Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Stepping Into the Lymelight... Again

You may have noticed a decrease in the amount of posts I've been churning out lately. I know, it's paltry, to say the least. Let me update you on what I am up against.

On October 11, 2014, not even a prime-time-for-ticks month, I found a tick attached. This is no new news for me, the self-purported queen of ticks. But this one was different. He was very cleverly hidden beneath my left buttock, right where my underwear elastic hits. Even though I check for ticks meticulously, this area was very hard to see and I missed it. I knew it had been there for 24-36 hours, though, because I had felt it and thought I had successfully brushed it away after a walk. Apparently, I hadn't. Or he was hiking my body on the buddy system and I got him, but not his friend.

I discovered him because of the pain. It literally woke me up in the middle of the night. The pain was sharp and intense where he was attached and I knew immediately this was no ordinary tick bite. They usually do not involve pain like that.

Having been to this rodeo before, I knew that antibodies would not even show up yet if I were to be tested, so I waited and sure enough, two weeks later, I could tell I had been reinfected. My doctor agreed to test me, but lo and behold, the results were negative on 10/27/14. The lab also admittedly did not know what to test me for and also told me, "Tell us what to do!" Still, their testing did not produce any results. Thankfully, a full two years after my first Lyme diagnosis nightmare, which she was fully aware of, she told me that I knew more about Lyme than she did and that she would put me on whatever I suggested at whatever dosage I felt I should have and she agreed to refer me to a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor.

I went to see my new LLMD on December 10 and was again tested, this time with LabCorp, a doctor who knew what to look for and test for, and antibodies with ample time to present themselves, even though I'd been treating with Doxycycline already. I was both glad and sad that yep, I had Lyme again. I am not even sure if it is a new infection or the old one reactivated, or chronic Lyme, which some say doesn't exist, but the nurse said they felt like it was a new infection. Nevertheless, I have it. I also was surprised to learn that I have Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and reactivated Epstein-Barr Virus. I also had two forms of Pneumonia show up, but from what I understand, they are not current infections, just remnants of something not caught years ago. Lyme can reactivate things laying dormant in the body.

I have been put on a slew of medicine. My LLMD didn't even wait, he said the clinical diagnosis and the fact that I had such a strong positive the first time in the Lyme rodeo and the fact that symptoms had never completely resolved were enough to warrant treatment before the results came back. So I am now taking Folic Acid, Metronidazole, Nystatin, Doxycycline (twice the dosage as before) and Fluconazole. I also take a probiotic, a Salt/Vitamin C regimen, a multivitamin, and a Professional Bio-Active Silver Hydrosol called Argentyn 23. If I can remember, I also use oregano oil and Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar.

However, I've been getting sicker and sicker since the beginning of January. Today, I was so sick that I could not even take my meds. The mere thought of swallowing one of those pills made me nauseous. I knew I wouldn't keep them down. I got up to get the girls off to school, went back to bed for a few hours, got back up and ate breakfast, then lay back down for most of the afternoon, totally zonked and feeling like I'd been hit by a bus.

My symptoms are very similar to what they were before my initial diagnosis in 2012.

  • Weak, shaky feeling, especially in the legs
  • Easily fatigued doing normal things
  • Itching and pressure at the base of the back of my head
  • Trouble thinking
  • Trouble with both long-term and short-term memory
  • Cry easily
  • Joints popping
  • Joint stiffness
  • Rashes
  • Unexplained sharp pains in the body
  • Major sleep disturbance

This disease is awful. I am hoping that the medicines are causing die-off (also known as a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction) and that I am actually seeing the results of that and it isn't the medicines making me sick. It's so hard to tell. I spend about 50% of my day sitting around on the couch, mumbling, "I don't feel good..." to the point that I don't even want to say it anymore because I feel like such a whiner.

I have a life to live, dang it! I don't have time for this. But I must make time for it or it will kill me. Yes, people can die from Lyme disease, in case you didn't know that. I've had those days. Today, I told my husband I felt like I was on my death bed. He brought me orange sherbet and made me supper and massaged me and it has helped a lot. I feel tremendously better and as I write this, I feel like I might just be able to be normal tomorrow. Lyme is like that for me. From hour to hour, I'm never sure how I will feel.

Remember, you don't know what a person is dealing with behind closed doors and my disease is one of those "invisible" diseases. Most days. I don't look sick, but I am fighting for my life. Tomorrow, you might see me out and about, doing my normal Wednesday routine, looking like nothing in the world is wrong, when just a day prior, I felt close to death. Earlier today, I felt weak, useless, down in spirit, simply ill.

The good news is that my immune system is good and fighting like mad to defeat the army of tick borne nasties wreaking havoc in my blood, cells, joints, and organs. I have a good doctor and am being offered an opportunity to try another therapy which I will be blogging about in the future. It helps things besides Lyme, so if it's awesome, I will be more than happy to tell you about it!

I don't want to talk about my illness a lot on this blog. It's supposed to be a humor blog and full of funny sentences. I'm just not finding the joy to be able to spread it lately, but don't give up on me. I'll be back. You can bet your buns, I'll be back. Hopefully, my funny bone will remain unaffected by spirochetes and Everyday Underwear can return to what it once was. I'm a writer and I will do whatever it takes to regain the ability to entertain you. I just have to focus on this little bug for a bit.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

If You Love Christmas, Don't Read This Post

Christmas is all about sugary goodies, holiday spirit, giving, family and love. Oh, and of course, Christ. You go to that special church service and watch small children enact and recite things badly and butcher Christmas songs. And you still go, awwwww, because that's what you do. You go to grandma's, your in-laws', your step-family's get-together, and maybe drink too much at a holiday work party. You shop and wrap until you are physically damaged and you brave malls and cyberspace with enthusiasm to find everyone the perfect gift.

And if you are a parent, you play the special role of Santa, which involves all sorts of tasks that require staying up later than the kids, which can get very, very, very late as they get older.

Most years, I enjoy all of this.

But sometimes... well... I get sick of Christmas.

This year, I love Christmas! Last year, however, my husband and I made a bold decision. We were sick of Christmas and we wanted OUT! That's right. We wanted nothing to do with Christmas last year. We wanted to escape it, as a matter of fact, and that's just what we did.

Home, Christmas 2014, refreshed!

We called the grandmas and asked if they could watch our cherubs (13 and 15 year old girls, at the time), take care of some of our animals, found boarding for our indoor/outdoor dog and special needs dog, handed off the presents, and told everyone, "We're outta here!" We took off and had a fantastic and much needed vacation in Florida.

It was the first vacation my husband and I had alone in 10 years of marriage. We had been so stressed out by raising kids, pressures of work and the feast or famine nature of my husband's job, family matters, church obligations, busy schedules, and the commercialization of what was supposed to be a holiday in honor of the birth of Christ. We'd had it. We just didn't care anymore.

We needed a break. We needed adventure. We needed new surroundings. We needed rest. We needed complete rejuvenation. It sounds like we were being giant Christmas scrooges, but honestly, it was one of the best things we've ever done. More than once, as we relaxed in the warm weather, away from the Christmastime demands of home, we drank a glass of wine with dinner and became emotional, shedding tears of released stress.

We learned something about ourselves on that trip. We learned that it's okay to take a break now and again from tradition. We learned the earth won't stop spinning if we're not home for Christmas. We learned that we are not comfortable living an existence of "making do" and going through the motions day after day, year after year. We learned that we need a break from our kids. We learned that we need a break from family. We learned that we need a break from church. We learned that we needed a break from Christmas craziness. We learned we needed to socialize and travel, meeting new people and seeing new places.

It. Was. Blissful.

Instead of spending Christmas Day doing the same old thing, we instead started the day with a gourmet breakfast in bed plus fresh fruit at the Bed & Breakfast, complete with mimosas on the little porch outside our suite.

Coombs Inn, Apalachicola, FL

My husband went fishing at the nearby ocean. We met another couple from Italy at the B&B (in America celebrating their honeymoon) and on Christmas evening, we cooked them supper. We shared stories with our new friends and laughed and discussed the difference in our cultures. The wife spoke little English, but the husband spoke English fairly well. Giulia and Alberto Alberti were so interesting, friendly, and warm and we really enjoyed our new friendship with them. We could not have had that experience in Vandalia, IL!

Giulia, my husband Neil, me, and Alberto

We came back refreshed and ready to face reality again. And this year, I couldn't have been happier about Christmas. I didn't mind the over-commercialization. I braved the mall, Walmart, and cyberspace in search of perfect gifts. I hummed Christmas tunes. I wrapped presents until my criss-crossed legs went numb. We're participating in all of the get-togethers with joyful anticipation. I attended the church program and appropriately went, awwwwww, because that's what you do. I'm happy that Jesus was born and that we celebrate that birth.

I'm happy to say that we escaped Christmas last year so that we could love it once again. We're considering going away every other year now. I'm giving you permission to do this, too. Refresh. Rejuvenate. And just maybe, once in a while, you might even take the kids.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season. Be safe. Be love. Be free.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Four local lives lost - please help!

I'm afraid to say that today isn't a good news Cindy's being funny again kind of day. I do have many serious subjects to talk about for a while, and this one is worthy of blog space and sharing, for sure.

Thursday night, my daughter was in the local Halloween parade. She was already in town with the other cheerleaders and my oldest daughter went in to watch. I stayed home from the parade for the first time. It's always so cold and the parade is so long! I was happy to not be begged to go this year.

From my warm and comfy couch, I read with horror on Facebook that there had been a train/vehicle accident right by the parade route and there were fatalities. I must admit, I thought, "Oh no, I bet it's my daughter." She just got her license recently and I honestly did think, like many others that night about their own loved ones, "Was it her?"

I took a deep breath and sent texts to both of my children, in true optimistic humorous fashion:

"I heard there was a train accident. Please confirm your continued existence."

Within the hour, I knew that my babies were alive and well. But one family in our community wasn't so lucky to receive that text or a reassuring call.

A mother from a nearby town on her way to the parade became trapped on the tracks with a freight train bearing down on her and the gates closed around her. She tried to get out, but was unable. It was dark, rainy, and a confusing crossing site.

She has five children. Four were in the vehicle with her. Three children were killed on impact; 18 year old Alyssa, 13 year old Drake, and 10 year old Abbie. Another son, 9 years old, was in the vehicle, but is expected to survive. The mother, Crystal, died the following day. The fifth child and the husband/father were not in the vehicle.

Four lives taken, just like that. I can't imagine the heartbreak the surviving members of this family are experiencing. The challenges they face are insurmountable. A funeral bill should be the last thing on their list of things to figure out how to take care of. It has been rough on the whole community... heartbreaking, even if you had no idea who they were. My oldest daughter knew the oldest girl and several of my daughter's friends were close friends with the girl.

Please give a donation to their GoFundMe campaign to help pay for the massive funeral costs here. Hug your loved ones. Pray for the survivors. And please share the fundraising campaign on your social media sites. I can't stop thinking, that could have been me and my kids. And it could have. I count each day more precious than before.

Sometimes, our fate is beyond our control, but what the community at large does to rally around in a time of need is something that truly renews my faith in mankind. We are a good people and we want to help. For this reason, I remain glad for my continued existence as a human being. Forgo your latte this week and help this family, I beg of you. They are half way to the goal of $30,000 in just two days. EVERY donation counts. Thank you!

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Wrong Direction - Guest Post by Cara Lopez Lee

Hello, readers! Cindy Brown here. After repeated inquiries from Everyday Underwear followers (and even strangers), I'm very excited to announce that I will begin taking submissions for guest posts and will begin peppering them into the mix here on Everyday Underwear.

