Are you numb?

I’ve read over and over again how much stress can affect your daily life, your health, everything. I’m also well aware that it can cause a flare-up with my Lyme. So, I’m not sure why it surprises me when new or even old symptoms arise during a stressful time. Losing my mom is obviously a traumatic experience, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the tingling came back. But what surprised me (and to be honest scared me a bit), was  that the tingling/numbness that typically occurs only in my toes or occasionally my hands was now radiating up my entire leg. The more I researched it, the more it sounds like the numbness and weakness in my limbs is actually nerve damage.

About 10% to 15% of untreated Lyme patients will develop Lyme neuroborreliosis, a disorder of the central nervous system. It’s actually caused by a systemic infection of spirochetes of the genus BorreliaSymptoms include erythema migrans and flu-like symptom – which is exactly how my Lyme progressed. What I thought was a simple sinus infection, led to flu like symptoms, back pain that I could only compare to intense labor and extreme jaw pain (which is the symptom that ended me up up in the ER).

Three years has passed and I’m still trying to decipher the phantom symptoms that accompany this diagnosis. Was it something I ate? Is it the weather? Is it a new allergic reaction? Aside from my all natural IV treatments that I receive at Cherry Hill Hydration Center with Dr. Molly Fantasia, I’m also going to see an allergist for the first time. I’ve had allergic responses to a variety of things in the past few months . . . firewood, Christmas trees, daisies . . . the list goes on and on. So, I’m excited to get tested to see what else is on the list of things I need to stay away from. (As I type this, I’m getting a little depressed, because I feel like I’ve already had to cut so many things out of my life- whether its my diet or my surroundings). But I’m trying to focus on how well I will feel, once I start to remove the triggers from my life – and I’m hoping to maybe get some new hardwood floors out of the deal! The old dirty carpets can’t be good for my breathing!

Although it’s a bit concerning every time I stand up or cross my legs and feel the pins and needles, I have to look at the bright side and be thankful that my leg is not throbbing with pain. I try not to let my imagination run wild . . . and wonder “what if.” The bible tells us not to worry. In fact, it says in 365 times – one for every day of the year! So, I will take this in stride, just like I do the rest of this book of life that God has written out for me. It may not be the plot I would have chosen, but it’s my story and His plan for my life story is perfect. So, who am I to complain? Plus, being numb isn’t so bad. Sometimes it’s better than feeling pain, right? Isn’t that what most of us try to do anyway? Numb the pain? Whether it’s with drugs, alcohol, shopping . . .  it’s all just a distraction from what the real problem is. So, tonight my prayer for all of us is that we each get to the root of our own individual numbness, but at the same time, give thanks to our Heavenly Father, for giving us this trial, to allow us to get closer to Him. Because He is, and always will be the ultimate healer, no matter what you suffer from.

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perseverance in trials

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Lyme. Autism. Alzheimer. The three conditions that affect my daily life. Each one unique in their own way. Yet, I couldn’t help but notice that I found myself using similar techniques to calm my sick mother, that I used when my boys were younger. It was only a few years ago that she was asking me for the name of the neurologist that diagnosed the boys, because she feared something was wrong with her brain. She was 56 years old.

Fast forward seven years, my boys are high functioning, in mainstream classrooms, and playing little league football. My mom is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s confined to a wheelchair, living in a rehab center. My dad told me about a Facebook post he had seen recently. Someone asked how a merciful God would allow people to suffer from such an awful disease as Alzheimer’s. The response was, “It’s not about my mom. It’s about what I have to learn from this trial.” After he shared that with me, I went to my bible and I found this verse – which just so happened to be already underlined, with an asterisk next to it:

James 1:12 “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”

Every experience I’ve had prepares me for the next chapter in my life. Autism forced me to become an advocate for my boys; which prepared me to be an advocate for myself with Lyme. The lessons I’ve learned from each of those prepared me to accept and work through the Alzheimer’s with my mom. Early-onset familial Alzheimer disease (eFAD) is an autosomal-dominant genetic disease. This means that in each family it is caused by a mutation in a single gene, and that a single copy of the mutant gene, inherited from one parent, will cause the disease. I can’t say I’m not nervous about the future . . . but what I do know is that my book has already been written. I wouldn’t have necessarily volunteered for the Autism and Lyme chapter, I probably would have skimmed right past those chapters, but they have brought me where I am today – which is closer to the Lord than ever. And that I wouldn’t change for the world. It’s with those trials that I had nowhere else to turn except to God.

