Finding a Lyme diagnosis: Mystery symptoms

Excerpt from my upcoming eBook.

I wake up and roll out of bed, heading to the loo. But when my feet hit the floor, I gasp at the explosion of pain in my ankle. Leaning against the wall to keep myself from toppling over, I stand panting for a moment. I manage to lurch across the room without putting any weight on my foot.

Sitting on the toilet, ankle throbbing, I break out in an ice cold sweat. My stomach doubles over in cramps. Nausea overwhelms me. Try to think, I tell myself. I recall hearing that intense pain can make you vomit. But what's wrong with my ankle?

The nausea increases but I cannot catch my breath. My lungs will not inflate. There is no oxygen. Losing all muscle control, I slip off the toilet seat, collapsing in a heap on the floor. 

Then I hear Evan’s voice somewhere nearby. It echoes through the tin can of my head. "What is happening to you?"
His face spins in front of me. He looks terrified. 

I might be dying. Right now. And I don't know why. There is no bliss, no white light. No welcoming angels. I am bewildered.

But in the next moment for no apparent reason, the crisis passes. I am able to take a breath. My body temperature begins to normalize. 

Evan helps me up off the floor. I still cannot put weight on my foot. He asks again. What’s happening? What’s wrong with your foot? I understand the questions, but have no answers. I ask how long I've been lying on the floor.

“Five minutes,” he says. 

What? I could have sworn I had limped into the bathroom hours ago. 

As he helps me back to bed, I glance in the mirror in disbelief. A zombie is staring back. My skin looks pale and lifeless, as if my face has been carved out of clay. 

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Life after antibiotics: How to heal your gut

How do you heal your war-torn gut from the damage done by antibiotics? In my experience, and what I've learned from others, is first of all eat a healthy, whole foods diet. This means eliminating sugar (yes, including honey and other sweeteners) and alcohol. Cutting out sugar is necessary. It feeds the Lyme bug and cancer, you don’t need it. Or just little-bitty bits as a once in a blue moon treat. Not every day. Quit sugar, and believe me, you'll feel the difference.

The key is to eat a vibrant diet of foods that have a lot of prana - life force - and focus on consuming anti-inflammatory foods. The Mediterranean diet is a good place to start, according to
WebMD. It's a bit loosey-goosey, which suits me fine. I don't tend to follow strict guidelines anyway and listening to your gut is, after all, the whole idea here! So eat fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, fish, healthy whole grains and olive oil, with bits of meat and dairy and a splash of red wine.

Live foods, fresh greens with a lot of enzymes flush your digestive tract with nutrients. But be cautious with raw foods which can be too harsh when you're healing. I usually stir-fry or steam a variety of leafy greens, broccoli, sweet potato, garlic and onions. Serve with brown rice or quinoa, which cooks up in only 15 minutes -- way quicker than brown rice, if you’re like me and want to eat when you’re hungry! Watch out for gluten, which can hide in lots of things that might surprise you, such as salad dressings, marinades, and soy sauce. So many people nowadays seem to be keen on Gluten-free foods, it’s easy to find GF products in your grocery store and on the menu at your favorite restaurants.

Some spices, like turmeric and ginger, help reduce inflammation, so add these into your meals whenever you like. Your doctor can prescribe turmeric in capsules too, which would give you a stronger dose. I have a friend who has greatly reduced her RA pain with medical-grade turmeric capsules she gets from her doctor.

When your antibiotic Lyme treatment is over, start taking a good probiotic (up to 100 billion units daily). I started as soon as I finished the pharmaceutical antibiotics. I'm well again, so in my case I have not been taking probiotics on a regular basis for a few years now. But that’s just because I wax and wane with supplements. Always do what works for you, physically as well as financially. Supps can take a big bite out of the monthly grocery budget, I know. So I'm off and on now, but for the first two years following the antibiotics routine I took them religiously, and I'm positive they helped to restore balance to my gut flora.

Herbalists recommend some supplements, such as Slippery Elm and Marshmallow, which are believed to have a healing effect on the intestines. I have found that to be true for me. I drink them as teas, usually mixed with other bulk herbs that taste good and address my issue, which is my skin. The other thing I did was to drink aloe vera juice and I think it helped. Some people chew DGL tablets which help with digestion issues. You can get them at Whole foods or any other grocery with a good supplements department. HCL is also said to help.

