The Lyme Equation: God = Hope

For many years, Lyme disease made me seem like a hopeless case to my family, my friends, and just about everyone who knew me.

I believe God changed that.

Looking back, I feel my main job in those days was to hold on to hope while I tried everything my doctor and I could think of to get better from Lyme. That was seven long years of being basically housebound, and when I was occasionally well enough to go outside for a walk, I moved at the speed of the average 90-year-old.

This span covered my late 30s to early 40s, as I was forced to live with my parents because my wife left me. It was day after day staring at the bedroom ceiling.

Most days I had to spend about 23 hours in bed. I once heard my mother telling a friend she was taking care of her invalid son. Invalid. What an awful word. I told her to never say that again. And I told her and others that someday I would get well. I doubt anyone believed me.

One morning my dad came in to my room and asked if I wanted an itinerant pastor to come pray for me. He mentioned the guy worked partly as a preacher and partly as a lumberjack.

At that time, I had been saving up my energy so I could get a badly needed haircut, so my first response was, “Dad, what I really need is a barber, not a lumberjack.”

But then I thought again. Why should I turn down an offer of healing prayer when I so desperately wanted to be well. Bring on the lumberjack.

This pastor didn’t really understand what I was going through, but he was a dedicated man who spent an hour praying with me, and then promised to go home and start fasting and praying that I be healed.

I’m not sure if it was his efforts that made the difference, as many people were praying for me, but soon after he visited, things suddenly started to happen.

Neither my doctor or I had made any significant changes in how my Lyme was being treated, but shortly after that prayer session, I felt well enough to go outside and stand in the backyard for 10 minutes. My legs had been so wobbly that I hadn’t stood for more than a couple of minutes at a time in years.

Then I started to stretch out my walks, and found I could go further and further without paying any price for it. I can still remember the day I was walking past a mechanic’s garage on our street and noticed that my legs felt solid. Eureka!

Things quickly fell into place. In the matter of a month or so I put on about 15 pounds after being underweight for many years, and started doing normal things like watching TV. This had been impossible for me to do for more than a few minutes, but now it became easy. I could watch an entire movie, no problem. And I could stand for as long as I wanted.

I didn’t get fully well, but I went from being that invalid to being functional. For those who don’t have Lyme, it would be hard to understand the joy you feel after being a prisoner in your own body for seven years, and then finally being released.

I’m still working at getting back to 100 per cent, and I believe I’ll get there, with God’s help.

So I can’t prove that God healed me, but I can’t think of any other explanation. Mainstream medicine would tell you that people who are practically bedridden for seven years don’t often all of a sudden get a whole lot better.

For me, the moral of this story is to hold on to hope. You just never know when prayer  is going to produce great results; you never know when God is going to step in. Scripture tells us that all things are possible for God. Even though Lyme may make things look totally hopeless at times, the truth is that holding on to hope makes a lot of sense.

 

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Is Chronic Lyme Curable?

The question on my Facebook group this past Sunday morning was “When you have chronic Lyme Disease, is it possible to cure at 100 per cent?”

Quickly, someone wrote “No.” I disagreed, so I posted “I believe the answer is yes.” The first poster shot back with “Well, you’re wrong,” and someone added one of those ha-ha-ha options on the Like button, just to rub that in.

It seemed like an innocent question at first, but now I could see there was a long, emotional argument taking shape.

The last time I checked, 93 people had weighed in. There were a few main camps – no, yes, and remission is possible but not cure.

My position didn’t fit into any of those categories. I further explained that because there is no 100 per cent accurate test for Lyme, there is no way of knowing if someone is cured or not. This is why I said, “I believe the answer is yes,” rather than saying yes.

How you look at this debate depends on how you define cure in the sense of the question asked. I took cure in this instance to mean that a person is fully well and no longer has Lyme in his or her body.

I’ve done a lot of Lyme research and read articles by and listened to podcasts featuring many Lyme-literate medical doctors (LLMDs), and the majority disagree with me.  Most LLMDs I’ve heard answer by saying they think remission for people with chronic Lyme is very possible, but that being fully cured isn’t possible. Still, I’ve heard some LLMDs say they think being fully cured is possible.

I agree with them because that while getting fully well from chronic Lyme can be incredibly difficult, many people have done just that. Are those people in remission or are they cured with the Lyme being fully eradicated from their body? Again, we have no way of knowing because the testing isn’t perfect.

