California…Round Two

On the 16th March I set off on a big bird (plane) for my next course of intensive medical treatment over in California to help my ongoing fight against Chronic Lyme Disease. I had no idea just two months earlier that I would need to return to the specialist clinic, nor that I had to once again think about raising ridiculous amounts of money again to do so. I had been deteriorating more noticeably toward the end of 2014 and by February 2015 I knew I really didn’t have any other option but to access more treatment overseas. The oral antibiotics I was having to ship over to the UK were not hitting the bugs hard enough and I wasn’t prepared to risk a complete relapse right back to square one. To be in the UK and have no intravenous antibiotics was hindering my progress massively and I could feel myself slipping more and more into the grip of the multiple infections; Lyme, Babesia, Bartonella and Mycoplasma.

The prospect of returning to California was a daunting one for many reasons. I knew what this type of treatment involved and how it was very much going to make me feel worse before better. I would also be flying solo for the trip this time too. I have got used to me, myself and I for company in these periods of illness, but there is only so much talking to the walls you can do! I also just felt an overwhelming amount of stress just thinking about trying to sort out the financial logistics of it all. This illness is more expensive than I can even put into words. You literally haemorrhage money and this is no exaggeration! I have spent approximately £35,000 so far trying to get healed and there often doesn’t seem to be a sign of the spending stopping. A working individual on a good salary would struggle to find this amount of money as ‘spare’, let alone when you are too sick to work and therefore have no income.

For about 4 weeks prior to my departure I feel like I cried almost every day…who knew one human could shed quite so many tears! The pain, the stress and the constant worry just seemed never ending. It was not just the forthcoming trip that made me anxious, but the continuos fight for survival and never knowing if and when the battle would end. This illness doesn’t give you a time frame or an end date. I can only describe my body at times like a shoe lace; when its tatty, worn and almost thread-bare and you don’t know if its going to last another day or just snap when you least expect it… and lets face it, there really is never a good time for a shoe lace to break! Lyme disease is inconvenient, intrusive, controlling and just one giant cloud of uncertainty. We learn all sorts of life skills as we grow up but nothing can prepare you for feeling like a hostage in your own body. This is Lyme, day in, day out.

With all this difficulty aside, I knew I had to get a grip and ‘crack on’! I would be flying to the US one way or another and I had to keep my mental strength in tact to enable me to do so. I wasn’t prepared to give up or be negative, this was just not an option. I wrote lists after lists and got to work kick starting my second fundraising campaign. As much as every bone in my body hates to ask for financial support I just don’t have a choice. Without fundraising there is no way I could access the kind of money needed for this type of medicine. Things started to take shape and before I knew it I had booked my flights and accommodation and dusted of my suitcase. It was happening! USA… Round 2.

I arrived in California completely exhausted, full of a head cold and barely able to string a sentence together! I am surprised I actually managed to arrive in one piece! I literally dumped my bags, power showered off the travel dirt and lay horizontal for the next 10 hours! Sleep is never to be underestimated, sick or not! I had a day to settle, unpack and get my head together for the next stage of treatment. I was ridiculously nervous but at the same time just so relieved to know I was only 24 hours away from some productive help towards getting my life back. I am beyond grateful to be able to access this treatment and I know without it my future would be merely existing or worse death.

My current fundraising page is very much an on going project and I just continually hope that I will somehow be able to raise the needed funds for treatment. Failing to do so doesn’t feel like an option, so I cling onto every bit of hope and believe that things will work out one way or another. For anyone struggling in any part of life right now my words of wisdom to you would be to believe that things will work out, and always make sure your dreams are bigger than your fears.

“Believe in yourself and all that you are…

Know that there is something inside of you that is greater than any obstacle”.

If any of you reading this are able to support my fundraising in any way at all please know that every penny is truly appreciated and a massive help. No donation is too small and would contribute to my journey in fighting for a healthy future.

Thanks for reading and be sure to subscribe to my blog if you would like to receive notifications of new updates and progress reports.

Much Love, Chantelle Xx

Lyme Poster jpeg

Advertisements

2015 Continues…

February and March continued to be both challenging months: Symptom central and yet more doctors appointments. It also saw the start of my new fundraising campaign for this on-going and madly expensive medical treatment.