Sharing a meal with family and friends, relaxing while you dine, exercising regularly, and enjoying life as much as possible. Even when you’re sick, don’t make it worse by thinking the worst. Invite happy people into your life, online as well as face-to-face. These are anti-inflammatory measures too, just as vital to your overall health and wellness as any sort of diet.


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Lyme Success Story - Samson

In spite of the turmoil Lyme can cause, many people are living happy and productive post-Lyme lives. I've had the fortune to connect with a number of them. Samson's story is a really uplifting example.

The first thing you notice about Samson is his upbeat attitude, in spite of the long journey he took back to health. He's a happy young man, originally from Detroit, who worked hard to earn his way into his dream profession, the music business, in L.A. To an outsider, it may appear as if he's always had a lucky star, and that may be true! But the thing he's really good at is not giving up. He's a vivid example of being proactive in your own healing.

His story, like a novel with lots of ups and downs and a happy ending, includes knee surgery for puffiness, an inflamed jaw, a frozen shoulder, tons of research, nightmarish symptoms and three different protocols in eight months. It also features travel – lots of travel – around the US, to places such as the Mayo Clinic, to seek out specialists to diagnose and treat his illness.

Like shooting a squirt gun
Until he finally found himself back on the road to good health, Samson never stopped trying to find a way to heal from Lyme. The worst period for him was from age 21 to 28. At one point he visited Dr. Andrew Weil's clinic in Tucson, where he was directed to try an Eastern approach. He used alternative medicines and meditation. He read Weil's book Spontaneous Healing, and became a vegan for a year. That resulted in anemia, although it did give him a little relief from his symptoms. At another point, he fasted on water only for two weeks, in another attempt to get down to the root cause, which also resulted in a bit of relief. But it was hardly enough.

Samson was also taking Omega 3's, turmeric, curcumin, and other supplements. But he says that when you're dealing with Lyme bacteria, taking supplements without taking antibiotics is like shooting a squirt gun at a person who is trying to do harm. It won't stop them, but it will give you the satisfaction of doing something.

Finding confidence
A turning point came one day, when Samson happened on the trailer online for the acclaimed film about Lyme,
Under Our Skin. He proceeded directly to Lyme specialist Dr. Daniel Cameron in New York, and began antibiotic treatment for about three weeks. But his intuition urged him to continue seeking help, and it was only when he walked into Dr. Raphael Stricker's office in San Francisco that he felt confident about kicking Lyme.

Samson, who works as a talent manager and is in scout development in the music business in Los Angeles, has a lighthearted way of telling his story, but anyone who knows how difficult Lyme is, will recognize the cost, the resources, and the steely perseverance he had to devote to healing. Perseverance, and always listening to his intuition, have no doubt fueled his healing journey.

“I've always been very intuitive, and grateful for that!” he says.

Today, Samson has finally won his life back from Lyme, and he's feeling great and right on track, exactly where his intuition told him he belonged.

Listen to Samson's story.

Please keep in mind that your success story might just help lift the spirits of someone who needs it most. Call us if you would like to share.




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A new year list for healing from Lyme

Setting new goals and dreaming new dreams can happen at any time. In January, though, you can almost feel a collective buzz as so many people set goals and re-evaluate past aims. If you are healing from Lyme, how does goal-setting work?

I can't remember having the consciousness to set many goals when I was really sick. It was enough to remember to take which medicine when. I used to joke that with my Lyme-brain fuzz head, tracking those meds and supplements had become my full-time job. The little notebooks I kept were my external memory drive. I could not have gotten through it without some sort of system.

New goals can seem very big and abstract. A lot of people want to work on changes in their job status, their weight, or aim for a vacation destination or specific financial goal. People dealing with Lyme often feel their world's been shrunken to the size of a thimble though. New goals any bigger than keeping track of your daily routines can be overwhelming. Still, if you're in the mood for taking a bigger picture approach, writing down your desired goals can be really healthy. It can also be healing just to reflect on last year's goals in relation to where you are today. How has your situation changed since last New Year?

Here are two ideas to try, to kickstart your new year of intentions on the healing path.

