Dedicated to Chris Teodosio, my loving husband, and Allison, Dave, Emily and Maddie Beggs
Well, it’s been about a year and a half since I came down with Lyme and embarked on my adventures. And what a year and a half it has been!
I went from being an energetic, functioning Mom, wife, and Kindergarten teacher, to a bed-ridden one, who was out of work for six months.
I became my own best advocate, needing and finding treatments outside of the regular medical field. I slowly found my stamina and drive come back over many months, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t recognize that I wouldn’t be in this healthy place if it weren’t for my husband. Through a series of connections, he led me to my ‘woo woo’ guy in New York, who has really helped me get my life back.
It was not easy to think “outside the Western Medical box” and go the naturopathic route. It took a huge leap of faith for me to do so, but I had gotten to the point in my illness that I really didn’t have much more to lose, other than more of my health and livelihood.
And that just wasn’t an option for me.
My biggest struggle with this illness has been the impact of a no sugar, no wheat, no carbs–basically, a “no fun food” diet. I have been very faithful to what I call my “kale, meat and green tea” diet. Healthy, but not always embraced in our carb-laden society. Nor what my taste buds really wanted to enjoy, either!
But I think my diligence with the diet and the supplements is starting to pay off a bit.
I just recently started eating my favorite summer lunch: mini mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and almonds—topped with dressing made with Apple Cider Vinegar, olive oil, and seasonings.
I’m also drinking more flavored teas (I live on the edge–I brew 3 green tea bags and 1 ginger together for a full pitcher of tea.) This past weekend, I tried a seltzer with orange flavor after having worked in the yard pretty much all day. It was both refreshing to be outside that long AND drink the seltzer without pain! YIPPEE!
But this kismet hasn’t been without the constant support of my family and friends.
My sister posted an adorable picture of her daughters doing the Lyme disease challenge in my honor today. Her caption was, “A little late and a continent away, but we did it for you!”
It made my heart swell and made me a little teary.
Because it’s never too late to show your love and support for anyone.
I realize how fortunate I am that I have experienced so much support from the start of my diagnosis so long ago. Family members would reach out, some of them daily, and my co-workers and students were so generous with their own time and gifts as well. I still look at the cards and mementos that I received from time to time; it seems so surreal that I was out of the classroom for so long, and for something that I didn’t even realize I had, until my symptoms became impossible to ignore.
When I went back to work this past fall, my colleagues would often ask how I was feeling. It doesn’t seem like much, but those little interactions often got me through some rough days. Days that had nothing to do with my Lyme, but rough nonetheless. It showed that people really did care and were thoughtful enough to ask.
And even though I am much better, people still ask about my health and share all kinds of information with me about Lyme, just in case I missed something new that has popped up in the news on Lyme research.
My sister’s photo of my nieces biting into slices of lime is yet another reminder to me of how even the smallest action, like a card or email or photo, can really boost someone’s spirit.
So, thank you for thinking of me.
And think about how you can support those closest to you.
This past year has been one full of revelations for me.
My health took a turn for the worse, thanks to an unseen tick bite, causing me to be out of work for six months. I was forced to seek answers from both the medical and naturopathic communities. I found more help in the natural solutions than in the man-made chemical ones. It was not a very easy road to go down, but one that continues to surprise me and show me that Mother Nature really should be consulted more often!
Easter Sunday, with all its culinary delights, came at me full force this past Sunday. One of the major issues with my Lyme is my compromised diet. I decided to not worry about possible pain and stinging that I would undoubtedly feel after eating dinner, and just eat small amounts of the foods that I haven’t been able to eat for the past 15 months.
Surprise! Surprise! It was revealed unto me that I could eat with no pain!
I ate stuffed shells—with both cheese and meat. No stinging! (The cheese bothered my stomach a bit, but I was thankful that was all that bothered me.)
I ate some green beans—no stinging!
I ate some mashed potatoes—no stinging!
I ate porketta and ham with horseradish—no stinging!
And then…I tried….dessert.
I ate a sliver of chocolate cream pie with homemade whipped cream, two anginettes, and two of my own biscotti. Hey, if I was going to cheat, and if anything would bother me, I’d rather it be the dessert!
