Lightening up our lives usually includes a life opening to simple pleasures. Those simple pleasures can include listening to the silence as we meditate, taking the kayaks out on a nearby pond, or going on a leisurely walk in a natural setting. If we choose to lighten our load by taking a walk or hike in the natural world, we should take some precautionary measures; otherwise, our destination for inner peace and healing could become a destination for healing from the debilitating affects of Lyme Disease.
Lyme disease got its name from the town where it was first identified – Lyme, Connecticut. Many people may not know that Lyme disease has been around for centuries, as evidenced by ancient medical texts, and even genetic analysis of rodent pelts preserved in museums.
Western medicine identified the illness in 1975. According to the website, Lyme Disease Resource, worried mothers living in Lyme, Connecticut contacted public health authorities regarding several cases of joint inflammation in children in their community. In total, thirty-nine children and twelve adults were studied by researchers at Yale University and given a diagnosis for their mysterious ailment – “Lyme Arthritis.”
Further studies identified the bacteria, a spirochete similar to syphilis. Through an isolation process in 1982, the researchers determined the bacteria was spread through a tick bite – specifically the “Ixodes” species of tick. As new cases continued to appear, health officials diligently worked to find a treatment to kill the bacterial infection. The findings revealed two important objectives in combating the bacteria: strengthen the patient’s immune system and relieve their painful symptoms.
In our own practice at SpiritWings, we’ve witnessed people who have become infected with Lyme Disease. The disease affects people in different ways. The most common signs include flu-like symptoms, headaches, aching muscles, swelling and soreness in joints, digestive issues, impaired vision, respiratory problems, night sweats or chills, mood swings, depression, personality changes, poor balance, forgetfulness, or memory loss, inability to stay focused, and disorientation. Those are a few of the many symptoms.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Tracy Poland who lives in Greenwood, Maine. Coupled with her story was the story of Jenna Smith, the wife of a close friend. Why these two ladies? Both were very active women whose lives changed virtually overnight. Tracy met Jenna at Tracy’s Oxford Hills Lyme Support Group shortly after Jenna was diagnosed with Lyme. That’s been the case repeatedly. Active people’s lives change from normal to virtuously disabled overnight for no obvious reason.
Tracy worked as a teacher in a Head Start program, while actively involved in raising her own five children and “always on the run” with gardening among her varied activities. Jenna was actively involved in a mortgage business along with her passion of working with and raising horses plus competing in dressage events. Both women’s lives did change overnight.
“My world changed completely,” said Tracy. “I was sitting under an apple tree nineteen years ago. Deer frequented the area near Waterford, Maine. I found an insect bite and thought an ant bit me. I broke out in a welted rash the next day and thought it was a reaction to the ant bite.” Tracy said that several other symptoms began revealing themselves including neck and shoulder pain, flu-like symptoms, heart palpations, fatigue, excessive sleeping, depression, and an inability to keep up normal daily activities.
“I always felt sick. I had every symptom imaginable including digestive issues, frequent headaches, muscle aches, and joint pain. I started sleeping day and night and felt as if I were 100 years old. My 70- year-old mother was more active.” Many symptoms of Lyme are similar to other debilitating conditions and therein lays a large part of the problem of Lyme Disease… misdiagnosis.
Tracy saw several doctors and counselors through several years. Her diagnoses included, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia, just to name a few. “I searched the Internet for every possibility, but my research still pointed to Lyme. Finally, my angel appeared as Dan Noble who told me his experience with Lyme Disease. He said tests can come back negative and you can still be infected. He gave me the name of a Lyme-literate doctor in Kennebunk. I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease within three weeks, began treatment with antibiotics, and started improving. It’s been a long road, and now I’m taking natural products.”
Jenna Smith had been a competitive dressage rider (USDF bronze and silver medalist) for five years. Her riding picture was taken during a victory gallop after winning third place in the adult amateur division at Prix St. Georges in Saugerties, New York at the Region 8 Championships – two weeks before coming down with a “mysterious” flu-like illness.
In a matter of weeks, Jenna went from an active lifestyle that included daily riding workouts to bedridden days in a darkened room.
What really frightened Jenna was “the combination of symptoms – acute abdominal pain, body aches and chills, itchy rash, joint pain, profound weakness, debilitating sensitivity to light and sound, repeated migraines, dizziness, brain fog, and wild mood swings – all of which I had suffered with over the years at different times – but separately. Previous doctor visits and medical tests revealed nothing, and the symptoms always resolved themselves so I stopped going to the doctor when something flared up. I never dreamed it was all tied together – and I didn’t know a thing about Lyme Disease (other than the risk to horses!)”