Some of the patients who say they believe Lyme is curable talk about various modalities they feel got them well. Some point to Rife machines, some to Bee Venom therapy, some to Chinese medicine, some to other treatments. But no one can say for sure they were or weren’t cured.

This is where belief comes in. While I would be very happy if I achieved full remission and fell short of cure, my goal is to be cured from chronic Lyme, to become fully well, and to have Lyme fully eradicated from my body. Because there is no way to prove if this is possible or impossible, I choose to believe it is possible.

One of the reasons I choose to believe this rests on recent scientific research pointing to the power of belief. Probably the best known work in this area, Dr. Bruce Lipton’s book, The Biology of Belief, describes how believing in something can lead to the creation of beneficial brain chemicals that foster well-being and healing.

Obviously there is no cure right now for chronic Lyme in the sense of a treatment that will guarantee that Lyme can be eradicated from a person’s body. But what I think is possible is that if a person incorporates treatments that work for them, lives a lifestyle that strongly promotes healing, physically, mentally and spiritually, and works through any spiritual or emotional blockages that may be hampering their immune system, then they would be the ones most likely to have a shot at being 100 per cent free of chronic Lyme.

Some would say I’m mistaken in giving myself false hope. Hope is a precious thing for those of us with chronic Lyme and not something to be taken lightly. I spent seven years practically housebound, only occasionally well enough to get out for a very short and very slow walk. Most people had written me off. My own mother once referred to me as an invalid. But I chose to retain hope I could get well.

I’m not fully well but I’m way better now and functioning at a fairly high level. If I’d given up hope I might not be alive today.

Still, I understand why many people with chronic Lyme don’t want to get their hopes up. After trying and failing treatment after treatment, going year after year feeling wretched, and having their hopes dashed time after time, they understandably want to guard against false hope. I get it. I’ve been there.

Maybe I’m wrong in believing that it’s possible to be 100 per cent cured from chronic Lyme. Maybe my hope is false hope. But I’d much rather have false hope than no hope at all.

 

Healing Lyme God’s Way

Imagine what it would be like if most Christians placed their main focus on Christ every day and not just at Christmas?

I think it’s a very important question, particularly if you are a Christian with Lyme Disease.

I don’t know about you, but when I first got sick with Lyme, my focus was squarely on me. I felt far worse than I’d ever felt before, I was scared, and I was running around from doctor to doctor to try to find someone to save me.

When you know in your gut that something is seriously wrong with your health, you tend to put your own needs in front of others. It’s a crisis, and you feel God will understand your selfishness.

This is what I thought, and it took me nearly a year to even start shifting my main focus away from doctors and treatments to prayer and looking to God for answers.

During this 10 month or so period, all the running around didn’t do anything but dig a deep hole that took me a long time to dig out of.

Now, what if I’d focused more on God from the day I got sick?

I’m not saying I shouldn’t have sought medical attention. Doing that was clearly appropriate. But the problem was a matter of focus. What was I placing my faith in and Who was I not placing my faith in?

What if I’d spent a lot more time praying and asking others to pray for me? What if I’d sought out healing prayer? What if I’d put my primary focus on God?

In most healing stories you read about in the Bible faith plays the major role. In Luke 17:19 (Amplified Bible), Jesus says this to a man he has just healed of leprosy. “Your faith (your personal trust in me and your confidence in God’s power) has restored you to health.”

So I ask myself, in those early days of Lyme, was I showing personal trust in Jesus and confidence in God’s power? Or was I immersed in a panic?

And what if I had decided not to be a bit selfish? My thinking went something like this. I have a wife and a small child and I need to get better for both my family’s sake and my own sake. So, in this case, I felt justified in the times I put my needs ahead of others.

But doesn’t the Bible stress putting others first? Does it say anything about that approach being suspended when you’re sick?

No, what the Bible says in Matthew 6:33 (NIV) is “Seek first the kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” To paraphrase, Jesus is saying put me first in all circumstances and you will be rewarded for it.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Lyme is a very serious disease and it requires placing a substantial portion of your overall focus on treatment. But that doesn’t require moving your primary focus away from God.

Focusing on God and placing complete trust and confidence in Him was the key to healing in New Testament days. Is it any different today?

Photo: Eric Davidson

Getting good with God

“Are you mad at God?”

My answer started with about a minute of silence. I hadn’t thought of that before until a pastor friend asked me one morning.

During that minute, I thought back to some of the difficult things I’d been through in my Lyme disease battle.

I’d lost my health, my marriage, and my ability to work. I’d had to move three hours away from my son and my friends to live with my parents because I wasn’t able to take care of myself. I had become disabled and lost my ability to do a bunch of things I loved to do. And I’d lost an awful lot of money as well.

“Yes,” I said. “I think I am mad at God.”

I suspect a lot of people who have struggled with Lyme and co-infections would answer the same way.

If you believe in God, then you probably believe that God could have spared you from all the misery you’ve experienced. And if you are a praying person, you’ve probably asked Him why.

I’m not the type who shakes his fist at the sky or anywhere else for that matter, so I’ve had to work through the problem in other ways.

The book of Job in the Bible is perhaps the only place where God clearly deals with the question of why bad things happen to people for no apparent reason. Job was singled out as one of God’s all-time favorites, a man beyond reproach, but he gets pelted with horror after horror. His wife advised him to “curse God and die.”

Job didn’t do that, but he did complain about God. Then, at the end of the book, God appears and has His say.

He starts a lengthy discourse by saying, “Where were you Job when I laid the foundations of the earth?” By the time He finishes speaking, His point is clear. He is so far above us that we cannot possibly understand His ways. If it had been the 21st century, He might have said, “Job, you’re just not wired to understand this.”

I believe that Job’s reply is also crucial for anyone trying to come to grips with terrible things that have happened to them. He starts by saying, “Behold, I am of little importance,” and shortly afterward adds, “I have uttered that which I don’t understand.”

The first point is that Job, like us, is only a human being. There’s a cliche that we are the clay and God is the potter, but I think it’s true. I believe that human beings have tremendous value, but in the overall scheme of things, it’s not all about us.

His second point is accepting God’s point about him not understanding. This, I feel, is the biggest key to working through anger toward the Almighty.

If you accept the scriptural view that God’s ways are so far above ours that we can’t possibly comprehend them, then you can say to yourself that there was a reason you went through this hell, although you may never know what it is.

I know a guy who lost his wife to cancer at a young age. She had two small children when diagnosed, and she went through agony hanging on to life long enough to be there for her kids as long as possible. After watching that play out year after year, he became bitter toward God and lost interest in the Christian life.

It seems to me that he’s giving up a lot. I can see things more objectively when I’m looking at it through the lens of another person’s experience rather than mine. My faith and my relationship with God are two of the most important parts of my life. They are things that I want to keep, no matter what.

So am I still mad at God? I don’t think so, but I can’t say for sure. I’ve worked through this to some degree, but it’s difficult to know how I feel in the depths of my being. Still, like Job, I can now honestly say I understand and accept that there are some things that I’ll never be able to understand; and that’s okay.

Photo: Eric Davidson

 

5 things that got me out of Lyme hell

I can’t recall the name of the comic strip, but I remember this hairy little troll living in a dungeon. You’d always see him on his knees digging in the dirt, trying to make a tunnel out of prison.

This is what it’s like being stuck in the middle of a really bad case of Lyme. Every day you try to gain two inches of ground and try not to lose more than one.

I know. I was there. For a long time.

Bedridden week after week, housebound month after month. Things would occasionally get a bit better, and I could go outside and walk at the pace of the average 95-year-old for 20 yards or so, but rarely more than that. This went on for seven years.

How bad was it? First of all, my doctor thought I might be dying.

Beyond that, I spent years not being well enough to see friends, not well enough to go anywhere, not able to talk on the phone or read for more than 10 or 15 minutes a day, not able to watch TV for any longer than that, not able to do much of anything but lie in bed thinking mostly about ways to get out of this predicament.

Worst of all were the times when I wondered if I was dying.

After falling asleep exhausted, I’d sometimes wake up a few hours later and still be so exhausted I’d have to lie there motionless for a half hour or more to get the strength to make the seven-step walk to the bathroom.

There was one hot night when I felt I would pass out, and I staggered across the hallway into my father’s room to where the window air conditioner was.

So how did I get out a hole as deep as that?

I can think of five main things that made a huge difference. They are as follows:

PRAYER:

I come from a Christian family. My father is a preacher and has many preacher friends. I never stopped praying, and neither did my mom or my dad or their friends or people at my church. My name was on the church prayer list every week for years.

