This is an entirely new way of formatting, but…

…it’s the only way for me to get this entry published. I’m basically forcing myself to update. I won’t be making a habit of this, but for now… Purple things about life, black things about health updates (read as: Purple for things that are semi-interesting, black for things that I need to write down lest I forget). Also, some random quotes by me, because, why not.

  • June 5th: I started reading American Gods. (So far I’ve made it to chapter four, I think.)
  • June 6th: I got my bloodwork back, showing that my liver enzymes are perfectly normal, back in their 20s and 30s, thanks to the Liver Chi my LLMD put me on! I’m enthralled. If anyone is having trouble with their liver enzymes, and milk thistle isn’t enough, try this stuff! I’ve been on 2 capsules 2-3 times a day, as per doctors orders.

~*~ Life is like Music. If you combine a few key, simple
elements in the right way, you get beauty.
~*~

  • June 8th: Spent the day listening to music and watching the rain. If you want to know what it sounded like (AND YOU DO), open and play this and this at the same time. Also, decided that one day I will own a professional camera.
  • June 9th: Shaking for most of the day with very visible tremors.

~*~ Acceptance doesn’t mean we sit back, stop fighting, and
give up hope. It means we acknowledge truthfully
where we are and how we feel about it.
~*~

  • June 10th-11th: Muscle fatigue (via M.E.) due to a lot of arm usage in talking/typing to a bunch of amazing people. (It was worth it. ♥) Also very, very sore, with a “I feel like I’ve been run over” type of pain, reminiscent of my fibromyalgia days, but not as severe. I had ordered some very soft clothes that finally arrived, which really helps the burst of peripheral neuropathy I’ve gotten lately. I’m assuming my nerves are trying to heal from whenever these infections had spread to my arms several months back. Fioricet is a HUGE help for neuropathic pain!
  • June 11th: I realized that, over the past.. well, a long time, I can’t remember anymore, but I’ve developed oromandibular dystonia that’s mostly triggered by eating. I hope it is worsening now because of herxing, like my other forms of dystonia did when I began treating bartonella last year, and not because it’s something that’s going to hang around. I have quirks, yes, but it is mainly triggered by me trying to eat and chew, etc. Perhaps there is some kind of sensory trick I can learn to tame it? I have some information about when it may have started thanks to my wonderful tagging system, but I’ll have to sort through that, later.
  • June 12th: My niece made me an acronym poem, something awesome about me for each letter, and left it out for a surprise. Aha. I love being the aunt. ♥ Also, I needed my glasses this day. Most days I am fine and don’t need them indoors, but it was a “blurry-can’t-see-the-tv” day. Does anyone else get that? You just wake up with poor eyesight?
  • June 13th: I felt great, it being a Wednesday and the furthest day from my Thurs-Sun Flagyl pulse. And for the record “great” means being able to breathe when I stand up, and able to walk around. I did some minor cleaning, and even did some laundry!

Yesterday I had my cardiologist appointment. He agrees that the palpitations are probably from the Liver Chi, said to be careful with the ibuprofen since it is also processed by the liver, and to continue getting regular labwork to make sure things stay stable. If anything continues to flare, I should go see him again, but as of now I am good for another five months and I don’t need to repeat any heart function tests until next year. :) He’s sending me to get a urinalysis because I have nocturia that has been worse the past several months. During the day I think I urinate a normal amount, but during the night it gets worse, and we’re not sure why. I also told him about this cough that’s gotten worse the past several weeks, but I forgot what he said! Also, I had the beginnings/continuation of further eye problems, which I want to talk about, more.

My eyes continue to be a bother for me. As I mentioned previously, I’ve been staying in the dark since beginning treatment because it is too painful to be in normal light. Some random days I am okay (like the day it rained, and I was able ot have the window open!) but for the most part, it is me in my dark room with my dim lamp.

As for this recent “episode,” I assume it started on the 12th when I woke up and needed my glasses. Then yesterday, as I was lying on the exam table waiting for the doctor, every time I opened my eyes, the walls were a different colour. Yesteday night, the photophobia started. (I need to make a photophobia tag…) The light from my cellphone, on its lowest setting, was excrutiating. Today it was just as bad.

I have my one window covered completely with layered curtains, and thumbtacks around the edges to keep them completely shut–the only light that enters my room is through the top of them, and I even have a towel over that. Just the few flecks of light that managed to escape through the top of the towel this morning were enough to make me roll back under the blankets in pain. I eventually got up and threw two more towels on it. After several hours in the dark, some ibuprofen, and some coffee, I am much better, hence the typing. According to my tags I’ve had this exact set of symptoms in April of last year (cough included!), and it was when I was (1) on Zithro (read as: Biaxin’s cousin) and (2) having one of my “these are strange symptoms what is going on” phases. So I’m going to assume this is Lyme or Mycoplasma, and just be glad I am on antibiotics to kill both of these beasts. :\ At my next LLMD appointment I want to start A-MYCO from Byron White formulas, too.

…And there we have it!

a rainbow at night

Guest blogger: “It is healthy to talk about what you are going through.”

I’m here to make another installment to my Life Lessons section, but this time, with the words of a very special guest blogger. And I don’t say very special because they are well-known, famous, or something like that. But they are, in my opinion, one of the most amazing people to exist. My dear friend–who has a birthday today, no less!–who has impacted my life in more ways than I could count, wrote this several days ago, and I thought it was way too important not to share (especially since they agreed to write something for you all sometime this year!).

I’m really tired of “not talking about your illness” equaling “being a stronger person.”  No.  It is healthy to talk about what you are going through. 

