A few months ago a little chihuahua who roams the neighborhood made her way under our gate. My family fell in love with having her around. Although she has a Thai name, we call her Tiny Dog. She’s brown and white, like milk spotted with gingerbread cookies. Tiny Dog’s ears are substantially larger than her head and her tail is always in motion. A friendly little creature, every morning for around six months she waited politely at my kitchen door. With one paw raised toward the screen and her head tilted sideways in the typical puppy stare, she always seemed to ask the same question: “Is my egg ready?” I was usually happy to oblige as Tiny Dog was an enjoyable part of our family’s morning routine. She also loved leftovers—the pup could down a breakfast larger than her miniature body. Tiny’s commanding personality made her the alpha of our neighborhood. Scrawny and massive dogs alike seemed to answer her barks with an immediate “yes ma’am.” But around me she relaxed into her puppy nature— cuddling beside my legs and finding sticks for fetch.
Occasionally my husband or I doused her with flea and tick spray. There was never a problem and Tiny Dog seemed healthy. Regrettably, she scrambled under our front gate one late May afternoon covered in ticks. Even more regrettable was that before I could shoo her, a tick latched onto my leg.
Although I observed the usual precautions one is supposed to take with tick bites, within a week I developed bullseye rashes and other symptoms of Lyme disease. I knew that while Lyme exists in Thailand, it is rare to contract it. It seems to be far more endemic in my home country. I visited a doctor in my city, began talking with friends who are physicians, and had discussions with other ladies who shared their journeys of battling Lyme disease. I decided on a course of treatment and will soon be finished with several weeks of antibiotics. A doctor at a local hospital has been supervising my progress with blood tests and treating the symptoms as they show up.
After my rashes and symptoms were identified as Lyme, we had our yard and house sprayed for ticks and other insects. Tiny Dog is not allowed to visit us anymore, but she doesn’t want to anyway as she has given birth to puppies and is now living with our neighbor.
For the first few weeks my body, especially my hips, hurt often. Strictly following the Lyme diet has helped immensely with joint pain and muscle spasms. I was already a healthy eater and regular exerciser, so diving into health food with greater intensity has been difficult. But the “killer” was giving up the little treats that kept me on track— like a half cup of greek yogurt every morning or having one little piece of dark chocolate from the freezer if I had a dessert craving. Nightshade vegetables are even off the menu now. I’ve been without dairy, gluten, and sugar for weeks. The Holy Spirit has generously given me the discipline and self control to stick to this way of eating, especially on bad days when I want to go off the rails and eat a bucket of salty popcorn— one of my favorite comfort foods. On Friday nights I used to treat myself to one sweet snack, but was cured of that habit quickly when I ate a donut hole with dairy and sugar in the filling. After a few hours of being sick I will never do that again until I know it’s okay.
I can feel and see the benefits of the Lyme diet and I’m thankful for the nearby groceries that carry gluten free breads, as well as other products that are dairy and sugar free. Enjoying the active lifestyle of my family is worth giving up foods that keep my body from feeling strong— even when I’m an intolerable grouch because everybody else gets to have something mouthwatering while I eat a salad (without the typical trimmings). Thankfully it’s getting easier and I’m learning to appreciate the people I’m eating with more than worrying about what I can’t eat. It works most of the time, but sometimes I really just want to participate in chips and salsa instead of the healthy detox program I’m doing.
I seem to be getting better. I’m hoping the antibiotic treatment eradicates the Lyme disease. From talking with doctors and doing my own research, I’ve learned that it usually does if caught early, as mine was, so I feel hopeful. But sometimes Lyme disease becomes chronic, even if someone follows the treatment correctly and begins without delay. It is also possible for the Lyme bacteria to die, but the symptoms to remain for months or even years. This would mean the diet changes need to become permanent, though not as stringent as during this time when I’m doing everything I can to kill the bacteria.
I started the antibiotic course immediately and aside from the donut hole incident, have followed the Lyme diet to the letter. We’ll see what happens. What keeps me anchored in life will not change because of contracting Lyme disease. The way God and my family feel toward me will remain constant. And if I take care of myself, I should be able to participate in life with the people I love for a long while.
Thanks for reading.
A resource for Lyme Disease & Tick Borne Illnesses: