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.

The Forgotten Word in the Blog

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The title of this blog represents three conditions that directly impact my life. I typically focus on Lyme, because that’s the newest of the three and typically has the biggest impact on my daily life. Recently, the third has taken over. Ironically, while we were busy taking our boys from specialists to specialist, to get their Autism diagnosis, my mom started to inquire about the neurologist we were seeing. Apparently, she was having some issues of her own. It took almost two years, but after dozens of tests and numerous doctor’s appointments, my mom was diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimers. Almost five years later, she’s well into the final stages of this dreadul disease. Did I mention, she’s only 62?

Whenever I would tell anyone about my mom’s diagnosis, I would get this sad – yet horrific look . . . . like, “you poor soul, you have no idea what you’re in for.”  Kind of like someone who truly understands Lyme Disease. My biggest fear with Alzheimer’s was that my mom wouldn’t remember me. I intentionally did not research this disease. I did not want to obsess and worry myself to death. I knew there was nothing we could do, so I just accepted it. I knew her brain was deteriorating, but I assumed it was just her memory. I had no idea what we were in for.

The stories of her behavior sound more like someone suffering from Schizophrenia than Alzheimer’s. And what my father endures on a daily basis . . . . no one should ever have to live with. With my mom’s situation, like most of my battles, I have an almost eerie peace. It reminds me of the song, “I Will Rise” by Chris Tomlin.

There’s a peace I’ve come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There’s an anchor for my soul
I can say “It is well” 
I wish I could say that for the rest of my family . . .  especially my father. He’s not saved. I’m not sure he even believes that there is a God. He struggles to get through every minute of every day. His hope is still in this world. I’ve been there before. It’s an empty, lonely place.
However, what I do know is that most of us need to hit our own personal rock bottom before we will surrender and finally look up. So, as much as it breaks my heart to see him so broken, I know it’s just a matter of time before he finally reaches out to the only one who can truly help him.
My prayer tonight is for anyone reading this who may be in a similar situation. You’ve turned to drugs, alcohol, shopping – anything to distract you and give you temporary relief from your real pain and sorrow. I’ll never forget what our Pastor told my husband once . . . . he said, “Everyone in your life will let you down at one point. Your spouse, your children, your parents – your best friend. The only one who is always there for you is Jesus,”  That always stuck with me – and it’s so true. Life is one big disappointment after another. I’m not trying to be a downer, but none of us are perfect – except Jesus. Therefore, no one can ever live up to your expectations. Once you accept that (and accept Jesus) life and all of the battles you endure are so much easier . . . hence the peace within my soul.
So, if you’re struggling tonight, instead of reaching for a bottle or any other escape mechanism, reach up for your loving father. The one who gave everything for you. HE will be there for you when no one else will. And HE will provide the everlasting love and hope that you will never find anywhere else.

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.

God fixed me!

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Several years ago, I fell into a deep depression. I searched high and low for ways to escape the pain and difficulty of my own life. Like most people, I found temporary relief in alcohol, therapy, and prescription anti-depressants.

Once I got saved, I would tell people all about my testimony . . . . how God (with a mix of the right prescription and an amazing husband by my side) changed my life. I no longer needed a Girls Night Out, shopping therapy or any mini-escape to deal with what life was throwing at me.

I had heard about stories where God had delivered people from addiction or illness – but I felt like my situation was different. I could be totally filled with the Holy Spirit, just coming from an amazing service, surrounded by my fellow Christian friends at church and still feel overwhelmed by the chaos of four kids, triplets, Autism squared and ODD. It didn’t matter how much my cup was filled with GOD – my situation required a prescription.

UNTIL . . .  a few weeks ago, while sitting in church listening to Pastor Harry talk about going to the bottle or your pill to find comfort – instead of going to the Lord. This is not the first time he’s made this type of reference and I’m sure it won’t be the last. BUT this time, it hit me personally. The Holy Spirit was tugging on my heart strings . . .  it was time to let God take over (even on this very sensitive topic). I’ve surrendered everything to God. My life, my finances, my family . . . but this dependency I thought for sure was something that I still needed.

