For those of us who venture into the outdoors, most of us are aware of the risks around us. The weather, avalanche danger, rock fall. What many of us fail to grasp are the hidden risks. One such risk being Lyme disease.
Having had Lyme disease myself I know first hand the havoc this causes in the body if either left untreated or the body is not allowed to rest. When I picked up Lyme disease I was working for a bushcraft company in the Lake District in the UK. I had spent the summer pulling ticks off myself. I had a month off climbing out in the Alps and pretty much the day I arrived I noticed a bulls eye rash on my hip. I knew instantly what it was, that it was the starting of Lyme disease. What I didn’t realise was how serious it is. I carried on the month climbing hard, at times curled up at the base of a crag in agony with skull crushing headaches. The headache would pass and I’d be back on the rock. The rash spread all over my body. As soon as I got back to the UK I went straight to my Dr. Looking back I realise how stupid I was in not going straight to a Dr in France. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Back in the UK I had to argue with my Dr and tell him what I had and push for the medication which I knew was Doxycycline. He did eventually give me some but definitely not enough. I went away disheartened. I was so relieved when I had a call from one of the practice partners who coincidentally specialised in tropical diseases asking me to come back in immediately. Had this Dr not picked up on my infection I may not be telling my story.
Because I had left the disease for a month untreated and had physically been pushing myself hard I had forced the disease into my central nervous system and the next 10 months were the darkest of my life. The disease is caused by a spirochete (spiral shaped) bacteria transmitted by ticks, typically deer ticks. It has a breeding cycle every 4 weeks and believe me you can feel it. During these 10 months I experienced partial facial paralysis, joint aches, a fogged brain, muscle weakness and headaches. Initially I carried on working but after about 5 months my Dr told me I had to stop or I would kill myself. The hardest part of all of this for me was being unable to bike as far as I used to or climb as hard I find it so incredibly hard to stop. My physicality is what defines me. My body and mind were failing me. Not that I personally reached this stage but one of the big killers of Lyme disease is suicide, partly due to the fog and the slowing down of the mind the toxins being released by the bacteria and partly because many go untreated for so long with no diagnosis of what is wrong. Lyme disease mimics many other diseases and has so many symptoms.
I have been told numerous times by various people that Lyme Disease never leaves the system. Yes it took me a couple of years to get back to full energy but I have never had any relapses.
I am not sharing this in the hope of scaring you as I know many people including my partner Stani who have had Lyme disease and have sought immediate treatment and have had no long or lasting effects. I wish to raise awareness and encourage anyone who has been out in tick areas and has any weird symptoms, a bullseye rash, aching joints or fever to go see your Dr as soon as possible and explain where you have been. Drs are definitely becoming more aware of the disease.
What helped me get over Lyme Disease? After months of seemingly having no response to the Doxycycline I was taking I started searching American forums and websites about tick bourn diseases. Lyme disease is prolific in the USA. I learnt that the bacteria didn’t like heat. During the breeding part of the cycle I started taking really hot baths and drinking herbal blood cleansers. I was still taking the medication so I don’t have any proof that it was the heat and the blood cleanser or the medication or a combination that finally helped me get rid of this disease. I would recommend always checking with your Dr before you experiment with herbal remedies if already on a medication. Sometimes they do not mix.
If you want to find out more about Lyme Disease or believe you may have contracted it, there are some great sources of information on the internet. If wandering the forums, please don’t get disheartened. People tend to write on them when they feel terrible, those that are well forget to write their success stories. Don’t give up! You are not alone! Reach out to someone and explain how you feel and talk to your healthcare provider.