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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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

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!

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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” 

This is going to be a rough ride…

So it’s just before 6 o’clock here in California and finally the nausea of the day has began to subside. It has been a hard day and the tears have been flowing by the bucket load. I think all of a sudden the enormity of the recovery journey ahead has sunk in. It’s going to take over a year minimum to see the big changes, although hopefully over time my symptoms will diminish or lessen in severity and my immune system might eventually do some of the fighting!
This illness has been a whole lifestyle change, and will continue to be even when eventually I go into remission. I am going to have to watch how far I push my body in the future, both in work and play as I just can’t afford (literally) to relapse.
This 6 week trip alone is costing an estimated £15 000, for fights, hotel, taxis, food, appointments and the array of costly medications and supplements are not cheap! To give you an example just the IV medication alone per day is £200. It’s insane, this illness is for millionaires, which I am clearly not! There are not enough words to describe how grateful I am for the money that has been donated so far. Without this treatment I would deteriorate and eventually probably die. These initial costs only cover the first 6 weeks of treatment. I will have approx £500 of outgoings a month for my medication once I return to the UK and I won’t be able to work for a long time either. There will have to be another trip out here too at some point and depending on my progress I may need further IV. It’s all if, buts and maybe’s at the minute, and I will just have to take one day at a time.
I hopefully have a good chance of recovering from this, but as I mentioned before there is no simple or easy fix, I really wish there was. All three of the bacteria I am suffering with  are unfortunately really difficult to get rid of. They hide deep inside blood cells, and the bodies tissues and joints. They take on different formations and even build there own protective coating to try and avoid being killed off. Talk about perseverance! However much they try to multiply and thrive in my body,  hopefully in the long run, I will manage to win this fight.
I have lost a lot of weight with this illness because of the effect it has had on my stomach. Right now I resemble a bag of bones and have so much muscle wastage. This is not helped by the viscous cycle of nausea which makes it really difficult to eat. Today I struggled to eat some chicken salad and a gluten free wrap through the tears, washed down with hot water, lemon and ginger!  With all these tablets I need a hearty loaf of bread to line the stomach but this isn’t allowed with the new gluten free diet! I am going to have to force down food little and often, I need the calories and the strength to fight this through to the other side.
Well only the evening now to get through and then I can tick off another day! It’s worse than watching paint dry! I am a not so attractive shade of ‘pale’ and have some beautiful black rings under my eyes! I have had my 20 minute Epsom salt bath, and came out of that shrivelled and with massive tremors. This disease hates heat, but its tough as I have to detox as much as possible. The anti-sickness tablets have finally helped a little and copious amounts of lemon and ginger water are definitely helping. I will most likely spend the rest of this day horizontal but at least I have free wifi to keep me in contact with the world!
Tomorrow I introduce another new drug so watch this space… I am sure there is going to be some highs and lows to document!
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