Several times prayer warriors drove more than an hour to pray with me, and one preacher friend not only prayed but fasted to try to aid my cause. I believe God answered those prayers because I started getting well very suddenly.

I started by making my walks a bit longer, and soon I found my legs had normal strength for the first time in nearly a decade. The whole process took several months, but I went from maybe 10 per cent of normal to about 70 per cent of normal.

Now I could see friends, I could talk on the phone all I wanted to, I could exercise, I got my driver’s licence back, I could do a whole bunch of things I hadn’t been able to do before. Bedridden no more, housebound no more. And I hadn’t made any significant changes to what I was doing.

This sort of thing just isn’t supposed to happen after seven years of being so low. Did God heal me? I believe he did.

BELIEVING I’D GET WELL:

I must admit there were days when I fought off feelings of hopelessness, but I truly always believed that I would get well. I told people that many times and could see from their expressions they didn’t believe me. Once I overheard my mother talking on the phone with a friend, referring to me as “an invalid”. My mother acted heroically for me in many ways, but I sternly told her never to call me that again.

I remember back in the dark days I bought a pair of running shoes. At that point, I couldn’t have run if the house had been on fire, but I did it because I believed I would run again. I don’t know the science behind belief very well, but I do know that many studies have shown that the mind is extremely powerful and so is simple belief.

HAVING SOMEONE TO LIVE FOR:

This may be a cliche, but having someone or something to live for can save your life. In many concentration camp stories, survivors point to that as what got them through.

For me that someone was my son, who was one when I got sick. My illness coupled with a stressful job made life extremely difficult for my ex-wife, and she decided to leave.

Because I couldn’t take care of myself at the time, I was forced to move in with my parents who lived three hours away from my son lived.  I tried every possible arrangement to stay in the same city as my son, whom I have always loved like crazy, but nothing worked.

I did not see my son for seven and a half years, but I thought about him every day. I’d call him on the phone regularly, usually on Saturdays. Friday was a total rest day. I would do nothing that wasn’t necessary, so I’d have enough energy saved up to talk for the 10 or 15 minutes I was able to manage.

There was no way I could give up. I had to see him again. There was nothing I wanted more than to be a proper father to him, and I was determined that was going to happen.

KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH A GOOD DOCTOR:

I was very lucky to find a skilled, compassionate doctor who had gone through a similar experience herself. When I still lived with my wife and son, she made at least a dozen house calls, and when I moved to live with my parents, we had short phone consults every two months.

There wasn’t a lot she could do from a distance, but she monitored my situation and made many helpful suggestions. Maintaining contact with her was vital for me because I knew that I wasn’t fighting this alone, and that an experienced doctor could guide my steps.

MOVING IN THE DIRECTION I WANTED TO GO:

I mentioned buying a pair of sneakers earlier. That was one example of keeping my brain thinking that I would get well and preparing my body for the day I would be well.

It also meant doing everything I knew of to live as healthy a life as I could, whether that meant only eating healthy foods, getting as much fresh air into my room as possible, being as active as I could be under the circumstances, or spending a lot of time thinking about what I needed to do step by step to get through each day as well as I could.

That meant if I felt well enough to walk for even 10 feet, then I’d walk for 10 feet. If it meant I could do a bit of light stretching without feeling negative consequences, I’d do a bit of light stretching. If it meant having someone come to pray with me even if I felt wretched, then I’d do that. Digging that tunnel out of jail bit by bit by bit. And, finally, freedom came.

 

Photo: Eric Davidson

Seven free Lyme beaters

We’ve all heard the saying “Some of the best things in life are free.” But it’s also true that “Some of the best things that can save your life are free.”

A lot of you know that Lyme can be extremely expensive, with visits to medical practitioners, antibiotics, supplements and tons of other costs in most cases.

And you have to spend the money. Lyme can steal you everything you have, including your life.

But there is some good news. I’ve found there are many intangible factors involved in fighting Lyme, and I believe scoring high on these intangibles can make a big difference between getting well and not getting well.

Best yet, these things don’t cost a cent. So what exactly am I talking about? Keep reading and you’ll find out.

GROWING YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE

I’m one of many people with Lyme who’ve been very sick and have lost big things like marriages and careers.  There is a temptation to be angry at God.