March brought around my first A&E trip of 2015… I had huge reservations about going, as from previous experiences I know there’s never much they can do to help me. They have no understanding of this disease nor the impact that it has had on my body.
I always get approached the same response as I tell my story and get passed around the various nurses and doctors… “What’s Lyme Disease? How do you spell that like the fruit?” I can’t blame the individuals specifically as it’s not their fault that they have not been educated sufficiently about this disease, but never the less its ridiculous and wrong that they are not taught about this matter. Some medical professionals have been introduced to the basics but unfortunately, this has been taught using old research, inaccurate testing methods and the UK’s Lyme treatment guidelines, which are flawed like a book with too many missing pages. The vital bits of information are no-where to be seen, you only get half the story and there doesn’t seem to be a final closing chapter. As a patient you are left with a cliff hanger, not sure of where to turn or who you can trust, not knowing how your story will end.

I began to accept the fact that I was not going to get any help in the UK, but at times you have no choice but to visit the GP, especially when symptoms spiral out of control and you just simply need help. When this happens I am never able to see the same doctor, so once again I have to begin by filling them in on the last few years of my life with Lyme and of course I am expected to do this in a 5 minute appointment slot! An experience this time round I see yet another unfamiliar Doctor, the clock is ticking, and they are looking as baffled as always. They continue to look at both me and their computer screen even more confused than ever…They have no idea why my skin has turned a bright shade of red and stinging like I have been burnt. They finish up by telling me that they have lost my blood tests for the third time and that they still won’t be able to give me any of the medication I need. I get frustrated, more emotional and I feel like I am almost begging for help and I am once again disappointed.

The painful burning skin episode!

The painful burning skin episode!

A&E proved a similarly destructive experience, causing more stress than comfort and I was still non the wiser to why a sudden increase in pain. I try and avoid going to hospital at all costs, especially at 10pm on a weekend. After developing a surge of chest pains and strange heart palpitations, I thought it best to be safe than sorry. Complications of Lyme Disease include heart problems such as Tachycardia and Myocarditis, so I just wasn’t prepared to take the risk. I had both my bloods taken and an ECG performed. It didn’t come back completely normal, but due to their limited knowledge in Lyme I was just told I wasn’t having a heart attack so I was safe to go home. I also randomly got told by a doctor at the hospital that “I look too well to have Pneumonia”, bearing in mind I didn’t go in there with symptoms of this nor ever thinking this could be a possibility! It proved to be yet another insightful experience I would rather forget, and I finally crawled into bed at 4am exhausted and still having chest pains!

As some of you reading this may already know I have had to re-launch a new fundraiser for continuing treatment in the USA. Thanks to such a supportive network of family and friends who contributed to my initial fundraising page, I was able to travel to a specialised clinic in California for almost 4 months. There I received further diagnostic testing and intensive medical treatment, from which I made noticeable progress. My treatment is on-going, with both oral antibiotics and herbal supplements, of which I am still self funding. I have already spent £30,000 – £35,000 on medical tests, treatments and my first trip to the USA clinic. I have seen so many physical and neurological signs of improvement throughout the past year, but there has been a recent plateau in my progress.

This fundraiser is allowing me to return to the clinic and continue with ’round 2’ of intensive medical treatment, which is vitally important for my recovery from this debilitating illness. The NHS continue to have severe difficulty understanding or treating this disease and without the intravenous antibiotics and supportive treatment therapies readily available to me in the UK, my recovery is compromised greatly.

I am so determined to fight this disease and with the help of donations and the Lyme literate doctors in the USA, I really do have a great chance, not to mention hope. Treatment is a long and gruelling process, but I keep in mind the end goal of becoming symptom free and with a prognosis of remission.

You can visit my current fundraising page via the YouCaring site here or via my main website http://www.biteback4chantelle.co.uk
I am still very much in need of donations to enable me to stay in the US and receive medical treatment and continue to ship oral medication to me once I arrive home in the UK. If you are able to help in any way this would be hugely appreciated, no donation is too small.

Now I am back in the US I will be sure to update you all soon with my treatment plan, progress and how things are going state side. This first few weeks has been a tough transition and the medication is hitting hard, so unfortunately I haven’t been up to spending much time on my computer, but I will do soon, promise! Lots to tell you all about my adventures in the ‘Lyme Light’!

Hope you all had a fab Easter weekend…

Much Love and positive thoughts, Chantelle x

2015 begins and the drama continues…

January has been a complete whirlwind; an unpredictable, rapid and destructive 4 weeks! It has been a challenge and not quite the positive start to a new year that I had hoped. For now, I have given up on the of idea of being able to predict how I will feel in the future, when these days I can’t be of sure how I will feel from the start to end of just one day! This is a complex illness, and needs to be un-ravelled bit by bit. I am always conscious of the bigger picture, but I am aware of the multi layer approach to healing for the long term benefits and chances of remission.

