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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My Fight For Remission Continues…

It has been 3 months since I arrived in California and began round 2 of magic medicine. I can’t believe I am still here or how quickly time has gone! I had originally booked a return flight for the middle of May, but as time crept up, reality kicked in… I still needed more medicine and this meant time. I was hit with the dilemma of how can I afford to stay in the USA for longer? Fundraising has slowed right down, the hotel was so expensive and I just didn’t have the funds for this as a long term option. The decision to return to the UK may have seemed more affordable, but for treatment this would be detrimental. Leaving California would mean pulling out my PICC line and therefore no more intravenous antibiotics. My infections have progressed to the difficult stages due to the length of time it took for an initial diagnosis and it seems I really don’t respond to the oral medication and therefore this wasn’t really proving an effective option for me. Bearing all this in mind its not surprising I had a full on week of worry and tears trying to work through options and scenarios in my head. Financial and geographical limitations were putting up barriers and the additional stress wasn’t great for my body.  I was then super lucky to find an offer of a room rental in someones house. It came just as I was loosing hope and I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. A kitchen I could finally cook in, this seemed like luxury after creating all sorts of interesting dishes in my hotel room, not easy with dietary restrictions and lack facilities! I also craved that home environment, a sense of normality in the midst of a situation which really didn’t seem all that normal! After all I have travelled over 5,000 miles by myself to get medical help, this didn’t shout normal and was definitley never on my 5 year plan!

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I was soon packed up and moved into my new temporary home… I seemed to have double the luggage I arrived with, medicine and IV supplies galore, kilo bags of epsom salts and not to forget the IV pole! I quickly adjusted into the new environment and know how ever hard it was to still be away from home I had to jeep focused, positive and motivated. No one ever said fighting for remission was going to be an easy one, but its definitely a fight I am willing to take a good shot at.

IV Meds in the hammock! Making the most of a 'better' day & the beautiful californian climate.

IV Meds in the hammock! Making the most of a ‘better’ day & the beautiful californian climate.

My medicine has been changed up on a regular basis since I have been here, research suggests that the infections really respond to this pulsing method long term. Un-like other illness’, Lyme is not text book and there really isn’t a ‘one fits all’ protocol. You can be infected with an array of infections from a tick and not only does this vary  from person to person, but also how the body and immune system cope and responds to these bacteria vary significantly. I often have people ask me ‘what medicine do you take, I have a friend with Lyme and she need to start medication?’. The thing is there is no simple answer, one must consult a Lyme literate doctor, have various lab tests done and be treated based on these results and also on a clinical level too based on current symptoms. My symptoms can change on an hourly basis, let alone a daily basis! I may wake with a crushing headache and pains in my feet, then an hour later I may feel really alert but shaking and by the end of the day I might be hugging the porcelain bowl! Its the most unpredicable situation to be in and it doesn’t make it easy to make any plans! I never really know if it will be a good hour or one where I hit foetal position and just rock! I can look so well from the outside but inside I often feel like I am breaking internally in so many different ways… like my body has been hijacked and there really is a monster inside me!  This for me is particularly frustrating, I can’t see or always understand what is going on inside MY body and yet I have to almost accept that ‘it is what it is’ and just deal with it. I am control freak and it makes me feel ridiculously out of control!

The main intravenous antibiotic medication I have been working with this past few months is Rocephin/Ceftriaxone, Azithromycin and Metronidazole/Flagyl. All of which focus on fighting the different persistent bacterial infections which I have. These are administered sometimes multiple times a day and have multiple side effects and interactions. Its often one medication for one problem and then another to reduce or eliminate the side effects!

The other IV medications I take are Phosphatidylcholine, Glutathione, Colloidal Silver and Myers. The latter is a  nutritional cocktail of high dose Vitamin C, various B Vitamins, Calcium, Magnesium etc. All of which have clear roles in detox,  supporting my immune system and helping me bite back against Lyme and the multiple co-infections.

I also take a daily concoction of probiotics, herbal tablets and tinctures which are a natural and vital part of my protocol. With all these pills, potions and drips it soon fills my day as you can imagine! In addition to medication I am also using food as another avenue of healing. I am currently gluten free, sugar free, dairy free and and following the Low Fodmap Diet. This eliminates high fodmap foods which are poorly absorbed into the small intestine and this helps reduce the abdominal pain, bloating, and bowel problems that have been caused by the infections and medicaitons . By eliminating these short-chain carbohydrates such as Lactose and Sucrose, it helps to eradicate this process of malabsorption and in addition to the other dietary restrictions I am hoping long term this will help to re-program and eventually heal my gut.

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I am really careful about keeping a log of all my medication and symptoms as this allows both the doctor and I to have a more accurate view on how things are going, what may be helping and in some instances what could be making things worse. You really begin to see patterns over time and get a much a clear insight into the flare-ups and also the better days too. I have a notebook which I have used to log every day of treatment since all this began. I recommend this for anyone juggling a difficult health problem and a lot of medication, especially if your brain has become a little more on the foggier side!

The trusty notebook... an insight into Lyme life!

The trusty notebook… an insight into Lyme life!

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