I was so thankful that none of this bothered my system. None.of.it.
I did notice that my knees and elbows had pain later on that night…like really late, like 2 am late…but wow! Oh Wow! If that was all I was feeling, was I ever thankful!!
That’s not to say that I’m going to start eating all carb-laden foods again. I clearly still have the Lyme bugs in my system, but the fact that I could eat so many different foods without that nasty stinging side effect within a half hour of eating really made me thankful.
And I still can remember all the difficulties I faced as my Lyme progressed from annoying symptoms to full-blown pain, brain fog, dietary issues, weakness, and exhaustion, and finally, being out of work for six months.
I can remember early on, trying to keep a semblance of routine at home and make my daughter’s lunch for school. That 10-minute job caused me extreme exhaustion, and a return trip to bed for two hours.
I remember trying to exercise on the advice of medical doctors, which never went well. Later on in that winter, I tried vacuuming a 5×7 rug. I needed a three-hour nap after that.
I remember starting what I call my Lyme Bible. It contained sections with each doctors’ contact information, copies of my blood work reports, diagnoses, as well as my food diary and symptoms tracker.
I remember my husband asking me one morning, “Where is the jelly?” And I literally did not know. I couldn’t tell him, and I got upset because I knew my brain was literally fading a way bit by bit, and there wasn’t anything that any medical doctor was telling me that was helpful or hopeful.
I remember being frustrated listening to people with MD after their names giving me any number of diagnoses: Lyme, not Lyme, fibromyalgia, coxsackie, EBV, a virus…and even, “Yes, you have Lyme, coxsackie, and EBV in your blood work, but we don’t know what is causing your symptoms. Just eat right and exercise.” I’ve got letters that I’ve started that I intend to send to all these medical professionals to both ease my conscience and anger, but also potentially change how they actually address a patient’s course of treatment when they have Lyme disease.
I remember hearing about a holistic practitioner that helped a cancer patient who had tremendous results after major health issues. At that point, I was ready to find a new avenue that didn’t lead me to another medical doctor whose hands were tied against me.
I remember thinking during my first appointment, his methods seemed so strange and out of the box in terms of medical treatment as I knew it, and yet, after only 4 months, I was back at work full-time and able to conquer my full teaching day without turning into a puddle by 10:30 am!
I remember feeling so tired from work, I was in bed by 5:30, and still not rested to face the next day. Squeezing the shampoo bottle in the shower bothered my right thumb, and drying my hair with the hair dryer made my elbows hurt tremendously. Even driving would bother my elbows. And reading…forget it. After ten minutes, I could feel my mind drifting away from the words on the page.
I remember a time last year when I didn’t put the my prized under-the-counter radio on when I was in the kitchen. It’s presence changed from a comfort to just noise. The feeling of wanting music on had left me, and it didn’t bother me for many months that I didn’t put the radio on to keep me company.
Tonight, I connected my Bluetooth Pandora on my phone to that radio. I listened to a Martina McBride holiday channel, and I sang along to almost every song. It was like a drug to me; I realized how much I had missed my music and I finally had the chance to enjoy it again. I had to force myself to turn it off and go sit down when tiredness of the day trumped the music.
As I am writing this, I am thinking of how fortunate I am that my health has returned almost to normal and I am enjoying things that I couldn’t do a year ago.
Below are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way in my research about essential oils.
Not All Oils–Or Companies–Are Alike!
When I began to learn about essential oils, I learned of these two companies: doTERRA and Young Living. From my limited understanding, do TERRA branched off from Young Living, and there was a falling out and a lawsuit brought on by Young Living—you can look it up online if you want more details.
But in my mind, both get a lot of exposure caused by the split and therefore, these consultant-driven businesses are in competition with each other. This doesn’t stick well with me in my “all-natural” craw, if you know what I mean. If you talk to anyone who is a consultant for either one, they will naturally espouse the goodness of their own company and not go into detail about the rift, if you happen ask about it. I’ve spoken to consultants from both companies, and they’ve all been lovely, well-informed people when it came to essential oils. But the bad karma between the two enterprises turned me off to BOTH companies.
