Part 2… Parasites, Porphyria & Osteopenia

Hello again!

Following on from my last post, I continue to update you on the highs and lows of treatment with Lyme disease and its many consequences and complications!

Over the course of my stay here, I have had to consult a new doctor at the clinic due to my increasing problems and complications. I have had some really insightful consultations with this change and in addition to learning so much new information, a fresh pair of eyes on my complex case has been extremely beneficial.

In terms of my viral load, I feel like this is much more under control, but by no means gone. We have had to keep shifting focus as there were still so many other problems to be figured out. I was experiencing more vomiting, more constipation and increased abdominal pain. I was loosing my appetite again, and noticing gall-bladder pain. I had a physical examination by my doctor and he suggested that due to the amount of tenderness across my abdomen, gall bladder and liver that I may in fact be suffering from parasites. This was an initial concern when I first fell ill 3 years ago, as I had been experiencing similar symptoms in addition to weight loss. I have previously had two stool samples sent to testing laboratories both here and in the UK, but they had both come back negative. Thankfully due to the doctors expertise and experience with other patients with similar symptoms, he felt almost sure that the cause of some of this pain had to be parasites. He explained that the type he thought I had doesn’t always show up in the tests. The reason being is that the parasites latch on to the mucus membrane of the small intestine and pretty much cling on for dear life! I was also suffering from low stomach acid and this enabled the parasites to thrive even more inside me! The suspected parasite was the ‘liver fluke’ and the doctor made the decision to start me on some treatment. Within days I was experiencing episodes of constipation. It was explained to me that this might happen and the reason being was because as the parasites begin to die off, they increase in size which can block the flow. They also pump out anaesthesia like chemicals which cause a temporary freeze of the bowel. The Parasite continues to swell and then shreds and is dumped out through the bowel, then causing episodes of diarrhoea. Throughout this period I was excreting multiple eggs and parasites and I couldn’t believe these things had been thriving off my insides for the past 3 years! It actually makes me shiver just thinking about it! Bleugh! I still have one other course of medicine to take for this which is called ‘Alinia’. It is well known pharmaceutical that is used in the treatment of parasitic infections of the intestine. This anti-parasitic agent interferes with substances in the intestine which are allowing the parasites to stay alive. This medication should finish off wiping out the final batches of gut monsters inside me… It better! This medication is costly here in the U.S at $46 per pill! Yes, No joke! With the help of my Doctor we have ordered this prescription from Canada at about one third of this price, but unfortunately it takes 3 weeks to be delivered and go through customs so for now I am just waiting. In addition to that medication I am also now on another antibiotic called ‘Actigall/Ursodo’l. This is to help concentrate the bile through the gallbladder which will help flush it out. This is needed as where the parasites have lived in the bowel they have also crept up and caused some congestion in this area. Nothing is ever simple!

Recently I have also been experiencing particularly difficult sets of days where I just felt much sicker than usual, a consistently ill feeling and bed bound with the pain. There was more nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, heart palpitations, back pain and what I can only describe as an altered state of mind, sort of on another planet! These are also symptoms I do experience from the Lyme and Co-infections, but not always of such a severity. My Doctor once again had a thought that there may be something else causing this and in the next episode of this type, he requested that I sent a urine sample to the lab. His thought process behind this was suspected AIP – ‘Acute Intermittent Porphyria’. This is a fairly rare condition and due to the fact that the symptoms mimic other conditions it can go un-diagnosed. Although many can be genetically susceptible, only few seem to develop symptoms. It is usually activated by other conditions and in my situation Lyme Disease has done just that. In order to obtain a diagnosis, the urine has to be tested when experiencing an attack. The sample has to be carefully kept at a certain temperature and protected from light, so this meant trying to wee in a tiny pot practically in the dark! I managed to time this well with a suspected attack and as expected my lab tests confirmed, I do have this type of Porphyria. I am still very much getting my head around this new and additional condition and when I have absorbed more about it I will write a separate post with detailed information. When reading about it I am bombarded with science, and this isn’t always that easy to understand or explain. I am currently discussing with my Doctor ways in how I will control the attacks of sudden pain and neurological symptoms. There a variety of ways to help suppress the activity to a certain degree but not stop it entirely. This ranges from yet more dietary changes, some supplements and maybe injections. I am currently treating attacks with IV Glucose fluids and pain medications. I can do the fluids myself through my PICC Line, but long term if the attack is of this severity and I don’t have my PICC line, this would have to be treated in hospital.

As you can understand from reading my blog posts, It is not just Lyme Disease I am now battling its a host of other bacteria, virus’ and medical conditions! Life really has changed dramatically and I am certainly hoping that the list of problems will stop expanding!

