I glanced down at my arm and my stomach dropped. There it was, attached tightly to my upper arm, a fully engorged deer tick. Since it was 7am I knew it had been on me all night. My husband pulled the tick off me (it came off way too easily) and “Lyme disease” flashed through my head. But, we were in the early morning rush, so I put it out of my head and moved on.
Ticks are insidious around here. Everywhere! If you are outside in a field or wooded area for any amount of time, you will have ticks. Since we are outside so much and do a lot of hiking, ticks are a common occurrence. I daily pull ticks from my kids and cats. It’s just something that we’ve learned to live with, another benefit of living in New Jersey (the highest property taxes in the country is the #1 benefit).
About a week later two red welts had formed on my arm at the tick bite site. My husband said, “you know, that’s probably Lyme. Do something about it.” But, it was the end of the school year and we were getting ready to head to Cape May for a few days. Life was busy, so I blew it off.
Yes, stupid of me especially because I have had Lyme before and know how awful it feels! Two of my kids have had it as well. I have a couple friends who have permanent health problems due to long undiagnosed Lyme plus I call on a Rheumatologist for my job who treats people with severe forms of Lyme. I have seen the devastation of the disease! But still, I did the repression thing and moved on.
We headed to Cape May to spend a long weekend with my entire family in a house we had rented a block from the ocean! It was a beautiful weekend, warm but not hot. The summer crowds had not yet arrived which meant lots of empty beaches and restaurants.
After lunch at the Lobster House, we all headed to the house and picked out rooms. This can be a tense event, but we all survived with only a few passive-aggressive comments. Then it was off to the beach.
I had not felt right all day. Not bad, just off. In fact, on the beach I just slept curled up in a towel while everyone else played and ran around. Very unusual for me! That evening I glanced at my arm and there it was, the tell-tale sign of Lyme, a bulls-eye!
I spent the rest of the trip going downhill quickly. Chills and aches quickly developed. I still had fun, somehow managing to run with my two brother-in-laws, go kayaking, and have a great sibling dinner. But, by our final day, I was done. I called my doctor, explained my symptoms, and they called in a prescription for doxycycline which is an antibiotic used to treat the bacteria that causes Lyme.
I started my first dose that evening, but by that time I was feeling horrible (I think it’s the fever that makes you feel so bad). Doxycycline would be in my system for the next month in order to fight the disease! I missed almost a week of work, struggling to feel better. My husband may have whispered an “I told you so” because I had let it get pretty far.
Doxycycline works great on curing Lyme if you catch it early enough and by the second week my fever and aches were pretty much gone, I was just extremely tired. But, as with all meds, the antibiotic has side effects. One of the main side effects with doxycycline is photo-sensitivity. In other words, you need to keep out of the sun which is great considering most tick bites occur during the spring and summer.
I did okay with that until our mud run. As I described here, I headed up a community kid’s mud run, which went amazingly well but meant I was out in the sun for two full days! By the end of the 2nd day I felt like my body was on fire. My hands and swollen to the size of sausages and itched and burned like crazy. Yep, sun poisoning!
Then, a few days later, I was in bed for the night when I suddenly remembered that I had not taken my antibiotic. I got up, took it with a quick gulp of water, and woke up the next day feeling as if something was lodged in my throat. I had trouble breathing and almost couldn’t swallow anything. It was scary! I went to Wed MD and first discovered that I had cancer because all Wed MD searches lead to cancer, then realized it was probably pill-induced esophagitis. Several message boards described my exact symptoms and the exact cause; taking a med with a small amount of water and immediately laying down. This particular side effect took over a week to go away!
So, where am I today? Today my Lyme is gone, but I feel like I have lost so much! My hands are still red and blotchy. I still every once in awhile feel a slight twinge when I swallow. But, saddest of all to me is that I lost all of my race training! Between the actual Lyme and the side effects, I have not been doing my regular training for triathlon. I have just in the past couple weeks began to really run again, but I can feel how behind I am. It’s depressing!
But I am better! Lyme has not conquered me! I guess if there’s a moral to the story its don’t wait too long to get to the doctor because Lyme really does ruin everything!