With a strong, caring husband by my side and a God-fearing doctor to guide us every step of the way, I know I’m in good hands while I’m here on earth. But as the verse says, ‘that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him,” so I know that one day my Lyme-filled body will be replaced by a glorified body in heaven. So, whether you suffer from a broken heart or a clinical disease, put your trust in the Great Physician and you can’t go wrong.

PS  – Last month, my doctor invited me to join her on her radio program to share my Lyme story. Click here to listen to the recording on August 20th.

Strong Words from a Brittle Boy

Last night, I was cuddled up, under my blanket, with my head on the arm of the couch in Lyme Flare-Up mode, feeling sorry for myself. I’d spent the last few hours, freezing my butt off at the kids’ Flag Football game. As I sat there, I focused on the pain radiating up and down my body and started to sulk. I flipped through the TV channels and landed on Little Big Shots, where 12-year-old Sparsh Shah very quickly put me in my place.  Sparsh is an amazing young man, who was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta. (He was born with more than 30 broken bones.) He tells Harvey he’s had more than 125 bone fractures throughout his life, “I have a fracture right now,” he says. When Harvey asks “Then why are you here?” Sparsh says loudly and proudly, “I want to inspire the world.”

Wow, this 12-year-old blew me away. “Why waste your life in sadness, when you can enjoy a life of happiness,” he says when Steve Harvey asked him how he was doing. Really? This child is wheelchair bound, suffering from a debilitating disease and he can have that kind of attitude? Didn’t I feel ashamed?! Here I am throwing myself a pity party because I’m having a Lyme flare-up and my body is achy from watching my healthy, happy kids play sports. Whoa is me.

This past week, I’ve spoken with two different women that are just now starting their own Lyme journey (technically one has been suffering for years, but is now ready to take the bull by the horns and become her own advocate). As I listened to these stories, it reminded me of how far I have come. Yes, Lyme is still and probably always will be a part of my life. But it doesn’t have the same control over my life that it used to. I’m once again, a contributing part of my family. Just today, I’ve done three loads of laundry and cooked dinner – that’s quite an accomplishment for the old-Lisa. I’m still trying to walk that fine line between being productive and active, without over-doing it. Sometimes I’m more successful than others…. but it’s a work in progress.

I find myself looking up all of the local 5K races and actually consider signing up for one, but typically I chicken out at the last minute when it comes time to click the SUBMIT button. I fear that when I finally do sign up for one, I’ll wind up having a Lyme flare up on race day and end up being stuck in bed, instead of crossing the finish line. But I’m close. I’m considering it. Three years ago, I couldn’t say that.

But what would Sparsh say? I don’t think that boy has a fearful bone in his body. And if he did, it’s probably broken and he’s ignoring it 🙂 So, maybe it’s time for all of us to step out of our comfort zone and take that leap of faith. Sign up for that race, without fear of the being able to finish. Stop letting life pass us by, while we watch others live.

Maybe I really was born for a time such as this . . .  as my favorite bible verse quotes. In Mark 4:40 Jesus says one word – SILENCE. And the stormy sea calms and the whirling wind stops.  He asks the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? He asked. “Do you still have no faith?” 

I say I have faith . . . . but do I really? The key is to step out of the boat,  just like Peter did, but not make the same mistake he did – not take our eyes off Jesus. If we all stay focused on HIM, we can accomplish any task, no matter how big or small. So, what’s stopping you? I dare you to be like Sparsh . . . find joy in your current situation and go out and inspire the world! 

Hiding from the Light

Tuesday nights are Read to the Dogs at our local library. This program improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to a dog.  But not just any dog.  These are registered therapy animals who volunteer with their handler as a team, going to schools, libraries, and many other settings. However, Tuesday night is also one of my late nights at work, so there are many times that I’ve promised to bring the kids to this program, but due to my ongoing bout with Lyme Disease, I often have to cancel.

My daily work commute ranges anywhere from 30 – 60 minutes depending on the day. Traffic, weather, construction, time of day – they all play a factor in how long it takes me to get home. Lately the sun has been another issue. One of my lingering Lyme symptoms is my extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Some days it’s worse than others. Most days I function relatively normally (ha ha – my days are far from normal) and other days this sensitivity stops me in my tracks.

Most recently the drive home seems to trigger this symptom, which can lead into a full-fledge migraine. Some days just the way the sunlight hits the dashboard, or reflects off something in my car it can begin. At night, it’s the glare of the oncoming headlights. It starts out as a dull pain in the back of my head,  that slowly radiates to the front. Then ZING. Something happens. It’s like my body screams, “Enough! I’ve reached my limit!” and I get a sharp pain in the side of my head. This is when I know the migraine is inevitable. Usually by now, I’ve got my huge, old lady granny sunglasses on, a hat pulled down over my eyes, the sun visors pulled down as far as they will go, and I’m holding one hand up blocking the sun from my line of vision, with the other hand on the steering wheel …. all while navigating through rush hour traffic. I’ve actually considered getting a note from my doctor saying I can’t drive at night anymore…. but then I realized that it happens during the day too.

By the time I’ve reached this point of the sensitivity, I can pretty much assume that I’ll be spending the rest of my night in bed. My husband does a great job keeping the kids quiet and the house dark.  He even brings my dinner (which he cooks!) to me in bed. So, on this particular night instead of reading the dogs, my kids tucked me in and kissed me good night, while I fought to hold back my tears.

This past week was pretty brutal. After a full week of intense migraines, my week ended with the arrival of my period . . . . another trigger for a full blown out Lyme flare up. Althought, we may not have control over our menstrual cycle, we do have control over what we put into our body. Limiting my sugar is one of the smartest things I can do no matter what time of the month it is. I’ve also started taking Melatonin. My amazing doctor, Dr. Molly suggested I try it for ten days. I take one pill about an hour before bed, or at the first signs of a headache and to my surprise, I haven’t had a single migraine since I started this regiment.

One of my favorite bible verses is Matthew 5:16 | Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. . . .

I pray every day and ask God to help me be the light in this very dark world of ours.  So, I find it ironic that light is what causes so much of my physical pain. But the bible also says in John 16:33 that in this world we will have tribulation and that we should be of good cheer because HE overcame the world.

But what he says right before that is what’s really important . . . .  “in Me you may have peace.” Although most days I find myself doing everything humanly possible to hide from the bright lights of this world, I have a sense of peace knowing that it’s all part of HIS plan for my life and when my suffering has come to an end, the biggest, brightest, most magnificent light that I could ever imagine will welcome me into HIS kingdom, where I will never have to hide from the light again.

My prayer for you is that whatever trial or tribulation you’re going through right now, you find the peace that only HE can bring. No matter how DARK things may seem. HE is the light of the world and HE loves you. And no matter what kind of disguise you put on, you can’t hide from HIS love.

 

The Silver Lining in the GREEN Slime of Lyme

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It’s been quite awhile since I’ve written. There are a few reasons for my absence.  The first is, I’ve been feeling really well and I didn’t feel like I had anything worth contributing. That’s crazy, right? Just because I’m not feeling super crappy and whiny doesn’t mean I shouldn’t share, right?

Life is good. God is good. And even Lyme is good. It doesn’t have to be the ugly label that we’ve assigned it. It has brought me to a place in my life, where my priorities have been shuffled around and my new normal is yet again redefined. I thought when the triplets were born, our “new” normal would be the craziest phase of our life. Not so much!

But I’ve learned these past few months that it’s okay to test the boundaries of my diet, my fitness and other areas of my life. Just like my pre-Lyme days, there will be good days and bad days. But Lyme doesn’t define who I am, or how I feel. My faith and my outlook on life do. And I’m the only one in control of those! Yes, a healthy diet, lots of rest, an AMAZING doctor, a low-stress lifestyle, and a family that loves and supports me –  absolutely contribute to the success I’ve had with this disease – but they are not the ultimate answer.

It is going to sound silly and cynical, but no matter what the question – God is always the answer. I’ve found that my crappy days are crappy because I didn’t choose Joy. I didn’t set aside quiet time for me and my Lord and Savior. I chose to jump into the chaos of life, the way I used to. But when I slow down, take the time to read, not rush through a couple chapters just to say “I read the bible today” – but when I actually slow down, read, study and meditate on the Word – that is ultimately when things change for the better.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are going to be things that we can’t control and these things absolutely have an affect on us. For instance, the sudden change in weather, severe thunderstorms . . . obviously, these are out my control  – and, believe it or not, they wreak havoc on my body. Research proves that sudden changes in Temperature, Barometric Pressure, Humidity, Precipitation, and Wind affect those who suffer from Lyme, Fibromyalgia and other similar diseases. I can be perfectly fine one moment, and once a storm hits – INSTANT MIGRAINE. It can send me right up to my room for the night. BUT, what I’ve learned (this is the beautiful thing about life – you can either learn from your experiences or keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again) is that when I choose JOY in these moments (just like Paul and Silas, in Acts 16:16-40 praying and singing at midnight), when you sing the praises of God, even in the darkest moments, your darkest moments don’t seem so dark anymore.

