The Bright Side
“And if you ever get scared, look on the bright side:
You’ve got a new life.” – Amos Lee
Last month, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease.
Since then, I’ve tried to write this essay a few times.
The first attempt followed a narrative arc rife with suspense, with a few years of frustrating doctors’ visits, mysterious symptoms that came and went and the all-around sentiment that the batteries that powered my body were no longer able to sustain a charge or be fully refueled at the end of the day.
But if you Google Lyme disease, you realize there’s nothing unique about that story. In fact, the reality that my own diagnosis came only two years after all of this started makes this a much shorter story than it is for many.
The theme of the second version was more pitiful, tinged with regret about what this had taken from me over the past two years and what it might take in the future. But honestly, that one didn’t get far at all. If there’s a good time for something like this to happen – and that’s debatable – this is it.
The infection likely came two years after I’d accomplished the goal of qualifying for and running the Boston Marathon and almost exactly a year after I’d completed my first and only one-hundred mile ultramarathon. Truth is, when it comes to running, my bucket is mostly full and my list nearly empty.
A third version drew parallels between Lyme and my diabetes. There are definitely similarities. Both are largely invisible to outsiders and both have robust online communities who tend to lament that fact. But as I’ve gone deeper into all of this, the differences are far greater.
To borrow an analogy, diabetes can be like staring down a bottomless well. While it’s amazingly complex and deeply personal, there’s no denying that there is a framework regarding what things will (generally) raise and lower blood sugar and this framework is quite rigid. Put fifty diabetics in a room and within thirty minutes, they’ll be laughing about how much they have in common.
In stark contrast, Lyme is more like looking at the ocean. Sure, it’s wet. But the depth, the tide, the winds and everything else vary from moment to moment and – most importantly – where you happen to be standing. People with Lyme consider themselves united, but it seems as if what unites them most is the uncertainty of it all. Uncertainty about everything. What to treat it with. How long it takes to get better. Even – sometimes – if they actually have it.
In the end, the only story I want to share about is what happens, next, even if that’s the hardest one to write. Because I’ve technically been diagnosed with a reinfection, I have somewhat of an idea but not really. (See the last paragraph.)
At this point, it seems my second bout is similar in symptoms to the first time. I’m unable to run more than two days in row, and if that’s how I spend my weekend, that’s pretty much it until the following Saturday. And those trail runs – though still as far as eight miles this past weekend – would probably be labeled by an observer as “hiker in a hurry.”
Overall fatigue has increased. Eight hours of sleep is enough during the week but my Friday nights work best if I get a solid twelve (or more). A weekend nap or two also helps.
Thus far, my mind is relatively clear. I’m eternally grateful for that, as my paycheck pretty much depends on my ability to listen, plan, reflect and react.
Treatment-wise, I’m throwing the kitchen sink at this. I’m just coming off three weeks of antibiotics and take enough supplements daily to make a nutritionist blush. If an article catches my eye, I hit the Vitamin Shoppe the next day. (If you want to derail a young buck’s sales pitch, just tell them you’re looking for something for Lyme that won’t disrupt your diabetes or thyroid medication. They will be glad to leave you to your browsing.)
Heather’s a fan of Essential Oils and while I don’t know if they help, the truth is I don’t know if any of this helps.
While I have a doctor’s appointment scheduled for later this week, I haven’t settled on which physician is going to help me call the shots over the next several months. One of the surprising things one learns about Lyme is that there are essentially two camps of doctors with views that are nearly diametrically opposed to one another. (To compare it to diabetes, it would be like going to an endocrinologist who insists you should (or shouldn’t) use an insulin pump and that anyone who suggests otherwise is simply wrong. Weird, right?)
At this point, I don’t even know what camp my own doctor is in, or if she has the experience to guide me, assuming we agree on a philosophy that I haven’t even adopted, yet. Fairly vague, yes?
After a particularly exhausting jaunt in the hills, yesterday, running and I agreed to see other people. At least for a while. But we’ve done that before, particularly over the past two years, and if I mean it, I can’t honestly say.
From my mid-twenties to my mid-thirties, the cracks in my life not filled with work and family were consumed by writing. Over the past decade, it’s been running. It’s not the idea of not running that bothers me, but rather what to pour in the cracks. Because one of the things I’ve come to believe is what fills in the cracks is often the mortar that helps hold it all together.
I have no shortage of ideas of what this will be. I have a gorgeous kayak, and while the waters of Pennsylvania pale in comparison to the swamps and bays of Florida, there are no ticks in the water. I’ve also become an amateur genealogist over the past several months, and have traced some of the original deeds of my ancestors but haven’t taken the time to visit the properties, mostly because I couldn’t find any nice trails nearby to make the trip worthwhile.
I’ve considered starting a podcast. I’ve thought about buying a metal detector.
Once, I took guitar lessons for six weeks.