Illness is not something to be shoved away and ignored like it is dirty and shameful.  No.  Illness, disability, old age, and dying are a part of life.  It is natural.  It has been with us forever. 

Every single human being that has ever lived has dealt with it in some fashion.  Every single human being has died, or will die.  If they live long enough, those still among us will will watch a loved one die.  They will get older.  They will encounter disability in themselves or others.  They or somebody they love will get sick. 

For me, it would be unhealthy not to talk about something so inevitable and universal. 

I talk about my illness.  I am sure it makes some people uncomfortable and has driven some people away.  But it affects nearly all of my life right now, and I see no reason to pretend like it does not.

– the author of Black Cat Saturdays

 

No one should be made to feel like they have to deny a part of themselves or a crucial part of their life in order to win the affection and/or acceptance of another. As with anything in life, it’s all about balance. We have to find a middle ground between talking about what we are going through, honestly, and yet not being consumed by it. I know people on both extremes–those who never talk about it, and those who talk about absolutely nothing else. It is detrimental either way. The person who never talks about it–perhaps to keep people around, not make others uncomfortable, or stay in denial about their own circumstances–ends up feeling cheated, abandoned, and can lose self-respect. The person who talks about nothing else, forgets who they are entirely, and sees themselves only as “the person with such-and-such disease.”

But we are more than sick, or disabled, or terminally ill. We still exist, and we still have purpose and love to share. But in order to get to that place, we have to realize–and hopefully be accompanied by people who realize this, too–that we are also people who have to grieve in a healthy manner, who have to express ourselves as we go through this part of life, and it’s not our job to make sure everyone else stays comfortable while we do it.

As written above, we will all go through these things at some point. It’s just that we, who are already going through it, simply don’t have the time or extra energy to spend worrying about someone else’s opinion of how much we’re “allowed” to share before they feel inconvenienced…

a rainbow at night & black cat saturdays

I feel the need to share again: “The Silence of the Dying,” by the Sara Douglas.

“Pay attention to me, pay attention to how I got this, and how hard it is for me to get my health back, so you can avoid it.”

I was going to make a more drawn-out post explaining why I’m not participating in any of the awareness campaigns of May concerning my illnesses…but then I came upon the realization that I don’t owe anyone justification for my actions! Or wise inactions, as they were.

And I am comforted by the knowledge that many other people with these conditions are feeling the same way I am: For those who can advocate–and I do it at random, it does have its purpose, particularly in our government to let them know we’re still here–that is fine. If it gives you purpose and belonging, then do it. For others like myself, my entire life is an advocacy campaign. I don’t need a month. Or a day. I get 365 days, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, of “this is what this disease does.”

Pay attention to me, pay attention to how I got this, and how hard it is for me to get my health back, so you can avoid it. Know that I was just like you, once. Know that I didn’t think it could’ve happened to me, either. That’s the biggest advocacy I can do.

Talking about Lyme or M.E. every second of every day for a month (and nothing coming of it, because people who have their minds made up are NOT willing to hear anything else) is not going to help me at all. I am not my disease. I am not Lyme disease, or mycoplasma, or myalgic encephalomyelitis, or autonomic neuropathy, or dystonia.

They’re just things that have passed into my life to help shape and change it into something else. That’s all.

I’ve spent the past decade in advocacy-mode. I’ve done my part, I think. In my absence there will be others. I personally think people learn more if you’re not yelling at them in desperation. I’ve been blessed to help several people find out they had Lyme, for example, and it had nothing to do with advocacy. You can’t force the information on anyone–if they want to know, they will seek. And if they’re interested, I am here.

So instead of advocacy, myself and several, several others I know, are focusing on what makes us feel normal. Sure, our every waking moment may be imposed upon by symptoms and dysfunction, but that is not all we are. No matter how sick I’ve ever gotten, nor how sick I will ever be, there’s always more to me than an illness. This blog is my health diary, yes, that is the POINT of this journal, to track my symptoms and such, but I don’t want anyone to get the idea that it’s all that I am. I have friends and family and pets and hobbies and interests (often obscure ones) just like anyone else. And I am an artist. Not because the title makes me feel important, but because at my core, that’s how I express myself, it’s who I become when my physical limitations allow.

“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence.”

So yes, no posts about my conditions (though I did finish the “What is M.E.?” section a while back). It’s time to cultivate the parts of my life that inspire and enhance, what makes me feel human and normal, not advertise what makes my life a living hell for the other 90% of the day, mostly to people who already know what I go through, anyway. And I’m glad I’m not alone in thinking this.

I’ll leave you with this link: 60 Ways To Make Life Simple Again

a rainbow at night

Video: How Lyme Disease Changed My Relationship with Nature (Post Trauma Experience)

Sundays are usually busy days for my blog, so I wanted to post this so people would see it tomorrow, if they happened across my site. This video is not mine! But it helped me feel less alone, because my view of nature has drastically changed. (I can’t even get bit by a few fleas without contracting whatever the little beasts were harboring, much less ticks, which are so much more inconspicuous!)

I am so glad to know I’m not the only victim who feels this way. Normal people (wasn’t I that, once?) just don’t understand.

“I had no idea how easy it was to contract. And that it’s present everywhere. Trees, grass, dogs, people… Just about everywhere. So when I journey out into the world now, wherever there is nature, I have to be extremely careful. And I feel very conflicted, because the very thing that used to soothe me, and give me a place to go and get perspective on life, is now a place of danger. Oh, it always was, I just didn’t know it.

And when I go out, I observe people putting themselves at risk… But I can’t do anything about it.

Because if I say something, people think I’m loony. It’s just simply hard to believe, that you can get SO sick, by being in nature.”

