Lyme disease can cause some serious financial strain to you and your family. In my latest post for Healthgrades, I provide some resources to offset the cost of treating chronic Lyme symptoms. To read the article, click here.
If you’ve discovered a financial resource or way to manage the cost of treating this illness, please leave me a comment below so that others can benefit from your knowledge.
Think ticks need to be attached for 24 to 48 hours to transmit Lyme disease? Think again. Think you’ll feel a tick bite when it occurs? Nope, not going to happen.
My latest project for Healthgrades is a short, 90-second video highlighting some common myths and facts about Lyme disease. Please check it out here. Feel free to let me know what other myths you see floating around the internet (I could only pack so much into 90 seconds, so I know there is much more to say on the subject).
I began my search for a knowledgeable doctor almost a decade ago. At that time, it was next to impossible to locate a physician that had in-depth training in Lyme disease and ME/CFS. I believed there were healthcare providers out there that could treat patients with the range of symptoms I was experiencing, but finding them was another story.
Fast forward to today.
Although finding a the right doctor for your needs can still feel like your trying to work your way through a maze, it’s much easier to gather information about healthcare providers. In my latest post for Healthgrades, I provide tips on How to Find a Lyme-Literate Medical Doctor. Click here to read the article.
Finding a doctor can be a daunting task. But don’t give up hope—they are out there and they can help you on the road to feeling better.
Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses throw many curveballs, and this is just a small snapshot of the ups and downs of life living with an invisible illness. No matter what, I’ll keep fighting until the day this illness is in remission.
“Promptly remove embedded ticks from the skin with a pair of fine-pointed tweezers; don’t burn them, apply petroleum jelly or essential oils, or try any other trends you see floating around the internet.”
Recently, I talked with Healthgrades for my latest article about 5 Tick Bite Prevention Tips. It’s so important to know how to protect yourself from tick bites and properly remove them if one becomes embedded in you. Just this week alone, I was contacted by five people who acquired tick bites while enjoying their daily lives. Take a few minutes and check out my article.
Prevention is key to avoiding Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections!
The initial symptoms of Lyme disease may be overlooked by many healthcare providers. But some symptoms, particularly Lyme carditis, can be life-threatening. Furthermore, Lyme carditis may be under reported, so the actual cases of the condition may be higher than the 1% the CDC states.
Regardless, pay attention to how you feel—if you think you’ve been exposed to Lyme disease or any tick-borne infections, seek the advice of a Lyme-Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD). The details on how to locate a LLMD are coming soon.
Well, 2018 has sure posed some health challenges for me, which I’ll get into later. In the meantime, I’m happy to announce my collaboration with Healthgrades, where I share what living with Lyme disease is really like. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting tips and insights on how to manage life with a chronic illness.
(Please Note: This article first appeared on prohealth.com on March 21, 2017)
It was sunsets that taught me that beauty sometimes only lasts for a couple of moments, and it was sunrises that showed me that all it takes is patience to experience it all over again. ~ A.J. Lawless, “Patience”
Let’s face it—no one wants to experience the dreaded Herxheimer reaction (AKA “herx”) when undergoing Lyme treatment. We’ve all heard horror stories about them, and for some Lyme patients, the thought of having to endure this reaction on top of disabling Lyme symptoms is too much to bear. In some instances, a patient may choose to delay or reject treatment altogether to avoid these unpleasant symptoms.
What is a Herxheimer reaction?
In his online book called, The Treat Lyme Book, Dr. Marty Ross states, “a die-off reaction can occur when treating the Lyme germ, some co-infections, and yeast. It occurs as bacteria or yeast die during antibiotic treatment. It is common to have Herxheimer die-off reactions when starting herbal anti-microbials or antibiotics when treating Lyme. These reactions can also occur when new antibiotics are introduced into a treatment.”
As bacteria or yeast die off, the body releases proinflammatory proteins (known as cytokines) in response to an influx of toxins. While some cytokine activity bolsters the immune system to fight infections, too many of these chemicals can have adverse effects. An overabundance of cytokines in the body leads to pain, fatigue, a suppressed immune system, cognitive issues and brain fog; essentially, a worsening of many of the symptoms of Lyme disease.
But are you powerless against toxins, increased inflammation, and excess cytokines running bonkers through your body? No, you’re not! Using a variety of supplements, lifestyle changes, and detox methods, you can lessen herxes and support your body during treatment. Over the years I’ve tried many things, and I’d love to share with you the ones that have helped me the most during the last three-and-a-half-years of my treatment.
