The Day I Told My Husband to Leave Me and My Lyme Disease

Please note: This article first appeared on The Mighty on August 24th, 2016.

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On a summer afternoon in 2013, I lay in my bed staring up at the ceiling contemplating how to cut my losses while my life spiraled out of control. I felt as though there was an anchor attached to my soul pulling me deeper into an abyss of unfathomable despair. My thoughts drifted to an existence of solitude, and for a brief moment, relief washed over me. I had already become disconnected from most of my family and friends — an unforeseen casualty of a prolonged hardship. During a period of panic and uncertainty, I considered whether or not I should also cut ties with my husband, Tom. I fantasized about living the rest of my days — however long that would be — without the expectations of someone else. Furthermore, Tom never asked to be my caregiver, so letting him go seemed noble to me. Why should we both have to struggle when he could escape this never-ending nightmare?

We lived in an old, second-story Chicago apartment where watching new cracks form in the plaster became my daily entertainment. I crashed in 2010 and then again in 2012, leaving me stuck at home and in bed, intolerable to sound and unable to sleep. I took combinations of medications and supplements in amounts that could knock out a small elephant. But they often had little to no effect on me. My brain and spinal cord burned with pain; my muscles ached with exhaustion, and I could no longer sit or stand for more than a few minutes. Too weak to talk, I communicated with my mother in Minnesota through texts. Regrettably, I couldn’t bear the idea of hearing the sadness in her voice or the possibility of her seeing me in this condition. My body had given out on me, and I suddenly realized this mysterious ailment wasn’t going away on its own.

Before my illness, I was an occupational therapist, an athlete, a pilates instructor, and the creator of a well-respected exercise DVD. Since I had carved out a unique niche in an up-and-coming health and wellness space, my career path looked bright and full of potential. Then, without warning, it all slipped away.

The illness that derailed me in the prime of my life was chronic Lyme disease. Steeped in medical and political controversy, Lyme disease is an ostracized diagnosis. Physicians are taught that this disease is difficult to acquire and easy to treat. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Lyme disease can affect every organ, joint and muscle in the body, and its symptoms mimic many other diseases. Sadly, there is no cure and no linear path to healing. At best, there is remission. Lyme is nothing if not unpredictable and destructive.

After the fatigue and pain had beaten me down each day, Tom got what was left of me — which was never very much. Although I was his wife, I was also his patient, and sickness was a prominent third entity in our marriage. I constantly needed his assistance, and therefore I couldn’t tend to his needs or reciprocate his affection. On an occasion, we had rare moments of joy and laughter, but they were always short-lived by a flood of symptoms. There wasn’t anything I could do to change my fate, but Tom, well, he could be spared from this tragedy, I thought. I became convinced I could release him of his caregiver duties if I finished out my remaining days living with my parents in Minnesota, and I prepared myself to tell him to move on with his life and find someone else.

One day, I called Tom into the bedroom and beneath an outpouring of tears, I uttered, “You need to leave me before this ship sinks. I’m not getting any better… you don’t need to sink along with me.”

Quietly, Tom sat on the edge of the bed and listened to me as I continued, “There’s still time to save yourself. You don’t deserve this! You can remarry and have the family you’ve always wanted,” I sobbed, knowing that those things weren’t possible for me.  

The heaviness of my words took my breath away as I realized I was letting go of the person I loved most in this world. My heart couldn’t endure the pain, so I covered my head with a blanket; I was no longer able to look at him.

Suddenly, I felt a gentle arm wrap around me and heard these tender words, “Jenny, if you think I’m going to leave you, you don’t know me very well. I’m the type of guy that would sink with the ship. I’m not leaving you. I love you. I need you in my life. Where would I be without you? Probably alone and a lot less happy.”

The tears slowed to a trickle and then halted. Tom could be a little rough around the edges sometimes, and I liked to think I’d softened him up a bit over the years. As an image of us laughing together popped into my mind, a small smile formed on my lips. “That’s true,” I mumbled from under the blanket, “Youwould be alone and a lot less happy without me.”

At that moment, Tom’s words reminded me of my worth in our relationship, which I had unknowingly lost somewhere along the way. I realized Lyme disease might have stolen a lot from me, but it didn’t diminish my value as a woman, wife, friend, or partner. Though, I’m embarrassed to admit I believed the lie that I was somehow “less than” more times than I can count.   

Three years into aggressive Lyme disease treatment, and I am still working toward recovery. Though I’ve made great strides, our life together looks nothing like most other couples our age — no children, no financial stability, and no grand plan for the future. We live simple, quiet lives with three dogs and the constant struggle and uncertainty of a chronic illness. During those previous months of intense struggling, I’m thankful Tom refused my offer to leave. I know I would be alone and a lot less happy without him too. Today, there’s a lot of love between us and a mutual understanding that we are stronger together than apart as we continue to fight this ongoing battle. 

