Friday, June 14, 2013


On Tuesday night I wore this dress swing dancing. I came home drenched in sweat, peeled the dress off, got in the shower, and found a tick lodged in my armpit. Once I had comprehended that yes, this had actually happened, I found my old antibiotics for Lyme, which I'd stopped two months before, and took a dose.

By Wednesday night I was on megadoses doxycycline, which my doctor prescribed to prevent a new infection. I was more or less accepting the fact that after six years of partially successful treatment for Lyme, this was all happening. The Ground Hog Day of Lyme disease.

Thursday night is tango night. I'd already washed the dress, and had moments of doubt about going to tango at all. Was it too much now that I was on antibiotics again? Would all the ticks in the universe be pulled to me once I stepped into a dance hall? Would this dress bring me more bad luck?

But I knew I couldn't let myself be spooked. I love this dress. I bought it from a local designer at the Eastern Market last Saturday because it would work for both swing and tango, and I had planned to get full use out of it. Plus, last night there was a special teacher, from Buenos Aires, giving a class in exactly what I needed to learn.

I put on the dress, and I told myself that when people asked me how I was doing, I would simply reply "great!" I would say nothing about ticks or Lyme disease or antibiotics. Fake it till you make it.

I stood in class, wearing the dress and my heels, listening to the teacher was explain this special form of partner connection that is popular in Buenos Aires. I felt an insect crawling on my leg. I looked down and saw it was one of those pretty, winged, teeny delicate green bugs whose name I don't know. Definitely not a tick. Still, I was merciless about brushing it off my leg.

Tango requires concentration, enough concentration that it drives all thoughts of illness out of my mind. By the end of class I was no longer thinking about insects or bacteria or bad luck.

After class, I danced for ten minutes and then changed out of my heels to walk home, to get to bed early, because I'm on antibiotics. I was heading out the door when Francisco, who is an excellent dancer, stopped me. How could I have changed out of my dancing shoes already, when he was about to ask me to dance?

This was practically an act of charity on Francisco's part, since he's been dancing for four years and I am a beginner with three months' experience. Meaning it's heavenly for me to dance with him and probably a little annoying for him to dance with me. I rushed to put my shoes back on and we danced the next three songs. And I was happy, truly happy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


"Once your tick(s) have been processed, the tick can not be returned to you" -from the IGENEX labs mail-in tick form.

My tick will arrive at IGENEX this morning, to be tested for Lyme and all possible co-infections. In my appointment with Dr. Marty Ross yesterday, he said it was good I took quick action on that, and good I took my left over Biaxin (Clarithromycin) right after I removed the tick.

(If any of this is confusing, read the previous post.)

I am now taking doxycycline, because it should prevent Lyme and also Erlichia and Anaplasma, which the tick (or my tick, in IGENEX's view) may well have given me.

Dr. Ross also asked how swollen my tick was. This was something that in my dumbfounded state I hadn't considered, but once Dr. Ross asked, I realized my tick was not engorged at all. It was as flat as, well, a tick.

From that, Sherlock Holmes, at least, would deduce the tick hadn't been biting me for long. Good.

Sherlock might also deduce the disgusting critter might have actually crawled onto me while I was swing dancing, or while I was in the car coming home from swing dancing. Two days before, my father had driven the car to a place in Maryland where there are ticks. (This is a place I do not go, primarily because there are ticks.)

At any rate, the absolutely most likely scenario is this tick hopped onto a nice, warm mammal in exurban Maryland or Virginia, and that cozy mammal hopped onto fossil-fuel transportation into the city, where the tick decided to explore a bit, and then, maybe dizzy from swing dancing, it took refuge in my armpit. And now it's won a free, one-way trip to California and an inside view of IGENEX labs.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Last night I was bitten by a tick. I saw the tick in my armpit at 12:30 a.m., while I was taking a shower because I had just gotten home from swing dancing.

That last was in italics because I just want it on the record that as far as tick bites go, I do not tempt fate. There is no hubris when it comes to me and ticks. I do not hike, or camp. I swing dance and tango, and only in urban places. I am 99.9% urban. The closest I get to nature is a couple of flower beds next to a bricked over patio.