1. Activated charcoal- In a previous article entitled,A Quick Guide to Seven Popular Toxin Binders I mentioned the benefits of this low-cost supplement for reducing the body’s inflammatory responses to toxins. As someone who tends to be sensitive to many supplements and medications, I’ve found activated charcoal to be a gentler approach to binding adverse substances and facilitating their removal from my body.
Consult with your doctor before using any toxin binders, as they must be taken a few hours away from other medications, herbs, or supplements to prevent these remedies from getting absorbed, as well.
2. Glutathione- Glutathione is referred to as the body’s master antioxidant, and it helps to support the liver through the detoxification process. I’ve used this supplement in an oral form, called liposomal glutathione, and in an intravenous drip. Although this supplement can be a bit pricey, it’s one of my favorites for mitigating the effects of a herx, and it improves my energy, decreases brain fog, and helps me to sleep better at night.
3. Infrared sauna treatments- In the book,Beating Lyme Disease, chiropractic doctor, Dr. David Jernigan (2008) writes, “In the realm of assisting chronic or frequently occurring infectious illness, infrared sauna therapy is a vital part of any good treatment program. This is because of its ability to detoxify the body of heavy metals and toxins that are locked up in the fat cells.” (p. 183).
An infrared sauna is different from the steam saunas you might be familiar with at your local gym or spa. The temperature range for an infrared sauna is typically 110-130 degrees (depending on the machine), which is significantly less than a steam sauna. Infrared saunas heat the body from the inside out, allowing the heat to penetrate more deeply. A 30-minute sauna session improves circulation, reduces pain, helps you feel calmer, and assists your body with detoxification. Before investing in an infrared sauna, please consult with your health care provider. There may be some instances where sauna sessions are contraindicated.
4. Epsom salt baths- Magnesium sulfate, the primary mineral in Epsom salts, has a relaxing effect on muscles and the nervous system, and is an inexpensive way to diminish herxes. Not only does this mineral-rich salt reduce pain and inflammation, but it also boosts the detoxification capabilities of both the skin and the liver thanks to the compound sulfate. Sulfate draws out toxins through the skin and cleanses the liver by enhancing the production of bile. Since Epsom salts can lower blood pressure, you may want to begin with a foot bath to gauge how you feel using this method of detoxification.
5. Exercise as tolerated- While exercise is probably the last activity you feel like doing when you’re experiencing a herx, it can be one of the best ways to reduce your symptoms when done appropriately. Your lymphatic system–a network of tissues, organs, and fluid that eliminates waste and disperses immune cells throughout your body– is stimulated through movement and contractions of your muscles.
There are two important points to remember when incorporating exercise into your treatment protocol: First, don’t overdo it. If you feel exhausted after an activity, you’ve done too much, and you need to scale back. Second, don’t engage in strenuous aerobic activity, as this can suppress the immune system for up to 24 hours following exertion. When beginning an exercise regimen, you may need to consider seeing a physical therapist or a trainer, so you can have an individualized program to rebuild your strength and stamina without pushing yourself to the limit.
These are the things that I use to improve my die-off symptoms. There are many additional options, so, with some trial and error, you’re likely to find something to support you through this challenging aspect of treatment.
Today, my first long-form essay went live on Ravishly. I was nervous and scared to write this piece, and I was flooded with an unexpected range of emotions. How could I write about the most challenging and dark time in my life? Well, I persevered, chipping away at the piece over a two-week period. I am very proud to say I did it! I was able to share my story and a story that mirrors the lives of so many other Lyme patients. I’m so proud to have accomplished this, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it and find some hope in the story.
A big thank you to Ravishly for allowing me to write this cathartic piece!
(Please note: This post first appeared on ProHealth on February 27, 2017.)
Image made available by TaxCredits.net
Recently, I received a distressing message from a fellow Lyme patient named Amy, whom I’ve never met. She had reached out to me on my blog expressing her dismay over the ongoing medical costs to treat her illness. “We are financially drained, nothing left,” she wrote. “I still need treatment.” Amy wondered how I was able to afford the expense of constantly battling Lyme.
Unfortunately, Amy’s message highlights widespread issues among patients when trying to recover from Lyme disease–a lack of finances and other resources to continue the journey toward regaining our health. With dwindling bank accounts, we are often forced to decide between seeking quality treatment, paying our rent or mortgage, or putting food on the table.
