I had been to so many doctors. Each came to the end of their rope. To the end of what they could offer from their own expertise. My primary care doctor had actually texted me asking that I might “try someone else”. Mental Health, Women’s Health all shook their heads. Again, it was my husband that had heard of an Integrative Doctor that could possibly help. Integrative medicine takes a whole-person approach and uses specialized testing to determine the underlying cause of each person’s health condition. After the source of the problem is identified, natural integrative medicine treatments are customized to meet the needs of each individual. It is also often not covered by medical insurance, which means there can be hundreds, if not thousands of dollars out of pocket.
I remember going into her office. Feeling somewhat hopeful but slightly tainted by the fact that so many had promised help only to produce nothing that brought any comfort. But if I could travel to an acupuncturist in a scary part of town, I could meet with this doctor in her upscale office. She was professional, yet with unfortunately minimal bedside manners. I was feeble and frail, she offered me a throw to wrap around my legs as I sat shaking from both chill and nerves. I felt like I was annoying her. We spent a good hour telling her our story. We, being my husband and I as he accompanied me to all my appointments. She began with a series of tests, vials of blood were drawn and we awaited results. They found I was low on certain vitamins and minerals. Daily lifting my shirt to inject shots of Vitamin B (because it was the one place I still had enough “meat”) was the new normal. We discovered I also was high in toxic metals. So I came for chelating therapy. This is a 45-60 minute intravenous procedure to rid the body of toxins. Hormone testing, discovered that I was not balanced. Eventually I would begin bioidentical hormone treatment. Not surprisingly, I was very high in the stress hormone, cortisol. My adrenals were shot. We discovered I had a thyroid auto-immune, Hashimoto’s. For years I had told the doctors that I was fatigued, never ever woke up feeling rested and for years they had told me my thyroid was “within range”. I also had a MTHFR gene mutation. No, that is not an internet slang for what you might think it is, it stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. It is a genetic condition that results from poor metabolism of folate (also called vitamin B9). If I haven’t lost you already, let me suffice to say, some things were definitely off. I am quite certain that these treatments helped me become more healthy. They did not, sadly, do much if anything for my condition. Perhaps more healthy, I was still ruled by this anxiety and depression.
Eventually she would recommend a test for Lyme. Interestingly, my sister had been diagnosed with Lyme several years earlier. Her symptoms were more classic, joint pain being the predominant one. Because my symptoms didn’t match hers, I never once thought I could have contracted the same illness. Most people aren’t aware of the link between Lyme and depression or anxiety. Lyme Disease, or Lyme Borreliosis, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and spread by ticks, is mainly known to cause arthritis and neurological disorders but can also cause these psychiatric symptoms. We had never heard this connection. Not in any appointment with Mental Health had anyone raised the question of testing for Lyme. This disease gets its name from a small coastal town in Connecticut called, Lyme. In the early 1970s a group of children and adults in Lyme, Connecticut, and the surrounding areas were suffering from some puzzling and debilitating health issues. They had reported skin rashes followed very quickly by arthritic conditions. And they had all recalled being bitten by a tick in the region. We had lived on the East Coast, in 1975. Could this bacteria, known as spirochetes for their unique corkscrew shape, been brewing for almost 40 years?
The test results came. I was positive.
Being positive for Lyme was good news, I guess. It did give me a measure of hope. Our next step was to meet with a Lyme Specialist. We were introduced to the highly sought after and well qualified, Dr. Mischa Grieder, of San Francisco. Although the first appointment was almost three months off, we prayed and stayed diligent to call daily for a cancellation. Thankfully one came within weeks. He was compassionate and listened to our story for two full hours. I suppose he had a clock running, but I never saw him check it. Unlike many others I had met with, he was kind and sympathetic. As an integrative & naturopathic doctor he had treatments that included many natural remedies. But when considering my condition he felt it warranted hardcore antibiotics. In his words, “I don’t think we have time to use the natural method.” I liked that he was open and informed on both the traditional and alternative. Doxycycline, a tetracycline antibiotic, is commonly the first of many antibiotic treatments given to fight Lyme. The following week we were headed to a family camp in the high altitude and sunny destination of Lake Tahoe. Because the use of tetracyclines recommends being out of the sun he began me on a low dosage, to be raised to full strength as soon as we returned.
I need to give a quick snap shot at this point. Let me paint that picture by describing what happened immediately following the appointment. We walked to the car, I was maxed out from having driven all the way to his office and now headed into afternoon gridlock. Up to this point I had managed to hold myself together. John forgot something he meant to ask at the office so he left me in the car and ran back. As I sat there, I was so overwhelmed with what I can only describe as energy that was racing through me so intensely I could not keep myself from closing the door and literally screaming as loud as I could. I felt like my skin was crawling, like an adrenaline rush of fear, like I had just turned the corner to a tiger about to pounce. Yes there was hope, but at this point, nothing had changed yet.