Tuesday, March 22, 2011
March 22, 2011 ~ Day 103
Time To Face Fears
My mother has a theory that when you are ardently resisting something that you are really destined to do, life has a way of forcing you into the right path. This is one of the reasons why she relies much of the time on her intuition; she would rather follow the whisperings of her subconscious at an early stage than get slammed into heading in the right direction later.
I guess a really broad example for this theory would be like the person who knows deep down that they should eat healthier foods, get more sleep, exercise, stop smoking, etc. but they don't act on their inner knowing until one day they get really ill and they no longer have a choice - it's come to the point where they must either choose to live a healthier lifestyle... or lose their life.
I try to listen to my own inner knowing when it comes to making decisions; but all too often my mind and heart are clouded by fear or anxiety.
I don't always know exactly where the messages are coming from. For example, am I scared to fly on a given airplane because something is ACTUALLY going to happen to that flight? Or, am I simply scared to fly because I'm uber-type A and have control issues? In the heat of the moment, it is often difficult for me to discern where my feelings are rooted.
Last summer after nearly a year of debilitating autoimmune health problems I began to see a rheumatologist for whom I have huge respect. I drive several hours each way to see him, but it is 100% worth it and knowing that he is on my team has brought me so much peace.
This doctor (practicing for over 30 years) believes that many autoimmune conditions are caused by the immune system reacting inappropriately to subacute chronic bacterial infections. He has been a pioneer in the movement to use antibiotics to treat autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogrens in this way. He also uses traditional pharmaceuticals, supplements and prescribes lots of exercise and positive thinking.
I found him through an online support organization and over time have learned that he has put at least 10 people I now know personally into remission from their debilitating autoimmune problems. It's pretty amazing, actually.
For example, he works with a girl diagnosed with scleroderma (terrible disease affecting connective tissue, kidneys, lungs, heart ~ often fatal) who went from having hand ulcerations and a lung capacity of 60% at age 16 to complete remission AND winning a NCAA championship in swimming... all in the course of 4-5 years. She was basically dying and now she is a star athlete, about to graduate from her university with a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology, and on her way to medical school. All thanks to antibiotics.
She isn't alone though, I have become acquainted with so many people getting well from "incurable" autoimmune diseases that I had sort of forgotten that people do actually die of them.
In any event, since last August my rheumatologist has been encouraging me to take doxycycline for my autoimmune thyroid and adrenal problems and I have sweetly but consistently asked for more time to see if my regimen of herbs, vitamins and probiotics would be enough by themselves. (I suffer from chronic lyme disease and work with a LLMD to tackle lyme and co-infections.)
I think antibiotics are amazing but not to be taken lightly - all medicines come with risk - and I also believe antibiotics are overprescribed. I wanted badly to see if I couldn't get through my myriad health issues without them.
For eight months then, I have been dancing around this issue. "Just a little more time," I've said at every appointment.
Then last week a little sore appeared on my left hand. It looked like a burn at first, just a tiny little burn that I couldn't remember getting... so I just washed it off with soap and put some neosporin ointment on it. Day by day I would see the sore as I washed dishes, drove the car, brushed my daughter's hair, typed on the computer. It just didn't seem to be getting any smaller.
I tried hydrogen peroxide; then learned that you aren't supposed to use a lot of that these days because they've discovered that it kills off new skin cells forming under your scab. I tried saline solution. I tried a little antibiotic skin cream I had left over from a different skin infection years ago. Nothing worked.
Finally in frustration I discovered that our health insurance company provides a free nurse hotline that you can call 24/7 to ask for medical information and advice. It seemed to me that Aetna would be the LAST group of individuals that would actually encourage me to seek medical treatment, since they've already paid so much for our family's collective health in the last three years. I figured that I had nothing to lose and maybe the nurse could give me some advice about wound healing.
I tried to describe the cut to the nurse: "It's the strangest looking thing. It looks like someone took a miniature ice cream scoop to my hand and cut out a perfect circle. It just doesn't look like a normal cut. Since when does anyone get a cut in the shape of a circle?"