Make a gratitude list
Perhaps you already do this on a regular basis. If so, good for you. This simple act, done every night before bedtime, can be one of the most transformational things you could ever do for yourself. You can make it as general or detailed as you want, but try to be specific as you write, and really visualize the faces of the people that you're thankful for, or the doctors or nurses, children, parents or friends who showed up at your side during the worst of days. Name them all and send each one a special prayer of thanks as you do.

Name your furry kids, too. Our pets are unconditional givers. My sweet kitty, who was always by my side during my roughest months and years, recently died at age 13. I grieved for her, and also cried tears of gratitude for all the love, affection, and moments of wonder and laughter she gave so naturally throughout her life. Her passing marks a new point in my own healing stage. It was as if she came to be with me especially as I got through Lyme.

Make 12 new monthly goals
You don't have to reach the moon every four weeks. Take baby steps, and you can always adjust your monthly goals as you go along. Last year I decided to give up gluten for awhile and see how it affected me. The first thing I noticed was that there were no more sandwiches in my future. I adjusted that goal a little and things turned out fine for me.

Relinquishment goals such as that can be valuable of course, but include positive goals too. Consider how you might parse the 12 months of this new year. You could go by the seasons, or some other way that strikes you as important. Are your first three months going to focus on getting better treatment or changing doctors? Maybe your second three months could be about integrating a healthier diet and exercise routine into your schedule. One set of three might be focused on personal/cognitive skills such as starting some new brain exercise games, then you might think about making goals around who you'd really like to attract as your mentors and buddies – your healing community.

Whether or not you set goals for the new year, we wish you much love and rigorous good health as you make progress in healing from Lyme.



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What's Lymph got to do with it?

Lyme disease typically clogs up the lymph system, which is foundation of our immune system. The lymph system plays the role of our body's clean-up crew or garbage collector. It gathers waste products, dead microorganisms, damaged cells, and bacterial toxins that would otherwise trigger inflammation anywhere in the body. The lymph system is linked to the tonsils, the thymus, the spleen, lymph nodes and the large intestine. These organs are all about taking out the garbage. I know how my kitchen stinks if one of us forgets to take it out. Don't let your inner garbage just sit around. It's toxic. Get it moving.

But I know how it is. When you are sick with Lyme and your symptoms are kicking, exercise may be the very last thing on your mind. But nothing moves the lymph like getting some exercise, especially in fresh air. If the weather is not too vile, and you are physically able, motivate and take a walk. Take the dog, or round up a friend to accompany you. They can help you set up a regular schedule that you won't be so easily persuaded to drop. Swimming and jogging are great exercises for getting the lymph to move, if you can manage. If you can do a dry brush massage, do it. That's also a terrific lymph stimulator. However, use your best judgement, and do not use a dry brush if you have skin eruptions or any sort of rash.


Lymph massage through breathing
Going for a massage could be heaven, but if it isn't an option, you can treat yourself to a really effective self-massage in this simple way. Deep, rhythmic breathing is like giving yourself a massage from the inside. When you breathe out, contract your lower-abdomen muscles, and on the in breath, keep them contracted but allow your ribcage to expand. Sit up straight, imagine a string pulling gently up from your spine through the top of your head. Imagine the other end of the string pulling gently down from your tailbone. You needn't get fancy with your imagery to get into a really relaxing frame of mind. The breath is capable of doing all of that naturally. Of course, you can get through the day without scarcely taking a deep breath. But why do that, when it can be so helpful in our healing process? We just have to remember to direct our awareness in using it.

When we eat fresh fruits and vegetables and add fresh herbs to our daily meals, we take their vitality into our bodies for healing. Dr. Wolf Storl’s work is centered in his conviction that all plants, and especially wild plants that haven't been cultivated, are bursting with vital energy from the sun. In his 2010 book,
Healing Lyme Disease Naturally, he lists several herbs that strengthen the capillary vessels, regulate the blood pressure, alleviate arterial sclerosis, improve the lymph functions and support the immune system by stimulating the thymus (Storl, 2010). Always check with your doctor(s) before taking any herb. Herbs, just like pharmaceutical medicines, can have side effects.


Reference
Storl, Wolf D. (2010).
Healing Lyme disease naturally: History, analysis, and treatments. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.