I began the new year with a totally un-invited bout of cold and flu symptoms which persevered for approximately two weeks. It is surprising how much this can knock you down when your body is already fighting so much. I had to halt taking my antibiotics as a die-off on top of this would have just been an overload for my immune system. It was mentally disappointing, as I know how the current infections will take any opportunity to thrive whilst I am not actively treating them with antibiotics. I followed Doctor orders and also kept in mind the words I often heard from my Mum growing up; “Feed a cold and starve a bug”! This was also particularly important as over the past 6 weeks I had began loosing weight again, regardless of consciously trying to increasing my calorie intake. Its hard to know exactly what is causing this, but it is something we are monitoring closely.
On top of this I have been trying to cure another mysterous rash which has covered my chest and back. Four different prescriptions creams later and more baffled GP’s the rash is still here!

Once the cold symptoms were clearing, I started a combination of new medications, Atovaquone (Mepron, Wellvone) and Azithromycin (Zithromax).

Mepron is an antiprotozoal medication that can penetrate the cyst form of Lyme and also treats Babesia. It is a thick, yellow suspension which visually reminds me of poster paint from school art lessons and it is ridiculously expensive. It costs a hefty £500-£600 per bottle, and with this price-tag it has been nicknamed ‘Liquid Gold! Mepron is known to be especially hard on the liver, so supporting this organ with supplements and constant detoxification is key. Not only does this prevent damage, but it also helps to clear my liver pathways, increasing my ability to handle the medication for a longer and more effective time period. This medicine is also absorbed better when taken with a fatty food, so a tub of organic almond butter and a spoon has been close to hand!

IMG_6718

Zithromax is prescribed for the treatment of acute bacterial infections. It is a broad-spectrum antibiotic, meaning it is active against a wide range of bacteria and thus being a good antibiotic to try as I have multiple tick-borne infections. A combination of Zithromax and Mepron is known as an effective Lyme and co-infeciton treatment protocol, and I am hoping I get some successful results from this.

The herx reaction from this combination has not been easy so far, but it is bearable. I bare in mind that when treating, there is a level of ‘No pain without gain’ to consider too. I ensure I get regular blood tests to measure liver and kidney functions and other important levels in my body. Unfortunately on this occasion Januarys test results went ‘missing’. I am non the wiser as to where or how this happened, but I will attend another blood draw in the hope that I can have some numbers on paper soon.

“They never said it was going to be easy, but I am hoping it is going to be totally worth it”.

perseverance

The last chapter of 2014

December seemed to completely fly by. Maybe it was all the distraction from the festive movies on the box and decorating the tree! I have always been a huge Christmas fan, maybe I was an elf in my past life who knows?! In an ideal world I would have been joining in with all the fun in the build up to Xmas, but for the second year running I really just didn’t have the energy for it.

I continued to suffer from an array of symptoms and there just didn’t seem to be any signs of relief from these. I was back on the antibiotics, now that the toxic load had decreased, and was starting back on the meds slow, and steady by building doses up little by little. I know that some of my symptoms were increasing due to the herxheimer reaction (die-off) and others were infections which were still determined to thrive in my body, finding me an ideal host! Really not very idea for me at all! This was a difficult time and I was spending increasing amounts of time lying horizontal and feeling generally weak and nauseous. When I am experiencing such exhaustion and pain, even showering becomes a mammoth task and sometimes that might be all I achieve in a day. Other days I am more able and can walk round the block and cook a meal, it is all just a lottery. I never really know form day to day how I am going to feel.

My Lyme Doctor and her team had put their heads together and came up with the next plan of action. It seemed out of all the infections I have it was currently the Lyme Borrelia bacteria and its partner in crime Babesiosis (Babesia) that were causing me the most problems. Babesia is a protozoan parasite that infects the red blood cells and it is extremely persistent. As it enters the red blood cells it matures and divides and within 1-2 weeks of incubation it starts to cause havoc. One of my first noticeable symptoms of this illness was night sweats, which started sporadically, until eventually occurring up to 4 times a night and were drenching in nature. This then escalated to myalgia, nausea, loss of appetite, air hunger and pressure headaches. Last year the GP also discovered I had developed low Iron levels, yet another common symptom of this co-infection and another daily pill to add to the pile! I sometimes still struggle to comprehend that this tiny tick has transmitted such aggressive infections into my body.  It has definitely been a shock to my system both physically and mentally!

