We received the following email in August from Nathan Land, a newly married former athlete in Florida. The subject of his email was: “Your documentary saved my life.” Years after the film’s release, we want to continue to share moving personal stories that illuminate the experience of Lyme sufferers and communicate the need for awareness. Nathan’s story was particularly touching:
I want to thank you for making the documentary UNDER OUR SKIN . Before seeing it, I was living a tortured life from the moment I opened my eyes to the time they were closed. I had severe insomnia, major panic attacks, anxiety throughout my day, arthritis in my joints that became unbearable. I became socially detached and would not leave my house for days, sometimes weeks at a time. I have constant tremors like I’m an old man, involuntary jerks, especially at night or anytime I try to relax my body. I have a rash on my face most of the time, am tired all the time, and any sort of exercise or exertion sends me over the edge into a shaking, dizzy, anxiety filled mess.
Going back in time, I had just graduated college in 1999 from the University of Florida and was setting my sails on life’s great journey. I had played baseball and football all my life until then and was still playing softball three nights a week at this point. I was a very fit, strong active young man. On top of that I was working full time and going out at least two nights a week with friends. Suddenly I began feeling very tired all the time, could not sleep for the life of me and started having panic attacks. I didn’t even know what a panic attack was at the time. All of this stuff was very scary and led me to the emergency room numerous times. I also began seeing every type of doctor I could find. Neurologists, cardiologists, psychologists, a rheumatologist, a gastroenterologist, etc. I was examined by anyone and everyone I could find. The answers were always the same. “You look like a healthy strong young man. You need to go out, live your life and stop thinking you are sick. The mind can really be powerful. You should go to see a psychologist, they can help you.” The problem with that was I had already been to a psychologist and was on a myriad of psychotropic drugs and none of them did a thing for me – except the Xanax which would provide temporary relief from the panic and anxiety that gripped me so tightly.
After seeing numerous doctors from 2000 to 2002 and getting no diagnosis, I began researching on the internet looking for answers. I would search and search on these self diagnosis websites, and compare my symptoms to each and every disease or disorder I could find. When I came across Lyme, the symptoms page jumped off the screen! I was certain this had to be what ailed me. I went to an infectious disease doctor and took a western blot test. The blood test came back negative and I was told that I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT HAVE LYME! The doctor neglected to mention that the test they administered, the western blot test, was unreliable and could not rule out Lyme completely. Instead he, in my opinion, breached the Hippocratic Oath by advising me with 100% certainty that this was not the disease which was slowly taking away my life. So, based on what he told me, I put Lyme disease out of my head and moved on to search for answers in other directions. Those answers would never come, and unknowingly eight more years of misery were ahead.
By 2003 I was so sick I could no longer work and I began staying home most of the time. I would have good days, bad days and really bad days. It was a mixed bag. After about 5 more years, my symptoms progressed to the point of no return. I no longer had good days. I experienced an inescapable torture in my body and an unrelenting misery in my mind. I thought any day could be my last, and that all those doctors had missed whatever it was inside of me that was doing these horrible things. I decided to make one last effort to see doctors. I was admitted to some of the top medical institutions in the country. I went to Johns Hopkins University and was tested extensively by many doctors and once again they came up empty handed. I then went to Alabama for the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Institute to get help with my joints. They confirmed I had arthritis in my joints and were baffled how someone as young as I would be developing this arthritis. However there wasn’t much they could do for me other than give me pain meds which I did not take. I wasn’t looking for something to mask the problem, I was looking for an answer to the problem. The Mayo Clinic was strike three for me. After spending 3 months in and out of their clinic: they also came up with nothing. My last shred of hope had vanished and I just wanted to escape my pain and misery any way possible. I’m a fighter and I was literally wondering how many more days I could wake up to the certain misery that awaited me. This was my darkest hour. The hour where you must decide if life is worth the fight, an hour that many don’t come back from.
Just when my mind was getting too weak to keep going, out of nowhere I stumbled upon a review online about this documentary called UNDER OUR SKIN . It had excellent reviews and it sounded like something I should check out. So I got a copy and watched the film. I couldn’t believe my eyes seeing these people and hearing their stories. I was in disbelief that my story was being told right in front of me. Only it wasn’t me telling the story. It was others who have had the same struggles as me and for the first time in a decade I didn’t feel alone. I watched the film again with my wife. And then watched it again with my parents. That hope that had slipped away from me was back and a light appeared down that long dark tunnel I had lived inside for so long. A light I had not been able to see for many, many years. In fact this year marks a decade of suffering for me. And I trudged forward all those years to finally see that light and God, I cannot tell you how beautiful it was.
I then made an appointment to see a doctor in your film named Dr. “X”, and felt strongly that he was the man to help me. I found out he had moved his practice to Washington, DC, and soon I was on a plane to see him. Dr. “X” examined me for at least an hour or two. He then clinically diagnosed me with stage three chronic Lyme disease. I was so happy he recognized in me what I had seen in your film. But I wanted some confirmation that he was correct. After my blood work was done I was shocked again to see a positive result on my western blot test showing I had Lyme. This was the first positive test I had been shown after ten years of being a pin cushion. Yet I still felt I needed to temper my enthusiasm. Not only because I didn’t want to be let down from this dream of having my life back, but also because any excitement would trigger anxiety for me.
In retrospect, had the first doctor who tested me for Lyme eight years ago had said, “This test came back negative, however the test is not 100% accurate so we recommend you come back and get retested in three or six months” – that simple statement could have saved eight years of my life.
So here I am today, five weeks into my IV treatment. I have a long way to go, however I am on a road that I never thought I would cross paths with. A road called recovery, and this road, though bumpy, feels so right. I cannot wait to see what is at the end of this road. I believe with all that I am that it will be a new beginning. And it all started with your film. Without it I would have never found an answer and who knows where I’d be or even if I’d be still fighting. I was so tired and so hopeless but God answered my last prayer and led me to you in an indirect way. There is no way I can repay you for the gift that you’ve given to me. All I can do is thank you so much for your efforts to bring awareness to this ignored disease.