Sometimes I wonder if people thought ticks carried cancer, if they’d be more cautious? Or if it was common knowledge that Lyme disease = Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis/ALS), Alzheimer’s, and disfiguring Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), just to name a few. :\ Chances are more likely than not you won’t ever be diagnosed with Lyme if you’re not looking, but you or someone you love will be diagnosed with one of those (or CFS, or Fibromyalgia), and then what?

Special thanks to LymeDisease.org, formerly CALDA, for sharing this on their Facebook page.

a rainbow at night

Remission from Fibromyalgia?

I don’t talk much about Fibromyalgia (FM) because it’s been so many years since I had it. A topic I read about even less, is the remission from this syndrome. But I still remember what it felt like and what it entailed, particularly before its supposed symptoms got muddied by research done on people who have innumerable other conditions, or co-morbid conditions.

I suppose I’ll start with an explaination of what is it/how it feels. Then I’ll explain what I did to help my own case, that eventually led to a remission.


Fibromyalgia is a a pain syndrome that is usually triggered by a stressful event, such as a car crash, surgery, accident, severe infection, or another illness worsening/starting; more or less, it’s the consequence of something else. The pain is primarily in the muscles, and the tendons that support the joints, lending to severe pain and joint stiffness, but without inflammation. The syndrome does not actually damage the joints or muscles–it just feels like it! There is an extreme sensitivity to pressure (allodynia). Things that would normally not hurt, such as getting a gentle hug, become extremely and lingeringly painful. The pain never stops, and is absolutely everywhere, all the time, but may focus more around the tender point locations necessary for diagnosis. Someone with FM will be hurting when they are sitting, standing, and lying down. Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) is very common, and a major contributor to headaches.

Sleep problems include an inability to fall asleep, but particularly staying asleep. Someone with FM may wake up every hour, all night long, without anything to help cure the root of the problem, which is the brain’s inability to conduct normal sleep waves. FM is thus also accompanied by a great degree of fatigue, that may or may not be managable. Cognitive problems are multiple and very prominent, including things like an almost complete lack of short term memory, working memory, any ability to recall the names of every day items, and silly things like placing the television remote in the freezer and the frozen peas on top the entertainment center. (Or pouring your milk in the trash and the tea down the sink… I may or may not be speaking from personal experience…)

Other symptoms include tingling and numbness of the extremities (your arms and legs), muscle spasms, cold sensitivity (someone with FM can always tell when the weather is about to change), and a high rate of restless legs syndrome. Stress is not the cause of fibromyalgia, but stress exacerbates any chronic disease, so proper management of stress is essential to keeping your pain, fatigue, and sleep problems as mild as possible.

Fibromyalgia is not an inflammatory disease. It is also not a progressive disease, though symptoms wax and wane over the course of several months, and can be disabling. If you are experiencing inflammation and/or illness progression, see another doctor for other illness possibilities besides fibromyalgia, which may only be a symptom of another, more serious disease process or underlying infection.


We know Fibromyalgia can disappear when it is associated with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. But what about otherwise? Does treating the main disease causing the FM, make the FM go away? That certain wasn’t the case when I fell ill; my FM stayed when the M.E. went into remission, and went away after I got Lyme disease! What makes this even more difficult to determine, is its consistent over-diagnosis. For instance, there are probably thousands of people who have been diagnosed with FM who actually have M.E., who just had the unfortunate circumstance of being diagnosed with FM first, and just stopped looking for other explanations. And nearly everyone I know with Lyme disease initially had a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Fibromyalgia (or both) before they found out the actual cause of their symptoms; I wish I were only exaggerating!

I’m not sure where I fit in with that group. Things happened to me in the reverse order that would otherwise “make sense.” But I will write about that next, in a post describing the differences between CFS, M.E., FM, and Lyme disease.

For right now, I want to talk a little about how I treated the syndrome, in case that might be of help to others. I don’t claim these to be the cure–I think it most likely remitted of its own natural accord–but they did help me immensely, and I could always, always tell when I was forgetting one of them. Maybe someone else will also find relief?

  1. Magnesium.

    You’ve probably read about this all over the internet, right? Sure you have. Well, it’s not just hype. I’m not going to pretend to know the mechanics behind why it helped, but daily supplementation with magnesium not only reduced my Migraine attacks (a condition I was born with) from twice a month to twice a year, but greatly reduced my muscle pain. I’ve read many an article overanalyzing the right “type” of magnesium to take for Fibromyalgia, but I can only tell you this: I bought the plain ole Magnesium oxide with chelated Zinc from Walmart and it worked without fail. One important thing to note before you dismiss this one: I’ve always had normal serum magnesium in blood tests. The amount in your blood is not an accurate way to determine the actual amount of magnesium in your body.

  2. Foam mattress topper

    This might should actually be number one… It’s that important. You have to understand that fibromyalgia is made worse by contact (in general, really, but especially) with the pressure points…which, if you’ve been diagnosed, you might know are practically everywhere. It should then be easy to grasp why relieving this pressure whilst sleeping is absolutely essential to easing your symptoms, especially when you’re pressing on them for eight hours at once. Invest in this, no matter what. You will not regret it. I couldn’t sleep on something that didn’t have my two inches of bed foam for even one night. When I would try to visit friends and family and sleep there, I would wake up after a couple of hours in excrutiating pain, from the pressure on these tender points. Sleeping better will also help your cognitive abilities (memory and mental functions) improve.

    • Also, for TMJ-related pain and/or head pressure, invest in an amazing pillow. You deserve it, and you need it! It’s all about support and relieving pressure on a body that interprets pressure as pain. I’ve personally been using Simmons Latex Foam Pillow (I cannot stand memory foam) and mine lasted 7 years before needing replacement–you will get your money’s worth!
  3. Protein.