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Food as medicine

Good food is good for you
A good Lyme-literate doctor will suggest you supplement your treatment with a good diet. This is especially true for those of us with chronic Lyme symptoms. But when it comes to food, a lot of us do not like to change things up – creatures of habit, unite! However, change may be easier if you understand why it's necessary.


Sometimes it has to hit us below the belt, in the area of the wallet. So think of it this way. The money spent on medicines, herbal supplements, doctor's appointments, and health insurance may be going to waste, if we neglect our diet. The food we eat is also medicine. It will either help build vibrant immune cells, creating strength and energy, or it will bring the body down. Go to your local market and cast your eye over the organic produce aisles. Doesn't it make you feel better, just looking at the brilliant colors and the variety?

Our bodies are nothing short of miraculous. I wish that didn't sound trite, because I truly believe it. Even aging bodies can learn new tricks! Don't be fooled into thinking you can't make some small change, because you have the power to control what goes into your mouth every day. Exercise and a diet of scrumptious, fresh organic foods can speed the healing process of chronic disease, and slow down the aging process. A better diet also contributes to better sleep, which every Lyme patient needs.

Success Stories – Chicken soup for the soul
As the editor of this blog, I often hear amazing stories about someone who turned around a dire situation. The stories contain different elements but they're all about someone who kicked chronic disease.

The other day a woman I train with said that her dad was celebrating his 79th birthday. None of his family had dreamed of that possibility, because his brother and his nephew had died young. The doctors had informed them of the risk, because diabetes “ran in the family.” But her dad, at age 40, had experienced a scare: His beloved brother's early death. Shortly after that terrible wake-up call, he started exercising. He started out walking, then jogging, then began running long distances. Eventually he began working out vigorously every day of the week, running marathons, and pushing the limit of what his doctors said was possible. He also changed his diet, adding veggies and fresh fruit daily, cutting down on red meat, and eliminating sugary treats.

Chicken Soup with Lyme
I also hear stories – many stories – about people with Lyme. Some (more than you might think), are living healthy, post-Lyme lives. I've shared a lot of these on our “Success Stories” audio interviews here on this site. My purpose for sharing is because you are very important to me. I feel like Lyme patients are all part of one big family. We've been through the ringer! I want you to know for certain that healing from Lyme is possible. You know how hard it is to endure the symptoms. I don't need to remind you of that. What I want to make sure you know is that it is entirely possible to remove more of the obstacles to healing. Your body, our bodies, want to heal. And they are completely capable of it. We just need to give them what they need, and take away the roadblocks so they can make progress.

All these stories share a common thread. Someone in a bad way changed their life, simply by making better every-day decisions. And so they changed the outcome of their story.



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Art & Acupuncture: 2 ways to get chronic pain relief

Art & Acupressure: 2 ways to break chronic pain patterns

Art for pain relief
Chronic Lyme symptoms are such a drag. We can stand only so much stress, I think. Not only does chronic pain just plain hurt, it also exhausts the body and mind to the brink of insanity. Sleep is restorative, but the war between the Lyme bacteria and our immune systems often destroys a good night of sleep. Honestly, when I was super sick, I recall thinking it would not be so terrible if I could just get out of my own body for awhile. Take breaks from the pain. Even prisoners get time off for good behavior. Then quite by accident, I learned that it was entirely possible to engineer those pain breaks. Art became my healing ally.

That is when a chiropractor friend told me about pain fountains, a name she gave the patterns and exquisite neuronal pathways that our bodies and minds can create in response to serious illness. The pain is trauma, both physical and emotional, because our minds get involved and have an opinion about our pain. That body-mind involvement can work for us, or against us. It works against us most powerfully when we aren't aware that we're caught in a loop. Patterns lay down a groove. If nothing disrupts that groove, the pain continues to spill throughout the body's systems like a fountain.

But even our awareness cannot simply make the pain vanish. I wish it were that easy (and perhaps for some, it is). In my case, making the pain go away took the total concentration that I was able to give to a painting project. It was as if I had to use guerilla tactics, sneak up obliquely onto the pain fountain, and re-route its direction. Stop its flow. Redirect the energy into my project and into my breath. What was weird was that I wouldn't even become fully aware that the pain had subsided until I quit painting. And then I knew it had been gone, because it would come flooding back. Like an elevator stopping at a different floor, I would stop, and return to experiencing the pain.