Fortunately, a friend introduced Jenna to a “Lymie Old-timer” who directed her to a Lyme-literate doctor. Thousands of dollars and many, many tests later, western blot results returned positive results for Lyme. Then she began aggressive oral antibiotics to combat the debilitating disease.
Both Tracy’s and Jenna’s stories are, sadly, not unique. Many who contract Lyme can share the same commentary. Jenna and Tracy have become close friends through Tracy’s support group. Both encourage people to seek support if they or someone they know has Lyme… even if Lyme is suspected.
According to Tracy, some lab tests “come back negative because the labs are not sophisticated enough to pick up the disease because the bacterium hides undetected (usually in soft tissues).” Sometimes, people can be infected though there is no evidence of a rash or bull’s-eye around the tick bite.
According to Jenna Smith’s website, Lyme Disease Resource (www.lymediseaseresource.com), “The hallmark of Lyme disease is for symptoms to mysteriously appear and then disappear weeks later, or for pain to move around the body. You can be infected for years without becoming disabled owed to the morphologic nature of the bacteria. In other words, the disease can lie dormant in your body for months or years, taking over when you are worn down physically or if your immune system is suddenly (or gradually) compromised. If you have symptoms in two or more bodily systems, you should consult a “Lyme-literate” doctor.
How can you find a Lyme-literate doctor (LLD)? Tracy and Jenna agree that the first and best way to find a LLD is to get a personal recommendation from your local Lyme Support Group. Lyme Disease Resource suggests a visit to Lyme Net (www.lymenet.org). If you can’t locate a support group, a visit to Lyme Net will help you identify a group nearest to you.
Another good resource is the Lyme Disease Association
Their “Doctor Referral” program is available after you register on their website. You may search for three contacts at a time from their nationwide list.
Jenna says “If you prefer working with your primary care doctor, you should be prepared to assist him/her with medical research. There are some very professional and helpful treatment papers available like Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease: Diagnostic Hints and Treatment Guidelines for Lyme and other Tick Borne Illnesses by Dr. Joseph J. Burrascano, who wrote the first version in 1984 – this is the 15th edition and includes all the latest testing procedures. It’s a great paper to share with friends and family to better understand the complicated disease.
Seeing close acquaintances and friends stricken with Lyme make me more cautious during my own treks in the outdoors. It’s a matter of walking aware and performing a “tick check” after your time in the outdoors. What should you do if you find any tick attached? Though your first response may be to yank it out, by grabbing tightly and pulling it loose, that is not the best approach. Grabbing a tick this way can leave the head and mouthparts attached while the body breaks free. You may think you got it all, but you didn’t. Grabbing it by the body can force any fluids it has back into what or who ever it’s attached to. A reliable method is to dab alcohol or a medicated salve on the tick and area where it’s attached, grasp the tick forward of the head and gently pull. The tick will usually let go instead of remaining attached. Destroy the tick by cutting it in half. Then apply a good antiseptic cream, salve, or ointment to the bitten area. If any flu-like symptoms begin see your physician immediately or find a Lyme-literate doctor promptly for testing.
Tick kits are available at many outdoor and sporting goods stores. Most come with tweezers and alcohol swabs. Some kits include information for identifying ticks and even vials to save it for testing. Deer ticks are not the only carriers of Lyme.
For Lyme Disease support in Western Maine contact Tracy Poland at (207) 674-3781. Tracy offers support through the Oxford Hills Lyme Support Group meeting each Tuesday from 6:00-8:00 pm at the Hope & Healing Center, 52 High Street, South Paris, Maine. For information online, go to Jenna Smith’s Lyme Disease Resource at www.lymediseaseresource.com.
Kevin Pennell, an author from Bethel , Maine, wrote Two Feathers-Spiritual Seed Planter and as written for other periodicals and media. Kevin Pennell is an Usui and Karuna Reiki® Master Teacher, Certifi ed Hypnotherapist, Ancestral Healing Practitioner, and Psychic Empath. He conducts Reiki and other workshops that assist spiritual and personal development. Kevin, with his wife, Vickie Cummings, own and operate Spirit Wings, their Compassionate Healing Center and Therapeutic Store located in Bethel, Maine