A few weeks ago I signed up to run/walk a half marathon in early March. I’m committed to doing the “race,” even if I’m the slowest competitor. Given how out of shape I am, I’m afraid that I may be greeted by people in white coats for a whole different type of commitment! I’m hoping, however, that the race will be an important step on my way to closure of a phase in my life, the time when I can say goodbye to Lyme disease.
Nine years ago, my heath took a nose dive. I had been an extremely active woman, running nine miles three days a week, lifting weights, hiking, and so forth. The plunge began following a fourteen-mile hike through the Ozarks in August of 2002. (I was then just a visitor in what is now my home state.) I spotted what I thought were baby spiders when I sat down for lunch; hours later I discovered hundreds of tiny ticks attached to my skin under my socks and shorts line. I had sprayed for insects that morning, but I did so after I got dressed. The ticks crawled to the first spray-free space of skin, and around every tick was a sign of infection. It was like something out of a horror movie.
Here I’ll short cut the story to say that I immediately knew I needed treatment and sought it as flu-like symptoms began but was unfortunate enough to be referred to an out-of-town walk-in clinic with an idiot doctor who didn’t know the difference between a tick and a chigger. I contacted my home doctor who thought we could wait a week for treatment. Sadly, he was wrong. Within a few weeks of finishing a short course of antibiotics, I started having trouble staying awake. I also had pain and lack of focus, but I didn’t connect the symptoms, and neither did my doctor. I was training for a half marathon, and I beat myself up when I could run less and less each month instead of more and more. Fast forward a couple of years. I’d taken a year’s leave of absence from work and moved to another state and then back to whence I’d come, where both I and my doctor were stumped by my increasingly confusing symptoms, including sleeping nineteen hours a day, signs of early onset Alzheimer’s, and–although I never mentioned this to my doctor–pain. By then too I’d met the man who is now Mr. Homesteader, and he pushed me to keep searching for a solution.
How we figured out that I had Lyme or its close cousin Master’s disease is yet another story in and of itself, one that perhaps belongs on another blog (one about Lyme, which this one is not). In the end, I was fortunate to get connected with Dr. Edwin Masters, who treated me until his death two years ago. Since then, my new primary care doctor in my Ozark community, where I moved five and a half years ago, has picked up where Dr. Masters left off. I was almost dead by the time Dr. Masters started treating me, the first weekend in March in 2005. I’ve been on high doses of antibiotics almost continuously since then, determined to beat the disease. I genuinely hope that my war is ending. The half-marathon I’m doing will be on the sixth anniversary of meeting Dr. Masters and starting my much-too-long climb out of the pit that is neurological Lyme. Run or walk, I don’t care, as long as I reach that finish line.
Now, dear readers, I know that many of you have overcome health adversity and/or taken on physical challenges like running races. Do you have any words of wisdom to carry me through the next five weeks? One tip I have for you is that I keep myself walking (and occasionally jogging, when I feel up to it) by listening to books on tape.
P.S. (from 10 p.m.): Today my “track” (the cleared area of the property) had dried up enough that I felt comfortable running again, without fear of breaking an ankle in the mud. I alternated running and walking for 15 laps–about 3 or 4 miles. I’ve got to get my track measured! It felt pretty good. Maybe I’m really going to pull this off!
P.P.S. Today I felt miserable, with the kind of bone tiredness and aching that I associate with a mild herx reaction. Still, I knew if I just got off my bohuncus and moved, I’d feel better. I pulled off 25 laps. I alternated running and walking the first 20 and then walked the last 5 to cool down. I also finished “reading” The Defector by Daniel Silva via my Ipod. I’m more a “cozy” kind of mystery/suspense reader, so the bald violence in this book got to me a bit. I’d still recommend it, with the caution about the torture and executions.
P.P.S. Sunday, 2/6/2011–got in 30 laps, 20 doing my half run/half walk and the rest walking. I was slow, but I was determined to make the mileage, because we’ve got more icy and snowy weather on the way, and if it arrives as predicted it will reduce my “track” to a slippery mess for the rest of the week. Thanks for all of the words of encouragement this week. It really has meant more than I can say.