    You know what honestly made me start increasing my amount of protein? It was back in the day when Montel Williams still had Sylvia Browne (a world reknown psychic) on his show on Wednesdays. Every time someone mentioned having fibromyalgia (which was largely unheard of back then), she’d tell them to eat more protein (and less sugar). I figured, it couldn’t hurt me one bit to try it, so I did. And I’ve been doing it ever since. (I’m not vouching for her abilities or inabilities one way or the other, but that information helped me. I now also know that people with infections requires 50% more protein in their diet than those without, so that’s another reason for me to continue.) I made a pact with myself to get an adequate source of protein every single day for two weeks to see if it made a difference. Obviously, it did! For me, it was chicken, and luckily there are hundreds of ways to prepare it so I didn’t get bored. For vegetarians it might be soy, or something similarly protein-rich that contains all essential amino acids, but I noticed I had more energy and was not as weak. I highly recommend you try the same test.

    • We all know too much sugar is bad for us. I switched to honey instead of sugar in my coffee, and cut down on my intake of white-flour, empty-calorie foods (which admittedly wasn’t very difficult since I didn’t eat a lot of that stuff to begin with). Honey is structurally different than sugar, containing mostly fructose and glucose (instead of sucrose), so your body can use more of its properties for energy instead of donating it to your fat reserves. =)
  4. Aloe vera.

    If I had a dime for every person who told me “thank you” for telling them about this one! Fibromyalgia is, without fail, associated with some degree of irritable bowel syndrome; if ever a case existed without IBS, I’ve never heard of it. This stuff will help if your digestion is too slow or too fast (and most IBS sufferers cycle in-and-out throughout, sometimes, even the same day). I’ve had people tell me they’ve even been able to start eating foods they previously couldn’t touch! Hopefully, if you try this, you’ll have the same reaction?

    Puritan’s Pride recently changed their aloe vera gel capsules, and I’ve noticed that even though the strength hasn’t changed, I now need two of these daily to give me the same effect as one of their old-model capsules. :\ But I’ve been taking one (well now, two) a day for at least eight years. It has many other health benefits, but mostly, it’s to protect the intestinal tract and help keep things from acting out, whether one extreme or the other. Note that it’s very important to consume the inner aloe vera leaf gel, not just the ground leaf, like you may also find if you’re searching for an aloe vera product. People have also told me they get relief from drinking it, but the gel capsules are much simpler, if you ask me.

  5. Flexeril.

    This is one of the first things your doctor used to give you for Fibromyalgia before Lyrica came around. It’s a muscle relaxant that some say is similar to tricyclic antidepressants (but you’re not taking it to cure some delusional illness belief), while others say it’s more similar to cyproheptadine (which is typically an allergy medication that has an extensive list of other uses)… My vote is on the latter, because I’m extremely sensitive to it, like I am to cyproheptadine. The point is this: People with fibromyalgia do not enter the restorative stage of sleep as often as healthy people, so whenever you do, you have to make it count.

    Flexeril (and other similar drugs, but this is the one usually handed out) makes it to where your muscles relax during those rare restorative sleep stages, allowing your body to heal more than if you hadn’t taken anything. The difference is noticable, particular when you’re in one of those “waking up every hour” phases that leave you a zombie during the day, and contributes substantially to the “fibro fog” part of the illness. You may not be able to keep from awakening fifty times a night, but at least you’ll get the most out of whatever sleep you do get. Now, I eventually had to switch to Robaxin (methocarbamol, another muscle relaxant) because I couldn’t tolerate the sedative effect of Flexeril, but just be sure to try something.

  6. Exercise daily.

    If you’ve made it this far down the list, I hope you’ll stick with me through this section! I cannot stress enough (1) how much exercise is essential for fibromyalgia, nor (2) how difficult it is to get started. Second to no other treatment does it improve fatigue and stamina, and only second to the mattress topper did it improve my pain (i.e., it helped a lot). I could always feel my symptoms worsen when I hadn’t exercised for a day or two. The type of exercise I’m talking about is, for all intents and purposes, graded exercise therapy. This is the type of exercise that studies claim helps chronic fatigue syndrome, but don’t mistake this for being a treatment for M.E., which again, is not the same as CFS. I absolutely could not exercise until my M.E. began to go into remission. Only then was I able to very slowly start doing exercise, gradually adding on more and more activity.

    The first goal is to have fifteen minutes of activity a day. At first, I could only walk laps around my house in five increments of three minutes each, spread out across the day. Next, I moved on to three increments of five minutes each (i.e., more activity at once). Also, every morning I would sit up, and very slowly rotate all of my joints, to fight the terrible morning stiffness; it was practically the only way I could move, particularly during the colder months. Then I started adding in the gentle stretching, using a similar method: First, five minutes a day of very slow, gentle stretching, only as far as my muscles could go, and eventually I was able to stretch for a full fifteen minute routine at once, with some music to make it more enjoyable.

    Do not try to do it all at once at first, nor force yourself to stretch like a “normal” person would–you are not normal! Even with this graded approach, it was still unbelievably painful, and followed the next day by a huge increase in pain. But with fibromyalgia, you don’t stop just because it hurts the next day; you cannot, or you will lose whatever progress your body has accomplished. The first two weeks were absolute hell. I was exhausted and beyond sore the next day, and moreso the day after that, and so forth, until “the pain stage” (as I not-so-affectionately call it) finally passed. Then I started to reap the benefits of my very hard labor, and noticed that my symptoms were actually worse if I didn’t exercise. (Only someone with FM can understand how mind-numbingly painful it is just to try and stretch for five minutes at a time!)

