Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dr's Appt - Update

I saw my Lyme doctor a couple days ago after a two-month hiatus--during which time I underwent Stage One of treatment. About three weeks ago, he sent me into the lab to get more bloodwork done.

"How've you been feeling?" he asks right away.

"Pretty bad." He asks me to elaborate. "Well," I say, "Lots of brain fog, fatigue, weakness, irritability..." I go into more detail as he jots notes onto his college-ruled scholarly pad.

"I'm dying of anticipation here!" I finally exclaim, cracking a smile. "Can you just tell me if I have babesia or other co-infections? Look... I'm trembling!" My heart races as I nervously laugh and try to maintain my act of sanity.

It's the moment of truth.

"It looks like you were negative for babesia, negative for bartonella, and negative for ehrlechia," he slowly announces while eyeing his folder with doctorly caution.

"Negative for all? I'm surprised," I say as I try to process what this means.

Then he explains that the tests aren't accurate. These tick-borne parasites don't always show up in the blood test, especially because they go through life cycles. If you test during a lull in their cycle, you might not get any parasites in the blood sample they take.

My sister tested positive for babesia, and she and I were bitten by the same colony of ticks in the same 10' x 10' area of the forest, so this leads me to believe I probably do have babesia. But since it hasn't been confirmed with any certainty that I do or don't have parasites, we're going to shelf that issue for the time being. I decide I'm not going to put much thought into it for now.

There are more pressing things of concern that turn up in my blood, anyway. For instance, my Natural Killer Cells are dangerously low. With a "normal" range of 8-170 (with higher numbers indicating better health, as I understand it), my Natural Killer Cell count comprises a measly 6. Yes, one digit--six.

A fantasy bubble pops out of my head like you see in cartoons. In it, I'm in grade school again. We have to share with the class our level of Natural Killer Cells, only they're determined on a healthy scale of 1-10 (a more standard scale). Other kids are boasting that theirs are 8s and 9s. One sickly child coughs and sputters, "Mine are a 3."

Now it's my turn and I have to tell the class I don't fall within the range of 1-10. For a second, they wonder if I somehow garnered bonus points that pushed me over, into an envious 11. But the look on my face gives it away.

"You're a NEGATIVE number!" belts one particularly cruel classmate, and the room fills with laughter. I bow my head in shame..... they're right, I'm a negative number.

My fantasy bubble bursts as my doctor starts to explain the function of Natural Killer Cells. He says something about "cell-mediated immunity" and uses the word "intra-cellular" which means living within cells. As he starts to ramble about most bacterial infections living outside our cells, I gather that Lyme disease gets inside our cells.

Here's something the famed Lyme doctor Ken Singleton (not my doctor) writes about Natural Killer (NK) cells:

"NK cells are perhaps the most lethal weapon in our innate system’s arsenal against Lyme disease and related co-infections. NK cells are able to identify foreigners that are 'not-self ' and instantly destroy them on contact in defense of 'self.' The foreign invaders could be infectious in nature or malignant tumors. The NK cells in our bodies are absolutely critical to our survival upon exposure to any of these invaders. Because of this fact, we should be doing all that we can to support these immune system 'warriors.' ... Many Lyme-aware doctors believe that the NK cell is the major key to a successful outcome with Lyme treatment."
Thanks, Ken. Now I kind of understand.

My doctor then suggests I get a gamma globulin shot to boost my NK cells. He also prescribes something called Fibronex to help break up my "hyper-coagulable state" to allow my medications to better access the infections that are hiding under a sheath in my blood. This is all Lyme-speak that's over my artistic head.

He suggests that I keep taking my minocycline antibiotic, the cumanda and samento anti-virals, and the other immune-boosting supplements I've been taking. But before I leave, he adds Ferretin to the mix (a component of iron for which I tested low) and increases my Armour thyroid.

Minutes after I receive the gamma globin shot, I'm sitting in my car and feel a rush of endorphins akin to when I drink a latte. I'm energized and feel giddy--so giddy, in fact, that I'm smiling and laughing for no reason. But the feeling doesn't last long. For the remainder of the day, I have heartburn and mild nausea. That night, I don't sleep well because I'm edgy and anxious, again like I'd had a latte, and I'm also sneezing an abnormal amount.

But by the time I wake up, I'm feeling better than I have in days. Maybe it's the gamma globulin shot taking effect, or maybe it's psychosomatic, but for the last two days I've felt a marked improvement in my mood and my brain's clarity. It's like I've really turned a corner.

It's a ray of sunshine in what's been an otherwise dismal phase.

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