Over the years, I’ve developed a few strategies to decrease the pressure of managing an ailment with a hefty price tag. Here are five tips to treat Lyme disease when you’re on a budget.
1.See if you qualify for financial assistance
Here’s a list of five organizations I found useful for receiving accurate testing, treatment, and medications.
Lyme-Tap[http://www.ilads.org/campaign/lyme-tap.php]– provides need-based financial assistance to people for initial Lyme-related testing. Resources are available on a first come, first served basis and preference is given to children under 18 years of age. Please note: Lyme-Tap doesn’t pay for insurance deductibles.
RxAssist [http://www.rxassist.org/]- is a curated database of information from pharmaceutical companies and additional sources to help patients get medications at a reduced cost. Patients may qualify for this program if they meet the income guidelines and have no prescription drug coverage. In hardship circumstances, an insured person may still qualify for assistance.
Bay Area Lyme Foundation Tick Test [http://www.bayarealyme.org/lyme-disease-prevention/tick-testing/]- performs free testing to determine if a tick a person has encountered is an infected or uninfected tick. The service is offered as part of a larger data-collection project to help scientists locate areas where Lyme disease is most common. This program is for informational purposes only and is not used for the diagnosis or treatment of tick-borne infections.
LymeLight Foundation [https://lymelightfoundation.org/grants/]- offers grant opportunities to children and adults through age 25. An applicant must be under the care of a Lyme literate health care provider and be a U.S. resident. The maximum lifetime grant awarded to a patient is $10,000.
GoodRx [https://www.goodrx.com/]- Many people aren’t aware that the cost of medications can vary significantly from one location to another. GoodRx compares prices and discounts from pharmacies all across the country so that patients can locate the lowest prices for their prescriptions. These discounts and coupons can be used whether you have insurance or not, and GoodRx was a lifesaver for me whenever I had gaps in my health care coverage.
2. Understand what your insurance plan covers
Unfortunately, you might not be able to stay within your insurer’s network to see a Lyme specialist. But, are you aware you may be able to submit your bill to the insurance company for partial reimbursement or to meet your out-of-network deductible? Small savings add up over time and can make or break your ability to sustain treatment. Moreover, some private insurers now reimburse for Skype appointments, and this could offset travel expenses if your doctor isn’t local.
In addition to doctor visits, check which medications your insurance will pay for in advance. Not long ago, I was surprised to learn that my plan covered all but $10 of a $1200 drug. However, it didn’t cover any of the cost of a $200 antibiotic. Knowing which medications my insurance did and didn’t cover, allowed me to examine the discount coupons I mentioned previously, other prospective drugs, or herbal medications to see what was more affordable for me.
3. Pare down your supplements
In a world with unlimited financial resources, we would be able to purchase every supplement our doctor recommends. Sadly, for many of us, this isn’t realistic. After several years of exhausting money on supplements that didn’t work for me, I began asking my doctor to pick her top two supplement recommendations for my treatment protocol. By doing this, I was able to tell which supplements were helping me and which ones were ineffective. Over time, I’ve slowly created an essential, supportive list of supplements that’s within a price range I can afford.
4. Resist the urge to hop on a treatment bandwagon
As you watch others invest in expensive endeavors, it’s easy to fear you’re missing out on a potentially life-changing treatment. I’ve been in that position (heck, I’m still in that position). Over the years, I’ve learned to watch and ask others how they’re doing with their treatments before jumping into something new. Although the wait is painful at times, this allows me to see if a treatment trend has helped several people before making a decision about whether it’s something I want to pursue for my healing.
5. Prepare for your doctor’s appointments
In the beginning, I often left my appointments without asking all the questions I’d hoped to ask. To gather my thoughts ahead of time, I began jotting down my concerns in a notebook as soon as they popped into my head. The night before my appointments, I organized those questions and brought my notebook with me to the visit. When my appointment was ending, I’d request to look at my notes and make sure I had sufficient clarification about any remaining matters. As a result, I began leaving my appointments with a solid plan, and I rarely had to spend money on back-and-forth email exchanges that increased my bill. Now, I can schedule my follow-up visits further apart (like every three months instead of two), which helps to lower my treatment costs.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, so let’s keep this discussion going. If you’ve discovered some tricks that have helped you to reduce the hefty price tag of treating Lyme, please leave them in the comments, so that others can be helped by them as well.