    Important: This is the exact opposite of treating myalgic encephalomyelitis, and in my opinion, the biggest proof that M.E., CFS, and FM are not the same thing. If your muscles become inconsolably weak and begin to fail the next day, and worser still every additional day to the point that they may even literally stop working, you have more going on than “just” Fibromyalgia. Additional exercise will causes illness progression in M.E., so STOP. (Also possible, if not M.E., is that you may have Lyme disease and/or Babesiosis, chronic viral infection, hyperthyroidism, et cetera; i.e. other illnesses that cause muscle weakness in response to exercise, with no eventual benefit.) But this is NOT the same as experiencing more pain or fatigue like you would with Fibromyalgia, because let me be the first to state the obvious: You are going to hurt, and be exhausted, and not want to continue. But I can also tell you on behalf of myself and everyone else who’s ever successfully initiated an exercise routine with Fibromyalgia: It will help you.

Am I cured forever? Maybe. I have days where something strange will happen–a herx from my medicine, a day of severe stress, a storm passing through–where I will get a rush of pain that feels just like fibromyalgia, and leads me to think the mechanisms behind it may not actually be gone as much as they’re just not currently active. But I no longer suffer from its trademark symptoms. Even the type of cognitive problems I experience now, with the M.E. and Lyme disease, are different than that which accompanied the Fibromyalgia. And I no longer have chronic pain in all of my muscles and tendons, irritable bowel syndrome, or trouble waking up 10-20 times per night.

And I thank God for that, because if I had to deal with that terrible illness on top of the severe disease I already battle, I don’t know what my life would be like, or if I’d even still have one. I can only keep hoping that it never gets re-triggered, especially since there is practically no information out there about the reoccurence of FM in myalgic encephalomyelitis… I have the feeling though, that with all I’ve been through the past five years, if it were going to reappear, wouldn’t it have already done so?

a rainbow at night

Joint pain!!!

Wow! So I started getting joint pain about two days ago, I think. At first it was very mild, then yesterday it kicked it up a notch.

When I first started Doxy in 2009, I had a severe bout of joint pain that lasted two days, and I think the same thing happend with Rifampin, so I’m HOPING this is just a herx reaction from the Bactrim and not the Lyme trying to invade my joints while it has the chance. It did this a few random night while at the hotel, as well, now that I recall…

It feels exactly–exactly–like when I was in university, two months after sustaining the tick bite, and woke up with so much pain in my left knee I could not move it. It feels like someone is trying to snap my knees in half, and not like anything I’ve ever felt; not even the tendon pain from when I had fibromyalgia equates to this. Last night it was both knees, and my right elbow. I thought I might start hyperventilating from the pain when I (perhaps stupidly) tried to roll over…! Oh my goodness!

When I awoke this morning, it was completely gone. Or at least I thought it was… Yesterday I awoke with knee pain and elbow pain, then today, upon moving around, found out it just traveled, so now it’s in my feet and my shoulders, instead. Still, it only gets to “feels like it’s breaking” level when I sleep.

I took a nap this afternoon–something that always makes me feel worse–and when I awoke, it was trying to happen again. I could feel the inflammation and warmth; I took ibuprofen and it’s tolerable, now.

Oh Lyme, you are a funny spirochete… Get out!

I never get joint pain. In having this blog for a year now, I still don’t have a tag for it! Now I do.

I have the deepest sympathy for those who deal with this symptom every day–I think I’d rather have one of my killer headaches!

 

a rainbow at night

July IGeneX results.

So a few weeks ago my IGeneX results returned to me.

  1. My Lyme test is more positive. This is actually good, believe it or not! As you improve and your immune system is less burdened, you get more positive results. I now have bands 31, 34, 39–the most Lyme-specific of all, 41, and 58. I’ve never had band 58 before, and I’m not happy about it because this means the bacteria are now resistant to my fever response. This might explain why I don’t even get fevers during my Lyme flares, anymore. (See, this is your proof that they evolve.) And my band 41 now has THREE stars next to it… I didn’t even know you could get three stars! I.e., a very very positive band! I applaud my immune system for its abundance of “+” marks, whereas I’m usually only capable of “IND” bands, the very weakest positive response.
  2. NO Anaplasmosis. Also good! (Tested via IFA.)
  3. NO Babesiosis. VERY good! (Tested via IFA and FISH.)
  4. Possible exposure to either Erlichiosis (HME) or (and most likely) Rickettsia. I’m thinking Rickettsia felis–aka flea-borne spotted fever–is the most probable suspect, given my history of hundreds of catflea bites and the fact that I had a changing spotted rash on my feet for two years afterward. Good news is, Rifampin can treat it, which I’m already on, so. My results are technically showing exposure to E. chaffeensis, but it says on the paper it can cross-react with at least four other types of bugs, including all Rickettsia species.
  5. I FINALLY SHOW EXPOSURE TO BARTONELLA. So take THAT, fifteen other insensitive tests from Quest and Labcorp that said I never had it!!!

Both the Erlichliosis/Rickettsia and Bartonella tests were in the middle category of either resolving or active infection, depending upon your levels and symptoms. My bartonella score was basically borderline positive, but both results came from my IgG, i.e., where I have my immunodeficiency (PIDD, and the reason most of my tests don’t show positive). Which means, if I weren’t immunodeficient and had normal levels of Immunoglobulin G, the scores would have been higher, possibly high enough to surpass the “bordeline” category. Or at least, my bartonella result would be. Regardless of anything, I do have the bacteria antibodies. I am fighting it.

