Friday, August 15, 2008


My name is Naomi Adams. I was born in 1972 in Washington, DC, and I now live in Seattle, Washington.

In 1998, while I was working as a freelance journalist in Mexico City, I began to have a series of small health problems that lingered and gathered into a mysterious, overpowering fatigue. Unable to keep up with my writing, I told my editors I was taking a break and I moved back to my parents’ house in DC. By then it was late 1999. A few months later I was bitten by a tick while I was spending the weekend in Maryland.

Since I didn’t get a bulls-eye rash, and my parents often got tick bites in the same place with no ill effects, I never considered that I could have Lyme disease. Instead, my increasing fatigue seemed to be the continuation of whatever mysterious thing had happened to me in Mexico.

I went from doctor, to acupuncturist, to doctor, looking for a cure. Each practitioner had a different explanation of what was making me sick, and each explanation, with its accompanying promise of returned health, made perfect sense to me, much more sense than the actual reality of my daily life: that I got exhausted after standing up for twenty seconds, that my head hurt when I read and my whole body cringed at the sound of a truck going by on the street.

But the explanations and the treatments all lead nowhere and I was left, over and over, in utter despair, often more fatigued than when I started, and on the verge of accepting that I might just have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a diagnosis that was nothing more than a life sentence: no elucidation as to why I was sick, and no known treatment.

I never quite gave in to the trap of that diagnosis, although I did, in time, accept the reality of my mysterious illness and learn how to manage its symptoms. I figured out how to cope, even if I couldn’t figure out how to get better.

In 2004, I traveled with my mother to the Seattle suburbs to see Dr. X. She was the first doctor to make lasting improvements in my health, but she did not cure me. I left Dr. X in 2006 and turned to the naturopath Carolyn Humphreys, who has been my guardian angel ever since (and I write that last sentence knowing the full extent of its corniness).

At Carolyn’s urging, I went to see Dr. Martin Ross, in West Seattle, who had recently begun treating patients for Lyme disease. Dr. Ross explained to me that all my health problems, which McCombs and then Carolyn had been treating one by one with supplements and alternative therapies, were due to Lyme Diseases. Lyme attacks almost every system in the body, from the adrenals to the immune system to brain function.

In July of 2007 I began antibiotic therapy for Lyme. One year later, as I start this blog, I can walk for 45 minutes without getting tired. I am learning how to cook delicious, healthy food, and I am growing organic vegetables in my garden. I go swing dancing twice a week, I laugh with my friends and I dance—I dance for hours!

I also have bad days and bad weeks, when I can’t go out and cry from despair. I always take two naps a day, struggle with insomnia, and pour what seems an unfair amount of my energy into keeping track of the 30 or so supplements and herbs I take daily.

I don’t know when I will be able to sleep without taking fifteen pills at bedtime, I don’t know when I will be able to walk without giving myself a daily injection of a blood thinner.

I don’t know when I will be off antibiotics and able to consider my career again, but I am confident that the time will arrive.

Meanwhile I am writing this blog. It is part memoir, part journal, and also a technical record of what has helped me in my recovery. I hope it will shed some light for others who are struggling with Lyme, or other chronic illnesses.

Names in this blog have been shortened or changed, to protect the anonymity of my family and friends. I have not changed the names of doctors I can recommend.

No comments: