IVIG Can Help Eradicate Bartonella Infection: My Success Thus Far.

[estimated reading time: 5 minutes 12 seconds] © a rainbow at night
After almost seven years with this infection, I think the bartonella may be gone for good.

If you recall from this previous post, I talked about how my health was either about to nosedive, or finally overthrow this infection thanks to the millions of antibodies I now get infused into my body every four weeks (certainly many of which are bartonella antibodies, since this bacteria is so common)… Guess which one happened? Continue reading “IVIG Can Help Eradicate Bartonella Infection: My Success Thus Far.”

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The Killer in the Crowd

♪ “Who is the betrayer, who’s the killer in the crowd?
The one who creeps in corridors and doesn’t make a sound.” ♫

Something I never considered the IVIG might do was the one thing I’ve diligently avoided doing at all costs for the past two years: Wake my immune system from its compromised state of complacence. Because that, in turn, as has happened every single time over the past six years, would reactivate my latent bartonella infections.

But that’s exactly what it did.

Some of you may not remember my ordeal with this infection unless you’ve somehow been following my blog since the beginning, but this short post from January 2012 might help a little.

I realized a year later that my symptoms were re-emerging and my bloodwork showed increasing signs. From then on I did everything I could to not stimulate my immune system, especially avoiding antibiotics at all costs (i.e., in the event I caught something extra; because as we know this entire treatment-failure conundrum was caused by me being unable to tolerate antibiotics to treat the Lyme, bartonella, mycoplasma, etc.). Because of this, and thankfully so, it remained somewhat latent in contrast to how quickly it spread the first few times it was active. From past experience, I’d seen that activating my immune system in any way triggered it to attempt fighting infections wherever they existed, despite my immune system not having everything it needs to actually fight, or even being able to use what it does have, efficiently. I’d found out the hard way that to reactivate bartonella was to initiate my imminent decline: The first time this happened, I was bedbound within eight months; the next, within just four.

Well. All the symptoms that have occurred periodically since the bartonella relapsed, are once again emerging VERY reliably every 5-6 days (usually five, as is part of the reason bartonella “quintana” got its name). There are the frontal headaches; the unusual rashes and bumps on my feet, ankles, lower legs, and hands/fingers; the foot pain; the shin pain; chest pain; more arrhythmia; more anemia; the volatile moods that occur the worst on that 5th day, leading to rapid cycling between hopelessness, suicidal ideation, rage, paranoia, and anything else you can imagine, before fading as quickly as it arrived; the worse “brain fog” and neurological dysfunction; low-grade fevers; excruciating fatigue; worse dehydration… Unsurprisingly, its pattern started five days after my first infusion in October, and has continued ever since.

A part of me just cannot believe this is happening again. The other part of me has not experienced something so dangerous since practicing Buddhism, and is able to be objective enough to find it fascinating how a body reacts to infection.

The worst flares–the ones that scare me–happen right before my infusions, when my immunoglobulin levels are at their lowest. I get IVIG every four weeks, but at my current dose the effects only last three weeks… So the fourth week, my system has fallen back to its usual, immunodeficient state, which means I am at mercy of a potentially-fatal infection with little to give it pause.

I discussed this with my immunologist today and he has upped my dose. We’ll see with my next infusion if this new dose will last long enough to stretch the entire four weeks, but if not, we’ll try every three weeks. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll have to do it subcutaneously every week just to stay stable. :\ (I hope not; I don’t know if I could handle that, mentally.)

I felt so horrible the morning of my last infusion, I thought I might more likely end up in the emergency room than their office, and wasn’t even sure if I should go. But within two minutes of praying for guidance, my doctor’s office called me and told me to come in, come in immediately. So I did, and by that evening I was a different person. For one, I was hydrated, but I also no longer felt like I was being mauled by a bear from the inside out. The flare completely stopped.

For the first time in over two years, I feel like I have a chance to slow these diseases’ progressions. And after seeing how my body can now fight back after receiving an infusion containing the parts of my immune system I’ve never adequately been able to create on my own, I have hope that maybe I can be like everyone else who gets a bartonella infection, and just kill it off before it kills me. This can really only go one of two ways.

If I can continue getting IVIG reliably then maybe several months from now my new-and-improved immune system, thanks to literally thousands, upon thousands, upon thousands of donors, can finally overthrow bartonella (and maybe the other, less-rapidly-progressive bugs?), and I’ll never have to worry about it again. That’d be nice… Really nice. But if not, I know this is still my path.

I regret nothing.

a rainbow at night

My Tonsil Got Me Potentially-Life-Altering IVIG Therapy.

And here’s how.

Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) is a human blood product produced by filtering the antibodies out of thousands of plasma donations–usually over 10,000 per dose–and supplying them intravenously for the treatment of immunodeficiency, immune-mediated neurological disease, and dozens of other serious illnesses.


I guess the story starts several months ago, when I began contemplating seeing my immunologist again to have my immune function retested. Not that long after, I began getting spots on my tonsils, which, after having some lymph node pain in my neck with ear pain, I figured was the result of an ear infection trying to push its way through; the tonsils are lymph nodes, after all.

After my ear improved with tea tree oil drops for three days, the tonsil spots proceeded to go away…and then come back worse. There I was thinking my immune system had won against something, but no! Accompanying this, my neck and face felt like they were on fire, and I had stabbing lymph node pain from my face to my right arm all day. It seemed to irritate the previous nerve damage in my face. (And mind you, I’m already on ibuprofen and percocet daily–the pain was going through them.) I wondered if I hadn’t gotten some type of stubborn virus, began to worry, and decided I needed to make that appointment because I couldn’t handle this one on my own anymore. And getting that appointment went something like this:

Mentally pair my current problem with having wanted to get my immune system checked, anyway.

Decide that’s perfect, I can do two in one; have a great feeling about that.

Call to make an appointment and find out my usual immunologist left, so made appointment with new woman in the office. Suddenly start to feel uneasy that I made that decision while distracted by two people in my car.

Call back to inquire about which immunologist in that office likes complicated cases, because I am one. Receptionist says she doesn’t know, but the one I just made an appointment with was available more (in town more often), so that might be something I could consider; I say okay and hang up.

Still feel uneasy and have nagging intuition that I should call back AGAIN and take the cancellation they’d offered for The Other doctor, even though it was two days later than the one I’d just made and I was really hurting.

Try to find an explanation for this intuition (because I just like to have explanation for things, if I can); begin doing research. Find out the Other Doctor loves complicated cases, AND he has thirty years experience, AND he’s the same doctor I saw twelve years ago at the onset of the M.E. (who helped me even without realizing it by giving me a steroid to slow down the initial inflammation).

Immediately called back for a third time that day to take the cancellation/the appointment with this Other Doctor.

Finally feel at ease.

I felt utterly ridiculous calling back so many times to change appointment dates and doctors, but: Intuition over feeling silly for a few seconds. The strange thing was that when I called to change the appointment–which I’d scheduled with the reason of having tonsil trouble and needing to recheck my immune system function–they asked me, “and you’re beginning IVIG?” I said, “…No? No one has ever offered me that!” and she said, “Hmm, that’s weird! Someone wrote down that you were starting it!” Hmmm…

I’d almost canceled my appointment before ever going to see him (“Other Doctor”), because between making the appointment while in severe pain and the days before the appointment actually arrived, my herbal rinse helped my tonsil to the point of there being no spots left. “Luckily” I didn’t cancel. (By the time I arrived, he actually said it was fine!)

Long story short, my current doctor, the “Other Doctor,” who shall henceforth be referred to as My Immunologist, is wonderful. He doesn’t know fully what myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E.) is, but understands that it inflames my brain and causes progressive muscle weakness. He was knowledgeable that once you get certain infections there’s a possibility of them going chronic, so we didn’t have to argue over that. And for some reason, in his chart as well, was written that I was there to start IVIG! I told him the same thing I told the receptionist, that I’d never mentioned IVIG to anyone, and no one had ever offered it to me. (If you’re not aware, there’s only a certain supply of IVIG, it’s extremely expensive, and they don’t just give it to anyone.) And so, staring at my page-long medical history, and at a loss of how to help me, he offered it to me!

Thus, because of this tonsil and the other dozen quirky things that got me to that appointment at that time with that doctor, I have now gone through the system and gotten approved for immunoglobulin replacement therapy with the help of test results showing that my immune system is still.. well, my immune system, and both doesn’t have enough of things or produce adequate antibodies, and am starting my first infusion tomorrow, Monday, October 6th, at 9am at an infusion center. 

This will do either one of two things: Help me, or affirmatively rule out that this is never going to be one of my options so I can finally lay it to rest. But I’m obviously banking on it helping!

Of course, my tonsil has done what it’s been doing for literally months now, and the spots have returned and even popped up on both sides of my mouth. We’ve at least ruled out strep, though. He immediately called me in an appointment to the local office to do a culture with his associate, the lady doctor, upon hearing the spots abruptly came back over the weekend after the appointment, and spread. Neither one of them is sure why this is suddenly happening, but she thinks those and my other lymph node pains have been the result of an overburdened lymphatic system and weakened immune system, because nothing else has changed besides my relapse back in June. Basically my body is probably just overwhelmed. I liken it to a skin infection I get on my neck only when my immune system is overwhelmed. This could lead to tonsil stones if it doesn’t clear up, but he’s hoping the IVIG will help that, too (and at least this helped document my need to the insurance companies). Frankly, since the severe pain has subsided, I’m content to let it work itself out, now.

My favourite part about this, besides the actual IVIG, is that I get fluids after each all-day infusion because of my chronic dehydration and MTHFR polymorphisms, the latter of which make me extra susceptible to blood clots. So I get to do this once a month. Which means I get fluids once a month.

I hadn’t written about it here yet, but I’ve returned to needing fluids in the ER every few months. Some friends helped me discover coconut water in June and that did help a lot–now I can usually “save myself” when things get close to an emergency–but it’s still a daily battle. So if the IVIG goes well, I can continue getting monthly fluids as well, and dehydration will be one less thing on my balancing plate.

Another thing my bloodwork revealed was a high eosinophil count, which for me means the bartonella and/or mycoplasma are active–no kidding!–as that was one of their first presentations. They’re not as high as they were before when things were progressing really quickly, though, so that’s comforting–maybe this IVIG can help subdue them!? I’m very eager to see what will happen when I can actually make antibodies! :D

I’ve joined the Immunodeficiency Foundation, so if you’re on there, look out for me, or let me know your username. My thoughts about primary immunodeficiency usually take the back-burner in comparison to everything else I must balance, but when I think about it, living with it really does add a layer to my life that people with full-functioning immune systems just don’t have to worry about. I’m looking forward to being part of the support community.


As of this month, it’s now been two years since the big relapse (before this one) that made me stop all treatment in favor of, um, living… Now I get to try this! I’m thinking surely it will do something, for all of these factors to have led me to this point? I don’t believe in coincidence! I’ve been visited by multiple types of owls in my backyard almost every night since this whole tonsil thing started, despite maybe only hearing a wild owl three times in my entire life before this. Owls are symbolic of intuition, wisdom, the ability to see what others do not, and their presence announces a symbolic death, major life transition and upcoming change. 

Last night the Great Horned Owl visited me again.

a rainbow at night

What My Pain is Actually Like

It occurred to me one day several months ago that I’ve never stopped to answer a question people may have, the same question I often wonder about others in my situation: When I talk about being in pain, what am I actually talking about?

In my case I’m talking about severe head pain, and what some call “malaise,” but… Malaise is what you call it when you are sick and you feel “off,” and unwell, and basically.. gross. It’s also a term you can use for having something as simple as a cold or as insufferable as end-stage AIDS, much like a fever has drastically varying levels of severity.

In “malaise” standards, what I feel is like my immune system is fighting to save my life but it may or may not actually take me down with it. Most types of pain are usually localized, or at least, if it’s everywhere it’s an identifiable ache. This? Maybe I should invent a new term.

Deathlymalaise. Yeah that sounds about right.

What happens in my newly coined “deathlymalaise” (feel free to use that), is this:

  1. I always have “the” headache with it, the one I’ll discuss in a moment.
  2. I have a low-grade fever, and I alternate rapidly–or maybe there is only the sensation of rapid cycling–between uncomfortably warm and sweaty, and clammy, cold, with freezing and numb extremities. It’s like when you have the flu and every five minutes you’re either tossing the blankets across the room or clambering to collect anything made of fabric and burrito yourself in it. My GP says this is my immune system. Apparently it’s trying to figure out what to do with itself.
  3. I feel dizzy and there is often a “buzzing” sensation, but whether it’s nerves sending wrong signals or my vascular system trying to sustain normal circulation, is anyone’s guess.
  4. My lymph nodes, particularly the axillary and cervical nodes (under your arms, and around your neck), have a constant, dull ache, and get stabbing sensations.
  5. I get muscle spasms in my neck, back, and all around my abdomen in general, that are so sudden and severe I usually end up screaming.
  6. I feel a burning sensation in the nerves in my face, as if they were on fire from the inside-out. I think it comes from the same inflammation responsible for my headache. The trigeminal neuralgia is thus usually activated and I have to stop myself from clawing at my face–that wouldn’t help much, now would it?
  7. I feel as if I’m going to vomit, but I won’t let that happen–I take Zofran as necessary.
  8. My joints–moreso on my left–swell and get stiff, difficult to bend or move.
  9. There is substantial fatigue during these “bursts” of deathlymalaise, but sitting or–more appropriately–lying in one place is usually not an option because this is the kind of suffering that, on the pain scale, would be at the level that it interferes with your every thought.

I’m a complete and utter wreck. And please remember, this list is only covering the malaise part of the illness, something that has been very prominent since The Big Relapse. It’s not medication withdrawal, because these symptoms are part of the reason I started taking anything to begin with, and it’s not herxing. It’s just disease. It makes me uncomfortable to even type that, but it is what it is. I can’t sugarcoat something like this.

[ETA, 2016 Feb] In Dr. Hyde’s book about Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (which back then in 1992 he abbreviated as “M.E./CFS”), he describes our malaise like this, under “Pain Syndromes Associated with [M.E.]”:

” ‘Malaise has probably occurred in every [ME epidemic] described in the literature.’ Malaise is accentuated in the Initial Stage and it recurs for as long as the disease process exists. Malaise is almost impossible to describe. It is often referred to as the pain and discomfort that one has during the acute phase of an influenza. However, it is not always the same. The patient feels terrible, feels as though he is about to die.