I pray that whatever challenges you are facing right at this very moment, whether it’s the piles of toys and mounds of dirty clothes making your blood boil; broken appliances and empty bank accounts stressing you out; or something more devastating like a Cancer diagnosis that is tearing you apart – remember one thing – you have the choice to sing His praise or wallow in the sadness of the moment.

However, the ultimate choice is not only in HOW you handle these daily situations, but how you choose to live your life and ultimately your death. When you choose to glorify God and choose JESUS, there are no questions. You know how it all ends. You know where you will be when this chapter ends. But when you don’t choose HIM – that’s when life and death ultimately become unsure. Be confident – choose HIM and you will never look back! I know, I never have 🙂

Alert: You can’t do this alone.

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This post is not about Lyme. It’s not even about Autism or Alzheimer. It’s about life. And how you can’t “do” life alone. No matter who you are. At some point in your life, you will reach your breaking point. Life as you know it will come crashing down right before your very eyes.  And there will be nothing you can do about it. You will be helpless.

Some of you reading this are there right now. You are in the midst of the most unimaginable trials of your entire life. If that’s you, I pray for you. I pray that you realize sooner (rather than later) you can’t do this alone. That you’re not supposed to do it alone.

Five years ago, I thought I could do it on my own. I was wrong. Dead wrong. My husband and I had four young children, a wonderful marriage, a white picket fence, the whole nine yards. But what people didn’t realize was that I was crumbling on the inside. I had taken on WAY too much and was afraid to admit it to anyone – especially my husband. I had promised him that I could handle everything on the home-front, while he went off to live the American dream.

We had just taken over a small business, we were both working full time and two of our boys were just diagnosed with Autism. Life was a bit hectic, but I promised him that I had it all under control. I wanted this to work. I wanted the business. I wanted us to be successful.  And the last thing I wanted to do was admit that I was wrong. After all, I was super-mom . . .  I had this.

Yet, the funny thing about life is that, you can only pretend for so long. You can escape temporarily through drugs, alcohol or even a double life, but eventually your cover gets blown. And then what?

Fight or flight. I chose flight. I was too weak to fight my battles – let alone fight my entire war.  So I ran. I ran away from my reality as often and as far away as I could. But eventually reality caught up with me and the shell of the woman that I had become, came crumbling down. Pieces of me would be found in the bottle of wine I just drank, or curled up in fetal position, behind my locked bedroom doors, hyperventilating – physically and mentally incapable of “doing” life anymore – or even pretending to do life.

My husband, doctors, therapists, babysitters, prescription drugs . . . they all helped. It took a village. But as we pulled ourselves up out of the pit that had become our life, it became very clear that doing things our way had gotten us no where. But once we found a church that we could call home; once we realized how wrong our priorities were; our entire lives started to fall into place. Everything became very clear.

God is the answer. He always has been and he always will be. He is the answer to whatever problem you are facing. Take it from me, there is nothing too big for God. I beg you tonight, please call out to HIM. He is there just waiting for you. He can take away all of your burdens. You just have to ask. Invite him into your life. I promise you will never regret it.

It’s time. Don’t make HIM wait any longer.

“The LORD waits for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for him to help them” (Isaiah 30:18).

FIGHT LYME: LIKE A GIRL!

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It’s time to FIGHT Lyme Disease Like a Girl!

For the last three years, I’ve spent more time than I care to admit being laid up on the couch. Not because I’m a couch-potatoe, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. I was literally debilitated due to extreme fatigue. “Debilitating Fatigue” doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you really break it down. We’re not talking about being really tired or even run down, we’re talking about fatigue that halts you in your tracks. Fatigue that drops an avid runner and self-proclaimed cardio junkie to her knees.

