March, 2012

The Turning Point: When Things Went Wrong

The more my doctor and I delve into my medical history, the longer it seems I've had this insidious disease. I've had more than my share of strange medical episodes in my years and it's astounding how many of them can potentially be attributed to my Lyme.

And yet, despite the years and years of infection that now seem probable, I wasn't actually concerned about my health until October of 2011. In the years leading up to that point, all of my symptoms were either subtle or easily attributed to other causes.

My constantly stiff and cracking neck I blamed on my job as a hairdresser and the amount of reading required for my classes. The fatigue was simply a result of full-time work and school combined with an active social life. Other things were blamed on stress or a variety of mental disorders.

For years, nothing caused enough concern for me to delve deeper into the cause. I just came to the conclusion that my body was abnormally sensitive to certain types of stress. I functioned so well for so long that recently I've begun to wonder what spurred the bacteria so suddenly into such a violent frenzy?

So why, seemingly out of nowhere, was I overwhelmed by symptoms that kept me confined to my bed? For the first week, it was easy enough to dismiss as some kind of flu. I was fatigued and feverish with a persistent nausea. When I tried to stand I would get dizzy, and I had a constantly throbbing headache.

During the second and then third week, a flu diagnosis became increasingly more suspicious. At the time, it was a far greater priority to figure out what was going on and then find treatment than it was to discover why I got so sick at that particular moment.

Lately, now that I'm on a treatment protocol, I've had much more time to think about what may have happened and see if research supports my theories. At first, I assumed I had contracted the disease about a year and a half prior when I had found a tick on my leg and my doctor had only run the ELISA test.

I believed that during that time, I had been getting worse so gradually that I didn't notice until I'd passed a certain threshold. Upon further examination, I found my infection had initially occurred years earlier. If it had been lying dormant for that long, something must have happened to trigger such fervent action on the part of the bacteria.

Very frequently on the discussion boards I was reading, fellow Lyme patients mentioned getting worse very quickly after becoming re-infected, usually from some kind of insect bite. However, I didn't recall any more recent tick bites, and for some unknown reason, I'm immune to mosquitoes. No matter how plentiful they are, they just won't bite me. I have no idea why.

The idea struck me like a lightning bolt when I finally put the pieces together. A seemingly innocuous event had taken place very shortly before I became undeniably ill. When I was carrying groceries inside one night, my cat slipped between my feet and out the door.


She's all sweetness and snuggles... until you look away.

She wasn't expecting the apartment building's resident stray to be hanging out on my porch, and was very displeased with this development. She stood about two feet away from him, and hissed until I grabbed her and carried her back inside.

The next day, I found fleas on my newly-adopted kittens. Yes, fleas. I dealt with the infestation problem very quickly, but it seems the damage was done. These tiny balls of fluff and love had enabled a frightening monster to sneak into my home.


Awww... but it's not their fault.

An astounding amount of research lately has shown that it's not just ticks that can spread Lyme and its related co-infections, but a wide variety of insects possess this capability. In addition, strains of the virus have been discovered in the southern United States that don't exist elsewhere.

I grew up in Massachusetts, spending my summers outside, so it's entirely possible that my initial infection was caused by the bite of a New England tick that you might expect. However, it seems likely that it was a flea from New Orleans that really made me sick.

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