“It particularly injures the sensory and dulls the cognitive abilities of the brain. The pain seems to originate everywhere, both on and within the chest and abdominal areas, head and extremities. The rapid muscle and brain fatigue that is normal in [M.E.] becomes accentuated.”

As you can see, what I described when I first posted this in 2013 is almost exactly what Dr. Hyde wrote; I was absolutely floored when I read it, and honestly, most of the book is like this: full of specific, uncanny validation about all the quirky things that occur in this disease. If you have M.E. I highly suggest you buy it while it’s still available.

Some of the other things I wrote are very specific of Lyme disease, such as the burning in my face where the infection damaged multiple nerves, and the “buzzing” sensation, which many Lymies describe as, it’s like you’re sitting atop the hood of a car while it’s running. [/ETA]

I usually feel aghast–but almost in awe–at the reality that a person could possibly feel so horrendous, and helpless at the thought that a hospital–the place you’re raised thinking can always help you during any health crisis–cannot do anything, because there is nothing to stop what’s happening. How do you explain to someone how terrible all that feels, with the word “malaise”?

Several of my friends who also live with Lyme & Company admit to feeling this, some even writing letters or notes to loved ones during the worst “episodes” because they think surely something must be about to go very, very wrong for the human body to give out all these warning signals.

They usually say, “I feel like I’m dying.”

We really do.


The progression of my headaches has been a monster all its own. Their onset began with occipital neuralgia four months after my tick bite, almost seven years ago. Bartonella came with its own, mostly frontal-oriented headaches; I don’t have those any more. But almost without fail, I have had a particularly severe headache for 4-5 consecutive days every four weeks since the Lyme invaded my nervous system. Now, that exacerbation happens about every two weeks, thanks to the Mycoplasma (or at least, I assume).

I used to requite prescription-strength medications for breakthrough pain only a few times a year for the attacks of occipital neuralgia. As things steadily progressed (especially within the past two years), I went from needing them an average of 1-3 days per month, to having 3-week-long bouts of unrelenting head pain which alternated with 3-pain-free weeks, seemingly for no reason. Now, since my relapse in October, I’ve needed them every single day except 1-3 days per month. I guess all of this is why needing them so much frightened me: I wondered–and still wonder–if there is no turning back from this point. Regardless…

This head pain is a throbbing sensation at the back of my head, the base of my skull and down into my neck. I wouldn’t outright call it occipital neuralgia, because my attacks of O.N. are even more severe and almost completely untreatable. But otherwise, it’s just like them. Baby neuralgias? They even exhibit the so-called “ram’s horn pattern,” and the top of my head often goes numb, and I am sensitive to anything touching my scalp. There is no sensitivity to sound, but extreme sensitivity to light. I get bursts of nausea. Since vasculitis has been such a major feature of this relapse, these “headaches” may have some vascular component.

As of right now, later this month my pain management doctor wants to try a shot in my neck. I’m uncertain is he intends a nerve block for O.N. or another route, but since this has gone on so long, it’s time to try something new.

 

There’s not really a pretty way to close this article. But when I talk about being in pain, to all of this is what I refer.

a rainbow at night

Trigeminal Neuralgia: A Consequence of Lyme Disease

…Or bartonella. Or mycoplasma. Or similar infections that are commonly found in the same tick that carries Lyme disease. Unless you’re like me and you happen to get them from other sources like fleas, because you’re immunocompromised and collect infections like some people collect stamps.

I’m not sure which is the true culprit. I know I started getting occipital neuralgia about four months after my tick bite, so that is definitely Lyme disease-related, but I haven’t had an attack of that in a long time; I think it’s been a year?

My serious cranial nerve involvement began when I got Bell’s Palsy immediately after contracting mycoplasma pneumoniae, an infection that usually causes “walking pneumonia” but has been known since the 1970s to also wreak havoc elsewhere, like the nervous system. It can cause just about everything that Lyme disease can, and persist even after treatment by mimicking the body’s own cells. My right eye twitched and my face drooped. I’ve mostly recovered, but some of the damage is permanent. Then my left eye began twitching and it got damaged. That is also permanent. It was all downhill from there as far as nerve damage goes, but I’m here to talk about the ones in my face.

I began treating with Rifampin and Doxycycline in January 2011, and all hell broke loose: That’s when the autonomic neuropathy made itself apparent, culminating in its diagnosis a few months later. I can’t coordinate how it all fits together, but I know my vagus nerve became damaged, my trigeminal nerve got involved somewhere, the Bell’s palsy is a factor (i.e., damage to the seventh cranial nerve, literally called “the facial nerve”), and my migraines are connected.

When the autonomic mayhem landed me in the hospital, I would try to eat something, get an “episode” where my vagus nerve would trigger all sorts of things it wasn’t supposed to, and I’d get a migraine. I got so many migraines I had to be on Topamax for almost a year. Now these days, instead of my nervous system having a meltdown, I’ll sometimes get facial pain when I start digesting, again triggering migraine-like pain on the right side of my face until the digestion stops. This can happen even if I haven’t eaten, but the act of eating can apparently be a huge trigger for trigeminal neuralgia; more on that horror story, below. But how did they all end up triggering each other?

  • The trigeminal nerve is implemented in migraines and facial pain.
  • The facial nerve can also be implemented in facial pain (ha, no kidding!), and the tongue numbness I get.
  • Episodes of trigeminal neuralgia can involve the trigeminal nerve and the facial nerve simultaneously.
  • And the vagus nerve–as it pertains to this post–is responsible for digestion-related reflexes…

But again, how did it come to be that my vagal reflexes got connected to my trigeminal response, in ways they previously were not? All I know for sure is one or more of these infections attacked my cranial nerves, and I’m left with odd, painful remnants as my body has attempted to heal.

 

After my last post, the “tension-headache-thing-that-wasn’t-quite-a-tension-headache”-thing went away and was replaced with the worst episode of trigeminal neuralgia I’ve had to date. Perhaps the tension-like pain was a precursor? (A Lymie friend on Twitter mentioned that she often gets headaches or migraines before her trigeminal neuralgia attacks, too.)

The best way I can think to describe what happened is that, I ate a bowl of crunchy cereal, and immediately after it felt like my teeth were going to explode. It’s one of those things where, if someone else told me the level of pain they were in, I would swear they were exaggerating because how is that possible? My other attacks have been similar–extremely severe, extremely sudden pain that makes you start shaking from its intensity–but it’s never lasted quite this long.

I remember a long time ago writing about another unusual headache, something that acted like “an ice pick headache that keeps on going.” In hindsight, that headache that felt like someone stabbed me in the forehead may have been an episode of trigeminal neuralgia, too. :\ It certainly sounds like it, from what I wrote.

I hate how deceptive it can be, when it starts to fade away only to attack you suddenly again. It took several days to completely go away and stop fading in and out. I have moments of unexplained facial pain daily, anyway, but nothing so severe as that. For my usual, spontaneous facial pain–the kind that is often tied to my digestion for some unexplained reason–butalbital is a huge help. It’s a huge help in my neuropathic pain in general, actually, even though I’ve never heard of anyone else using it for that. Half a tablet of Fioricet (or Bucet, which is the same as Fioricet but without the caffeine; most doctors don’t even know it exists) and that kind of nerve pain is usually gone.

