Dear New Hampshire,
Thank you for the Lyme Disease. It’s great to be “the best” at something, and you are seriously “the best” at giving people Lyme Disease. Seriously good. There is no other state in the nation that gives its residents more Lyme Disease. I rarely meet someone here that doesn’t have a Lyme Disease story………and now, I’m one of them. Finally, a sense of belonging!
In Minnesota, we have big, fat, highly visible wood ticks. You can spot a wood tick from across the room. My brother has a perfectly round mole that sits on the skin just below his chin and he’s had a lifetime of well-meaning aunties trying to scrape it off his neck. But Lyme Disease comes from deer ticks. Deer ticks are so tiny and nondescript you could easily mistake them for lint. Do they have legs? Who knows? I left my magnifying glass in the car. Hey, there’s a hair in my belly button. No wait, that’s a deer tick. A good, thorough tick check requires Steve Austin-style bionic eyes, an inordinate amount of patience and a giant dose of self-doubt.
“That Kristin,” you say. “She must be quite the outdoorswoman!”
That’s funny. Remember me? The one who cried because there was no wifi at the coffee shop? Yes, I “go” outside and I “like” it but I don’t roll around in it. My idea of camping is setting up a tent, roasting marshmallows, playing charades, then packing up and getting home before “Survivor” starts.
But I do have a parade of deer staring at me through my kitchen windows like “What’s for dinner? Got anymore coneflowers?” There are so many deer in our yard that we don’t even run to the window and say “Look! A deer!”
Hmmmm. Where do deer ticks come from? Oh yes, that would be deer. Lots and lots of deer.
The deer live in the woods. Like all the other houses in our neighborhood, our house sits on 2 acres of woods. There are trails and rock walls and other fun stuff in the woods; but no one plays in the woods. Everyone is afraid of Lyme Disease. When I cut through the 25 foot swath of trees to get to my neighbor’s house, I’m chastised by Dr. Neighbor; “It’s not safe,” he says. “Unless you want to spray yourself with bug spray every time you come to my driveway, I wouldn’t do it.”
“Whatever,” I think. Why are these people so paranoid? How can you not play in the woods? This is a fantasyland for kids! I swear, I’d play Narnia myself if someone would play with me (but I don’t want to be Susan. She’s a priss). But I’m thinking this at a time when I only have Minnesota news reports as my information source, a place that just doesn’t see that much Lyme Disease. I’m thinking this at a time when I don’t know that a wood tick is not a deer tick. I’m thinking this at a time when I’ve only heard of one other case of Lyme Disease and it was front page news. To me, it was the equivalent of worrying about polio.
And now I have 15 bottles lined up on my counter and a schedule of what to take when; this one is in the morning with food, this one is on an empty stomach, this one is before bed, this one is with food before 3pm. And twice a week, I sit in a recliner at my doctor’s office where I receive 2 hours worth of Vitamin C intravenously . (Ok, that part is kind of nice actually. Forced relaxation - you can work, you can read, you can nap but you cannot be a slave to distraction. No jumping up and running to Target when the task gets challenging.)
I follow (term used very loosely) the Lyme Disease Diet which forbids gluten, dairy, soy, red meat, pork, shellfish, processed foods, fried foods, corn, eggplant, tomatoes, fruit juices, sugar, caffeine and alcohol. So you can’t even get drunk and pretend it’s not happening. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on gluten-free foods that taste like shit. “Bread” that tastes so bad that the entire $8.00 loaf goes in the garbage. I dream about sandwiches.
Because I can’t have soy, I can’t have the natural dairy alternative: soy milk. So I’ve tried rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk and almond milk. “Oh I love almond milk!” says my vegan personal trainer. No you don’t! You don’t LOVE it! You just think you love it because you hate it the least and you haven’t had love for so long that you’ve forgotten what it tastes like. Last night, when everyone was in bed, I opened the milk bottle and I chugged it like Gatorade. I seriously couldn’t stop chugging. It was like I was dying of thirst and milk was saving my life. I love you, milk.
My prognosis is firmly, decidedly, unequivocally…….unknown. My symptoms are mild but my test results are not. In the IV room with my Vitamin C drip, I sit across from a woman who does her 2 hour IV treatment every single day. And she drives an hour each way to get there. She’s had Lyme Disease for 6 years and she’s been on disability for 2, unable to work because of the severity of her symptoms.
All I had was tingly hands and 10 extra pounds that wouldn’t go away.
But my test results suggest that I shouldn’t be tricked into complacency. So I sit in my recliner for 2 hours and feel grateful; I say thank you for this mysterious lack of symptoms and hope my luck holds out.
Thanks again, New Hampshire, for this welcome gift. I hope I can shove it back in your Lymey pie hole someday.
Kristin, The Girl Who Loved Sandwiches. And Milk.