Melissa's Lyme Disease Story
I’m not exactly sure when I contracted Lyme disease and the many co-infections that often come along with it. My formative years were spent on a ranch in North Texas with visits to Virginia to see my grandparents. Playing outdoors (and having pets: dogs, cats, horses, and a rescued deer) was a big part of my childhood. I explored through the woods, tamed feral kittens, made mud-pies 'til dusk, and there was always room in my twin bed for our puppies at night.
While living in Austin for university (and then, thereafter college), I spent much of my time running outdoors and hiking the Greenbelt and Hill Country trails. I was working as a PR Contractor at an Austin arts and culture Public Relations agency, while building my own music PR consultancy (putting in about 50-60 hours per week total) -- all while training for a half marathon, networking for clients, and going out like a typical, young 20-something. I really lacked balance and true self-care. I was running myself into the ground.
My health crashed. The first few months were a slow and steady decline, and then one day, it all consumed my body and I could no longer walk without pain. Symptoms were piling up, and my only refuge was when I was able to actually fall asleep. Like many of those with Lyme, I was passed around by specialists (oncology/hematology, rheumatology, psychiatry, infectious disease, neurology and more) a long while before I was accurately diagnosed. I became my own medical detective — which is what the majority of us with chronic health problems end up doing — and began asking doctors if I could have Lyme disease. After all, I had read that it was the "great imitator." Could it be the cause of my 20+ symptoms? Every doctor refused to test me for Lyme, and said that there was no evidence of the bacteria in Texas. (Research, Lyme-specialists, and scientists are definitely saying otherwise...not to mention humans and animals travel...) As my symptoms increased and I had no relief from medications, I was forced to quit my job, forfeit my marathon training, and scale back my own clients until even working from home was too much. My company, and life as I knew it, was on permanent hiatus. I was spending the vast majority of my days in bed. The limited energy I did have was spent going to dead-end doctor appointments and researching for answers online. I was desperate.
At this stage I had dozens of symptoms: extreme fatigue, migrating joint pain, severe musculoskeletal pain, intolerance to alcohol, food sensitivities, nausea, chronic migraines and headaches, dizziness, weakness, temporary paralysis and numbness of the limbs, seizure-like episodes, anxiety and panic disorder, depression and mood changes, tachycardia, weight loss, insomnia, short-term memory loss, and generally, a loss of cognitive function.
As a last resort, I took a friend's advice and made an appointment with a Tick Borne Disease Specialist (aka Lyme-Literate Doctor) — one of the few in Texas — four hours away. While waiting three months for this appointment, I was diagnosed with connective tissue disease/autoimmune diseases, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. Most of these describe a collection of symptoms - not a root cause of illness.
Finally, in September 2013, I saw an LLMD (Lyme-Literate Medical Doctor) who diagnosed me with late-stage Lyme disease after a clinical exam and laboratory testing. I was also diagnosed with several tick-borne infections (Babesia, Bartonella, Mycoplasma, Tularemia, Rickettsia), genetic mutations, and a very high viral load as well. My immune system had crashed, so not only did these complex pathogens take over, it opened the door for opportunistic infections as well. Soon after, I was also diagnosed with POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system).
I quickly began about 9 months of pulsed antibiotic therapy. I became even sicker. I was inflamed, toxic from die-off (endotoxins from the bacteria), and mostly bedridden. I finally quit antibiotic therapy after a few severe seizures, and then turned to herbals (Cowden Protocol and otherwise), high-dose Vitamin C IVs, started learning about and implementing advanced detoxing, cleaned up my diet even more, and brought on new doctors. Still, I did not make many improvements, and was still guiding my own treatment. I knew I needed better resources.
In October 2014, I flew up to Seattle, Washington and started seeing Dr. Klinghardt-trained NDs. Slowly over time, I've been able to start regaining my health.
I've been treating holistically with an integrative approach with my team of doctors for nearly two years. I've devoted my life to healing (mind, body, spirit), and I am making many improvements. While it's still a complicated process with much hard work ahead, I sincerely owe my life to my team of doctors and healers (Dr. Katie Dahlgren, Dr. Klinghardt, Dr. Sarah Carnes, Dr. Alena Zweben, Jagna Larson, and my support team at both Sophia Health Institute and Holistic Healing Arts.
For more information on my recovery and tips for healing, visit my feature at Well Scent's Stories of Hope. And be sure to check out the blog portion of this website!