Like occipital neuralgia, nothing much helps trigeminal neuralgia, or at least nothing that my system can tolerate. (Things like carbamazepine are completely out of the question for me.) That night, I was already on hydrocodone and ibuprofen, but had to take twice as much as I usually need, and it still only dulled it enough so that I wasn’t shaking. I couldn’t lie down and put any pressure on my skull until it began to ease.

The gratitude I had for being able to take those pain relievers cannot be put into words. And I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that something can hurt that much, and that I went through it. If you’d have told me two years ago I’d be going through something that would make my face feel like I was being stabbed and my teeth as if they were going to explode out of my skull at any moment, I’d have called you crazy.

I feel so much for people who have to go through TN, especially if they have no idea what is causing it. At least I know what is causing mine.

If you do need to be properly evaluated for Lyme disease–and unless you’ve specifically seen a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor or LLMD, you probably do–you can read this and call IGeneX to order a testing kit for your doctor. Igenex has an accuracy rate of 95% and tests for all possible reactive bands, unlike standard testing which only checks you for the most common thirteen and produces a staggering rate of false-negatives. Additionally, you may watch Under Our Skin, an excellent documentary film containing people with illnesses like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and ALS, who found out Lyme disease was the cause of their symptoms; most recovered. (Not in the US or want more help? Click here.)

a rainbow at night

(Postscript: This is not related to TN, but with this month’s Lyme flare up, I had my old parkinsonism symptoms of slow movements and “freezing” while walking. It’s been a few months since I’ve had those, and they definitely caught me by surprise, especially with how slow my hands were functioning. Those of us with Lyme disease know how startling it can be when you’re doing (relatively) “okay” then suddenly your body thinks it has succumbed to Parkinson’s overnight! Luckily, as usual, it only lasted a few days and I am all right, now.)

Mycoplasma and Reflections on Having PANS/PANDAS

The most important thing to report this time is that my random cough continued to be persistent and began to worsen, so I saw my primary physician who says I now have asthma. (Well, asthmatic bronchitis–two in one, aren’t I lucky!) If I were to assume this to be infection and/or herxing related, I would say this:

Since I’m fighting Mycoplasma pneumoniae, a bacterium that usually causes pneumonia (but also loves to attack your nervous system), my best guess is that treating this beast has caused a lot of herxing/die-off/inflammation in my lungs, where it’s most likely been hiding out, at least partially. And said die-off may be causing the inflammation that’s triggering this asthmatic response… I mean, it can’t be any coincidence that as soon as I start trying to kill the pathogen that has caused lung problems for me in the past, I get inflammation in my lungs. Right?

But if that’s not it, then I have genetics to thank. I’m going to go with “will hopefully go away as I treat Mycoplasma” theory until it proves itself otherwise. At least I’m not having any trouble breathing. I just have this cough, which, after three days on Dulera (which is literally just my Nasonex in an inhalable form…mixed with formoterol), I’m much, much better. :)


I’m convinced I had PANDAS (PANS) as a child; it just wasn’t a diagnose-able condition back then. If so, then I definitely still have it, because my body has clearly reacted the same way as an adult. This might sound like baseless self-diagnosis but this will make sense as I’ll discuss further below.

It stands for “Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections,” and is basically what it sounds like: An autoimmune response to strep that causes damage to the brain, primarily resulting in neuropsychiatric illness like obsessive-compulsive disorder and tic-disorders like Tourette’s Syndrome. (PANS refers to “pediatric acute-onset neuropsychiatric syndrome,” the same as PANDAS but without being caused specifically by streptococci.) In the “My Story” section, I ponder over whether or not something triggered my childhood-onset disorders of OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome, whether that might have been a brush with tick-borne infection, or something similar. After realizing there is an actual condition that does exactly this, it all makes too much sense:

  • my primary immunodeficiency disease makes me extremely susceptible to infections (especially Strep)
  • a history of autoimmune responses to things (like vaccinations)
  • the fact that both my OCD and Tourette’s were acute-onset
  • those conditions flare up whenever I get additional infections, especially bacterial

As Lisa Wolk-Kilion writes for one national magazine:

“Although the word ‘pediatric’ is in both names, it is surmised that the disease is not merely a childhood one. . . The encephalitic-type illness is brought on by an infection, resulting in antibodies that barrage the basal ganglia. … Once the autoimmune system is damaged, any germs can trigger a PANS flare.”

So, an autoimmune disease that responds to infection by attacking your own brain, instead. I was practically a walking target to get myalgic encephalomyelitis in the future, wasn’t I? :\


On that note, I have to state the obvious, that Mycoplasma and Strep are very similar in this respect: They usually cause upper respiratory infection, but in the immunocompromised, they can wreak havoc everywhere, especially the nervous system. You know what happened to me when I got both Bartonella and Mycoplasma a month apart from each other in 2008? My Tourette’s syndrome and stuttering flared up so bad I could barely talk for three months. I also got extremely paranoid, showing clear neuropsychiatric involvement. Additionally, that’s when my movement disorder began worsening. I had the beginnings of the dystonia since getting Lyme disease (even though I didn’t know I’d gotten Lyme, yet), but after those two infections, things progressed very quickly. (The Tourette’s and stuttering eventually died back down, though they love to pop up at random, especially when I’m under emotional or physical stress.)

Treating Bartonella helped the dystonia symptoms A LOT…a lot a lot. But the thing is, the antibiotics that treat Bartonella are the same antibiotics that treat Mycoplasma (or at least the ones I was on, except for Bactrim), so I have no idea of knowing which infection is responsible for it. It’s not gone yet (as evidenced by my oromandibular dystonia showing itself more lately), but the worst parts of it stopped progressing after a year on Rifampin (with other antibiotics).

This is one of the reasons I can’t type up a post explaining my Bartonella experience and treatment: Because even though I can pinpoint a lot of which symptoms were caused by Bartonella–especially the ones that recurred every 5-7 days–I have absolutely no way of knowing exactly which infection caused what, specifically in regards to my dystonia and other related movement disorders. Because I got those infections a month apart from each other, and I treated them both at the same time. I can type about my theories, but I can’t put a bunch of information out there that people are going to read, without being sure. All I have are correlations, and patterns, which I happen to have a talent at spotting.

Two years ago I hypothesized that Mycoplasma (which I easily tested positive for on the first try, unlike the others which I had to coax out with speciality labs) was going to play a much larger role in my health issues than I had at first assumed… I had no idea how right that would be.

[ETA 2017: It’s been 5 years since this post and Mycoplasma pneumoniae has now been recognized to be a determining factor in the diagnosis of PANS, which all these additional years of disease and severe psychiatric relapse have unequivocally proven me to have.]

“The association of mycoplasma with diseases like arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome, which has been implicated with a response of the body’s immune system against its own components, is consistent with the growth and behavior of mycoplasma. The absence of a conventional cell wall allows mycobacteria to penetrate into the white blood cells of the immune system. Because some mycoplasma will exist free of the blood cells and because the bacteria are capable of slow growth in the body, the immune system will detect and respond to a mycobacterial infection. But this response is generally futile. The bacteria hidden inside the white blood cells will not be killed. The immune components instead might begin to attack other antigens of the host that are similar in three-dimensional structure to the mycobacterial antigens. Because mycoplasma infections can become chronic, damage to the body over an extended time and the stress produced on the immune system may allow other microorganisms to establish infections.
“Strategies to eliminate mycoplasma infections are now centering on the strengthening of the immune system, and long-term antibiotic use (e.g., months or years). Even so, it is still unclear whether antibiotics are truly effective on mycoplasma bacteria. Mycoplasma can alter the chemical composition of the surface each time a bacterium divides. Thus, there may be no constant target for an antibiotic.”
Mycoplasma Infections via Encyclopedia.com
World of Microbiology and Immunology | 2003, The Gale Group Inc.