The Morphology of Babesia – Photo Source: http://web.stanford.edu

On a more positive note, over Christmas I made it back to Cornwall to see my Family and some friends too. I was happy to be there in person even if the brain fog was making it difficult to be there in full focus. I spent most of my time in the house but made sure I I was wore my novelty santa jumber. I was able to live through the excitement of the festive period through the eyes of my little Nephew which was magical. I also won’t deny that a hug from my Mum and Dad, sometimes can make things feel a whole lot more bearable, even at the age of 30! I also tried to remember that although I am still stick, This Christmas I was in a slightly better place than the year before and finally in treatment and for that I am grateful.

On high-alert and feeling toxic! September – November 2014

In my last blog post, I left you with an update as far as August. Things were going fairly well and I was definitely feeling and seeing progress across my body, brain and general well being. This was obviously too good to be true and before I knew it, Wham! I seemed to hit another bump in the long lyme road, and it was for sure another uncomfortable ride!

IMG_5979

So you may be thinking what caused this downturn? Well, although we have no concrete evidence, we think the culprit was a vaccine. I was given this as part of some immunology investigations. Having vaccines with Lyme Disease is without doubt a questionable task, but these tests were important as I needed to see if I had inherited my Mums rare and complex Primary Immune Deficiency, Hypogammaglobulinemia. This causes an abnormally low level of immunoglobulins, the antibodies that help fight infection. Research has shown this can be ‘congenital’, present at birth or ‘acquired’, developed later on in life. It is vital that we determine wether or not I have this as it could effect my chances of recovery from Lyme, and it could mean I have to have regular intravenous immunoglobulins in order to support my bodies immune system.

Ok, so back to the vaccine…Approximately 4 hours after this, I felt very nauseous and lethargic. I headed straight for bed in an attempt to sleep this off and when I woke an hour later, I was experiencing excruciating pain in my shoulder where I had had the injection. Although it is common for pain after any injection, it was my whole shoulder and upper arm not just the insertion site. By early evening I was in so much pain, in floods of tears and unable to move my arm at all. The level of discomfort was off the scale, and I was having to physically support the weight of my arm even in resting position as  the general weight of my arm felt unbearable. I headed straight to my GP where my arm was put in a sling and I was prescribed stronger painkillers and anti-emetics. This was a ‘dead’ vaccine so I really didn’t expect any reaction at all, let alone this!

Within 3-4 days the pain had subsided considerably but I continued to feel totally wiped out, it was almost like I had regressed 6 months. The physical symptoms from Lyme and the Co-infections I was fighting had all seemed to creep back to a much more aggressive level. My night sweats were back with a vengeance, I had air hunger, heart palpitations and the headaches were constant. My adrenal gland function seemed to be playing up too. This can be a common occurence with chronic infection. From having this problem earlier on in the year,  I have become aware of certain symptoms which arise when this is happening. I notice I am a lot more alert in the evening when I should be winding down. I get a real sense of restlessness and almost an internal jitter. My sleep feels completely not restorative and I often feel like a zombie until about lunch time, not to mention the brain fog! My insomnia also increases and my appetite too. I seem to loose weight although noticeably eating more! You may be aware of the ‘fight or flight’ response, which is a process of the sympathetic nervous system, our bodies reaction to the stress it is under. Its like the body goes into high-alert and the hormones of the adrenals contribute to this process.

So with all this going on in my body I was advised by my Lyme doctor to briefly stop my antibiotics while my body had a chance to get to grips with the latest episode! I stayed off these for almost two weeks and then introduced them again one at a time. Unfortunately it was not before long and I was feeling worse again, I was now vomiting, having chest pains and can only describe the feeling as hitting a brick wall. It then became apparent that my liver had also become congested, so I had no choice but to stop all antibiotics, again. I was toxic, literally and it was too dangerous to continue to load my body with medication especially as my faulty detox genes meant I was not able to rid of any of the die off I was experiencing from the antibiotics. I got myself into full on detox mode. I increased my intravenous Vitamin C and Glutathione, had 30 minute epsom salt baths daily, drank copious amounts of lemon water and had regular castor oil liver cleanses. I also continued to take the herbal tinctures and tablets such as Itires, Apo-Hepat and Milk Thistle.

