Lyme Disease: A Survivor’s Lessons
I recall the exact day my world changed. My young son and I picnicked in our sun-splashed backyard, playing catch and collecting stray balls from the deep fern glade. I still hold this day with a certain reverence, for it marks the beginning of the end of the world I once loved. A world I worked very hard to create.
Living a comfortable life, ensconced in a quaint New England township, my days were filled with joys and demands of two young children, a husband who traveled the world, and my own prolific career as a classical homeopath. My sunny disposition had blessedly brought me armloads of friends and myriads of adventures.
I worked hard to keep all the factors of my life equation in balance; organic food, regular exercise, meditation, lots of fresh air and time for pleasures. There were the inevitable stresses of modern life: not enough time in a day, the imploring needs of clients at odd hours, and the irregular rhythm of my husband’s life on the road. I believed with utmost conviction that I could count on my boundless energy and vigorous constitutional gene pool to pull through all disasters. And, throughout my 42 years, it had worked just fine.
In the summer of 2000 vertigo, chills, and headache hit me like a sledgehammer. Within three days I couldn’t shower without help, drive, or cook a meal. Early diagnosis was sinusitis, then “probable” walking pneumonia and by month four, Epstein-Barr virus. For a homeopath, this felt surreal, as I took great care of myself and how could I get so rundown?
As the months unraveled, my health was a Ferris wheel of ups and downs, eroding my ability to maintain a client schedule, my weekly newspaper column, and family life. Crippling migraines, brain fog, stiff neck and irritable bowel set in. Thousands of dollars and numerous doctors and prominent hospitals later, the working diagnosis was Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, with a migraine complex. No one tested me for Lyme disease. Fear, confusion, anxiety, and depression filled my mind.
By 2005 I had received three negative findings on standard Lyme disease tests, was completely bedridden, broken, and in the throes of divorce. Tragically ill, many times I feared I would die in my sleep. Emotionally and spiritually frayed, I was wrecked. My eight-year-old son was the sole reason to hang on, amid endless pain, despair, and profound exhaustion.
A major miracle came in the form of a clinical nutritionist PhD, who recognized the nuances of misdiagnosed Lyme disease. Wheel-chaired into his office, I was never so elated and simultaneously furious as when the Lyme specialty-lab work glared a very positive test result, confirming the presence of the treacherous spirochete culprit, Borrelia burgdoreferi. It was then that I learned about the 70% false-negative error rate on the standard Lyme disease ELISA test, and the lack of physician education on how this bacteria augers its way from bloodstream to tissues and joints to the nervous system and brain. I was a prime example of full-blown, progressed infection that had been mismanaged.
Welcome to the apex of the current Lyme disease epidemic crisis, exploding around the world, and spreading at a rate four times faster than HIV in the USA. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2013 announced that approximately 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are contracted annually in this country but a mere 10% are properly diagnosed. The remainder of cases, like mine, bumble through the medical system with scant hope of recovery. Many are labeled as an autoimmune illness or misunderstood completely.
The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) is the most sophisticated group of healthcare practitioners armed to address this illness. Most general practitioners are following outdated Infectious Disease Society information that classifies Borrelia as a short-term infectious illness, swiftly eradicated with two weeks of antibiotics, initially deemed appropriate back in the 1980s. Forty years of clinical discovery and research by the ILADS group has determined that six weeks is the correct protocol for acute early infections, due to the slow replication cycle of the organism. Longer-term, smoldering infections akin to mine could require years of antibiotics, antimalarials, and more.
The brilliant nutritionist advised me, wisely, to use an Integrative Medicine approach to heal. As we killed off the bacterial colonies with natural anti-microbials, we also used a tailor-made regimen of metabolic profile analysis work, detoxification methods (diet, herbs, homeopathics, sauna), nutritive supplements, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes to restore the massive depletions and damages my various bodily systems had suffered. It took five years of fortitude, commitment, and hard work. I healed 100%. Additionally, deep spiritual healing attention was needed to reclaim my very fragile psyche.
Lyme disease stripped me of everything: my career, income, home, marriage, and health. The months and years of isolation, floating bereft on my sofa, detached from the world and its social happenings, lost from my children’s school activities, forced me into personal retreat from life and brought me into a very mystical place of stillness. My inner journey of healing was as profound as all the physical ministerings.
Many chronic illnesses, and Lyme disease in particular, ask us to turn within, to our deep sources of personal healing and resiliency. Learning to let go of what I thought had mattered — a successful career and IRA, a beautiful home, an organized lifestyle — I ultimately discovered that these were mere totems. Coming to understand myself as a deeply creative being, with wellsprings of willpower and the capacity to use affirmations, prayer, vision, intention, and belief, became healing tools at an energetic level that triggered the mind-body healing pathway. This has been just as instrumental as the nutritive supplements and anti-microbial agents.
Renewed and well, I feel honored and blessed to have a second chance at life. May the sun and stars and gifts of rebirth guide and protect my journey and yours.
Reprinted with permission from The Center Post, The Journal of the Rowe Center in Rowe, Massachusetts.
Katina Makris is a graduate of Duke University, The Hahnemann School of Homeopathy and The Stillpoint School of Integrative Life Healing. She is the host of “Lyme Light Radio” and author of the award-winning international bestsellers Autoimmune Illness & Lyme Disease Recovery Guide: Mending Body, Mind & Spirit and Out of The Woods: Healing Lyme Disease.