I recall the exact day my world changed in traumatic proportions. On that summer solstice day of 2000, I was living a well-crafted life in bucolic New England, when the dramatic onset of flu-like symptoms — vertigo, chills, and headache — hit me like a sledgehammer. Within three days I couldn’t shower without help, nor drive, nor cook a meal. My early diagnosis was sinusitis, then “probable” walking pneumonia, and by month four, an Epstein-Barr virus infection. For a homeopath practitioner like me, this felt surreal, as I took great care of myself. How could I get so run down?
Misdiagnoses That Missed Lyme Disease
As the months unraveled, my health was a Ferris wheel of ups and downs. This eroded my ability to maintain a client schedule, my weekly newspaper column, and family life. Crippling migraines, brain fog, stiff neck, and irritable bowel set in. Thousands of dollars and numerous doctor appointments at prominent hospitals later, the working diagnosis was chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, with a migraine complex. This was an implausible status for me, a health-food junkie and fitness specimen. Fear, confusion, anxiety, and depression filled my mind, as my heart took off in erratic sprints and palsy tremors shook my limbs.
By 2005, I did get the tests, and received three negative findings on standard ELISA Lyme disease test. Now you can get a tick tested for Lyme bacteria from online sources like Mainely Ticks. By that time, I was completely bedridden, broken, and in the throes of a divorce. The strain of chronic disease fractured so many facets of my life and relationships. Many times I feared I would die in my sleep. I was so emotionally and spiritually frayed that my eight-year-old son was my sole reason to hang on, amid endless pain, despair, and extreme weakness. I was wrecked.
Mismanaged Lyme Disease
A major miracle came in the form of a clinical nutritionist, a PhD who knew the nuances of misdiagnosed neurological Lyme disease. Wheel-chaired into his office, I was never so elated and simultaneously furious as I was when the Lyme specialty lab report from IgeneX Labs glared with a very positive test result. This confirmed the presence of the treacherous spirochete culprit that causes Lyme disease, called Borrelia burgdoreferi. It was then that I learned about the high false-negative error rate on the standard Lyme disease ELISA and western blot test, and the lack of physician education on how this bacteria augurs its way from bloodstream to tissues and joints, and on to the nervous system and brain.
I was a prime example of full blown, progressed infection that had been mismanaged.
Welcome to the apex of the current Lyme disease crisis exploding around the world. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced in 2013 that approximately 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported annually in this country, but this may represent only 10 percent of actual cases. The remainder of cases, like mine, bumble through the medical system with scant hope of recovery. Many of the 300,000 are instead labeled as an autoimmune illness or misunderstood completely.
The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) is a sophisticated group of healthcare practitioners armed to address this illness. Another helpful site to find an experienced practitioner is the nonprofit patient advocacy group Lymedisease.org. Most general practitioners are following Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) information that classifies Lyme disease as a short-term infectious illness, swiftly eradicated with two weeks of antibiotics, which was deemed “appropriate treatment” back in the 1980s.
But what 40 years of clinical discovery, ILADS and progressive doctors, have determined is that six weeks of treatment is the correct protocol for acute early Lyme infections due to the slow replication cycle of the infectious organism. Older, smoldering infections, like mine, could require months to years of antibiotics, antimalarials, and more.
My Integrative Medicine Approach to Lyme
My brilliant nutritionist advised me to use an integrative medicine approach to heal. He designed a tailor-made regime from metabolic-profile analysis work, aimed at detoxification methods (diet, herbs, homeopathics, sauna), nutritive supplements, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes. These were to restore the massive depletions and damages my bodily systems suffered from years of a rampant infection. We killed off the bacterial colonies with natural antimicrobials that included cat’s claw, Japanese knotweed, and teasel root. After five years of fortitude, commitment and hard work, I healed 100 percent. I learned to walk again at year one, drive a car in year two! Additionally, deep spiritual healing attention was needed to reclaim my very fragile psyche.
Having Lyme disease stripped me of everything: my career, income, home, marriage, and health. Many chronic illnesses, and Lyme disease in particular, ask us to turn within, to our deep sources of personal healing and resiliency. I had to learn to let go of what I thought mattered on the material plane, and American emblems of success. A successful career and IRA, a beautiful home, and an organized lifestyle, I ultimately discovered, were merely totems. Coming to understand myself as a deeply creative being, with wellsprings of willpower, and the capacity to use affirmations, prayer, vision, intention, and belief, became healing tools at an energetic level. These triggered the mind-bodyhealing pathway and have been just as instrumental as the nutritive supplements and antimicrobials I took.
Lyme disease forced me to change, to dig deep, to reflect and grow into a person of greater wisdom and clarity, now infused with passion and the mission to end the suffering that too many thousands, like myself, endure. How deeply grateful I am to have healed. I am now sharing my story and passion, speaking nationally on behalf of Lyme disease awareness. I have given more than 90 public presentations in three years’ time, birthed a weekly radio show, and become an author.
Renewed and well, I live with deep respect and gratitude for the many miracles each day presents and the beautiful synergy of compassion. I feel blessed to have a second chance at life. May the sun and stars and gifts of rebirth guide and protect my journey and yours.
Katina Makris, CCH, CIH, has worked in natural healthcare for 30 years. She is the award-winning author of Out of the Woods, Healing Lyme Disease, Body, Mind & Spirit, from Helios Press, and former board member of the Council for Homeopathic Certification. She is the keynote speaker for the Lyme disease Ticked OFF Music Fest Series, and host of “Lyme Light Radio ” on the Dr Pat Show syndicate. She is a graduate of Duke University and the Stillpoint School of Integrative Life Healing.