If anyone has any experience or information they want to share with me about PANS/PANDAS or similar things triggering OCD and Tourette’s Syndrome, feel free to comment or contact me.

a rainbow at night


Updated December 2015 to add helpful links about PANS/PANDAS
Updated May 2017 to add more helpful links and confirm diagnosis

Relevant Links:

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).

  • 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.
  • 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 (adjusting their individual volumes as desired). Also, decided that one day I will own a professional camera.
  • June 9th: Shaking for most of the day with very visible tremors.
  • 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

No more minocycline and guilt over happiness.

The reason I have this blog is to keep track of my symptoms and occasionally share a ramble. I never imagined I’d be getting thousands of visitors… Thank you, for your views and your comments, and I sincerely hope the things I’ve written can help someone else. Many of you have shared that they have, and I will always feel blessed by it.

So yes, I need to update on a few things for future reference… The first one being: My brain fog. If I haven’t said it before, let me say it now: Flagyl gives me the worst brain fog ever. I’m glad I only take it four days a week. My typing has been fairly atrocious lately (sometimes worse than others) so I apologize in advance if this entry doesn’t come out right. I know some of you have to translate it into your native language and this one might not be.. erm.. see, I can’t even think of how to finish that statement! :\

My eyes have been hurting for weeks. I’m so sensitive to light, and I get stabbing pains in them. I’ve spent the past week in the dark. My nervous system has been very sensitive, in general, since I started treatment, however my eyes don’t usually hurt this much… I’m wondering if the Nasonex has anything to do with it. I’ve taken it for.. probably a decade, now? But I had a two year break, and I don’t recall it having an accompanying Glaucoma Warning in the past…? But it does, now. I’ve stopped needing it, so I stopped it two days ago. Today my eyes ARE better, but it’s impossible to draw any conclusions from that. It’s probably just coincidental timing and I’ll get a severe case of eye pain tonight like I did yesterday, aha. If in the future, however, I start Nasonex and get crazy eye symptoms, I’ll know something.

It would appear that warning-hive I got a few weeks ago held true to its title. On the 12th of May, I got very, very sick, and had to stop all antibiotics. Aside from the fact that I felt completely flu-ish with a severe headache, I’d gotten to the point that I could not eat anything, even drinking water was becoming difficult, and amassed in me shaking, becoming dehydrated, and needing Zofran three times a day to keep my nervous system from having a meltdown. These are the same things that the Doxycycline did to me last year before I was hospitalized for five days. We were worried that the minocycline might do this, too, which is why we’ve been easing into it for all these weeks… It’s clear now that I can no longer handle the tetracyclines. I’m just glad that (1) I knew what was about to happen so I stopped the medicine in time, and (2) that I basically had available to me the same medications that they gave me last year to pull me through it (except re-hydrating took a tad bit longer without an IV). After three “missed” doses of antibiotics I was able to eat a chicken sandwich, and it’s been a steady improvement since then…well, at least in regards to being able to eat and keep food in my system.

Wednesday I couldn’t breathe again, having much the same symptoms as two weeks prior. And I’m still having that problem: I cannot breathe when I sit up, but as long as I’m lying down, I’m pretty much okay, though I still have to gasp for air every so often.

Now, I’ve had flare-ups every two weeks for almost two years, now–since summer of 2010, I believe, when I took grapefruit seed extract (GSE) for a few weeks–so this isn’t too much of a shock. But I usually have Lyme symptoms during those flare ups. This time, I haven’t. At all. I’ve had lung pains, and coughing a lot, and an inability to breathe right. That can’t be Lyme disease?

The reason I assumed the GSE had woken up the Lyme disease when I took it, and gave me flares every two weeks instead of every four weeks, is because GSE is a supposed to be a destroyer of Lyme cysts (i.e., the cysts that the bugs were hiding in, open up and start causing symptoms, then you can kill them with antibiotics)… Well, I’m on Flagyl, which is THE cyst buster, so could that have anything to do with my minor Lyme symptoms during these flares? Or is this not Lyme disease at all, and is it Mycoplasma? My money is on the latter for this particular scenario, given the hive and the breathing problems and lung problems which are all the things that I was worried might happen. :\ Because I tell you, my other symptoms are very mild. Shockingly so. When I was off antibiotics this past week, my neuro symptoms barely even flared up! I’ve been having mild “hot foot” sensations in my right leg, and that’s about it. (My tags say I last had that.. well, let’s just say that every time I’ve mentioned it, I’m also talking about Mycoplasma… The evidence mounts!) Nothing went to attack my arms, nothing started quickly progressing like a starved animal waiting to pounce… That is very exciting, and makes me feel like we’ve at least done something the past four months. As I usually say, time will tell! I’ll keep updating on it, and hopefully a pattern will emerge.

Until then, we just make sure I’m on both Lyme and Mycoplasma antibiotics. So I started Biaxin today! I’ve heard great things about this one, and it treats borrelia burgdorferi and mycoplasma pneumoniae and even bartonella, in the event that some of those critters have survived and are saving up for a revolt. Also, the pills are bright orange!

Ah, and so far, I feel accomplished with my goal to not be advocacy-frenzied. I’ve reposted/retweeted a few things, but that’s about it. Life is good, despite everything. I’m happy, even though I feel like I have society and ten thousand other sources telling me I’m not allowed or shouldn’t be… I’m sick, I’m “supposed” to be complaining about everything, right? Ha. Last week I felt the urge to announce, “I’m so happy to be alive.” Because I was. Because I am. And afterward I felt so odd about it. One friend said, “You feel odd because society tells you to complain about your woes. You’re happy because you see what matters most.” Which is pretty dead-on. Another said that people see someone like me “who is thankful for another day and enjoys life as much as possible, and they make a hateful comment” because they’re trying every materialistic avenue available to them and still can’t feel happiness and appreciation.

I suppose when it comes down to it, I was worried someone would take it in the wrong way, or find a way to interpret it negatively, or think I was just “saying it to be saying it” even though I really do mean it. Also, I didn’t want it to sound conceited? I know people going through minor troubles who are very bothered day in and day out, and I have.. erm, well, a lot of daily troubles and suffering and yet lately I have maintained happiness. It’s just a fact. So I don’t want it to sound like I think I’m better than anyone, or something. Because I used to be bothered by daily insignificant things, too! I’m just so happy to not be that person anymore, to have inner joy no matter what, and I want to keep that balance between expressing that happiness about it, but not rubbing it in everyone’s faces. Then again, I only have so much control over how other people interpret what I say, especially when I know my heart is in the right place: Again, balance.

a rainbow at night

Anxiety at night: Herxing with Rifampin and Zithro

Well. I have to start taking my Topamax before my night dose of Rifampin, now. For the past two months I’ve taken it two hours after the Rifampin, before I go to bed. It helps me relax in addition to keeping away Migraines, so it seemed like a win-win. But (and this is nothing new) the anxiety I get at night, about an hour or two after the Rifampin, is getting unbearable! Several times I’ve been too scared to take the Topamax, for any number of illogical and plainly dumb reasons. One night I took it anyway just to prove to my brain that nothing was going to happen, which was fine. But I can’t go through that stress every single night!