If I don’t have the Rickettsia…well I just HOPE I have/had that one instead of the Ehrlichiosis! It must be the easiest to treat, because I no longer have the spots on my feet and the IgG for it was the lowest it could have been without being negative: Anything below 40 is negative, and I got.. a 40. Accommodating for my PIDD, and it’d probably be slightly higher, but this is nothing to worry about, I don’t think. With no obvious symptoms and such low levels this is most likely in the “resolving infection” category rather than “active infection” (in contrast to the bartonella whose titers are much higher and symptoms still active). Perhaps it is also low because of the cross-reaction factor? I was tested for E. chaffeensis, so if I tested specifically for Rickettsia antibodies, would it be slightly higher? Who knows.

But mainly I am so, so elated that we finally have something that says, Look, the bartonella is here, in contrast to the.. dozen or so other tests I’ve had in the past two years that said I never had it. Pfft! (Only in the chronic illness circle are you happy when tests show something is wrong.) I wish I would have gotten tested for this via IGeneX, sooner! These are my results after six months of Rifampin and Zithro–I only wonder what they’d have been in the beginning!

And by the way. The bartonella species I tested positive for was B. henselae–the cat scratch disease variety! I wasn’t even tested for B. quintana, the type that does the classic five-day fever cycle like I have… So, based upon my symptoms and flare cycle, there’s a high chance that I actually do have them both like I feared last year. (Cat fleas can carry up to five different species of bartonella.) Speaking of that, if I’m correct, B. henselae follows more of a seven day cycle, or at least a less-defined flare cycle than the B. quintana strain… So there: Maybe the bartonella seriously is the reason my Saturdays are so “inexplicably” and yet, reliably, messed up recently…!

As far as how I feel about the results… In a sense, I’m a little relieved to find out that I’ve had two strains of bartonella, and one other resolving (most likely but unconfirmed) Rickettsial infection. It helps me better understand why I became so unimaginably ill within such a short time frame.

I’ve always thought, How on earth can two infections at once bring me down that quickly, even if I did have M.E…. But basically (already having the Lyme for two years, albeit unknowingly) within a matter of two months, I got four infections at once: The bartonella and rickettsia strains from hundreds of catflea bites, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae from the children of a family that came to stay at my house during a bad storm. It makes me think that, even though I was already steadily going downhill with the undiagnosed Lyme disease, at least it did take more than two additional bugs to bring me to almost completely bedridden within eight months.

This is also proof that a negative test means nothing. People need to realize this fact, above all else. We do not have adequate testing–your levels have to be very obvious and you need to have a functioning immune system in order for the routine tests to work. Those are the conditions they were designed to work under, and even then, the CDC admits their inaccuracies are very high. There is a REASON Lyme disease is the fastest spreading infectious disease in the United States.

If you’ve ever been diagnosed with MS, ALS, Parkinsons, RA, Lupus, CFS, or Fibromyalgia, please find an LLMD–Lyme Literate Medical Physican, the people who risk their lives to stand up to the infectious disease society and treat people who are dying–or someone else who completely undestands how common these tickborne (and fleaborne!) infections are becoming. Yes, all of those aforementioned illnesses can exist on their own, but far too many doctors unknowingly use them as catch-all categories due to their ignorance of infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and Mycoplasma. And even if you have M.E., you still need to be tested, because we are suspectible to infections that most people don’t even have to think about. (You’d be well off reading a pamphlet on having HIV, and how to avoid things–like kittens!–that are considered high risk for the immunocompromised.) Lyme can also cause false positives on autoimmune tests (such as ANA and ESR), so even having “confirmation” such as that is no merit to say you’re safe. Everyone owes it to themselves to make sure they don’t have a treatable infection like this; especially when it can and does lead to death if not treated.

a rainbow at night

Why I think the new Myalgic Encephalomyelitis International Consensus Criteria are not much better.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted with my IGeneX results, yet. But right now I feel like talking about the new International Consensus Criteria for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. And no, I’m not one of those people who tries to find something wrong with everything. I just wanted one thing, and I didn’t find it…

First, none of this will make sense if you don’t understand this fact: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.) are two distinct entities. If you look to the right of my blog, you’ll find this, which I’ll repost:

CDC agrees that M.E. is not the same as CFS:
“Various terms are often used interchangeably with CFS. CFS is the preferred term because it has an internationally accepted case definition that is used in research and clinical settings.

The name chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) was introduced soon after CFS was defined; there is no case definition for CFIDS, and the name implies an understanding about the pathophysiology of CFS that does not currently exist.

Chronic active Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection (chronic mononucleosis) was thought to be the cause of CFS during the 1980s, and this association is now known to be rare.

However, post-infection fatigue syndromes have been associated with EBV and other infectious agents. The name myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) was coined in the 1950s to clarify well-documented outbreaks of disease; however, ME is accompanied by neurologic and muscular signs and has a case definition distinct from that of CFS.” — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), US

This brings us two points:

  1. CFS has an internationally accepted case definition. This definition is based upon the symptom of fatigue without a known cause. All other neuroimmune symptoms are secondary and non-essential for diagnosis. So, if you have unexplained fatigue with sore throat and lymph nodes, headache, and post-exertional exhaustion, while another person has unexplained fatigue with poor sleep and memory, with muscle and joint pain, you both have the same illness as far as “CFS” is concerned, despite fatigue being the only thing you have in common.
  2. Myalgic encephalomyelitis also has a distinct case definition, accompanied by neurologic and muscular signs. The best definition for M.E. is Ramsay’s definition of 1986, which describes the key feature being “muscle fatigability, whereby, even after a minor degree of physical effort, three, four or five days, or longer elapse before full muscle power is restored and constitutes the sheet anchor of diagnosis.” He goes on to write, “Without it, I would be unwilling to diagnose a patient as suffering from ME, but it is most important to stress the fact that cases of ME of mild or even moderate severity may have normal muscle power in a remission. In such cases, tests for muscle power should be repeated after exercise.” [A. Melvin Ramsay, M.A., M.D. Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Postviral Fatigue States: The saga of Royal Free disease (London, 1st ed. 1986, 2nd ed. 1988).]