In terms of the infection load, the Babesia is really at the forefront currently. I have written about this co-infection previously, but I will re-cap a little as I know all of this is pretty complex. Babesia is a malaria-like protozoan parasite and continues to thrive in my red blood cells. It almost seems invincible! I have been on multiple IV and oral medications and herbs for this and it just won’t shift. I have had periods where I felt like the load had decreased and then all of a sudden its like it multiplies over-night. My doctor often looks at my blood through dark field microscopy, and I have seen with my own eyes the damage and physical formations of this parasite in my red blood cells. It has caused me to have low iron levels, air hunger and huge disturbances in my sleep. I have insomnia, extremely vivid and disturbing nightmares and drenching night sweats. My temperature throughout the day can fluctuate from hot flushes to chills. The Babesia headache for me mostly occurs at the base of my skull and radiates pain down my neck. With all the infections I have, I have literally had some sort of headache continuously for the last 3 years, its ridiculous. Its not often I am found without an ice-pack or a heat pad. On a mental level, this seems to give me increased brain-fog, a feeling of disconnection in my body and a great sense of being overwhelmed. Sometimes the smallest daily tasks of a functioning adult seem like such an enormity. The knock on affect of this can be more tears and anxiety. It can make difficult days seem impossible, but I try and bear in mind that this is the bugs not me!

Last but not least, I focus on my skeleton! Dem bones, dem bones, dem lovely bones! Well in my case some slightly affected bones. I have a lot of physical pain, which has developed since getting sick and its not surprising knowing that the Lyme spirochetes have wiggled there way into my brain and joints! Lyme almost hunts down areas of weakness in the body and heads straight for them to get cosy and cause havoc! With the increased pain in my hip/pelvic area, it made the Doctor and I start to think that there may be some sort of underlying weakness there. I went for a Dexa Bone Scan and the results came back with Osteopenia in the Femoral Necks. These are the long connective bones just below the ball and socket hip joint. My scan revealed the osteopenia and this is basically low bone mineral density. It is not as severe as Osteoporosis but is often a precursor to this. I am hoping that catching it at this stage means I can work with my Doctors to halt any further deterioration. I have also read that it is possible to often reverse this damage with supplements, dietary changes and weight bearing exercise, so fingers crossed.

So, I leave you with all of this information to digest and hopefully this will answer some of your questions as to why I am still so sick, its just such a complex battle. Layers and layers that need un-ravelling and treating and timing is crucial. That being said, I still fully believe I will make it into remission from Lyme eventually and hopefully get all of the other conditions under control. It is not an easy task, but my determination continues to grow.

Much love and as always many thanks for your continued support from around the world.

Chantelle xXx

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Whatever you do you have to keep moving and never ever give up…

Hello! It has been so long since I have posted a blog on here, and I am gearing up to updating you all with my current medical ‘status’ soon I promise! It is not that I haven’t had anything to update you with, it is the complete opposite! It has been one crazy ride this past 6 months and I haven’t known where to start to put this experience into words, or really had the mentally capacity to do so! My body right now is beyond complicated!

This is just a brief post as I start a new week with some new positive thinking as I try and keep myself and others going through whatever battle they also may be facing…

I have come to realise that success isn’t measured by just what you accomplish in life, but also how you can inspire and support others. I will keep fighting this battle, not only for myself but for all of you who suffer too. Wether this be from Lyme Disease or another chronic, debilitating and often invisible illness. I want to inspire and motivate people to hang on that bit longer, to fight that much harder and to become mentally stronger when you feel at your weakest. I want to hear someone say ‘because of you I didn’t give up’. Keep believing anything is possible and whatever you do never ever give up hope.

I love this quote by Martin Luther King:

‘If you can’t fly then run.

If you can’t run then walk.

If you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving.”

Right now I would be lying if I didn’t say I feel physically and mentally knocked down by this illness, but I’m trying to move with it and keep changing my perspective. I am just in a new and temporary position/situation, I will take it lying down (literally), but I will roll over and look at the stars until the next phase begins. I’ll do my best to find a positive in all these challenging situations and I WILL get through these days. They are the stepping stones to my future, my destiny and to better health. I can still breathe, see and laugh. I can feel loved by my family and friends and although I can’t currently dance with my feet, I can still dance in my dreams, and thats something right?

I’ll be back soon with info on my treatment and until then remember to make the most of everyday, make it count and remember life isn’t what comes to you, its what you bring to it.

Much love always, Chantelle  xXx

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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

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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!

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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”