I am putting this regular feature into motion with someone I met when I first started my blog, Cara Lopez Lee. It didn't take long for me to see that if Cara and I lived closer, we would be fast friends. She is a great writer and a wonderful and funny lady and I'm pleased to promote the 2014 release of her book today. I love reading about her travels. Please send her some comment love and follow her links.

This month Conundrum Press has released the new 2014 edition of They Only Eat Their Husbands: Love, Travel, and the Power of Running Away, a memoir by fellow blogger Cara Lopez Lee. When Cara was twenty-six, an alcoholic boyfriend threatened to shoot her if she didn't stop talking. Cara admits she’s a chatterbox, but says she felt pretty sure he was overreacting. So she ran away…to Alaska. Cara further admits that if her goal was to avoid drinkers, or guns, she might have run in the wrong direction. In Alaska, she landed in a love triangle with two alcoholics: Sean the martial artist, and Chance the paramedic. Nine years later, sick of love, she ran again, to backpack around the world alone. They Only Eat Their Husbands is an honest, insightful, funny account of her journey to self-discovery—against the backdrop of Alaska, California, China, Thailand, Nepal, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ireland. The following is an excerpt from her memoir, which is now available:

The Wrong Direction

Excerpt from
They Only Eat Their Husbands
By Cara Lopez Lee

The most active volcano in Europe, Stromboli raises hell in the vacation paradise of Sicily’s Aeoli Islands. The mountain rises from the sea to vent its fury in constant explosions of viscous lava, volcanic bombs, steam clouds, and ash. It erupts several times an hour, creating flashes in the sky like a beacon in the night, earning Stromboli the nickname “Lighthouse of the Mediterranean.”

The volcano has been erupting like that for at least 2000 years. In 1919, during one of its more violent tantrums, the giant threw multi-ton blocks at the villages of Stromboli and Ginostra, killing four people and destroying a dozen homes.

A small pleasure boat took us to Stromboli Island. The little island is only the 900-meter-high tip of the volcano, which rises more than 2000 meters from the floor of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Our tour group was three Italian couples of various ages, and me. I sat alone and silent in the bow, sprayed mercilessly with water and the colorful confetti of Italian conversation. I assumed none of them spoke English, until a blond woman who looked as if she’d stepped out of a sailing brochure turned amused blue eyes my way and said, “You are really wet!” The boat had churned up enough spray to turn me into a sparkling pillar of saltwater. I laughed politely, an awkward seal-like cough. I could think of nothing to say. I felt so conspicuously single.

As we approached the island, we were escorted by a cheerful contingent of leaping dolphins, but my attention was on the swirling white clouds circling the bald upper reaches of the green-flanked volcano. There was something odd about those clouds; the rest of the illimitable sky was a spotless azure. It took me a moment to realize the clouds were not the aftermath of yesterday’s storm, but the result of heat rising from the craters hidden in their midst.

I blurted, “Che bella vulcano! Il . . . il . . . nubes suben la caldera!” in a muddy blend of Italian and Spanish that probably meant nothing, but got everyone’s attention.

“Oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Blond Sailing Brochure. She tapped her blond brochure husband on the arm, pointed, and said, “I think she’s saying those are clouds from the volcano!”

The captain nodded and said something in Italian that prompted everyone to point at the mountain and chatter. Unable to understand them, I smiled blankly. A young black-haired goddess with skin tanned the deep bronze of endless summer put a sympathetic hand on my arm and explained, “The captain said the same thing you said, more or less.”

At the island, the captain turned us over to a hiking guide: a short, barefooted man covered in wild curls from the top of his head to his muscular calves. He spoke no English, so I’d be learning little about the volcano. Before we started up Stromboli, we walked to the guide’s house in the village, where he put on hiking boots and kissed his wife and children goodbye.