I also walk my dog in an urban cemetery, which is wedged up against the city jail, and also close to something that could be called "woods" but certainly doesn't host any deer. And I didn't take Cleo to the cemetery yesterday, the day I got bitten by a tick. I walked Cleo around city blocks. I spent ten minutes with my nephew in his front yard, next to a traffic-filled street. And I went swing dancing in a room with closed windows and not so much as a potted plant in sight.

And there I was, at 12:45 a.m., putting a tick I'd just pulled out of my armpit into a plastic bag. Then taping the plastic bag to the fridge so no one would throw it out by accident before I could overnight it to Igenex labs.

I stopped taking antibiotics for Lyme a couple months ago. Three weeks ago, however, my symptoms started creeping back and I went back on "containment" herbs. I had been trying to get my head around the idea that after six years of treatment, I apparently still have Lyme. Now I'm trying to get my head around how I got bitten by a tick while swing dancing.

Given that I didn't sleep all that much last night, this might not be the most coherent of posts. But here are some thoughts I've been having today:

Yes, truth is stranger than fiction.

If I believed in an all-powerful God, I'd be his sworn enemy now.


This is almost too weird for me to be upset about it.

Thank god I have a good doctor (Marty Ross) who has scheduled a phone appointment for me today, although he normally doesn't see patients on Wednesdays.

Yes, I will buy those really cute but comfortable tango shoes I was thinking were an extravagance.

I'm glad I had some left over antibiotics to take at 12:45 a.m.  I'm glad for Igenex labs and overnight Federal Express.

I'm glad my mom was around (as I'm visiting my parents' right now) to be a generally sane presence for me today.

This tick might not even carry Lyme disease or other illnesses. I will know in about a week.

Deep breathing is good for your immune system.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I let two weeks go by since my last swim.

It wasn't deliberate. Just in the competition of Healthy Things To Do, swimming lost out to dancing, running, walking, meditation, dentist, taking niece to farmer's market, cooking local organic beet greens, etc, etc.

Meanwhile, my baseline emotional state has been very depressed. Weeping on the couch, asking myself about the point of my life, vis-à-vis other lives of suffering or relative non-suffering, vis-à-vis humanity's place in the universe.

That is to say, when I wasn't happy because I was dancing or buying raw milk cheese, I was very, very unhappy. (I chalked this up to lots of things, most of all starting back on Lyme-killing herbs, which causes bacteria die-off, which can make me pretty damn depressed.)

Last night I dropped my darling niece off at my brother's with a batch of macrobiotic muffins we'd just made, and left to swim. And as soon as I was out my brother's door, I was drowning all the existential awfulness. Plus my legs were aching with fatigue. Lyme-disease-herxy fatigue, meaning you-might-not-walk-for-a-couple-days-if-you're-not-careful fatigue.

So I was seriously doubting whether swimming was a good idea. Tears filled my eyes as I drove toward the pool.

“I wish I hadn’t cried so much!” said Alice, as she swam about, trying to find her way out. “I shall be punished for it now, I suppose, by being drowned in my own tears! That will be a queer thing, to be sure! However, everything is queer to-day.”

Swimming, however, was my plan. I'd left my happy extended family behind to do it, and I knew if I didn't, I'd go right back to my couch to cry, and that wouldn't be good either. So I mentally frog-marched myself to the pool, meanwhile making my exercise superego promise my prudent side that I'd just swim for fifteen minutes, slowly, if that was all I had the energy for. And for the first few laps, it looked like fifteen minutes was all it would be. (Plus, everything going on under my swim cap and goggles was pretty unhappy. )

Then suddenly I felt good. I was swimming fast without meaning to. My legs weren't fatigued, and my brain was contemplating the future in a calm, optimistic fashion, having quietly banished thoughts about my life, the universe, and everything to a galaxy far, far away. The world was once again filled with endless beauty.

I swam for half an hour, and got out of the pool not just glowing with happiness, but physically less tired than when I got in. And today I am not only less fatigued than yesterday, but also no longer depressed.

Why does swimming do that?

My naturopath Amy Derksen once told me that swimming is the best exercise for draining the lymph, because of the action of the water along your skin. And my other naturopath, Nesreen Medina, told me to take an Epsom Salt bath after swimming, to get the chlorine out of my skin, and I always do this after I swim. Maybe this combination is why swimming gives me not just the post-exercise high, but also helps with Lyme die-off and depression the next day. At any rate, I need to keep it at the top of my Healthy Activities list.