The tears streamed down my face, as I lifted my hands in praise and worship to God. At first, I was going to fill out a prayer request form and ask the prayer team to pray for me, regarding this issue. But as time ticked away and the service drew to an end, I knew it was time for action -not just prayer. I made my way up to the front and asked for a fellow sister to pray for me. My husband had no idea what I was doing and he was completely shocked as I shared what just happened. He had suggested for years that I cut back or stop the prescription, with hopes to someday, get “his wife” back. But every time I tried, I quickly fell into my flesh and became overwhelmed with emotion and stress.

I shared my experience with my fabulous Dr. Molly at the Cherry Hill Clinic, who was supportive as always. It’s a beautiful thing having a Christian doctor who know’s who the real physician is! She gave me a specific regiment to follow, to wean off the drug and I am happy to report that I am almost completely free of this drug and feel amazing!

To my surprise, I’m laughing more, crying more (which is a good thing!) and even whining more – which my husband actually missed! It’s feels good to feel . . . even if it hurts sometimes.

I know that every story is unique and no one can tell you when it’s time to stop a prescription that a doctor has given you – but what I can tell you is that God does deliver – anyone and everyone from anything! Including anxiety, stress, depression, post-traumatic stress syndrome – everything! But it’s all on HIS TIMING. You have to sit and wait for HIM to tell you when. But if you’re too busy with the hustle and bustle of life, you won’t hear HIM.

So, take it from me – a depressed, autistic mom, who battles everything from eating disorders to migraines – God is all you need! If he can fix this hot mess, he can fix anything!

Praise to JESUS!

 

No good can come from this . . .

As I sat in my chair at the Cherry Hill Clinic today, enjoying my Lyme Juice, I listened to several different people – all strangers to each other – share life’s deepest challenges. A 16-year-old girl losing her mother, a husband, and father battling pancreatic cancer, a daughter working her way through college while taking care of her elderly parents . . . no two stories were the same, but each individual had the same outlook on life. “It’s not easy, but you gotta do, what you gotta do.”

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After my Lyme Juice, I headed back to work, finished eating lunch, then stopped back at our cafe for my afternoon caffeine fix. I chatted for awhile with the woman behind the counter about work, kids and ultimately Lyme Disease came up. We talked a little bit about some of my trials, then she shared with me that she had lost her husband to cancer years ago; yet when she told the story it was like it had happened yesterday. As the conversation came to an end, she told me that she understands that God has a plan for everyone and that we may not always understand why things happen, but there’s one thing that she won’t agree with. . . . that something good can come from something tragic like that. Even her kids try to convince her. But there is no convincing this woman that something good will come from her husband’s death.

I admitted to her that I could not relate to her situation at all . . . and that I felt completely blessed because I’ve never experienced that kind of pain. In fact, I often feel like I’m “one of the lucky ones” because I still have both of my parents and I’ve never lost anyone in my immediate family. But on the other hand, I have had my share of trials. I was told at the young age of 16 that I would never have any children. I almost died due to a ruptured ovarian cyst. I held my husband as his mother died in front of us. Fertility treatments, miscarriages, high risk pregnancies, autism, special education attorneys, depression, massive debt and of course Lyme Disease top off the list as recent trials. So, I guess I haven’t exactly had a walk in the park either. But how do I convince someone else that we all have hardship, and that although one person’s problems may seem more significant than someone else’s  – that God’s will is what’s best for everyone.

I think the answers start to come together when you think about your life. Ask yourself these three questions:  What’s important in your life?  What is at the top of your priority list? Who do you trust?  When the answer to all three of those is Jesus, it becomes clear that God allows hardship into our lives so that we draw closer to Him.

Tragedy can do two things: draw you closer to God or further from Him. But when you trust in Him completely and put Him first in everything you do, it’s much easier to accept the things that you think “went wrong” in life. Because you know that what seems like a horrible mistake in your life, God is using for good . . .  even if you refuse to believe it.

The next time you find your self dwelling on your own difficult situation, remember that God sacrificed his only son to die on the cross for you, so that you can live in eternity with Him, forever. And no matter what your current trial is, you really can find peace in Him. In fact it’s the only place to find true peace. There’s truth to the old say, “Chin up!”

All you have to do is look up, He’s there . . . . waiting for you to reach out to Him. HE is the good that comes out of everything.