Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October 26, 2011 ~ Day 321

By yesterday afternoon, many of the autoimmune symptoms had already come crashing back on me.

I was so exhausted, I could barely keep my eyes open. Thinking felt like trudging through molasses.

Worse, the situation was obvious even to people that don't know me well.

I arrived for my first tutoring appointment in the afternoon. The mother opened the door, took one look at me, and asked:

"Rough day with your kids? You look really tired today."

I smiled and nodded, unsure whether to even try to explain my situation with the Lyme disease and recent doxycycline discontinuation.

Deciding to keep my medication struggles to myself, I forced myself to pretend mentally that I felt fantastic and did the very best I could to be a great tutor for the next hour and twenty minutes.

By the time I left their home and climbed back into my car, I felt like I was sitting in a fog bank.

I cried.

(Self-indulgent, self-pitying tears. They lasted for about one minute.)

Then I wrenched myself back into reality and began the inner pep talk.

"This is going to be okay. When a single pill has the capacity to entirely change the state of your brain and body, there IS a route to feeling normal.

Maybe I'll have to find a new route. But it is GOING to happen. Just gotta hold on and hang in there."

I took a deep breath, and steeled myself to face the rest of the day.

Still I still had another tutoring appointment to get through and I didn't want to look or sound as tired as I had for the last two hours.

What could possibly keep me awake and functional?

Somewhere in the back of my mind I could hear my rheumatologist's voice percolating.

"Coffee is a wonderful antioxidant, even better than turmeric. You must drink it fresh though, with newly ground beans."

I haven't been a coffee drinker for YEARS but desperate times call for desperate measures.

With 40 minutes remaining before my next appointment, I decided to swing by the fancy local health food store and buy some coffee... and some cupcakes. (There, I admitted it. My sugar addiction continues...)

Not having drunk coffee in over a decade, I had some trouble selecting the beans when I got to the store.

There were so many varieties and I had no idea where to start.

I didn't know there were so many different kinds of coffee out there to choose from - coffees from African, South America, Ecuador. Blends. Organic varieties. Others that tasted of chocolate or cocoa. The whole thing was a little overwhelming.

I wondered vaguely if I should be looking for green tea instead, since I know that is a great antioxidant too... and a little less likely to cause GERD symptoms.

Finally I selected their basic dark roast coffee blend and added a little half-and-half, cinnamon and brown sugar.

Realizing that I had less than ten minutes to make it to my appointment, I bought the coffee and assorted groceries, jumped back in my car, and began to sip from the paper cup as I raced toward the home of my next tutoring family.

"I'm ok," I chanted in my head. "This is going to work."

I still felt so, so, so worn down though. The coffee was not kicking in. Not yet.

Then, in a funny twist of Fate, I arrived at my appointment and it turned out that my session had been canceled! The son had come home ill from school - poor guy. His mother had called our house, but I was already out tutoring for the afternoon when she called. I had missed her message.

Unexpectedly then, I found myself heading down the dark hillside toward home one hour early.

As I drove, I continued to drink the coffee.

Nearing our home, I noticed two things -

First, I was feeling pretty itchy.

Second, my head was starting to clear a little.

Within 30 minutes of getting home, a miracle had taken place. Well, a qualified miracle.

On the positive side, my brain was entirely clear. I no longer felt exhausted, rather calm and steady. I could think quite normally and I suddenly had great patience for my kiddos. I became, for the first time all day, the mother I wish to be all of the time - relaxed, humorous, kind.

Unfortunately, the itching continued. I also began to feel a bit flushed, warm all over.

However, the warmth wasn't entirely unwelcome. Two of the major symptoms I have experienced from the autoimmune manifestations of the Lyme disease are Raynaud's Syndrome and anemia. Both can make you feel pretty cold. So, the warm flushed feeling was ok with me - at least for the day.

I'm happy to report that the mental clarity lasted all night. (Alas, so did the flushing and itching...)

Elated by the sense of having reclaimed my brain, albeit briefly, I decided to do some research into the benefits of coffee.

To my surprise there has actually been a lot of research done on coffee in the last decade or so.

Forgive the pun, but coffee has apparently become a hot topic!

In the past coffee had been regarded as detrimental to health, something to avoid during times of illness.

To my surprise, a lot of that old reasoning is being replaced by long term studies about coffee... many of which indicated that it plays a protective role against cancer, diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and heart disease.

For anyone interested, here are a few of the articles and studies I found:

Concerned About Coffee? It May Actually Be Good for You (NIH.Gov)
Coffee intake is associated with lower rates of liver disease progression in chronic hepatitis C
Coffee consumption and risk of liver cancer: a meta-analysis.

Coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Coffee may lower risk of Parkinson's disease
Coffee, caffeine, and coronary heart disease.

All of these articles are great, but it's too soon to say whether coffee will end up being good for my own particular situation.

I've read in some places that caffeine can actuallyincrease the pain of reactive arthritis from Lyme or other bacteria. There is quite a lot of research now showing that people who suffer from hypothyroid conditions or on thyroid medicines should stay away from green tea and coffee due to their high flavonoid/catechin content... they can make thyroid disease worse.

Just because coffee is great for most folks doesn't mean that it will be great for me.



Drinking that one cup of coffee yesterday night reminded me of something really important:

There is always a reason to keep believing and keep on going. One minute your mind might be a terrible, soggy blur ~ and then suddenly you could take a sip of something special and feel as good as new.

There are new beginnings around every corner, and new hope with every day.

Scientists and researchers are discovering magnificent things all of the time.

If one simple pill had the power to make such a huge difference in the quality of my day-to-day living, something else can too.

For now I'll keep experimenting. Coffee and exercise. Sleep and B vitamins. Fish oils and turmeric. Probiotics!!!

Lots and lots of faith.

Perhaps in a few days, weeks or months I'll be back to a pain-free, anxiety-free lifestyle.

What a wonderful day that will be.

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