Six Things You Can Do To Improve Your Gut Health When You Have Lyme Disease

Please note: This article first appeared on Prohealth.com on July 20th, 2016

Many of us with Lyme disease are on strong antibiotic, antimicrobial, or supplement protocols. As we attack a multitude of infections, we often cycle through periods where we experience gut issues; things like bloating, pain, loss of appetite, difficulty digesting food, constipation, and diarrhea are common complaints.

If you’re like me, you’ve already implemented the necessary dietary recommendations. You avoid sugar, alcohol, processed foods, dairy, and gluten, and yet, your gut difficulties persist. Thankfully, there is good news! There are many things you can do to minimize gastrointestinal discomfort and keep your belly happy during treatment. Plus, a healthier gut will improve the function of your immune system and reduce inflammation–two things your body needs in spades when battling this illness.

Below is a list of tips I’ve learned over the years to improve gut health during Lyme treatment. While I wish I could say I do all these things daily, the truth is that sometimes I forget, and my stomach lets me know it. When tummy troubles arise, I get myself back on track by incorporating a few of these strategies into my routine as soon as possible.

1. Drink bone broths every day.

A fresh, homemade cup of slow cooked bone broth contains an array of easily digestible, gut-friendly nutrients and is relatively inexpensive to make. The gelatin in the broth helps heal the gut lining and amino acids such as arginine, glycine, and proline reduce inflammation in your body. Some people report difficulty tolerating bone broths when they first try to drink them. If this describes you, a meat stock cooked for just a few hours will still provide ample health benefits and may be easier to tolerate. On a personal note, I prefer to drink two cups of meat stock per day.

2. Increase your intake of fermented foods.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, and kefir are some of the best foods for maintaining gut health. They provide the body with useful probiotics and a bounty of enzymes and vitamins that protect you from a variety of pathogens. Furthermore, fermented foods can reduce Candida overgrowth–which is an ongoing problem for some of us. Although many people prefer to make fermented foods themselves, I choose to buy mine from a delicious neighborhood deli for convenience.

3. Give juicing a shot.

Did you know that juicing vegetables and fruits helps to rebuild your gut and purge your body of toxins? That’s right! Like some of the other foods I already mentioned, juices are full of minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Additionally, since juicing requires little to no digestion, the vital nutrients found in juice are quickly absorbed and ready to nourish your healing body.

When making your juice, it’s best to use low-sugar fruits like apple and kiwi to help sweeten your drink. A favorite combination of mine is to blend apple, celery, romaine lettuce, and lemon into a tasty and refreshing summer beverage. To maximize nutrient absorption, drink your juice within 15 minutes of juicing it.

4. Try a comprehensive digestive enzyme before meals.

Many factors inhibit the body’s natural production of digestive enzymes. Supplementing with these enzymes assists your body with the breakdown of food, so you can utilize the food you consume for fuel. When choosing a digestive supplement, you should look for one that contains hydrochloric acid (HCL) to aid protein digestion, amylase to aid carbohydrate digestion, and lipase to aid fat digestion.

A word of caution about digestive enzymes: If you have a history of stomach ulcers, please consult your doctor before taking a supplement that contains HCL. Should you need a digestive enzyme, there are plenty of products on the market that don’t contain HCL.

5. Take probiotics.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that replenish the healthy gut flora often destroyed by our medications. Long-term use of antibiotics and antimicrobials can leave the gut imbalanced. Therefore, probiotics are a must-have for anyone undergoing these types of treatments. In addition, these valuable bacteria aid in our digestion, allowing our bodies to take advantage of the vitamins and minerals we take in.

If you are new to adding probiotics into your protocol, it’s best to ask your physician for advice. They may have a preferred brand that they want you to take.

6. Use castor oil packs.

With its potent healing properties, the topical use of castor oil dates back to ancient times. As a child, I remember using it as a hot pack on my swollen glands when I had a sore throat. Years later, I am once again enjoying the restorative properties of castor oil for gut health. When a castor oil pack is applied to the abdomen, it encourages the flow of lymphatic fluid, lessens inflammation, and diminishes pain.

Here’s how to make a quick and easy castor oil pack:

  • First, you’ll need a wool flannel cloth and a bottle of pure, cold-pressed castor oil, both of which you can purchase online or at most health food stores
  • Saturate the flannel with the oil and place it over your abdomen or areas of tenderness.
  • Next, cover the flannel with plastic to protect fabric, clothes, and linens from the oil. I typically use kitchen plastic wrap.
  • Finally, apply heat using a heating pad to facilitate absorption.
  • You can leave the pack in place for up to an hour.
  • When you’re finished, make a paste of baking soda and water to remove the excess oil from your skin. Rub the paste over your abdomen and rinse it off.
  • You can store the flannel in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for 25-30 uses.


This list just scratches the surface of the variety of options that are out there for protecting your gut throughout the course of your treatment. With some trial and error, nearly everyone can find ways to optimize their digestive health during the road to recovery. Please remember, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider for more individualized recommendations.