Being the rebel that I am, I did my own research and found reputable oils that are easily purchased at local health food markets. I can pick the ones I want to try out and avoid being locked into ‘beginner starter kits’ and other programs that are pricey.
Knock It Off!
I can’t say this enough: avoid purchasing oils that you find in your drug stores or chain stores like Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Essential oils and diffusers seem to be the ‘in’ thing right now, and I’ve seen different unknown brands pop up in different stores . You need to know what is in the oils that you are diffusing, ingesting, or using topically. If it says “100% Pure Frankincense” on the bottle, and it’s only $4.99 at Target, you can safely assume that it’s not PURE Frankincense in that bottle! (Frankincense is one of the most expensive oils you can purchase.) If you diffuse oils that aren’t really pure, you can be putting worse things into your system than you bargained for. And who wants that?
Do Your Homework!
There are literally HUNDREDS of resources available online and in print about essential oils. I like to keep my options open and use both types of sources.
Pintrest, of course, has quick information for all your essential oil needs, but I also love to have books on hand, because sometimes, it’s just quicker to be able to bookmark a page and turn to it in a pinch. My favorite book is Valerie Worwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy. It is very comprehensive and outlines the history of various oils as well as which oils to use topically, diffuse, and/or ingest. Valerie provides recipes to use with oils for any kind of ailment or household task or beauty regime. She also lists reputable essential oil companies in the back, which was extremely helpful to me in my research, since I was definitely waging a private campaign against both doTERRA and Young Living. (And she does list these two in her book as reputable companies.)
Basically, don’t just start diffusing because ‘everyone is doing it’. If you’re not sure about an oil, be investigative and find the answers you are looking for. Work smarter, not harder! Look for book titles online, then go to the library and check out the books that interest you. I love doing this because I can make sure the book (s) have the information I require before purchasing. I made the mistake once of purchasing a cookbook before I really reviewed it. I’ll never do that again!
In this case, doing your homework means the difference between being informed or spending money that really can be saved for a better purchase.
A Little Bit Goes A Long Way!
The oils are potent, so after you have researched what oils you want to use and how to use them safely, do it drop by drop. I learned that I could use Frankincense, Rosemary, and Oregano in combination to help combat my Lyme disease. But after applying 3-4 diluted drops of each to each foot, I felt somewhat stomach sick within a half an hour! I should have just used one oil at a time and rotated, but live and learn, right?
I also discovered that Geranium and Lavender, which smell wonderful together, are not a good combination for me when I am dealing with congestion; the two actually made my symptoms worse! But a Lemon and Eucalyptus blend were perfect for me in the bath or in the shower when I was all stuffy.
So in the case of essential oils, a little bit does go a long way. It’s better to start of with one or two drops and build up. Rotating oils is also recommended if you notice that you aren’t getting the same effects over a period of time.
Diffusers Don’t Need To Be Expensive to be Worthy
Now that you are ready with oils, you need to get a diffuser. And just like anything else on the market, diffusers come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices.
Three things I learned to consider when deciding on a diffuser:
Ease of Opening
Personally, I have three diffusers. And the easiest one to open is the cheapest one that I bought at Wal-Mart, made by Better Homes and Garden. Both the outside glass cover, much like a bell jar, and the inside cover, are easily removable. Because the square footage of my bedroom is relatively small, I can put the diffuser on, shut the door, and within a half an hour, the air in the room is filled with any beautiful oil that I put inside.
The one I bought from my classroom has a plastic cover that you need to twist on and off according to arrow indicators on the outer lid and diffuser. My hands are small, so this one is hard for me to grasp and as a result, it is difficult to open and close. I purchased it because it is larger in size, and has a timer for how long you want it to run. Its size allows it to run up to 360 minutes, which is great in the classroom! But I didn’t consider how to opens (I bought this one online) and because it’s harder to open, I end up just leaving the lid in the unlocked position to avoid having to twist it open when it is time to refill.
I have another one that my husband purchased as a Christmas gift. It is made out of wood—it’s very pretty and looks lovely in my livingroom, but again, it’s a little trickier to open and close due to the design.
The square footage of my living room is much larger than that of my bedroom. The room also opens up to a stairwell, so when diffusing, it seems to require more drops of oil to reap the same benefits as in an enclosed space like my bedroom.
So, consider all these factors before purchasing and diffusing. And if you can, purchase your diffuser in person and not online, so you can actually see the diffuser and test out how it opens and closes.
Well, I hope these tips help clear the air when considering using essential oils!
With the advent of a new President, laws will be overturned, changed, and created. I began thinking about the laws of my own castle, and came up with a few for my family.
Here are a few laws I’d like to put in place for my family this year.
Whoever runs the dishwasher must empty it within 12 hours of said action. And all items in the dishwasher must be put back in their correct place. If the emptier is unsure of an items location, that person must inform the Queen within 1 hour and learn where the item should be placed. It should not be left on the kitchen counter for the Queen to later find and put away.
Clause #1:Any pots or pans that are washed and left on the stove to dry must be put away within 12 hours of drying.
Clause #2: Any plastic items left on the kitchen counter to dry must be put away within 12 hours of drying.
Clause #3: When the dishwasher detergent gets down to 5 tablets, the Queen must be informed so more can be purchased. This clause also includes dish soap, hand soap, shampoo, paper goods, and other home cleaning and personal cleansing items when they become low and need to be replaced. Users shall not use up all products without having replacements readily available.
Personal Belongings Law
Whatever personal belongings are NOT placed in their correct place within 12 hours of being left all over the castle, the Queen has the direct authority to do whatever she wishes with said item(s). The King and Princess have NO AUTHORITY on this matter and must abide by this law. The Queen has jurisdiction over all areas of the castle, including the kitchen counter, kitchen and dining room chairs, living room couch, staircase, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
This includes but is not limited to keys, belts, hats, shoes, winter wear, backpacks, toys, and other personal items. The owner of the item(s) may or may not see the item(s) ever again, depending on the mood of the Queen.
All folded laundry shall be placed neatly in the owner’s drawers and not left on floors, chairs or in baskets. Any laundry left in these areas longer than 24 hours will be subject to removal by the Queen. (See Personal Belongings Law for clarification of the fine for breaking this law.)
Tomato Sauce Law
If you made sauce, you must clean up the spatters on the stove upon completion of cooking. This law also applies to when sauce is reheated on the stove. The Queen shall always have non-toxic cleaners available.
All boxes shall be either burned or ripped up upon opening and emptying of the boxes. Boxes shall not be thrown down the basement stairs left to create a pile of cardboard resembling the Eiffel Tower or the New York skyline.
Royal Pet Law
Whomever is the first to arrive home must feed the Royal Pet food and water. The Queen will provide food and bowls for said job.
Clause #1: If a subject ‘forgets’ to feed the Royal Pet, that subject shall be forced to eat food of the Queen’s choice.
Clause #2: More than one incident of not feeding the Royal Pet will result in further punishment to be determined by the Queen at the time of the infraction.
Healthy Eating Law
All members of the castle must try kale and refrain from any grimacing or negative comments. Punishment for breaking this law will be determined at the time of the infraction.
Do you think they these laws will can be implemented and followed ?
Here are 5 items that a year ago, I wouldn’t have put on my ‘thankful’ list. My, how times have changed!
My Nutritionist, Maureen Wasik
Maureen, without you, I wouldn’t be eating all the green vegetables and protein that I need to function like a semi-normal human being. Heck, before last December, I didn’t even HAVE a nutritionist! And thankfully, I’ve not had to go back to you since the summer since I’ve kind of surpassed what I needed your expertise for in terms of my own food intake and needs. But truly, if I hadn’t found you when I did, I wouldn’t be as healthy as I am now. Thank you. (I still haven’t eaten liver since that first time….I hope you understand.)
Kale and Brussel Sprouts
Kale and Brussel Sprouts, you are the two greens who have helped to turn my cells around and give me back some of my energy lost from Lyme. A year ago, you wouldn’t even be on my grocery list, let alone in my refrigerator! Now, you are my friends that I love to eat and must have every.single.week. I find that when I can’t get my fix of roasted brussel spouts with garlic and bacon, I’m missing you terribly..not in the same way that I miss chocolate, but almost. Thank you.
