Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lyme: It Runs in my Family

Life got busy after my last entry, in both good ways and bad. In the midst of a worrisome few weeks involving a family member being hospitalized, I turned thirty. The weekend of October 14th reminded me that (a) my friends indeed care about me more than I'd realized, and (b) I can have a lot of fun on the town while staying 100% sober—as long as I have the energy. And thankfully, I did, making for a very fun weekend of celebrations (albeit small and intimate ones).

Unrelated to the family member being hospitalized, details of which I'll spare you, I do have some major Lyme-related news. Every member of my immediate family has now been tested for Lyme, including myself, my sister, my brother, and both my parents, and every one of us has tested positive for late stage Lyme.

This confirms what I've been suspecting for months: I was born with Lyme disease. I contracted it in utero from my mother. The same is true for both of my siblings.

It's not likely both of my parents were born with Lyme. Rather, what probably happened was that one of them got Lyme as an adult and gave it to the other, since Lyme is sexually transmitted. My suspicion, although I can't prove it, is that my father gave Lyme to my mother, considering it's easier for a man to pass it sexually to a woman than vice versa. My parents were together for six years before they had any children, giving my mother ample time to disseminate and breed the borrelia spirochete prior to pregnancy.

There's no doubt that we children were born with it. We didn't all get Lyme independent from each other. And, looking back to our youths, it's clear we had it very early in our lives.

Still, it takes fully understanding the inner workings of borrelia to comprehend how we've managed to live relatively full lives with Lyme, and why some of us are sicker than others.

This is where I draw my seedling comparison: Lyme is like a seed. It requires the right environment to thrive and grow. The sunlight, temperature, moisture level, soil nutrients and other factors must be correct for the spirochetes to thrive. If these factors are not aligned proportionally, Lyme will lie dormant and the carrier will remain relatively unsymptomatic until the time comes—if the time comes—that the environment changes.

All five of us do indeed suffer from Lyme, but some of us suffer much more than others. Lucky for him, my brother is the least symptomatic. While his natural killer (white blood) cells are low and he has mineral imbalances, his health is generally good. Like my brother, my father was in generally good health as a young adult and middle aged man. Now that he's 70, a lot of very typical Lyme symptoms are flaring pretty aggressively.

Anyone can have Lyme and be healthy. But a traumatic event such as divorce, or a debilitating illness such as mono, or a move into a moldy apartment—or a number of other triggers—can cause the borrelia to suddenly replicate. Bam. It's called a Lyme flare.

Unlike my brother and father, I've been sick since I was a young child. Interestingly enough, two events coincided at exactly the time when I transitioned from a healthy baby to a sickly kindergartener: we moved to the United States, and I got bitten by a tick.

1987. That was the year everything changed for me. About six months after we moved from Saudi Arabia to Texas, I remember suffering from anxiety because I missed Saudi Arabia and I wasn't fitting in at my new school. But that summer, I recall a tick bite that became engorged on my hand. Did I start feeling sick before or after the tick bite? I don't recall.

I'm not suggesting that I wasn't born with Lyme. I most certainly was. But I may have been re-infected. It may have even been that the Lyme I carried would have remained dormant if I had not been re-infected. The tick bite may have been just the boost needed to make all the borrelia inside of me swim in synchrony.

In any event, it's fascinating to solve this mystery... a sense of closure, for sure.

1 comment:

  1. Leila,

    I am happy to hear you just celebrated your 30th. Happy Birthday. I have been reading your blog for a while now, but don't believe I usually comment.

    I am sorry to hear that your whole family has Lyme, but it is interesting how you are all at varying levels of this disease. I had read that often if you have lyme and get bit, it can bring on a more severe case. I am not sure I understand all of it, but interesting none-the-less.

    I have been bitten many times. I grew up near ticks and back then no one said anything about Lyme. It wasn't until this year that I got really sick and was able to figure out it was Late Stage Lyme. I have probably also had it since I was a young kid.

    I am happy you feel a sense of closure. That is always helpful. Take care and happy birthday.