*Note: I am not a doctor and this post should not be used for diagnostic purposes. This is only a personal view on the topic. Please talk to your trained physician regarding any questions or concerns you have regarding your health and well-being.
Although I haven’t talked about it too, too much on my blog, I have mentioned a couple of times that I do have Lyme Disease. Because I view writing as an outlet for the “real” me, I don’t like to bring it up that often, as it’s certainly not how I define who I am.
However, I do get a lot of questions about what Lyme Disease is and how it affects you, so I thought I would take a moment today to give those of you who are curious a little insight into something you might not know much about.
First of all, Lyme Disease is different for nearly every person who suffers from it. Sometimes called “The Great Imitator” its symptoms can mimic a wide array of diagnoses such as cancer, MS, IBS, arthritis – and even schizophrenia! – depending on how the disease develops.
The best way to diagnose Lyme Disease is right after the infection – usually through a tick bite. A red, bulls eye shaped rash will often develop 3-30 days after coming in contact with the infected saliva, and most people will begin to experience flu like symptoms. If treated immediately with a round of antibiotics (14-21 days), recovery time is generally swift and symptoms tend to stay at a mild flu level.
Unfortunately less than 70% of people develop the rash, meaning many more are infected without realizing it – which is what happened to me. When this happens, symptoms tend to come and go in flu-like cycles, escalating in severity each time, until eventually the disease progresses enough to affect patients on a day-to-day basis. Once this occurs, treatment is usually more difficult and for some, it can be a life long process – especially because many physicians still fail to even acknowledge it’s existence and will often refuse testing (I was informed Lyme Disease “doesn’t exist” in Oregon, and we were forced to work around the doctor and pay for the tests out of pocket).
(Notice there have actually been more reported cases in Oregon than in Idaho. Also the note at the bottom reads: “According to the CDC only 10% of Lyme disease cases…are reported, meaning if 10,000 cases are reported, 100,000 cases occurred.”)
Here is a quick list of the most commonly manifested symptoms of Lyme Disease:
Luckily, I’m now working with an awesome group of people, and although my treatment is hitting the two year mark just about, I should eventually recover completely. Currently, my main issues are: nausea/lack of appetite/weight loss, lack of energy, and poor heat regulation (I wear tank-tops all year round now – so freaking warm!). For a while there, if you remember, I was even totally nocturnal! At my very worst I was also experiencing vertigo, memory loss, and arthritis – happily, though, it’s been well over a year since I’ve had to deal with all of that. It has been quite a long road – nearly six years of unexplained illness which has been followed up by two years (and counting) of treatment – a process which has taken up the last few years of my teens and the entire first half of my 20s.
I say this, of course, not looking for pity or asking for sympathy, but because I feel like it’s something that most people do not have an awareness of. And even though I would prefer to view myself as someone outside of the realm of my health issues, after having been “picked” to go through this experience, I still feel a responsibility to speak up for those who may be unable to.
Mainly though, I feel like it’s important that we show, across the board, that there is still hope and positivity out there for people who suffer from chronic illnesses. These things don’t have to define who you are – in some ways they may even help you discover it. Since my illness, I have also become infinitely more understanding, less judgmental, and these days I rarely take anything for granted. Not to mention I would never have started blogging and writing again if I hadn’t needed an outlet for my creativity, even on my sick days!
Additional Reading: Resources and Information on Lyme Disease
Do you or someone you know have Lyme Disease or another chronic illness? How has it affected your/their life?