I wasn’t sure why the night dose affects me this way while the day dose doesn’t, but after some thought I figure it must be because I take the first dose in the morning, after 12 hours of nothing. The night dose I take five hours after the Zithromax, so the potent combination must be what’s causing the worse herxing at night. I also have dystonia at night, worse than the day; it’s usually brief, but it almost always happens.

Today, and starting last night, I’ve had the left foot heat sensations. I’ve had no appetite and been experiencing stabbing pains in my torso–chest, stomach, intestines, just everywhere. Ibuprofen was a huge help so I can only assume inflammation, as per usual. Also, the left side of my face is exhibiting worser symptoms (esp. the muscles of my left eye), and I made a note yesterday that for the past three-to-four days, I’ve had worser numbness. I’m unsure if I mentioned it yesterday…

Despite this, I did have a few good moments today. I danced a little after the ibuprofen went to work. I took a bath and washed my own hair, even used the hairdryer. And finally by tonight, I’ve gained an appetite back. I’m still feverless, exhibiting that strange “stuck at 98.9” thing that happened a couple of.. months?.. ago.

This is off topic, but since I mentioned mycoplasma in my last entry… I’m pretty sure Rifampin also treats that? I know it treats c. pneumoniae, and some forms of the mycoplasma group, so I hope that it treats M. pneumoniae as well! That would be great, since Zithro definitely treats myco; I’m on possibly the most perfect combination of antibiotics for my infections–lyme disease, bartonella, mycoplasma–that there is. I have such a wonderful LLMD, and thank God for helping me get this far.

a rainbow at night

Lyme flare right on schedule, it seems…

Yesterday wasn’t as extreme, indeed! I recall feeling very fatigued and dizzy, and having “random” upper spine pain (which may or may not have been contributing to my arm weakness). After three days of minimal usage, said arms are doing better. Last night I even had an online chat with a couple of friends. The first true conversation in a very long time. Another one of my “moments” that let me know treatment is doing something.

As I’ve noted here before, there seems to be some correlation between my arm numbness (top of the right one) and the presentation of a severe headache. The headache started late last night, but not in my head. My neck became very stiff and I didn’t get to sleep until hours after I’d originally lied down to do so. This morning the stiffness wasn’t as bad (we’re not talking arthritic or joint related stiffness, here) but later on today I began getting the tell-tale signs of the Lyme headache. Lortab and ibuprofen, as usual, and I’m okay now. On the day of my last post, before bed I spiked a fever of 99.2, but as for now, I have none yet, despite the symptom flare-up. Odd.

Oh…! And I’ve been coughing. It started on the day of my last post, that awful day. Things like this make me wonder where the Mycoplasma pneumoniae is…

a rainbow at night

Three ER Visits and a Hospital Stay: What Happened

In case anyone was wondering why I haven’t been around, it’s because I’ve been in the hospital. If you’re on my Facebook or Twitter then you already know this. I went to ER three times in less than 24 hours, so they eventually kept me. I was there from Sunday night (Feb 27th) to Friday (Mar 4th) from these “episodes” that acted like seizures, but weren’t. The antibiotics didn’t technically cause it, i.e. it wasn’t an adverse reaction, but the medicine killing the bacteria definitely woke something up, so everything entered into a sort of revolt and my body–particularly my nervous system–could not cope. I talked to my LLMD from the hospital, and he told me to stop all Rifampin and Doxy for two weeks, only using the Doxy to avoid another emergency room trip. (You cannot stop bartonella treatment “cold turkey” because THAT can land you in the hospital, as it has for me in the past.)

My body has been fighting a lot of things these past two weeks. In addition to what I already had, my labs suggested an unidentified virus lurking, for which I can do nothing right now; I’m anemic because of the infections that I can’t treat; my blood sugar has been high (because of stress reaction I think);  and I haven’t been absorbing proper nutrition OR essential vitamins, yet I’ve also been unable to handle my nutritional shakes, so it seems inevitable that I will lose more weight. When everything else went south, my liver decided it couldn’t deal with my antibiotics, either. However my body also cannot cope withOUT the antibiotics either, since bartonella comes back with a fierce vengence in a very small amount of time, so I may very likely end up in the hospital this weekend if things take a wrong turn. All I can do is pulse the Doxy on Saturday and Sunday, and hope for the best. I’ve officially run into a treatment failure, despite us being so careful to avoid it. I’ve been very, very ill and unable to handle ANY of my medicine, even my herbs. Things got.. pretty bad.

You know, I really should be more specific in my prayers. Like, instead of asking to “make it to Saturday” without an ER visit, I probably should have extended that to the whole weekend! Because leave it to me to feel in the clear on Saturday, and then end up in the hospital on Sunday!

I guess it all started Saturday evening/night, February 26th. I watched a lot of TV, including two movies without pause, which doesn’t sound like much, but for someone with M.E., watching four-five hours of straight television and actually paying attention? That’s a lot of energy. Too bad it doesn’t affect me then and there. It was fun, and worth it, but I should have rested after that. I didn’t.

So the next day a lot of bad things came together:

  1. The relapse from the previous night began hitting me.
  2. Doxycycline takes 10 days to build up to its highest levels in your nervous system, and it was day ten.
  3. I had a small argument with my mother which stressed me out further and I am not supposed to get stressed out.
  4. I overexerted further: I just wanted to lie down in the living room and watch two movies with my family… I didn’t think it’d get me as sick as it did.

So by 7pm Sunday, I was sick as a dog (why do people say that?), herxing severely, having a Migraine, and I guess my nervous system just.. had enough. I had been having severe tremors all day, but then my muscles began spasming and going numb interchangeably. I went to my mother’s room for safety. She looked at me and immediately started making a list of my current medications for the hospital staff. (Mother-premonition?) I then proceeded to have this seizure-like episode of my limbs going numb, my tongue going numb, an inability to swallow (though I could breathe all right), and uncontrollable convulsions. My stomach felt this “rising” sensation and my speech was slurred whenever I did try to talk. This happened three times between Sunday night and Monday evening, so by the third ambulance trip, and me failing the Pronator Drift test (a neuro test, indicating a upper motor neuron lesion) they kept me.

“It” proceeded to happen again that night, twice on Tuesday, and once on Wednesday. I was discharged from the hospital Friday morning (4th) and I had a minor attack that evening. Then another minor attack on Monday, and one on Tuesday (the 8th). They were getting less severe and.. more Migraine-like than seizure-like, but then I had another bad attack two days ago on Wednesday, complete with a few minutes of convulsions. :\ But for the most part, instead of full-on convulsions I get some muscle twitching, and the “main event” is now a tingling sensation in my stomach and chest, abrupt numbness of my arms, neck, face, jaw, tongue, all mostly on the right side, and sudden slurred speech. (I still suspect some nerve around there is really messed up, perhaps that vagus nerve that has been giving me so much trouble recently.)

