Thursday, September 12, 2013

Part Three: Living with Chronic Lyme Disease: a long and difficult Journey

Part Three: My Symptoms Increase and More Challenges Ensue

Although my symptoms and complaints increased they were often discounted by my doctors or worse, were attributed to anxiety, or even being a hypochondriac. This is not uncommon to those who have invisible and undiagnosed illnesses. Lyme often produces strange, inexplicable symptoms that come and go and leave doctors perplexed. What cannot be explained is often attributed to having a psychological basis.

There was good reason for my concerns, as well as the anxiety that accompanied them. If inflammation is enough to be systemic, the brain will also experience inflammation and cause anxiety. I was more than willing to to seek psych support as I knew that I needed help, though I didn't understand, nor did my doctors that many of my issues really could not be helped with counseling. My symptoms still weren't being recognized as being connected to the serious infection raging in my body and brain.

I learned in my nursing school days that the name of any bodily organ with “itis” at the end means “inflammation of” and my list of "seemingly acute illnesses" ending in “itis” grew longer through my twenties and then into my thirties. Along with my many “itises” I also went on to have heart irregularity that stymied cardiac specialists. Doctors noted that this irregularity was fortunately benign, not life threatening. This was just yet another of many documented and seemingly random bizarre symptoms.  I later learned that Lyme is a disease that causes inflammation as well as heart irregularity, which for some can, indeed, be life threatening.

When I became pregnant at age thirty-five, my symptoms finally got the attention they deserved from medical specialists. Pregnancy can further tax a body that is already stressed with an underlying disease process, causing symptoms to worsen.  For me, it was a time of fevers, joint instability, allergic reactions, and skin break outs as never seen before.

It should not surprise me that my first serious diagnosis, albeit a false one, came right after I delivered my first child. Serious back and joint issues ensued and with them more abnormal lab results. Systemic Lupus, an autoimmune disease, was the suspected cause.

I couldn't lift my baby without serious pain and my neighbor had to help me lift her in and out of her car seat when I went back to work. Breast feeding did not go well.  My daughter was colicky and had on-going ear infections.  Pink liquid bubblegum Amoxicillin seemed to be a daily supplement to the usual infant feeding regimen.  I was not a glowing mother, nor was my baby easily contented. Twenty-one years later we would learn that she had been born with Congenital Lyme Disease. Lyme we learned could be passed from an infected mother to her child in utero. We didn't realize that our baby's health issues as well as mine were Lyme Disease induced. We just knew that life was a lot harder and we didn't seem to be like other young parents with their first-born children.

A colicky baby is enough to stress any parent, new or experienced, and we struggled to cope.  Being too tired or too stressed, became our way of life and by the time she was off to kindergarten, we had mostly acclimated to our new "norm" and our symptoms seemed to have abated a bit.  My diagnosis of Systemic Lupus was rescinded by my doctors, though Chronic Lyme Disease had yet to be diagnosed.

I had surgery to repair a badly damaged ligament in my left ankle and still wore ankle splints on both ankles under my socks, to prevent my ankles from turning at the slightest irregularity in the ground surface. I didn't know it then, but I was not only experiencing joint instability problems but neurological issues as well.  My proprioception was altered and I didn't know exactly where my feet were in relation to the ground.  I exchanged beauty for function by wearing “sensible, broad-based flat shoes", that would not easily turn, keeping me safer and preventing further injury! My husband and I were altering our dreams, and adjusting to the new realities of what we thought were random health problems for both me and my child. (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.)


  1. HI, I am reading with great interest the "Living with Lyme disease articles. I am also a nurse and from that perspective gaining quite a bit of knowledge but mostly finding inspiration about living with and dealing with any chronic illness.Thank you for sharing your story.I also love your work and plan on going to the next open house at Bedlam Farm to see and buy and meet you too.Oh, and if it is not too much trouble, jon Katz mentioned an ear cleaning solution that Jack uses on labs and I would love the reciepe and how many parts of each ingredient.Again I thank you and look forward to part 4. Louise from Massachusetts

  2. Dear Louise from Mass, I am not sure why it wouldn't post my note back to you just now, and so I will try again....Thank you for your interest in my Living with Chronic Lyme. Nurses have power and so I do hope that it will be helpful as you work with patients experiencing such chronic illness. I appreciate your support and interest and do hope to see you at a Bedlam Farm open house. Please note that I have posted my 2013 Holiday show schedule and perhaps you can make one of those as well...If not, know that I will be posting most of my wares on line so my readers may have first choice before taking my wares to my shows. About the ear cleaning solution....I have let Jon and Maria know of your interest and so watch Jon's blog to see if he will share it. Thank you again! love, jane