After all, if you believe in God, you most likely believe He could have prevented you from suffering.

I was mad at God. But I believe I’ve worked through that, finally accepting that His ways are beyond my understanding. What I’ve been through happened for a reason. I don’t know what the reason is, but I’m okay with that now.

It also dawned on me that it makes no sense to cut myself off from the one Being who can most help me. I believe I’ve received great healing through prayer, and I’ve read studies that show prayer carries health benefits with it. Other studies show that actively practicing a faith leads to a longer, healthier life.

MAXIMIZING LOVE

I know from personal experience that when you are dreadfully ill with Lyme, it’s hard to think much about anyone but yourself. This is understandable, but it’s a dangerous approach.

Part of the problem with Lyme is that most people don’t know how bad it can be. Often people with Lyme are sicker than people with cancer, but friends and family don’t realize that. In most cases, everyone rallies around a cancer patient. Often this isn’t the case with Lyme.

I wish I’d understood this a long while ago. I wish I had found a way not to be self-absorbed when I got really sick. I wish I had realized that the best way to receive the love I needed to get well was to give love and put others first, even though I knew I had a life-threatening illness. If I could have managed all these things, I might still be married.

It seems to me that in many and perhaps most instances, it’s the person with Lyme who has to reach out to family and friends and keep relationships in good condition. Doing this isn’t easy when you have zero or little energy, but if you can do it, it’s more than worth the effort.

EXERCISE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

I’ve found that Lyme is a physical battle. The stronger you are physically, the better chance you have of beating the disease. One of the most respected Lyme physicians in the world, Dr. Joseph Burrascano, recommends patients start a serious physical fitness plan.

Of course, many people with Lyme aren’t able to do that. When I was bedridden, I tried to do a bit of light stretching whenever I could. Then when I got a bit better, I tried walking a bit. Then I could walk a bit more, and then eventually I could do more and more exercise.

I said these things cost nothing. Well, exercise can be costly if you go to the gym, but it can also be free. Walking can be the Lyme patient’s best friend. And I’ve found that I can get a lot of benefit from body weight exercises like push-ups. To find out more, Google body weight exercises, and you should be able to find dozens of them online.

LAUGHTER

There is nothing funny about Lyme, but keeping your sense of humor is very helpful in overcoming the disease. We all know the cliche about laughter being the best medicine, and while studies don’t actually list it as the No. 1 med, they do show a clear benefit.

I’m a laugh junkie. The only things I watch on TV are comedy shows and sports. There is a ton of funny stuff on YouTube, and you can download comedy programs from iTunes and other web sources. One particularly useful site is the Internet Archive, which is at http://www.archive.org.

MEDITATION AND DEEP BREATHING

Much of the Lyme battle is about staying calm and reducing stress. Recent research tells us one of the Lyme bacteria’s primary survival strategies is to overstimulate the immune system and throw it out of balance.

Meditation and deep breathing help me stay in balance. I do a 20-minute meditation daily, along with three sets of three deep breaths. I try to keep it simple to make it easy to do every day.

With the meditation, I focus on a few key words, and for the deep breathing, I just take deep breaths, preferably outside in the fresh air. There are plenty of techniques for both practices that you can find on the web, and it can be either very simple or more complex. Many experts swear by specific breathing techniques, but I find benefit from simply taking the deep breaths and not worrying about how I’m doing it.

MUSIC

Music, as everyone knows, can either pump you up or chill you out. Both approaches can be valuable to someone with Lyme.

I find listening to classical music a fantastic way to shift my body out of the sympathetic nervous system fight or flight mode to the parasympathetic relaxation mode. But there are times when various other forms of music bring me joy as well as a much-needed emotional lift.

GETTING OUTDOORS

Getting outdoors and taking care not to get further tick bites I should say. Air quality experts say outdoor air is far cleaner than indoor air, so I follow their advice and get outside as much as possible.

The beach is my favorite destination. I have allergies and the breeze off the water literally blows a lot of allergens away.  If I had an ocean nearby, I’d go there too because there’s no doubt that I feel best when I spend a lot of time by the water.

When I’m indoors, I’m a fresh air fiend as well. Not only does the oxygen you get by opening windows help in the fight against the bugs, it also cuts down the levels of allergens in your living space, as long as it’s not an allergy season for you.

 

Photo: Eric Davidson