Acupressure for pain relief
For centuries, Asian cultures have recognized that the human body has meridians or pathways of energy, and have applied acupuncture and acupressure to points along those pathways to promote healthy ki (the Japanese term), or chi (the Chinese term). Healthy ki is moving, not stuck. As Lyme is an anti-inflammatory illness, acupressure can help by restoring conditions for the body to reduce inflammation.

Since the Lyme disease bacterial complex attacks the body's vital systems, it makes sense to counter with therapies that support those systems and gives them a fighting chance at balance. These are the lymph, digestive, eliminatory, respiratory, nervous, reproductive, and endocrine systems.

Western medical science has affirmed that these pathways and points in the body really do exist. A professional acupuncturist can teach you where to locate the points on your own body, but it is easy enough to find a good chart or video to help you find them yourself.

Art and acupressure can both be practiced for free. You don't need professional tools or expensive equipment, or a professional artist or acupuncturist to tell you what to do. Find the points that feel good and work on them. Find some paper and paint, or colored pencils, or whatever appeals to you, and take 30 minutes to lose yourself in art. You might also succeed in losing the pain – at least temporarily. Take a pain break. You deserve it. We can all promote our own healing at whatever stage of Lyme we find ourselves.



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Best test for Lyme & Co-infections

Best test for Lyme co-infections
Should Lyme patients be concerned about Bartonella? Commonly associated with Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), this bacteria is also commonly included in the toxic waste dumped into the human bloodstream via a tick or flea bite.

If you have a diagnosis of Lyme disease, you should be aware that you may also be dealing with common co-infections such as Babesiosis, Ehrlichsiosis, or Bartonellosis. Get tested and treated for these additional inflictions, which can cause symptoms and impact the immune-system.

What are some of the problems associated with co-infections? Well, it begins with not even knowing that you might have them. Not all diagnostics labs are created equal. We admire the work that is being done at IGeneX. Here are some of the reasons why.

Same old Lyme-testing trouble
Nick S. Harris, PhD., of IGeneX laboratory in Palo Alto, CA, cautions that due to many factors, Lyme disease remains very complicated to correctly diagnose. Among the top reasons stated, infection does not show up the same in everybody. People all react differently. In addition, seralogical (blood) tests yield unreliable results because the Lyme bacteria is known for its stealth activity and it likes to hide. Lyme is weird (you heard it here). Even in a person with active disease, the bacteria are not always likely to be detectable in the blood. On top of that, antibodies may only be present for a short amount of time, making testing for Lyme bacterial infection a hit-and-miss affair at best.

Standard tests frequently flunk
If you go to your IDSA doctor, assuming you can convince them to test you for Lyme, he or she will give you the standard ELISA and Western Blot Lyme tests recommended by the CDC. What your doctor may or may not know is that these standard tests often fail to give positive diagnoses to patients, causing a chain of reaction wherein they are not made aware that they should begin proper treatment for the disease.

This frustrating scenario has been going on for years. Decades. Your doctor or doctors might also be smart enough to be paying attention to what many call the Lyme wars. They might recognize that while a positive blood test would be optimal, where Lyme is concerned, a clinical diagnosis is often the only way that doctors can observe your condition.

More sensitive testing required
IGeneX lab offers tests sensitive enough to detect the bacteria. For many Lyme patients, myself included, testing at IGeneX has signified the end of the mystery (do I have Lyme?), and the beginning of recovery.

Dr Harris recommends that “for patients presenting with clinical symptoms of Lyme Disease who test negative by the IgG or IgM Western Blot, the Whole Blood PCR or the LDA/Multiplex PCR Panel on urine may be appropriate. There are physician-developed antibiotic protocols to enhance the sensitivity of the LDA. In addition, there seems to be increased sensitivity of this test during the start of menses.”

IGeneX tests for Co-infections
IGeneX lab also offers tests for other tick-borne illnesses. The following info is from Dr Harris on their website:

“The tests are IFA (fluorescent antibody) or direct tests by PCR. In the case of
Babesia, FISH (fluorescent in situ hybridization) is also available. The FISH test detects the ribosomal RNA of the Babesia parasites directly on air-dried blood smears. This test is highly specific for Babesia, unlike the standard test, the geimsa stain smear, which cannot differentiate between malaria parasites and Babesia.”