She asked how large it was, and a few other questions - does it itch? does it burn? are there red lines coming off of it? is it puffy? is there pus? and then she gave me the two words that have now changed my life.
"Well ma'am, I can't see your hand over the telephone but from everything you've told me this sounds like a classic spider bite. And it may be infected. So, given your health history I think you do need to see a doctor, sooner than later."
"From what you've told me, yes."
"Okay then. Wow. Thanks."
I sat down and thought for a few minutes. The house was silent, it was nearly eleven o'clock and as usual I was the only person awake late at night. I considered my husband's work schedule and decided that it made the most sense to go right away to urgent care, rather than asking him to miss any part of his workday. I knew my GP would not be able to see me right away, it typically takes several days to get an appointment.
So, bundling up against the chilly night air I whispered to my husband where I was headed and ventured forth.
The drive to the local urgent care isn't that bad, it took me about 8 minutes to get there and it was actually quite a beautiful night. I rarely go out at night by myself so in a way, the drive was a special quiet time for me to sift through the events of the day behind me.
At the urgent care, the doctor looked at my hand for about 20 second before loudly affirming: "Spider bite. With a small staph infection. So, do you have any antibiotic allergies?"
We bantered back and forth for several minutes about the various antibiotics that he could prescribe for staph, and somewhere in there I asked him about doxycycline. "Do you ever give that for a bite like this?"
His eyebrows raised. "Well, yes. Doxy would be an excellent choice for staph. It is especially effective in cases of MRSA. We don't typically offer it as a first-line though because it causes stomach upset. Usually we'll give a Bactrim first."
I explained to him that my rheumatologist had recommended for some time that I take doxycycline for a totally unrelated condition, and that if I really needed to take an antibiotic for this staph infection then with the doxy I would be killing two bugs with one drug.
"Well, your logic is impeccable so I have no problem prescribing doxycycline for you. If the culture comes back positive for MRSA that would've been the next step anyway."
And with that, he was gone. A nurse brought me two prescriptions, some information on cellulitis, and asked me to follow up with my GP in a few days. They released me back into the quiet night and I headed for home. In all, the entire trip took one hour ~ pretty darn good for urgent care.
On the drive I thought about the irony of the situation. "I've been avoiding this drug for months; and now, I actually *have* to take it. Funny how life works."
This morning my husband sweetly went to get my prescriptions filled, given that I had barely slept last night due to worry. He brought them back to me and I took a deep breath, wondering what the side effects might be. "No guts, no glory!" I smiled and then took the meds.
I didn't know what to expect - but here is what has happened to me so far: First, I got very tired. Then, I grew warm - very noticeable in a person whose circulation is poor. Next, I began to feel clear-headed. Like, "Wow, I haven't thought this clearly in a YEAR!" clearheaded. Then I got an intense burst of energy. Which takes us pretty much up to the present time.
What I've discovered in this process is that two of my biggest fears in the last year - spider bites and taking doxycycline - are not really that big of a deal. At least so far. My anxiety about each thing turned out to be so much worse than the actual reality.
When it comes to my big fears, this seems pretty par for the course. The events I've worried about most in my life seem to almost invariably have proven less terrible than I had imagined them to be. I wonder if, when I am old and the time actually does come for me to pass away, if it will then seem less bad than it does right now. Maybe I'll cross over to the other side thinking, "Is *this* all death is? Wow, that's so much better than I expected!"
So if I've learned one thing in the last 24 hours, it is that sometimes you have to stand and face your fears in order for them to melt away.
As a parting thought, in retrospect I remembered that when I tried to "release" a black house spider outdoors last week to show the boys that spiders are not all 'bad' (and that we shouldn't kill living things for fun)... I did fumble the glass as I was letting it go and felt a small needle like sensation in my left hand when it dropped down. I wondered fleetingly at the time if the little guy had bit me, and then totally forgot about it.
Today when I shared this story with my mother she responded, "Well honey, life is funny. You saved that spider's life and maybe in a weird way, it returned the favor. You've been resisting doxycycline so hard for almost a year, but maybe you actually do need to be on it so that you can finally get well."
Maybe she's right! Time will tell.
I hope one day soon to be able to feel genuine thanks for that spider and its potent bite.