside our farm house and even moved into its walls in the winter. A school teaching job fell into place for me and all was well.  Nirvana, we thought, was achieved and it would only be a matter of time before my health would be normalized with our new stress-free life (or NOT?). (to be continued...)

The illustration above is done by Hannah McMillen and the figure drawing by Sarah Kate McMillen.

(*Caution: These blogs are not meant to be actual medical advice but rather meant only to empower others to face medical issues as equal partners with their medical providers and never give up questioning and exploring what alternatives may be available for conquering their illnesses.  Living life with a chronic illness is a daily challenge and it is my prayer that no one give up on living their life to the fullest extent possible.)