It's hard to write an intro worthy of what you are about to read. I have been blessed this month with the opportunity to hear an incredible journey of strength, perseverance and genuineness. My beautiful friend, Cristina, and I recently were able to reconnect after a year or two of absence from each others lives. Cristina and I became like sisters back in the day when we used to live it up in Brisbane, Australia. We did everything together, including moving to Colorado after our season in the land down under came to a close. Life got the best of us and as we both moved into marriage, and Cristina into a new state, emails and phone calls became fewer and farther between...until recently. What a beautiful thing it is to rekindle past friendships! It was as if the last time we spoke had been hemmed in with present day, leaving the space between un-gapped. It is so wonderful to have my friend back in my life and to get the chance to witness her journey unfold. This is the story Cristina told me and this is what I couldn't wait to share with you all. To me... her strength, her courage and her ability to have such a clear perspective is truly refreshing! Meet Cristina. ♥, mK
Well hello there! My name is Cristina and I’m a Lymie. In other words… I have Lyme Disease. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Lyme and what it can do, here is a brief description:
Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection that can be contracted through a tick or mosquito bite. (Contrary to the popular belief that Lyme only exists on the East Coast of the US, anywhere there are ticks and mosquitos, you can get Lyme.) It can cause flu-like symptoms, joint/muscle pain, extreme fatigue, memory loss, and major damage to the systems of the body, including the organs. Lyme can be fatal and has claimed many lives.
Those who are diagnosed can be treated through a series of IV treatments (not unlike chemo therapy) or they can do rounds of multiple antibiotics. Both forms of treatment can last an average of 4 years. IV treatment can be VERY expensive; it is not usually covered by insurance, and although some oral antibiotics are covered, the doctor visits and supplements are not. Most people fight with their health insurance companies and at the end of their treatment they have shelled out around $80,000.
So, as I think we’ve established, Lyme can be a pretty difficult thing to handle!
My story with Lyme started about 7 years ago. I was a healthy 18 year old when I developed flu-like symptoms and my joints and muscles became extremely painful. I went to doctor after doctor and was given all sorts of diagnoses, including fibromyalgia. One cheeky doctor even told me “You might just need to see a psychiatrist.”
After about 6 years of no answers, my husband and I were hopeless. I was not able to walk up the stairs, I woke up with intense headaches, and I was not able to focus on more than one thing at a time. I scared myself one day while driving home from work. I was driving and then suddenly… I was lost. I had to pull over and whip out my trusty GPS to get me home.
One night I ended up randomly watching a documentary called Under Our Skin that inspired me to get tested for Lyme. Ta-dah! I tested positive. I finally had a diagnosis! Not an easy one to swallow, but a diagnosis nonetheless.
My treatment started a year ago; I was put on multiple antibiotics and supplements (I take 54 pills a day) and I changed my diet. Treatment has been tough; hair loss, weight loss, nausea, fatigue, short and long term memory loss… things kind of got worse before they got better. It’s been ridiculously tough, emotionally and financially on top of the physical mess. We struggle to find the means to pay for all that I need. And this is where I have to give thanks to my wonderful God. We have spent about $15,000 so far, and I know for a fact that those resources have come from a generous God through generous people. We just take it one month at a time!
I’m happy to announce that we have started to see some changes! I’m not in so much pain, my memory is slowly coming back, and have a renewed sense of hope! I still have my tough days, and I still have quite a bit of treatment ahead of me. But for the first time in 7 years I am experiencing true breakthrough. (This is where I have to give my thanks to my incredible husband, Michael. He has been the best support I could ever ask for, and I’m so grateful for his patience and faithfulness, especially during my darkest days. This experience has been rough on our marriage, but so strengthening as well.)
A huge part of my healing (aside from my treatment plan) has been art… painting, film and music especially. It’s helped me keep the right perspective, and allowed me to express my deepest sorrows and joys in ways that go far beyond words. It helps me get all the sad stuff out, and transforms it into something that can be beautiful. What a tangible example of restoration… taking something that is broken and degenerating, and using the opportunity to find the beauty and power in it.
So what’s in store for the future? I have set a goal for myself over the next 5 years (the time it will take to really get this disease under control). I would like to put together my love for people and the restoration that can happen in their lives and my love for all things artsy. I am going to become an art therapist. My husband and I laugh about this, when I set goals, I set them high! I’m going from not remembering how to get home to getting my Master’s Degree!
My future is still a little shaky, not sure if I’ll ever get back to 100% and although my doctor thinks we will be able to have kids eventually, we will have to take the risk of our kids getting Lyme (Lyme can be given from moms to babies in the womb). Being parents is a huge dream of ours, and we hope to have Lyme-free kids. But there is no guarantee, and they may have to go through treatment just like me. (*I’d like to note that we are in no way opposed to adoption, and if that is the route we need to ultimately take in order to have a family, we will!)
This will be something that I carry for the rest of my life. But I hope with everything in me that these years of sickness and frustration and difficulty will not be wasted.
So you may be sitting there thinking, “What should I do if I get bit by a tick or mosquito?” “How do I know if I have Lyme?” “How do I protect myself?” Well, here are some easy, straight forward answers to bring a little clarity:
1. What do I do if I get a tick or mosquito bite? – In the event of a tick bite, do your best to remove the whole tick with a pair of tweezers and save the tick in a baggie. Go to the doctor immediately with the tick and tell them what happened and that you would like to be treated with antibiotics. They will most likely suggest a 10 day regimen, but ask for at least a 3 week regimen. In the event of a mosquito bite (who doesn’t get those!), the first thing you need to do is know your body. If you start feeling strange, flu-like symptoms, sore muscles, or fatigue, go see your doctor. Don’t be afraid to be persistent, and ask for a Lyme test.
2. How do I know if I have Lyme? – Honestly, it’s tough to tell without a test. Again, know your body. If you aren’t feeling right, go in and ask for a test. It’s just a simple blood test, not tough to get done.
3. How do I protect myself? – Ticks and mosquitos don’t like Deet. Simple as that. Use bug spray when you’re out hiking, working in your yard, or anywhere else you think you might encounter these little boogers. If you don’t like the chemicals, you can use strong essential oils, such as eucalyptus or lemongrass. You can also wear light clothing while out in the woods or on the trail, preferably long sleeves and pants, with the legs of your pants tucked into your socks. (Personally, I think this looks a little silly, so I go with the essential oils!) Also, be sure to treat with repellant any outside animals you might have that share the house with you. They can just as easily carry ticks into your home.
For more information about Lyme and what it’s really like, watch the documentary Under Our Skin. It can be found on Netflix or by following this link.
Thanks for reading, I hope you found a little inspiration, however small, to find the beauty in your life and hold on! If you have any questions or comments, just let me know! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Blessings over each of you, Cristina
(For info on the above Photography, contact Cristina)
This month, Cristina will be the recipient of 10% of all sales made in my shop, The Guestroom Closet. Cristina is my first official recipient of an on going monthly cause of the month donation. All sales made in September will be directly given to Cristina and her husband Michael to help with any medical costs...or a fun date for them to share! If you are interested in donating to Cristina w/o purchasing from my shop, please contact Cristina at email@example.com. I hope you are as blessed by Cristina's story as much as I am!