There are some very odd happenings that make it nearly impossible to find the true cause. I’m not sure there is just one, really. The first time it happened after drinking an Ensure; the second after taking Rifampin; the third after eating a hamburger; the fourth after eating again; the fifth after an Ensure; the sixth-thru-whatever numbers were correlated with either Ensure drinks or Migraines. In fact I’ve had a Migraine on.. Sunday (Feb 27th), Tuesday, Thursday, Tuesday (Mar 8th), and yesterday. Also, during the first three episodes, I really, really had to pee before it happened. Like, an abnormal amount, but I wasn’t drinking that much, so it didn’t make any sense. Nothing makes any sense, besides my nervous system just went into some type of overload/failure. I’m sure the exertion worsened it, as did the antibiotics/herxing, and for a time I developed the same sensitivity to Ensure as I have to daily multivitamins. I cannot take vitamins because they cause this unusual, terrible reaction where I become in a paralytic-like state for about 8 hours. And because of the number of times this happened shortly after drinking an Ensure–even though I’ve been drinking them for weeks and it helped me stop losing weight–it looks like I’m having a similar reaction to the nutrition in them, after a certain point. But why it happened after I ate? I have no idea. And why did I have to pee so badly before them? What the hell?

I’ve had intermittent arm numbness since I started antibiotics, which I’ve mentioned on here repeatedly. (And oddly enough, it was in conjuction or following severe headaches, remember? They didn’t seem like Migraines at the time, but now, I wonder…) So the antibiotics woke something up, I guess. And I also mentioned here, I’ve had increasing trouble swallowing for the past four weeks, which made it impossible to eat a lot of things. It cumulated into a full inability to initiate swallowing last Tuesday, and it was pretty scary for a while. I didn’t want to end up with a feeding tube. :( Other things of possible note are my more frequent arrhythmias and tachycardia, which annoyingly never happened during any of the three times they checked my heart rhythms! But they did run a LOT of tests of me, over twenty-five. Included was an EEG, and the results would insinuate I’m not having seizures, but the sad part is, you can still have seizures and have a normal test result. :\ So. Yeah. They ultimately found:

  • I have a rotated kidney! This has been present since birth and poses me no problem.
  • I now have moderate mitral regurgitation in my heart.
  • A spot on my brain, which made me very, very angry.

Because I’ve had three MRIs in the past two years. Three MRIs. I’ve had this lesion in my brain during the last THREE scans of my brain, and no one said anything about it! It wasn’t on my 2003 MRI, but it’s been there since at least 2009, and has gotten “minimally more prominent.” I got Lyme in 2006, and both Bartonella and Mycoplasma in 2008 (when my neuro symptoms really took off) so my best assumption is, they did it.

But speaking of brains, they had me see a shrink to make sure I wasn’t just causing these problems out of anxiety. And I can’t really blame them–my doctor mainly wanted to make sure anxiety wasn’t worsening my problems–because truly my symptoms were very anxiety-like; if I didn’t know me, I would have made the same assumption. But as you can imagine, the results of that were, “She’s sane,” which is the SECOND time I’ve had to see a psychologist to prove to my doctors I’m not just a stressed out female… So maybe now they’ll leave that alone?! An interesting fact, though: The psychologist knew what Rifampin was because he has two other patients who have been off and on antibiotics for Lyme and coinfections. You know, in this state where I live, where Lyme supposedly doesn’t exist? Just like the two patients my infectious disease doctor treated here? Yeah…

The area of my brain with the lesion is the Pons, which is part of the Brain Stem. All of your brain is important but that.. is.. very important. It’s the part that allows communication between the your brain and spinal cord, i.e., any signal your body gets or receives has to pass through it. Wiki says the Pons is about 2.5cm in length, so the fact that this “spot” I have is 1cm itself… A little frightening, that. It could have been caused by a particularly bad Migraine, but.. then why is it getting any bigger at all? Or if it’s demyelination caused by an infection, it’ll just be there forever. If it’s actually a Lyme cyst, it could disappear with antibiotic treatment, because it’s not nerve damage as much as it is a bundle of bacteria that appears as a lesion on an MRI. The worse case scenario is that these infections have triggered multiple sclerosis (MS), which Lyme, Bartonella, and Mycoplasma pneumoniae are all capable of doing. And truth be told, the spot is more MS-like than Lyme-like. But. That scenario seems less likely, because MS doesn’t improve on antibiotics; I did.

As for the valve regurgitation… Well, I guess I expected as much. MVR generally gets worse over time, so it’s a little scary that it went from mild to moderate in just a year and a half, but… I guess when you look at what’s currently happening, and also with me being unable to treat the bartonella for almost a year (bartonella really likes the heart), it’s not that shocking. As if having M.E. wasn’t enough of a predisposition to heart failure, this does not help.

I’ve been working on this entry since Tuesday, so maybe in another few days (hopefully sooner!) I’ll try to make a post about what’s happening now. Until then, wish me luck with my antibiotic pulse, that it’s enough to keep me from the ER! I’m sure they’re very sick of me by now!

a rainbow at night

[Note, Nov 17, 2011: Further developments as to what happened can be found in subsequent posts, or by clicking the “pings” (posts where I referenced this one) below. These attacks were eventually proven to be neuropathy of my vagus nerve.]

Symptom recap in the middle of my “Lyme week” (treatment update)

Let’s see. What do I need to update about… Ah, who am I kidding, this is going to be one big ramble!

I’ve been re-tagging my primary blog, the one that used to serve as my health diary until I decided to switch all those things to here and make it public instead of invite-only. That old one is still so useful to me. What’s even more useful are my daily symptom charts… But they are so taxing to fill out, I stopped doing them out after just one week on antibiotics. I used to be able to, but this time around it’s just impossible to keep up.

My intestines are no longer giving me any problem, so whatever was happening has resolved itself. I’m having daily air hunger ever since my Lyme flare started, and in fact, after skimming through my entire prior blog the past two weeks, I’ve realized my air hunger nearly always coincides with my Lyme flares (that may or may not be distinguishable from the mycoplasma pneumonia; I have yet to figure out if that infection has a pattern or not). Nonetheless I am in my typical Lyme week, and having air hunger. I am slighlty comforted by this, because it makes it less likely that this is happening because of babesiosis, something that I don’t think I have but won’t really know until we get rid of these other things. Also, I’ve realized repeatedly that oxygen does not help air hunger. It only makes it slightly less severe, but unlike for normal shortness/gasping of breath, it doesn’t truly relieve it. There must be some neurological component to it, I think, because my vagus nerve is also experiencing problems for the past several days. This happened in responsed to treatment last time as well.

For some reason Lyme disease have an affinity for the facial nerves (most commonly presented as bell’s palsy), I suspect because they are the closest connection to the brain, where the bacteria primarily reside. Except for the vagus nerve, that is, which not only goes from the brain to the face, but all the way to.. your stomach, I believe? It controls things such as heart rate, blood pressure, and gag reflex, and reacts to temperature changes. (Recall the term “vasovagal syncope”?) The last time I was in treatment I became unable to drink anything cold for three months–even water had to be heated to room temperature! And I was consistently nauseated for a very long time, which was only alleviated by an anticholinergic that happened to be used to treat a hyper vagus nerve. So now, something of that sort is happening again, and I’m unable to swallow a lot of my pills. There is a lot of synchrony involved in swallowing, and things just aren’t lining up. Either I just can’t initate the action, or I do manage to swallow but my throat spasms halfway through, or I for SOME reason try to BREATHE in the middle of it, which has forced me to hold my nose so that I don’t sporadically inhale! ‘Tis not been pleasant, to say the least.