I was surprised there was a village on the narrow grass skirt of the volcano. Hadn’t these people learned anything from Pompeii, where the villas and bathhouses and temples of a once-thriving civilization still wait for masters who will never return, where hundreds of suffocated victims left their imprints in pumice, where plaster casts of the dead still huddle in agony around the bones within?

So, if I was so smart, what was I doing here?

We started the hike just before sunset so we’d arrive at the top after dark, when it’s easier to see the fireworks. For the first hour, we walked single-file through the grasses of the lower slope. The sun began to bleed, then drowned in an indigo sea. During the second hour, the group fell quiet as the terrain changed to a steep rise strewn with sharp rocks. Soon, deep volcanic ash sucked at our shoes. During the third hour, the sky turned black and the group pulled out flashlights. I donned my headlamp.

We were resting among a clump of rocks when I saw it: a shower of flaming red pyrotechnics sprayed from one of the mountain’s three craters and flew high into the dark sky. The volcano’s thunder was distant and faint. I had no clue how to say “look!” in Italian, but grunted loudly, “Ag-g-g-b-b-b . . . !” and flapped my hand in the direction of the explosion. The exclamations and sighs of the group were equally inarticulate, as they turned just in time to see the glowing rocks fall earthward and float ever so slowly down a collapsed segment of the cone, called the Sciara del Fuoco, the “Stream of Fire.” I wished Sean were here to see it.

“Okay, I’m satisfied. I have seen it and I can turn back now,” the Bronze Goddess of Endless Summer muttered. She leaned against a rock and rubbed her calves. “Not that I’m afraid. Just exhausted. Walking through this ash is like walking across the sands of the Sahara!”

When we continued upward, I chuckled. Mr. Blond Brochure turned and asked, “What’s up?” This American euphemism sounded new and charming in his Italian accent. I answered, “I was just thinking, we’re going the wrong direction. I’m sure if you told most people, ‘You see that mountain there? It’s ex-plo-ding,’ they’d run the other way.” The Blond Brochures and the Bronze Goddess laughed and passed a translation down the line to the non-bilingual Italians. Delayed laughter floated back to me in a slow wave.

When we reached the ridge, the guide took us up into the sulfur-stinking cloud of steam that rose from the craters. Then we came down out of the cloud to sit in the ash and eat. As I ate my panini, I stared unblinking at the craters below, waiting for the next thunderous expletive.

Twice more the volcano bellowed and sent up salacious spouts of lava, fragmented into fiery red blobs. We were closer this time and the loud booms gave several people a start, followed by nervous laughter. The third time, the fireworks disappeared momentarily into the cloud overhead before returning to sear the mountaintop. The radiant red cinders crept down the black void, and we could hear them crepitating like dozens of distant campfires as they flared and dimmed into a sizzling after-glow of gold embers. We stared in awe, pre-hominid children from the primordial sea witnessing the violent dawn of creation.

While our group waited for another blast, Mr. Blond Brochure told us he’d just had a discussion with the guide about how safe we were. The guide had told him only two hikers had ever been burned while standing in this spot. “He said they got hit with the sciora, the hot rocks, and one of them got hit in the head. But they didn't die,” Mr. Blond Brochure reported. “A man was killed once, but only because he walked too close to the crater.”

Mrs. Blond Brochure elbowed him. “You could not wait to tell us until later?”

The Bronze Goddess lifted an eyebrow at me and said, “So, we did come the wrong direction.”

Look at her! Isn't she the cutest?
About the Author:
Cara Lopez Lee’s stories have appeared in the The Los Angeles Times, Connotation Press, and Rivet Journal. She’s a book editor, and a faculty member at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She was a TV journalist and a writer for HGTV and Food Network. She has traveled throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the U.S. Cara married her husband at an active volcano in Costa Rica. She did not eat him. They live in Denver. You can buy her memoir, They Only Eat Their Husbands, at Conundrum Press, IndieBound, or Amazon. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.