Babesiosis Tests
B. Microti and/or WA-1 IgG/IgM Antibody Babesia and/or Babesia WA-1 PCR Babesia FISH (RNA)

Ehrlichiosis Tests
Human Granulocytic Ehrlichia IgG/IgM Antibody Human Granulocytic Ehrlichia PCR Human Monocytic Ehrlichia IgG/IgM AntibodyHuman Monocytic Ehrlichia PCR

Bartonella Tests
Bartonella henselae PCR with Whole Blood


New Bartonella Test
Across the country, another diagnostics lab has been working on a new test for Bartonella, and they want you to know about it so you can request it from your doctor. Galaxy Diagnostics in Research Triangle Park, NC, claims it has developed an even more sensitive test for Bartonella, using state-of-the-art molecular detection.

According to their literature, twenty-eight species of Bartonella have been identified so far, and new species are found every year.


Added cost, but better long-term health prognosis
Of course, testing for co-infections will likely add cost to your treatment plan. But it is important to know what obstacles you could be facing on the road back to good health.

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Lyme treatment choices: Do other people's perceptions matter?

Other people matter, this much is clear. We're social critters who need love and feedback from our peeps as much as we need food and water. But when it comes to our choice of Lyme treatment, can other people's opinions affect the way we perceive ourselves?

Look at a bottle of water, then look at a cup of water. The water conforms to the contours of each vessel. People, largely composed of water, are much the same. We tend to take the shape of the environment or community in which we find ourselves.

Other people's ideas of us have an impact on us. I don't mean to say that they control or dominate us (unless we let them). I mean their opinions and beliefs tend to influence how we perceive ourselves, and fit ourselves into our environment. The closer or more fully developed the relationship, the deeper can be the impact of their opinion of you, whether it is spoken or unsaid. We don't grow, develop, or heal (or become whole) in a vacuum.

Their feeling about a particular Lyme treatment may differ from ours. For example, imagine a scenario in which one person is eager to try treatment with an ILADS doctor, or begin alternative therapy, or an herbal protocol, yet her spouse has a low opinion of alternative medicine. He thinks she needs to stick with their IDSA doctor and go with conventional antibiotics. It may not be an easy decision to make.

We need feedback from people we feel close to, and we hope they support us. It's natural and necessary to seek support and emotional resonance. When someone in your life accepts and loves you unconditionally, hangnails, bad-math skills and all, you feel safe. Intimacy is psychological, physical, and emotional sanctuary, and healing can commence from that place.

Psychologists who study how personalities develop are currently revising their conclusions. The new thinking is that people's dispositions are not fixed, but more like a psychological language that can be picked up through immersion. Other people influence us.

When Lyme symptoms linger or come back long after the antibiotics are finished, the problems are more complicated. Social support systems, friends and family members, may be less available for the person who hasn't rallied quickly back to health.

Lymies do their best to fit in, be part of the norm, but chronic pain or exhaustion makes it difficult to be chipper, or even fulfill basic obligations. Even acting normal can tire out a person who is operating on insomnia and anxiety. Can you count the times you stuffed your pain and faked an answer to the perennial “how are you” with a glib, “fine thanks, you?” It's completely understandable. It can feel incredibly lonely and frustrating, like nobody wants to hear that you are still battling Lyme, especially when it seems that it never gets better.

And from the outside, understanding a chronically ill person's dilemma is not easy. A person with Lyme disease is in pain, and it's often invisible. One of the weird downsides is that people with Lyme often don't look sick. No one can see their bad headache, racing heart, or aching knees. “You look fine,” friends and family members will say. “You must be feeling better.” Beyond this, there is also a cultural undercurrent at work, the subtle shaming of a person who does not act chipper and perky, or at least look cheerful.

We all have many facets. Recognize that other people's vision of you – your uniqueness, depth, and your quirks – does have some impact on your vision of yourself. Others are, in a very real sense, mirrors to our growth and healing processes. This includes your doctor or medical team. So who is your support system, and what do they believe about your approach to healing? The only one who can influence a change in their opinion of you, is you. It's worth paying attention to.
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New practice, new healing

Healing through cross-training
Surprises. Some are fabulous, whereas others we could live without. Before I was diagnosed with Lyme I never would have guessed that it could happen to me. Took me completely by surprise. But the nastiest blow was being told by the IDSA doctor, “Looks like MS. My advice is to apply for disability, get a wheelchair, and get ready to spend the rest of your life in it.”