After several outbreaks of what was undoubtedly M.E., the CDC did a mediocre investigation (if you can call sending one person to collect a few blood samples then announcing “mass hysteria” an investigation) and invented this “new” syndrome of chronic fatigue. Over the past 30 years, it’s become a catch-all group for anyone suffering from fatigue for which no cause can be found, which includes anyone with undiagnosed cancer, hypothyroidism, depression, Lyme disease, myalgic encephalomyelitis, and various other physical and psychiatric disorders that have fatigue as a symptom. The only thing any of these people have in common, is that they are tired, and are very sick; some of them are dying due to misdiagnosis. In the most recent paper (which I’ll source a few paragraphs down), this is written:

“In a study of the Reeves empirical criteria [for CFS], Jason et al reported that 38% of patients diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder were misclassified as having CFS and only 10% of patients identified as having CFS actually had ME.

Needless to say, it’s a very, very poor category to fall into when you’re sick and trying to cling to life. I’ll leave the conspiracy theories out of this, though nearly everyone has an opinion about how it came to happen that a deadly neuroimmune disease got classified as the same thing as a syndrome with “general unwellness and fatigue” as the main symptom. Ultimately, several “specialists” went into a room and decided upon the name of CFS for all the “new, unexplained” outbreaks (which they really did think was mass hysteria) even when knowing-virologists walked out, refusing to take part in classifying a viral-induced illness that was killing people as a “fatigue syndrome.” There’s much debate over if other pathogens can trigger M.E., but it usually has viral onset, and is contagious in the beginning stages. If you wish to know more, please see the links on the right of this blog.

Now, the real specialists we admire (no sarcasm there) have nearly succeeded in making a new, international definition for M.E…. You’d think I’d be happy (and I almost am), but they’ve completely left out the MAIN SYMPTOM, which is an abnormally delayed muscle recovery after doing trivial things.  The core symptom of M.E. is in the muscles. How is this new international definition any better, if this main symptom is not the focus?

If you ask me, people with chronic Lyme disease are still going to be misdiagnosed with this new definition, which still focuses on “physical and/or cognitive fatiguability in response to exertion.” It includes “neuroimmune exhaustion,” now, but did you know that Lyme disease also causes an immune system activation 24-48 hours after activity (Diagnostic Hints and Treatment Guidelines for Lyme and Other Tick Borne Illnesses, Joseph J. Burrascano Jr, MD. September 2008.)? I’d imagine other chronic infections can do this, too. In the new paper, they source the recent CFS study about spinal proteins which claims to distinguish CFS patients from “Post-treatment Lyme disease,” but the fact that they are even mentioning the phrase “Post-treatment Lyme disease” is horrifying, as such a category doesn’t exist: Ongoing infection (which has been proven) is the cause of so-called “post treatment” Lyme symptoms, and to not acknowledge this shows a huge misunderstanding on their part, which will be greatly detrimental to their efforts. You cannot afford to not understand something which shares so many symptoms with the disease you are studying, and also, how can you possibly quote a study that uses the same flawed definition of CFS you’re trying to protest, as a support for your paper?! That is a circular argument, and just.. completely unsound!!

Thanks to a link at THE NICEGUIDELINES BLOG, I’ve been able to view the full paper that was ultimately published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. I recommend you visit there and read the paper for yourself, but here is the proposed new definition, via photo:

All of that said, I really do think this new definition is a huge step in the right direction. We’ve all been begging for a new definition for years. I’m a big fan of the Nightingale definition, but it’s not commonly used. I believe the Canadian Consensus Criteria were developed in 2002? It’s been almost a decade since we’ve seen any new definition, and if it had to be anything, I’d surely choose this one over the mockery of “CFS/ME” definitions that exist in other countries, and “CFS” definition we have here in the United States. It will help eliminate some of the other misdiagnoses, especially of psychiatric origin. If THIS becomes the new “CFS,” it will make sense to use terms like “CFS/ME” and “ME/CFS,” which, as of right now, as I’ve said many times before, make as much sense as saying “lung cancer/chronic cough” or “AIDS/chronic sinus infections.” In other words, none at all, and it’s extremely offensive to those who have it.

And at least the definition does focus more on the rapid loss of energy that occurs, physically, which does include the muscles… I just highly, highly dislike the “and/or cognitive fatiguability” part, which means you can still be included even if your muscles aren’t the part that’s weakened. Your brain isn’t going to be paralyzed; your muscles can and will, with continued use, if you have M.E., and that’s a major part of the diagnosis that needs to be considered, as Dr. Ramsay said back in 1986 before he died. I have a family member who becomes extremely mentally fatigued as the evening wears on, and would qualify as having M.E. (or this new term of “atypical M.E.”) if someone used these new international criteria–yet they in no way qualify as having the same disease I have. So I definitely see where this will be a problem in the future… But at least it’s a step, right? Comments are welcome.

a rainbow at night

Things are going good.

I haven’t been updating! Let’s fix that.

The 300mg daily dose of Rifampin is MUCH easier on me. I read somewhere (i.e., don’t quote me) that Rifampin strengthens the power of other antibiotics… So maybe that’s why I can handle the 600mg until anything is added to it? Regardless, I’m still herxing (some days the fatigue is fall-out-of-your-wheelchair unbearable!), but I’m not deathly ill or thinking I might need to run to the hospital once-a-week, like before.

