Get Ticked Off –Part 4: Be Strong

This is the final article in a four-part series on tick safety and Lyme disease. Read the first article “Be Aware” here, the second “Be Proactive” here, and the third “Be Reactive” here.

It’s been over a month since I posted, which is just embarrassing, especially considering I was in the middle of writing this important series.  However, the hiatus actually illustrates one of my key points better than I could have with words.

You see, over the last 36 days, I have been snuggling my now 38-day-old granddaughter.  There is no coincidence in those similar numbers.  She and her parents resided with us until just a week ago, and I was blessed to capture an intimacy few grandparents experience.  Unlike the exhausted new mommy and daddy, I was able to relish those late night cries.

There’s something about a newborn’s cry, isn’t there?  Knowing a diaper change or a little breastmilk is all that wailing child needs allows you to smile at her end-of-the-world, woe’s-me sobbing.  Our Hensley’s little tantrums are particularly unique.  She cries out like every newborn, but when she inhales, if she’s really letting the world know she’s dissatisfied, she makes this squeak, just like a puppy chew toy.  Truly, she’s a little squeaker.

IMG_6444Maybe this is just the way all new grandmothers are –so completely in love that even the grandchild’s crying feels cute, her neck smells delicious, and those blue eyes….oh my, I can’t find the words.

But I’ve done more than snuggle our little squeaker.

My girls and I initiated a 100-Book Reading Challenge, convincing about twenty other local families to commit to each reading 100 books as a family by the end of summer.  We meet every couple weeks at the park to exchange books and chat about our favorites.  Currently, the girls and I are on book number 64.

I repainted one of the bedrooms, preparing it for the return of my son and his then pregnant girlfriend.  When his little family moved out, I repainted the excessively large living room in their new apartment.  Now I’m working on redecorating their bedroom for my Pinterest-loving eleven-year-old.  Can you picture the gallery wall and DIY projects??

Every Wednesday we attend KinderGym, where Izzi flips and ta-da’s and gets my undivided attention.

My husband and I traveled to Virginia to celebrate a good friend’s 50th birthday by floating down the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, which we were told would be pleasant two-hour adventure.  Eight hours later, just as the sun dipped over the horizon, we finally arrived at our vehicles, ready for hot showers and pain medicine.

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There have been cook-outs and swimming, birthday parties and late night campfires, a crazy cat story and a litter of twelve puppies.  (More on that in a future post!)

The first weeks of July we spent five days and our wedding anniversary on our annual camping trip in Smoke Hole, WV.  This was the scene of the crime, the place where I was bitten by a deer tick and originally infected with Lyme disease two years ago, though I wouldn’t know it for months.  My family and about forty other campers set up our tents and canopies, then beat the heat by kayaking and floating down the South Branch of the Potomac River.  We ate deep fried everything, from fish to Twinkies, and sat around the campfire, laughing and telling stories.

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This has been my last few weeks.  I have been living life, something I could not have dreamed of two years ago.  After rounds and rounds of IV and oral medication, homeopathic treatments, dietary changes, acupuncture, massage therapy, blood oxygenation injections, and so much more, I am finally an active participant in my life again.

It can happen.

If you are a Lyme warrior, it can happen for you, too.

There were times along this journey I wasn’t sure if I would make it.  There were moments I was ready to give up.  The chronic pain affected every aspect of my life, including my cognitive processing.  I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my life in that condition.  Though my family never complained, I felt like an incredible burden, requiring so much time and money just to survive.  Often I wondered if they’d be better off without me. The guilt was as heavy as the symptoms.

Thank God I hung on.

This illustrates my final advice in this series.  Be strong.  Keep fighting.  There is always hope.

Like me, you CAN get better.  

With Lyme disease, especially chronic or post-treatment Lyme, there is a tremendous lack of research and knowledge.  There are oodles of treatment options out there, but not one tried-and-true cure.  Because Lyme attacks our immune system, each person responds to the illness and, therefore, the treatments differently.  What worked for me may not work for you.  Lyme warriors, while typically fighting heavy brain fog and cognitive deficiencies, are forced to research the options and try treatment after treatment until something starts working.  Often the medical community is unequipped to properly advise us, so healing requires our own brain power, physical might, and, for me, spiritual strength.

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A strong support system is essential, especially if the Lyme warrior is straining to think, to comprehend what she is reading, to remember appointments.  I have been lucky in this department.  My husband was my everything, supporting every decision I made, every treatment I chose to chase.

So much support allowed me to be strong.

To keep fighting.

To believe there was hope.

You must trust that eventually something will start working and you will slowly return to life.  For me, there was a lot of trial and error, reading and researching, pain and tears.  But now I know what to do when I feel like I’m relapsing.  I wear a pain patch constantly, and it has been an absolute game-changer.  I know how to handle a seizure so as not to get hurt, but even more importantly, I know to get enough rest and to remove as much stress as possible to ward off seizures completely.  I listen to my body, and I try not to feel guilty when I have to lie down in the middle of the day.  I know I am not being lazy; I am recovering.

I remind myself to be strong.

To keep fighting.

To believe there is hope.

I know not to to overplan my week, to leave a couple days open for rest.  I know to avoid sugar, gluten and dairy because I will regret it later if I don’t.  I know nothing tastes as good as healthy feels.  There are activities I did before Lyme, like jogging and teaching full-time, that I’ve surrendered.  But even if this is as good as it gets, I am okay with it.  Life is full and wonderful, and in some ways, even better than my pre-Lyme life.

I am strong.

I keep fighting.

Because there is always hope.

There is life after Lyme.  It’s a different life.  That’s for sure.  But it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lesser one.  My experiences allow me to see everything differently.  I am more grateful, more aware, more empathic.  I am now able to see the good that came from this ugly disease, and I subsequently know it’s worth it.

For the first time in my life, I wouldn’t change my wedding day, tick and all.

Unfortunately, I’m sure there are readers who are thinking I’m lying or I’ve completely lost it.  Or you’re thinking I must not have been as sick as you are.  I promise.  I’m sane, truthful and chronically ill, but I am also active, content and managing my symptoms.

You may be in trenches, unable to see beyond the ugliness.  I’ve been there to.  I watched interviews with people who had Lyme disease and scoffed when they professed to appreciate their disease.  I read books and articles, hoping to find the answer, only to finish them disappointed.  I spoke with individuals who had beaten Lyme, but I couldn’t see myself getting to that point.  As long as I saw myself as sick, I stayed that way.  Once I was able to begin seeing some hope, I fought even harder and eventually attained wellness.

Be strong.

Keep fighting.

There is hope.

You can get life back.  It may not be your old life; however, believe it or not, it might be an even better life than you could imagine.  It’s critical that you have faith in this.

I know where I am right now is temporary.  I have a chronic illness, and by sheer definition, it’s not something from which I will ever be completely free. There will be relapses and flares.  There will be more pain and sickness.  But I’ve learned to live in the now, and right now, I am in remission.  I am not perfectly healthy.  There’s still pain and stiffness, but it’s tolerable.  I have been able to enjoy our summer, checking off our summer bucket list, making memories with my family.

These memories will help me get through the next relapse.

I will be strong.

I will keep fighting.

After all, when I hold my newborn granddaughter in my arms, I know there is hope.

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