Green tea, you have allowed me to have one more fluid to drink besides water, and for this, my taste buds are truly appreciative. I love to have some kind of ‘taste’ in what I eat and drink, and without you, I’d be stuck drinking plain.old.water. Thank you for giving me something different to drink each day, as well as provide some more ‘green’ in my diet.
You truly know how to make a gal happy! Just a few turns of you around the pan, and my eggs easily release and taste delicious, too! You also help keep my cholesterol and blood pressure low. And it goes without saying, my kale and brussel sprouts just wouldn’t be the same without you.
My Woo Woo Guy, Dan Court
And last but not least, Dan Court, my “woo woo” guy, you have started me on a healing road with the supplements that I faithfully take. I call you my “woo woo” guy because truthfully, your methods are so “woo woo” to my own experience. And yet, your non-Western medicine methods helped me tremendously when the medical community, with their regulations and man-made medicines and by the book diagnoses, weren’t correct and didn’t work. Yes, you are a long drive away from my home, and yes, I wish you took insurance to make my wallet a bit more full. BUT….had I not heard of you from a friend of a friend of my husband’s , I believe that I wouldn’t be as well as I am.
And I most certainly wouldn’t be back at work handling my 20 scholars with the full energy level that I currently have and need this year!
Thank you for opening my eyes and getting me back on the road to wellness!
When you are living with a chronic illness, even every day tasks require pre-planning and thought…and just that thought ALONE can send one running back under the covers.
Here are 5 ways to make managing the holidays a bit easier and hopefully more enjoyable.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
After having a bickering weekend recently, fueled only by my OWN issues with worrying about getting housework done, I started defining small weekly tasks on my calendar, like laundry, ordering groceries (see SHOP SMARTER below), dusting and vacuuming, and bathrooms. Each night is designated for ONE task so that my weekend isn’t consumed by cleaning. Tuesdays I’m not home until 7 pm, so that night I give myself a break from a chore, but the rest of the week is planned out. AND FOR ME, IT ACTUALLY WORKED! Sunday was indeed a day of rest, so I am sticking to my pre-planning habit through the holidays.
I like to be in control of things in my home, but found that I need to get better at doling out tasks for my family members to do to help around the house so I’m not feeling like the sole worker bee. My husband is great with cooking for me–he’s the grill master, for sure, so he will grill up meat for me over the weekend for my lunches for the upcoming week. And he’s learned how to make my tea, so he’ll put a pot on for me if he sees the kettle out. And my ten-year old can easily vacuum the stairs with a hand vac and organize the couch pillows if I let her know.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help and sharing the load–many hands make light work, right?
SHOP SMARTER, NOT HARDER
I discovered that I could order my groceries online several years ago, and this has been quite the weekly lifesaver! I can either have them delivered or pick them up, depending on which store I shop at. I mostly order non-perishables and things like milk and eggs; meat and veggies we get elsewhere. But truly, this is the BEST WAYto get my grocery shopping done without having to fight aisle antics, crying children, and blinking lights that signal coupon issues at the checkout.
I also shop for many of my holiday gifts online and have them delivered to me at work. It’s wonderful since I can get my goodies without having to worry about them being left on the front porch in the bad weather. I can also squirrel things away from my husband and daughter.
Shopping smarter can really pay off in terms of your sanity. Two years ago, I went out on Black Friday to a local chain store near my home. The line to pay literally went down to the back of the store, and as much as I wanted the few items I selected, they didn’t warrant me standing in line for hours. So, I snapped a few photos of the items and their UPC codes on my phone, then went home and ordered them online. I received the same deals –and with free shipping–without having to wait in line!
That was a magical moment!
SANTA’S LIST ISN’T JUST FOR HIM
We have a very large extended family, and add in the kindly neighbor, the classroom teacher, the dance teacher, the bus driver… it’s plain to see, the holidays can become very expensive very quickly!
I create a holiday table in Word on my computer each year, and I don’t necessarily delineate dollar amounts per person–that seems a little too Scrooge for me– but I do itemize who I’m giving to and try to get some shopping done early prior to December so I’m not scrambling for money or gifts.
