This is, Caroline.
She can see opportunity and beauty in every gain, every loss, every seemingly mundane moment, and even as the symptoms, pain, and limitations began piling up, she did not let it phase her. In fact, it gave Caroline even more reason to continue living the life she loved while striving for the one beyond the setbacks of Lyme Disease.
Caroline is effortlessly magic, and I mean that in a very real sense. Magic in the way she approaches this illness. Magic in the way she describes her relationship with the ones she loves. Magic in the way she knows that she has always been strong enough to beat this thing.
I am amazed by this girl and her determination to make this life more than.
And this is her story...
I’m new to this diagnosis. Just a few weeks ago, I don’t think I’d ever thought of, or spoken of, Lyme disease. In fact, when my doctor suggested we test for Lyme, I remember asking, “Should I look up what it is? Or just wait until we get the blood results back?” To which she replied, “I recommend waiting.” I now understand why she advised me to wait. I’ve spent my time post diagnosis sorting through feelings of confusion, frustration, and fear. Lyme disease is a nasty thing! There’s no denying that. But underneath all the fear, I feel an overwhelming amount of relief. Finally, I can call my problems by name!
In The Beginning [1993-2010]
When I look back on my life before 2010, I see an array of beautiful memories. I see parents who loved me so well, a brother who taught me to be strong, and friends who laughed with me until I cried. I see a little girl’s room with approximately ten thousand stuffed animals each with their own name and story. I see a girl who couldn’t settle on one sport. Who had to be the best at gymnastics, tumbling, ice skating, and softball. I see a girl with everlasting energy.
Now that’s not to say that I don’t remember sickness. Everyone can remember getting the flu and the stomach bug as a child, but like any normal sickness- the symptoms went away and the long nights and tired days turned into memories never to return again.
It was in the later half of 2010 that I started to go down hill medically, but despite all the pain, the last five years have given me countless blessings. I’ve drawn closer to God, I’ve graduated from Baylor University, I’ve gotten my sweet puppy Russell, I’ve grown my relationships with my parents and family into wonderful friendships, and I’ve met the love of my life! I did all the little things that normal twenty-somethings do too. I stayed up too late studying for finals, I tried alcohol (bad idea), I took spontaneous road trips with my roommates all around Texas, and I went to every Baylor football game I could! I wouldn’t trade these memories for the world.
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress…” – Kofi Annan
In efforts to heal myself, I’ve also dove in head first to the world of healthy eating. I took a few nutrition courses to learn the basics and I’ve been hooked ever since. Not only am I learning how to cook, but also I’m learning how to heal myself with food. Our society is so quick to point to medicine when we have any ailment. Don’t get me wrong- I think medicine is brilliant and crucial to our health, but I’ve learned first hand that diet and exercise can drastically heal you. Before my Lyme diagnosis, every part of me felt out of my control. In some ways, I think cooking my own food helped me sleep at night knowing I was doing everything I could to get better. Healthy cooking will always be a passion of mine, and I’m thankful for the circumstances that have led me to it.
Wait… Did I just say I’m thankful for Lyme? Well not quite… but you get the point.
My Story With Lyme [2010-2015]
Lyme disease has gone to battle against my body in every area, from mental battles like brain fog, mood swings, personality changes, confusion, and depression to physical battles of muscle aches, joint pain, night sweats, blurry vision, hypertension, and even tumors (adrenal tumors). And while some symptoms would come and go an indescribable amount of fatigue has followed me around constantly.
After five years of consulting with doctors and coming up empty handed, I began to think it was just part of me. Maybe I wasn’t sick… maybe this is just how life is going to be from now on.
Before being diagnosed, I dreamed about being a normal 22-year-old girl. To everyone else I look normal, I probably even act normal to the majority of people around me, but I know I’m not living at my full potential. I’ve wanted so badly to be able to stay up past 10 pm, to drink a couple of mixed drinks out with my girlfriends, and to just throw caution (or all my prescriptions) out of the window sometimes- just cause!
The thing about Lyme is that it prevents you from feeling fully there. Being present is just too much work. I may be able to get through most of a normal persons’ day, but then I’ll take 3 days to recover and likely cause a flare up of new symptoms. It’s kind of like having terrible hangovers, only it's hangovers from a chronic illness and not from tequila!
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due
I’ve spent the later half of my life in and out of doctors’ offices, and until just recently, I’d never heard a doctor mention Lyme disease. It’s just not something we talk about here in the south, and this is why I’m so grateful for my functional medicine doctor.
In late August, my family practitioner referred me to Dr. Amy Myers, a functional medicine doctor in Austin and I got my appointment scheduled for September 30th. I’ll always remember this day because it was the first time I’ve felt truly heard by a doctor. The appointment lasted for four hours and she listened to me intently. Writing down every wacky symptom I complained of without the normal “this girl is crazy” face. She explained several theories to me, and we began testing.
I was diagnosed with late stage or chronic Lyme disease on December 2, 2015. In the past several weeks, I have read every article on every Lyme disease website, on the CDC’s page, and countless blogs. I’m also in the process of beginning my treatment plan.
Like I said, I’m new to this disease. But the more I learn, the more I understand that Lyme is complex and it will be with me forever, but I have found my light at the end of the tunnel and I’m embracing it.
Thank you, Caroline for allowing us to take a peak into your life - I can't wait to see where it takes you!
If you're interested in following along on some of her adventures, you can find her on Facebook.
Keep on keepin' on #morethanlyme