I had to stay off all medications until mid November and I found this really disheartening. All I know is that to rid my body of all these infections I have to preserver with long term antibiotic treatment, so to be told your body is not tolerating it is simply frustrating. With that aside, it wasn’t long before I got my head back in the zone and reminded myself that I needed to stay mentally strong, that this was just a blip and before long I would be back on track. It is not easy trying to be positive day in day out and don’t get me wrong I have my moments! I cry, I feel angry and I ask that rhetorical question ‘Why Me?’ Surely though I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t have these moments and thoughts every now and then. Being continuously ill is not easy. It also didn’t help that my 30th birthday was approaching! I always had expectations and plans for where I would be in life when I turned 30. What I had hoped to have achieved and what my future plans where. Well obviously getting bitten by a tick threw a huge spanner in the works and I could no longer follow a plan. Right now my plan is just to get through each day, just one at a time and do my best to do so with a positive attitude. I always remind myself it could be worse, and it could. I have a roof over my head, a supportive network of family and friends, and a doctor who is trying everything to fix me. At least I have a chance to get better. I am lucky I am still alive and yes, I may be in pain for the majority of that time, but I keep the hope that this won’t be the case forever.

“If you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive” 

July – August 2014

imageI begin with looking back to the summer months this year as my treatment continued. I was put on a number of different antibiotics as my infection load was still very high and I was still battling Lyme and co-infections. This included Doxycycline, Septra, Malarone, Tinidazole and Valtrex. Although antibiotics were key, the herbals have continued to play a huge part in my protocol too. I have always been aware to keep the balance of herbs in the protocol as I feel they have the power to really heal the body in so many ways. I also trust that they help to un-do the detrimental effects of long term antibiotic use. One of the most difficult parts of this disease is the fact it is such a long term journey to recovery, and there is no guarantee that each medicine I try will work. I have noticed whilst taking each medicine, that it often seems to have the desired effect on the infection it is targeting, but then the remaining symptoms of others infections tend to escalate. Its like you can never catch up! It is also not possible for each antibiotic to be able to treat all infections, or to take too many at once, as the body and more importantly the liver just gets totally overloaded. The toxin load can be so dangerous and already being aware that my genetic make-up doesn’t make it simple for my body to detox, I have had to take treatment slow and steady. Doxycycline & Tinidazole: I was on high dose of Doxycycline for a long period over the summer and this has its own complications. Firstly at such a high dose it makes the skin extremely sensitive to the sun so it was a shady seat under the garden umbrella for me! On a more complex note, when you treat Lyme Disease at such a late stage, it becomes disseminated throughout the body and the spirochetes play a game of hide and seek. With the infections spread from the blood to a variety of organs and joints of the body, it makes it so difficult to try and combat. When treated with Doxy it continues to try and avoid destruction. Like a chameleon it can change formation and takes on a cyst structure, protecting itself from the medication. This means because of the bacterias behaviour under attack, I had to take an additional medicine at the same time called Tindiazole. This impairs bacterial enzymes and removes the biofilms which can block both the immune system and the antibiotics. Septra DS: This is a medicine that has been used for years to treat a host of actute and chronic infections. I was mainly targeting the Bartonella infection with this. My symptoms with this infection have been debilitating headaches, light sensitivity, restlessness, back pain, and what I can only describe as a more heightened sense of irritability and often very emotional state. I feel like the infection has the ability to really have an effect on someones mental state and whilst treating this I definitely felt on edge and more irattional. I have previously tried Rifampin for this co-infection, but as mentioned in previous posts my reactions to this were much worse than a herx reaction. My body could just not tolerate this medicine at all and it even landed me in hospital. Malarone: Malarone is more commonly known in both the treatment and prevention of Malaria. This is a combination of two main anti-parisitic ingredients atovaquone and proguanil hydrochloride. It is used in the treatment of Babesia. This co-infeciton is a protozoal parasitic infection, not a bacterial one like many other of the tick-bourne infections. Malarone and Mepron are two of the primary medications used in the treatment of Babesia, and the choice to go with Malarone, was purely down to it being marginally less expensive as my treatment is till being self funded with no support or medication being issued by the NHS. Whilst being on all of the above mentioned antibiotics, it has been really important that I had routine liver function tests and full blood count. This is to ensure there is no detrimental effects from taking the medicines, just the zapping of persistent bugs that have invaded my body! So, as it has been a while since I last posted this is just select information as a start to update you all. I have so much to tell you, but I don’t want to hit the information overload button! I will continue to discuss medication and the highs and lows of lyme life in more posts to follow. Thanks for reading and for continually supporting me on this journey back to good health. I would not have the strength to keep fighting on some days without this support network. It means the world. There will be life beyond Lyme Disease and I will discover it. Big Love, Chantelle x

Update coming soon…

Hi everyone… I am so super sorry for the absence of blog posts over the last 4 months… I will be uploading updates on my progress real soon. Its been a rocky road, so one things for sure I have a lot to update you on.

I am still fighting hard every single day to rid this horrid disease from my body. I will get there eventually, this is one fight I am not giving up!

Much Love, Chantelle xx

Follow my blog with Bloglovin