My temperature made a spike to 99.6 on Thursday when I began taking my antibiotics at regular intervals (Rifampin 300mg + Doxycycline 100mg, both twice a day), and after that,  it went down to 98.9…where it has stayed ever since. Every now and again it’ll go to 99.2, and then drop back down to 98.9. Then maybe another slight jump, and back down. But it basically hasn’t changed: Before I go to bed it’s 98.9, when I wake up it’s 98.9, when I take it at random intervals, it’s 98.9. I’ve tried two thermometer and even asked my mother to be a control subject (98.2 for her), so it’s definitely something within me. It can’t be my menses because you still experience a normal temperature fluctuation, just with a higher baseline. I.. have no fluctuation, except for small spike after I take my antibiotics! But I’m almost a little glad about this because when your temperature lowers is when the bacteria can most-easily replicate. Maybe now that I’m on Doxycycline, whose (haha I speak as if it’s a person) entire purpose is to stop bacteria from replicating… Yeah.

I found out Rifampin can lower your Vitamin D levels, so I’m glad I take extra Vitamin D every day anyway. :|

…OH. Another thing bothering me more and more is food texture. Right now my diet subsists almost entirely of whole grains, raw fruit and vegetables, eggs, and Ensure drinks. Occasionally I eat chicken.

All things considered I think I’m dealing pretty well being on both antibiotics… Ah, well, of course I have excruitating headaches come nightfall (Lortab-requiring) but that’s a given. Headaches are my most prominent infection symptom and my most prominent herx reaction. I’m not having as much blatant dystonia lately as I am more parkinsonism symptoms. (I qualify so closely for a diagnosis of a “dystonia plus syndrome” I’ve actually considered getting evaluated by a movement disorder specialist to see if I’m showing signs of anything genetic; my dystonia first appeared in my left foot about four or five years ago.) But yes, recently there is more trouble with tremors, difficult initating and stopping movement, freezing movements, slow movements. Again, my facial spasms have died down. I still have the head shaking, but not as severe. I’m currently trying to determine whether it’s my neck or if I’m having nystagmus, which is where your eyes move and your head shakes to compensate. I know my left eye dances and has a mind of its own, especially during Lyme flares… So that may be it. Whatever the origin, it’s not as severe. My feet are beginning to hurt again… Is it time for a bartonella flare soon?

Speaking of which, I’m concerned for the end of this month again. Maybe not this next one, but the one after it, the dreaded “bartonella flare after the Lyme flare” that’s been repeatedly responsible for trying to hospitalize me. I’m only concerned because the chance of it happening becomes more frequent when I have stabbing lung pains (I’ve had pleurisy twice in the past eight months) and air hunger in the week prior… Both of which I’ve had this week. I’ve previously speculated that the mycoplasma might have something to do with it, too, since this happens every other month and mycoplasma replicate very slowly… But we’ll see. I haven’t been coughing yet–… Oh, wait. Yes, I have been, a lot… Ah, crap. :|

Well, hoping this is all just herxing and nothing akin to an ominous sign…! (If I start having random allergies and chest pain, then I’ll begin to worry.)

Oh, but speaking of headaches (which was a couple of paragraphs ago I think), since I’ve needed Lortabs nightly and had no arm numbness, I think that kills the medication-reaction theory about my arms randomly going numb.

My legs have been weak, but again, Lyme, so there’s nothing too unusual there; just need to mention it. I’m having arrhythmias as well but after repeatedly mentioning it during Lyme flares, I think it’s the cause of those, too…

And this concludes my recap of the symptoms I’m currently experiencing. :)

a rainbow at night

Lyme lyme lyme: An insane day of flaring

I awoke at eleven in the morning and went back to sleep. My father brought me coffee at noon. :) I “got up” (read as: halfway sat up, turned on my stereo, and stayed awake) because I had to take my Rifampin, having taken my Doxycycline dose an hour earlier. I did take my Rifampin, and… WOW. I could not have had a worse “Lyme day.” I may as well have been a spirochete! I am most definitely beginning my Lyme week. (Note: My Lyme week is what I call the time of month where the bugs are replicating and/or cause me worse symptoms for about 3-4 days.)

It started with a “head shake tremor” (and no that’s not a clinical term), or, the thing where it’s as if you are slightly shaking your head to tell someone “no,” but it happens on its own.

Then I started to have tremors in my limbs, as well. Visible tremors, not just the “internal tremor”/buzzing sensation so common in Lyme disease.

About twenty minutes after that, I had progressed into full-blown movement disorder mode, complete with more violent head shaking (which was more of a whipping back and forth at this point), “hand curling” (as a lot of us Lymies call it), and dystonia of various parts of my body; all on the left side, as per usual. Also as usual–and I only admit to this because it is a documented thing with dystonia–touching the back of my neck gave a momentary reprieve from the dystonia-related things. Ironically, my face wasn’t too involved this time, so not much involuntary grimacing.

This went on for quite a while–two hours, at least–but I’ve been doing this all day. The tremors have died dow, but my head and neck still have a mind of their own. I’ve made a few attempts to walk, but my left leg just drags because it freezes up. Or, on that one occasion, it went into the air all by itself! (I know you fellow Lymies know what I’m talking about!!)

About four hours after all of that, the pain started. Headache. Numbness in face. Various pain meds to counter it: didn’t work. Ended up taking half a Lortab, and once again got the effect of being less sick in general. Thank God. So there I was, headache thoroughly medicated, plugged up to my supplemental oxygen via my new 25 ft cord, sitting up in my wheelchair, and tidying things up around my room. Because tomorrow I start my full dose of Doxycycline! I’m both excited and nervous, but my mother found some sparklers for me! ;) I told her I wanted balloons again, to thoroughly celebrate starting “phase two” of my treatment–hell, to celebrate that I even made it to phase two of treatment!–as, God willing, this will be the regimen I’ll be on for the next five months. After that, I’m going OUT to celebrate!!!

What I can’t figure out, though, is why a bartonella-specific antibiotic accelerated my Lyme symptoms? Rifampin doesn’t have active killing-properties against Lyme, but my LLMD did say it works on the cystic form; i.e., it causes those latent tiger-in-waiting Lyme cysts to open up.

Or maybe this was just an especially potent herxheimer reaction because my bartonella flare was only yesterday. I also sometimes wonder, since Rifampin is also treating my Mycoplasma pneumoniae and myco symptoms can be insanely similar to Lyme disease–even down to similar replication cycles–if some of this is a mycoplasma herx. Or maybe it’s both. That might explain the severity, yes? (Doxycycline is also a primary treatment for Mycoplasma.)

Today I have had a lot of air hunger. I feel a constant need to yawn. It rarely helps. Fever. My back hurts. My legs shake when I try to walk to the restroom…which would concern me, but, Lyme week and all, right? Oh, and I remember mentioning to someone that yesterday my shins were hurting? My feet also began to hurt, all night. Today they are all right, and although my shins were still a little achy earlier in the day, they do not hurt anymore. I’m having arm numbness, and I’ve noticed whenever I have severe headaches, the numbness comes with it, so there’s that. Is it tomorrow yet?

a rainbow at night