Today is my beautiful Aunt Carole's birthday. (She has always been just "Aunt.") She is also my godmother and a wonderful human being and I love her very much. She is my mom's younger sister and is still plenty young with many years ahead of her.
Unfortunately, because of an insect, the past 4 years have been a living hell for her. My aunt is suffering terribly from late stage Lyme disease- you cannot even imagine what this disease, if left untreated, can do to a person. It invades every part of your body and can make you a mere shadow of your former self, rendering you unable to walk and talk, gasping for breath, and you may not even know why. Such is the case with my aunt. She had no telltale bullseye mark after being bitten. She just started getting stroke-like symptoms which got progressively worse. She has finally, after four years, been diagnosed with Lyme, after first being MISdiagnosed with everything from ALS to Parkinson's to Multiple System Atrophy at hospitals including Columbia, Johns Hopkins and Mayo, in addition to local doctors. She can't even count how many doctors she has seen, many of them dismissing her with "It's Parkinson's, no cure," and some even laughing at her when she asked if it could be Lyme. She has taken multiple medications for diseases she doesn't have, filling her body with drugs that didn't do a thing, all while the Lyme burrowed its way further and further into her body.
After a doctor took a chance on my cousin's gut instinct and treated my aunt with medication to make the Lyme leave the tissue and enter the bloodstream where it could be detected, was she finally diagnosed. The relief we all felt was immense- one doctor had told her she had 3 years left to live, another had given her the diagnosis of MSA, an untreatable and incurable disease with less than a year to live. Now she has a light at the end of the tunnel.
But the recovery is not easy and the herxheimer reaction-- killing off the Lyme bacteria, causing them to release their toxins into the body-- makes her feel worse. That often makes her stop the treatment to get relief from the pain, and she backslides. I know it's hard, and I know the pain must be unimaginable. But she needs to stick with it and finish the treatment so she can get her life back. She has lived through problems in her life that seemed insurmountable before and she came out on top- she can do this, too. I know that with determination she will soon get out of that wheelchair and put on her stylish suits and walk and talk like before. We pray for her every night and fear that she is simply exhausted-- too exhausted to fight anymore, but we know she can do it. This disease has not only affected her and her children, but her 10 grandchildren have missed out on their once vibrant and energetic grandmother, too.
So, Happy Birthday to my Aunt, I wish her strength, perseverance and may next year's birthday find her shopping at Talbot's and celebrating her new life, free of pain and disease.
I love you.
Please help me to send words of encouragement to my aunt, who is unable to talk to me on the phone because Lyme left her unable to speak, by leaving your comments below. Even though she may not know you, knowing that people are praying and rooting for her may help her to stay with her treatment and get better.
For more info on Lyme disease please check out these sites.
Protect Yourself Against Ticks and Lyme
PDF Downloads about Lyme
NJ Lyme rates by county- If you live in Jersey, like my Aunt, watch out
Meant for doctors but very comprehensive information about Lyme
What Lyme Can Do to Your Brain
Why Lyme diagnosis gets delayed
Lyme Vaccine Gets Pulled for Poor Sales
Daniel Wood's Story
Personal story- Roger Doyle
Shelly Pinter's Story