You can scroll through some of the past blogs for details about my really rough days. But here’s a quick glimpse into the Life of a Lymie:  Really rough nights would be spent in bed, away from the rest of my family, with the pillow over my head, blocking out as much of the light and sound as I could.  Shooting pain, dull pain and radiating pain would run rapid through my body from head to tow. Just the thought of muscling up enough energy to roll from one side to the next, was more than my sick body could handle.

My “good” days would consist of me being curled up in the fetal position on the couch, constantly asking everyone to whisper and turn down their tvs, laptops, or video games. The beautiful chandelier in the dining room would rarely be allowed on, because the bright lights would cause an immediate migraine.

After months of negative test results and numerous use-less appointments with specialists ranging from Oral Surgeons to Dermatologists and Neurologist, I finally decided to become my own advocate (as I had done for my children years ago). I did my own research and started to come to my own conclusions. Every bizarre symptom I had led to Lyme Disease. BUT an ER visit back in November 2013 supposedly “ruled out” Lyme Disease.  When one receives a NEGATIVE test result for a Lyme Disease test, one would assume that one does NOT have Lyme Disease, right? Wrong!

I knew what the tests said, I heard what the doctors were telling me; but my mommy gut was saying something different. But it wasn’t until one night, after spending hours of doing more research online, that I literally heard the words, “IT IS LYME.” I didn’t hear, “I’m really starting to think this could be Lyme,” or “I wonder if that test could have been wrong.” I heard loud and clear, “IT IS LYME.”

It was then that I knew God was speaking to me. I shared my experience with Hubby and he whole heartedly agreed to dive into this Lyme Pool head first. After spending thousands and thousands of dollars, taking hundreds of prescriptions, suffering through hours of agony . . . there was improvement in my health and overall quality of life, but I never really had hope.

I was filled with bitterness and anger. I grimaced as I drove past runners on the side of the road and glared at people in work-out attire like they were the devil for being able to work-out and I couldn’t. But as the years have passed by, God made it very clear to me. He had to chill me out. And Lyme would be the way he would do this.

Good days would come and go, but there was never any real hope that I’d ever get back to my “old-self.” For awhile I was okay with that. My competitive runs, turned into slow walks with the dog, cardio workouts were replaced with an occasional bounce on the trampoline with the kids – but just when I thought I was okay with that, God dangled a little carrot in front of me . . . Dr. Molly and the Cherry Hill Clinic. 

Dr. Molly really is one-of-a-kind. It’s like she has her very own little missionary right here in South Jersey. Instead of traveling the world to save lives, she does it right here in her own back yard. I write this with the utmost confidence . . . doctors like Dr. Molly are FEW and FAR between. In my 40 years on this earth, I’ve never met a medical professional like her.  She spends hours upon hours with everyone who walks through her door. She will not only go through your ENTIRE medical history with a fine tooth comb, but she will spend countless hours of her own time researching new, innovative ways to get you healthy – ways that your family doctor would never even consider.

Everyone in the clinic is “her favorite” patient (even though we all know, that I’m REALLY her favorite), hugs are given to anyone who wants one and she’s not afraid to give the glory to God when and where it’s deserved (which is all the time).  The Cherry Hill Clinic really is a small piece of heaven on earth.

This morning I swung my the clinic, got a quick shot in the bum and then headed off to work. I opened up my office door, logged onto the computer, sorted through some important emails and then headed off to do something I NEVER thought I’d do again . . .  I taught a kickboxing class! Now granted, I only taught a small portion of the class, but none the less I taught. Up on the platform, microphone on, music blasting . . . I, little, old, Lymie, Lisa led a Group Fight class! God is sooooo good!

Last night, while reading my One Year Bible, I came across Psalm 91:9-16. I literally came to tears when I read this:

 

If you make the LORD your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home.

For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go.

They will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.

You will trample upon lions and cobras; you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your feet!

The LORD says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble.  I will rescue and honor them.  I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

With HIS help, I have CRUSHED this Lyme Lion! HE loves me so much that he brought me up out of my pit of darkness and gave me not only hope for eternal life, but hope for a joyful life while still here on this earth. Me, little old, Lymie Lisa . . . I have done nothing to deserve this, yet it is my gift that HE has given me! What a blessing.

Did you know that this gift is waiting for you too? All you have to do is what it says in that first part of the verse. Make the Lord your refuge – make Him number one on your priority list. That’s all! If you are struggling with your own LIONS and COBRAS don’t wait. Turn your life over to Jesus today. Because the Lord is already with you. He just wants you to call out to HIM.