Needless to say, I changed doctors, and was lucky enough to stumble upon a group of smart ones who had a clue about Lyme, and as much faith in me as I had in myself. I didn't get a wheelchair. I learned to walk, talk, and think straight again even through the pain. Over a period of years, I found ways to heal my body, mind and spirit through cross-training.


Time is a river
I thought about the element of surprise yesterday. A friend told me an anecdote about the way different cultures perceive the concept of time. Westerners and Easterners envision time differently. Both see time as a river.

However, in the West we imagine that events flow towards us from the horizon, approaching the present moment where we stand. In front of us, we see future events as they approach. When the event/time has past, it disappears behind, fading into memory.

Easterners imagine time's river approaching from behind. The future comes up from behind, like a surprise. It isn't visible until it's upon us. As events pass by, they flow away to the horizon, fading gradually from memory, appearing smaller and farther away as they go.

Lyme disease was like that for me. It attacked out of the blue, and engulfed my present moments for many years. But gratefully, as the time of being so sick has faded into the horizon, I see it from an increasingly distant perspective. And life continues to come up from behind and surprise me.


Starting a practice
I recently did something that I wanted to do when I was a teenager, at which time circumstances intervened, so I never got around to it. So it seemed a bit surprising, a little out-of-the-blue when recently I started taking Taekwondo lessons at a local studio. The present moment snuck up from behind once again. But this is no brutal blow like Lyme delivered. It's a nice surprise.

Starting a martial arts practice in my 50s – peri-menopause and post-Lyme. Ha, ha, right? Yes, I have stepped out of my comfort zone. And in spite of however it looks, I'm going for it. Even if I look silly, or have to push myself really hard. Even if I am really bad at it. Which I am. But I will stick with it, because it's fun, challenging, and has benefits for the brain (and god knows, I can use all the help I can get).

In fact, physical exercise is reported to be better for improving cognitive functions than even mental exercise. My brand of cross-training has always included an exercise component, but martial arts is well suited to my needs, because it's a body-mind-spirit practice. You have to find what works for you. When I was fighting Lyme at the acute stage, I couldn't even handle much walking, let alone do martial arts. For help regaining my balance, slower, meditative exercises such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong were well-suited.


Importance of community
The Taekwondo community my partner and I joined is a family-friendly place. Very supportive. Folks are each at their own stage of development. There are lots of women and children, and people of every age, from three-year-olds to at least one 70-something. Some have been at it for years, some are newbies. Everyone has something to teach or offer.

I practiced with a 5 year-old yesterday whose listening skills were, embarrassingly, better than mine. As instructed, he nonchalantly executed five perfect kicks in a row. Meantime, I lost track of count and lost my balance. Ten minutes later, I was mirroring an economics professor, a black belt. He helped me aim my roundhouse kick more precisely. Following that, I sparred with a woman ten inches taller and four years more experienced than me.


Astonishing turnaround
Another beginner, a 43 year-old pediatric endocrinologist (I know, it's a mouthful), told me she had decided to start training because of a patient of hers. He is a member of the community too. She saw him go through astonishing changes over the course of his seven years of practice. He is 18 now, and was diagnosed with diabetes at age six. He had been overweight and at times severely depressed. Last Saturday we watched him skillfully earn his first-degree adult black belt. Afterward, he read aloud a personal essay he'd written about his healing journey through martial arts. He's headed off to college, a dream that when he was child, he assumed would never come true.

But the future is full of surprises. Some surprises we will abhor. Others we appreciate. Perhaps in the end it equals out, I don't know.

Can you recall any good surprises in your life since Lyme? If you're not there yet, it's okay. Sometimes it helps to hear stories of courage and victory. Other times, not so much. It depends on where you are on your path. My wish for every person suffering from Lyme or any chronic illness is always this: Persevere. Find the right healing path, diet, medicine, and Lyme doctors for you. Find a community of people who will cheer you on, offer you a hand up when you lose your balance, and celebrate your victories when you succeed. The river of time is on your side.

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