Since I do this each year, I can look back to see what I’ve given and not repeat the same gift. I also try to avoid the same candle/mug/tie gift.
Truly, who really needs another Santa mug or holiday tie?
SHOP OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
This year, if I do venture out of my home to shop, I’m going local to shop to support ‘the little guy or gal’. I’ve got plans to go to a local book sale at a library near the town I grew up in over the Thanksgiving weekend. They held a similar event over the summer, and I found some wonderful reading treasures there for myself. I’m going to try it out and see how many family members I can surprise with a literary gift this year. It shouldn’t break the bank, and I’m glad to be supporting library events instead of a CEO’s wallet.
I’m also going to gift the gift of my time this year. My sisters and I are planning on getting together with our kids over the winter break and do something together instead of the usual present in a box that never gets seen again. I’d rather create some memories that will leave a lasting impression.
It’s been six months since I started down my Lyme journey, and I’ve learned so many different ways to manage my symptoms and my health. My experience reminds me of when my daughter first learned how to walk: one foot in front of the other, slowly bobbing and weaving forward, trying to get ahead without falling.
I can remember standing at my back door this past Winter, looking at the snow piled up over my garden. It broke my heart to think that I wouldn’t be working in it the following Spring. Thankfully, I proved myself wrong. But it wasn’t without taking little baby steps every day-even when I wasn’t feeling like doing anything but laying down.
Once the warmer weather hits, I like to wake up each morning and check out my garden. I like to see where the sun is hitting, noting which perennials are coming back to life and which ones should be moved so they get the most sun. Sometimes, I photograph my flowers, and I mentally note the progress others. On Friday, I worked at edging my garden for over an hour, without stopping to rest. I can remember when, back in the winter, I tried vacuuming a 5×7 carpet in my house for a few minutes. That minute task sent me to the couch for a few hours! So being in my garden for a good length of time, with a laborious task at hand, was not only a huge improvement, but also a sign to me that I am on the right track towards healing.
It’s not been an easy process, being that I’ve had to seek out other natural practitioners for help. It is a costly part of my healing, since none of my practitioners take my insurance. But I’ve gotten better advice, support, and more importantly, better health over time, than what I received from my insurance-covered medical doctors that I sought out early on. My small gains in health have been worth every check I’ve had to write out these past few months. Each month has led me down a different path to healing, one which I wouldn’t have ever encountered if I hadn’t gotten Lyme.
I was out of work for 5 months, and thankfully, I had enough sick time accumulated that I was able get paid. I went back to visit my students and colleagues on the last day of school a week ago. It was so good to see everyone, and I burst into tears when I hugged my principal.
My kids’ reactions were priceless. Some hugged me, others were noticeably more excited and talkative with me, and one little boy just kept giving my side glances with a “Why are you here?” look on his face. It made me laugh inside, but it also made me realize my kids weren’t “my kids” anymore. They had changed so much since when I left because they had a different teacher in my place for so long. Little things that I taught them, like our snack song before eating, or reciting a chant for getting lined up calmly and quietly, seemed to have been forgotten. They were one of the best classes of my career, and I sadly had to pass the reigns to a sub this year. It was a hard decision, but one that I had to follow through on if I wanted to get healthier.
Even though I have much more energy, I know that I am still healing and have more healing to do. I must keep on top of my food, fluid, and supplement intake every day to continue feeling better. I still have brain fog and need to write down even the smallest of items to remember or most mundane of tasks to complete. You can’t ask me where something is and expect a quick search and rescue response like in my pre-Lyme days. I am still limited in what I can eat, and it hampers going out to restaurants or when we entertain at home. We had company here last night and my husband made a dozen pizzas in our pizza oven while I ate my kale, broccoli, sausage, and garlic meal. I miss eating my favorite foods, but it is a small price to pay when I know other Lyme victims are hospitalized, suicidal, or even dead.
I am thankful that I am out and about, and not standing in my doorway, eyeing my garden and wishing to be out there, pruning and weeding.
Even if it has meant, and continues to mean, taking baby steps to get there.