Something I have yet to really mention on this blog is my dual diagnosis of Lyme Disease (which came in 2004 -- eight years after becoming ill). This is in part because I've always struggled with how big a role Lyme is actually playing in my case, and on when, where, how or even if I really have it.
Testing for Lyme is complicated, confusing and not very reliable. False negatives are common. I was negative for Lyme with standard tests through regular labs, as are (from what I understand) most patients if tested years after the initial infection. I tested positive, however, through a specialty lab called Igenex. This in and of itself might leave some doubtful, as Igenex (with good reason) considers certain bands indicative of Lyme Disease that the CDC does not. But I was not just positive by Igenex standards; I was positive by CDC standards as well. Twice. I'm told this is quite a feat, as antibodies may no longer be present so late in the game, and the Lyme-causing bacteria (known as B. burgdorferi) are not always easily detectable. Apparently, they are a bit sneaky, and like to hide.
Given these results, and thus assuming that Lyme is a contributing factor in my case, how did I manage to contract it on top of viral-induced CFS? Two possibilities come to mind. I did once have a tick bite as a child. I was about 11 years old, and found a tick on my back almost immediately after it bit me. It was not engorged. My mother removed it with tweezers, and that was pretty much the end of it. I never developed a rash or any other symptoms, so we didn't think much of it. Is it possible I contracted Lyme then but it remained latent all those years until I got mono, sending my immune system into havoc? Maybe, though I'm skeptical. I was quite vibrantly healthy up until that fateful day I fell sick, and there's no doubt that my illness had a clear and sudden viral onset.
However, for a few months previous to that onset (following a trip to Colorado), I remember feeling unusually tired quite a bit of the time -- almost like I was constantly fighting off a cold that never actually came to fruition. The fatigue was not anywhere near enough to interfere with my life at all, but it was enough for me to take slight notice. This makes me wonder if I may have somehow contracted Lyme during that trip, perhaps unknowingly getting a tick bite while hiking around a bit in the Rockies. Then, when I came down with mononucleosis a few months later, my immune system went berserk on me, ultimately resulting in CFS.
I will never know for sure, I guess. Still, I feel CFS to be my primary issue; not just because of the viral onset, but because I fit that picture so much better than the Lyme one. I don't tend to relate to Lyme patients as much as I do to those with CFS. I don't have joint pain, tremors, numbness (other than from poor circulation) or all that much muscle pain unless I over-exert. Also, if I were to say what my most debilitating symptoms were beyond or even above the severe exhaustion, they would be orthostatic intolerance and post exertional setbacks (a worsening of all symptoms upon even the most minor of activity) -- the latter of which is considered to be the hallmark of CFS. This is true of Lyme as well, of course, but it is something you see more distinctly and profoundly in CFS, it seems.
It's also quite plausible that chronic Lyme is yet another form of CFS; that is, if CFS is caused by an infectious agent (viruses or bacteria), the bacteria that causes Lyme could be one of those possible triggers.
Of course, all that being said, assuming I do have Lyme, it is clearly complicating my case. I have tried a multitude of treatments for it, just as I have for CFS: a growing list of antibiotics, mepron, herbs, diets, protocols, IV's, nutritional supplements, and alternative therapies. Thus far, nothing has worked.
So, what do I do after being diagnosed with two illnesses that are poorly understood and lacking in viable treatment options? The only thing I can: keep trying, keep searching, keep looking for answers, and keep hoping.
For a brief trailer on a newly released documentary on Lyme called Under Our Skin (now in theaters), check out the video below. It is a must-see.
*Note: For those who are more knowledgeable about Lyme than I am, please feel free to correct me if I got anything wrong. I am much more well researched in the area of ME/CFS than I am in Lyme Disease. :-)
For those looking for more info on Lyme, please see some of the websites linked on this page.