I made it home…finally!

Back in November last year (2015), it was finally time to head back the UK after a long 8 months in California having intensive medical treatment for this Chronic and life alliterating  illness; Lyme Disease. Packing was a mission to say the least, with approximately 20 kg of Medication and IV supplies! There were spreadsheets, to-do lists, medical letters covering me ‘fit to fly’ and forms to clear me through customs for over staying my US Visa requirements and to explain why I had this ginormous stash of meds! With so much medicine to packing it was like a strategic game of real life Tetris, removal of excess packaging, twisting, turning, unpacking and repacking until it all fit in and my luggage was within the weight limit! Two large suitcases, a smaller carry on case, a backpack full to the brim and of course a handbag with everything in it but the kitchen sink, I flew home.

 

It was a difficult travel schedule back to home turf with the physical pain, and lack of sleep, but the endorphins were flowing just knowing I was on route home and I powered through. I felt such a sense of relief that I was going to be in the same time zone as my family and close friends again, i just faced the travel as another moment of mind over matter. Unfortunately nausea got the better of me during the plane journey home and I was ‘at one’ with the porcelain bowl on multiple occasions. Let me tell you being sick in an aeroplane toilet cubicle is awkward! There is barely enough room to turn around in there let alone lean over! I was trying to casually prop my self up holding on to the wall, for obvious reasons not wanting to touch the toilet and accidently hit the flush button, I literally thought my head was going to be sucked into oblivion! Needless to say I survived both the toilet flush and the plane ride and landed safely, a little dishevelled but in one piece!

The final 2 months of my California stay, I started back up with a full regime of IV antibiotics; Ceftriaxone, Metronidazole and Azithromycin. This ‘triple threat’ combination of medicines were given to me in a pulsing regime of 5 days on 2 days off. These are three particular antibiotics commonly used to treat Lyme and Co-infections. Herxing was really tough at times, but over-all  I was able to see some much needed improvements in this last stretch.

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Meds, meds & more meds!

 

Although of course I am so happy to be home in England, I would be lying if I said that being so far away from the clinic was easy. Not having access to the specialists treatments makes everything that much harder and recovery that bit longer. I also now miss greatly the special friends that I have made through the clinic and at the various places I found welcoming homes to rest my head. I have certainly made some friends for life through this ordeal (both human & hound!) and for that I am forever grateful. I continue to have regular Skype appointments with my Doctor from a distance and medicine is shipped over and continued to be paid for out of pocket. I am now totalling spends of over £65,000 since getting sick with Lyme and the payout is showing no signs of stopping just yet. The financial burden scares me like crazy and does make me worry about my future. I am 31 and now have no savings left, let alone a house or a job! I at least have shed loads of determination!

It frustrates me that I can’t access even the basic antibiotic treatment from the UK via the NHS that I require in order to heal. I have also realised that the chances of getting empathy and understanding from the medical system here anytime soon also remains slim. Patients should NOT be forced to travel great distances or spend extortionate amounts of money on fighting this disease. I think access to medical treatment is a human right, especially when the country is capable and could provide the majority of the basic medication should they wish to educate themselves more on this crippling disease and change the treatment guidelines. I still don’t understand that when it is so obvious that this disease is causing havoc in my entire body that they still persevere to deny or accept a diagnosis of Lyme Disease. I have positive laboratory results for Lyme (Borrelia Burgdoferi) from the US and it is like they think I am enjoying this journey from hell! I am literally fighting for my health and fighting a medical system who are covering up what could potentially be an epidemic. I believe there are significant numbers of people who have been potenitally misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. From recent research, it even suggests that Lyme could be the root cause of illness’ such as ME, MS and even Alzheimer’s. I feel like there is almost a conspiracy to cover up this up as they know deep down the problem is far bigger than anything they understand or can maybe afford to treat. It is without a doubt that the treatment guidelines in the UK need drastically reassessing because as long as patients in the UK are being denied treatment for Chronic Lyme Disease than this country is essentially playing Russian Roulette with human lives.

Thankyou for reading my update on Lyme life and I please ask if you wouldn’t mind taking a few minutes to click the following link and sign the current UK Government and Parliament Lyme petition, it would be appreciated by all who suffer from Lyme in the UK.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/113475Please Click Here.

This petition is to request the development of more accurate NHS Lyme tests and effective treatment protocols. This needs to get a minimum of 10,000 signatures in order for the government to respond and consider this for debate at Parliament. Two minutes of your time could literally save many years of someones life.

Remember… Little Tick, Big Problem! Prevention is better than cure.

Much Love and Happy New Year, may your 2016 be health, happy and full of adventure. Cx

 

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PICC Line

Two days after arriving in California I headed to the hospital to get a PICC Line inserted. A PICC is a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter. It is a thin tube which is inserted into a large vein in the upper arm and this is then threaded into another vein that leads to the heart. The PICC line can be used over and over again to  administer antibiotic medications, nutritional supplements and also for blood draws. When needing multiple intravenous medications daily this is often the next step as having needles inserted daily becomes painful and also veins begin to fail. During my first trip for treatment my veins became very problematic and this was just another layer of stress to add to what was already an erupting volcano of chaos!

There are of course risks with having this access line put in, but I feel in my case the benefits far out weigh the risks right now. The procedure itself wasn’t too bad. Luckily I had the support of a friend of mine who was also in the US getting treatment for Lyme. We met through an online Lyme support group but she has become a true friend and support to me daily and our similarities go beyond life with lyme. We are both the same age, have big dreams and are grabbing onto all treatment opportunities in the hope to achieve remission. To have her and her mum by my side was just such a huge relief and comfort too. The hospital was really efficient and before I knew it I was in my glamorous gown and cap and ready to be wheeled into theatre. The doctors and nurses were good at making conversation and distracting me from the procedure.  It didn’t take very long and insertion was not really that painful either. The area on the selected arm was numbed and carefully disinfected and then the only small pain was what I would describe as a hard pinch and the rest was pretty painless.  The line was inserted using an X-ray as a guide to ensure it was correctly placed and not touching the heart.  It was not long before I was wheeled back out of theatre with my new ‘accessory’, it was all a bit surreal! Later the same day I had increased pain in the arm but this is normal, it was just the medication wearing off and my body adjusting to this new foreign object.

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I felt very aware of my line at first, nervous to catch it or to move my arm too much and disturb the placement. You just have to be very careful, your range of movement is more limited and you can’t lift anything heavy with that arm, but most of the time you forget that it is there. The connecting tubes can neatly coil under a small fabric arm cover and this prevents the line getting pulled or caught in clothes. I was aware at first that people could see it, but I feel used to it now and just know it is part of the process to help me heal and I must just roll with it the programme, so to speak.

Having a PICC line or a Port seemed to be my only options for this next stage of treatment and be more beneficial long term too. For now I accept that it is just part of the process and it is providing reliable access for the medication I need daily. Showering is a palava and the arm can’t be submerged in water. Finding a reliable waterproof sleeve has proven difficult when you have a super skinny upper arm but with added strapping, cling film and medical tape I am just about managing! I have the dressings changed weekly at the clinic and the insertion area carefully cleaned in a sterile environment to reduce the risk of infection. Mixing and administering medication is becoming part of a daily routine and pretty much my full time job! I have to keep a track of ordering supplies and medications and I rely on multiple lists and spreadsheets as an extra brain! Sometimes it can all feel quite overwhelming but I know I must stay strong for getting through this difficult time now will allow me a future.


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Keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment of my journey in the Lyme light where I will be giving you the low down on the past four weeks of treatment and life so far on this side of the pond.

Thanks for reading and for your continuous support.

Chantelle xx

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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