Thursday, January 16, 2014

Nice to know we have a safety plan

While 2013 is still a dazed blur of doctor's visits mixed with life's normal ups and downs, 2014 has already proven to be a year of personal and professional growth, which promises to deliver me safely to my new normal.

I'm secure in my latest diagnosis: Chronic Lyme Disease, which explains all the auto-immune disorders heaped upon me by those blasted borrelia burgdorferi bacterial spirochetes over the past couple years. In getting better, I'm backing out the way I came in: shedding my latest diagnosis first and then the next and then the one after that, and so on. It's decidedly unscientific at this point, especially since the CDC refuses to recognize the possibility that Lyme Disease can persist beyond a couple weeks or a month, and necessitates a much too hyped bulls-eye rash, which if I'm any indication, can easily be misdiagnosed in and of itself. 

Indeed, traveling backwards in time through my medical records with my physicians, we have found a bulls-eye rash in my history, though it was thought at the time to have simply been ringworm rash. A nurse at one of my physician's practices, who believes in the CDC rules only, ignoring all ILAD findings, asked me if the fungal cream cleared it up. While I recognized it as a trick question, she thought it blatantly black and white. Yes, the rash disappeared, but had it been a Lyme bulls-eye rash, it would have disappeared with or without an anti-fungal cream.

While ridiculous controversy surrounds Lyme and all its possible manifestations, certain facts are irrefutable and should serve as a cautionary warning to us all:
  • Lyme Disease exists. Check.
  • Lyme Disease can be transmitted by a tick smaller than a pinhead. Check.
  • Lyme Disease has been found across the country, the continent, and around the world. Check.
  • Lyme Disease is more prevalent than before. Check.
Looking at that list, I now wonder why I even believe we have a safety plan, as I've indicated in my title.

I confessed to my physician that I am afraid of going into my beloved gardens this spring. He agreed that I have much to fear there. We discussed the exploding deer tick population, and the findings by scientists who study them. I shared that in the fall I attended a talk by Dr. Alan Eaton, an entomologist who teaches at UNH, and who serves as statewide coordinator of Integrated Pest Management programs, identifying and providing information about ticks and mosquitoes and the diseases they carry. Dr. Eaton reported that a large percentage of ticks he and his team study are infected with the Lyme bacteria.

Further cause for concern is that the ticks are not only grabbing the Lyme bacteria from their deer host, but also from the cute chipmunks, wily squirrels, and rampant field mice that populate our suburban settings. Scientists have discovered that the small rodents are apparently perfectly suited to harbor and grow the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. As the host, the small rodents don't get ill; instead, they provide the perfect environment for the bacteria to grow and multiply, ultimately becoming a filling station for the ticks that attach to them.

Oy. I might never garden again. I know I never want to get so sick again that I can't think. At the worst of this disease, I lost about three months to black outs, restless sleep, and just plain fatigue that was so overwhelming I could not read to the end of a sentence without recalling how it began. For a writer it was devastating. For a professor it was debilitating. For a mom, a wife, a friend, it was disheartening. No, I don't think I want to go there again for anything.

Lest you think this an essay in self-pity, it is not. For all the disease has taken from me, it has given me tenfold. I found yoga and meditation. I discovered a new appreciation for life. I uncovered a deeper ability to love. And I stumbled upon the answer to my life's search for happiness: that happiness lies within; no matter how much money or objects accumulated, the pleasure they may bring is fleeting. True happiness lies deep inside, where I've also found God. In fact, I've reconnected with Him (or Her) in a way I haven't experienced since childhood.

So no, I don't want to experience Lyme again, but I wouldn't change a step in my journey thus far. And whether or not I tend to my gardens this spring--clad in the most unsightly get-ups imaginable, possibly even a hazmat suit--I will smile with my newly discovered inner peace and joy, resting assured that a safety plan is in place. Even if I don't yet know what that plan is.