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Bugged Out: Living with Lyme Disease

By Patrice L. Johnson

Imagine being active, going to the gym five days a week, eating clean and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, then suddenly finding yourself unable to get out of bed, use your limbs or see clearly. That is what happened to me in January 2013.

More than years ago, I attended a jazz concert series in Marshall Park and came home with a rash that covered my entire right thigh. I did not seek immediate treatment for the rash and used hydrocortisone cream for the itching. After a week, I began having flu-like symptoms and chills and went to the minor emergency clinic, where I was informed that I had been bitten by a tick. I was given a 10-day course for an antibiotic, sent home and told only that I might have some lingering aches and joint pain.

In the years following, I had countless unexplained issues with my digestive system, allergies, heart problems, numbness, muscle weakness, muscle twitching, nerve damage, impaired eyesight, rapid weight loss, unexplained tooth pain, headaches and a host of other symptoms. I would repeatedly seek medical attention, but was never properly diagnosed. I was eventually written off as a hypochondriac and was told that I needed to learn to manage stress and anxiety.

Frustrated, I started doing research and began to learn about the connection between diet and poor health. I began to live a healthier lifestyle, which was a great benefit in keeping my trips to the doctor and hospital to a minimum. However, in 2013, I left the gym one evening and was extremely fatigued. The next day I had dizziness, trembling and loss of function on the right side of my body. I didn’t know what was going on. After months of testing, and seeing a specialist and later a naturopath, I discovered I had contracted Lyme disease from when I was bitten by the tick years before.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is one of the fastest-growing vector (organism)-borne infectious diseases in the United State. In the early stages of Lyme, four to eight weeks immediately following the infection, the disease can typically be successfully eradicated with aggressive antibiotic treatment. Lyme disease becomes chronic when the bacteria moves inside the body tissues and cells and begins affecting different body systems. Chronic Lyme disease is much more difficult to address. There are three stages of Lyme Disease: Stage 1 (early localized Lyme disease), Stage 2 (early disseminated Lyme disease) and Stage 3 (late stage or chronic Lyme disease). I have Stage 3.

Lyme disease is known as “The Great Imitator,” as it causes symptoms that are identical to other diseases such as lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Epstein-Barr and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), to name a few.

Some of the keys to managing Lyme disease are getting adequate rest, reducing stress and maintaining a healthy immune system. One of the easiest ways to boost the immune system is through diet – as the immune system reacts directly to food. Reducing foods that trigger inflammation or allergic responses, adding more whole foods and vegetables and choosing a diet with chemical-free meats and fruits goes a long way to improving overall health.

After years of managing my diet because of Lyme disease, I’ve become passionate about living healthier and teaching others how to eat well. Recently, I finished my first book, Healthy Bites for the Mind, Body and Soul. I’m determined to help others learn how to manage living with this disease and live a healthy lifestyle.

To learn more about Lyme or diet and chronic illness, email: Patrice@virtualillustrations.com.

What to do if bitten by a tick:

If you discover a tick, the CDC provides these instructions for effective tick removal:

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk (you do not want the tick’s mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin).
  3. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and wash your hands thoroughly, with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
  4. If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see a doctor.
  5. To learn more about Lyme disease, visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the American Lyme Disease Foundation (ALDF) or the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) online.
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