Since that last migraine I haven’t had another, or even near another. For a while I thought the Topamax was causing me to wake up 4-5 times per night (though I still dream/reach REM-stage sleep, so this isn’t like Fibromyalgia), so I started taking it in the mornings. It still happened, so I think I’ve ruled that out. I’m still waking up several times a night, though. My experience with Topamax has been:

  • 1st week – Still lots of Migraines
  • 2nd week – Migraine “bursts” and auras
  • 3rd week – No more Migraines

Except when I introduce a trigger, of course. I like this medicine!

Yesterday was pretty bad as far as mental symptoms go, and it started the night before. I was very cynical and just generally.. foul. I kept distracted and didn’t ruin any relationships this time, aha. Last night my mentality became better and it still is as of today.

About two nights ago I woke up having a lot of trouble breathing. It was difficult to initiate swallowing again, I was short of breath, my tongue was numb, and my limbs were tingling and numb. That was about it, and it went on for about two hours… I wasn’t too unnerved, because I stupidly (yes, stupidly) ate a small meal right before I went to bed! Gah! But it was unusual, because for the past several days prior, I hadn’t had any dysautonomia problems. I’ve been splitting up my meals and eating them in small portions as to not divert too much blood flow, and up until then, it had been working.

Then this morning… I’ve woken up with slighly dropping left face, a numb & tingling left hand, and a numb & tingling left foot. I am incredibly dizzy. I’ve been awake an hour and a half and none of it has let up any. I assume I’m digesting something or another, because my right side is also experiencing numbness, but it’s not as constant as my left side. I actually fell over this morning (onto my bed, thank God!) because I couldn’t feel the toes on my left foot! Hopefully this will let up once the digestion stops…

Ah well. Time for the good news! Despite this being a usual Lyme flare period, my symptoms aren’t severe at all! No heat sensations in my left foot, and I haven’t even had the usual heart palpitations that occur! I did have upper spine pain, and a mildly severe headache (haha, and by “mildy severe” I mean a short burst of terrible pain that went away after about twenty minutes), but.. for the most part, things are lessened. (My bartonella flares have been milder, too, which is why yesterday’s snuck up on me. Normal 99.2 temp. I was also coughing a lot yesterday? Not sure if that’s signifcant. My feet started hurting the night the mental stuff began.) The only problem here, is that if I’m not having any arrhythmia, the holter moniter will have nothing to show! Ahaha. Oh, the irony. So I’m ditching my calcium and magnesium for the next five days in case it might help spark something; I’ll start it again before things get risky. I just hate the idea of wearing this thing for two weeks and it NOT showing anything!

Other good things are, I’m out of my wheelchair a lot more! I can usually go get the minor things I need, such as bottles of water or Ensure drinks, except for when.. you know, I can’t. And I still haven’t needed any oxygen supplementation. And after seeing my allergist/immunologist I found, I still have no allergies! Not a one! =) Part of me wonders how on earth I’ve avoided that… But nonetheless, I have, and it’s great. I was very short of breath in her office, and my toes turned blue (soon to be feet, if I hadn’t caught it), but propping them up on the exam table helped that, and my breathing, haha. Also, I’m able to type more now, but of course still experience the delayed muscle relapse. Baby steps!

 

a rainbow at night

Checking for B12

I meant to post this yesterday:

Headaches headaches headaches. I don’t know how people deal with these with only Tylenol and the like… They’re terrible. My neck also hurts. Well, hurt. It was spasming as well, but I’m comfortable now.

I had another “episode” earlier that went away after nature called… What an odd problem I have to explain to this new neurologist, hmm? And about whether to mark the CFS box on the forms, I decided… I’d leave it blank! Ha! I did mention the history of fibromyalgia and wrote on the side that it “went away.”

Oh! And at some point today a friend had me explaining various types of anemia, which brought up the topic of pernicious anemia… Which made me think of a long time ago, my B12 levels were randomly low. Subsequent testing showed them to be normal again, but with all the problems I’ve had lately (especially with nutrient absorbtion, if my calcium and potassium levels are anything to go by), I feel it’d be a good idea to get them retested, since B12 deficiency would definitely contribute to a lot of my problems. Anything to make this go easier, I’ll take it! My mother was B12 deficient for years, even, so I might have an increased risk of it.

Otherwise, great news! My calcium levels are back up, my potassium is back up, I’m no longer anemic, my lymphocytes are back down, (my eosinophils are higher but that’s to be expected right now), and my liver function is back to normal! These are all great things, particularly the latter because it means I don’t require any extended breaks from the antibiotics.

But I forgot to actually post! The first part of today has been very rough. A lot of numbness and tingling in my extremities, feeling very internally weak and generally.. well, weak. My face and tongue began to go numb when I began digesting, as “usual.” (I really hope this bizarre phenomenon is temporary!) I did have vinegar by accident today (I forgot…) but no migraines yet. Last night sleeping was difficult because I kept waking up interchangeably freezing and burning up. But you know, in general, I can feel improvement. I haven’t needed my oxygen since February, even! That’s an entire month without it! I might be able to give it back if I can get through another month oxygen-free! :D And I’ve been walking around a lot more! This evening I’m feeling a bit better, but I usually start to come around by nightfall.

I’ve recorded at least four events on the holter monitor that was set up on Friday evening. With my next Lyme flare approaching fairly soon (the end of the last one was around the 21-22nd), I should get lots of chances to document these abnormal cardiac events. The ones that will go away with treatment like they did last time…but at least they’ll be documented?

a rainbow at night