Written by my Spring 2019 apprenticeship participant, Vashti Kanahele, this post discusses the symptoms of Lyme and how she managed to treat it.
Complex chronic illness: Not words you want to hear in relation to your health. But those were the words coming out of my doctor’s mouth in August 2015, when I tested positive for Lyme, Epstein Barr Virus (EBV—reactivated in my case), parasites, and a host of other co-infections related to Lyme.
I felt like I was in a movie. Lyme? EBV? How did this happen? Overwhelm. Anxiety. Anger. Just a few of the feelings that were whirling through my mind. My husband sat beside me, holding my hand, the same question replaying in his mind: How did this happen? In order to figure out the cascade of symptoms and events, I had to go back five years.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia was our home for two wonderful years. One day, at 5 months pregnant, I was taking my toddler, Keira, to preschool when I was bitten by an unknown insect. I never found the insect, but the experience was so vivid. I was annoyed but knew I had taken anti-mosquito bite precautions on our way out the door, so I wasn’t too concerned.
Weeks went by and the bite refused to heal. I knew something was up. I went to the doctor, but no one could ever figure out what bit me. I’ll never know if the bite was what caused my Lyme, but months later I would test positive.
I moved to Bangkok for four months to give birth, but meanwhile, my bite had still not healed. Our youngest made her entrance into the world in high drama (just like she does life), arriving in 90 minutes. Overall, I felt pretty good, minus a uterine infection where the placenta hadn’t come all the way out and was causing prolonged bleeding. I had to take antibiotics, which I wasn’t thrilled about. Looking back, Kate’s birth was a triggering event that set off a cascade of issues with my health.
The Symptoms Begin
We went back to Cambodia when baby Kate was 6 weeks old. I was feeling really fatigued but assumed it was due to being a new mom again. We finished our tour three months later and moved back to the States. By that time, I really wasn’t feeling well…
I had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism at 14 weeks with my first pregnancy and had been on thyroid medication ever since. I thought maybe my meds needed to be adjusted, but I was really concerned about the lingering unhealed bite. I sought out a top ND in Seattle, and that’s when I was diagnosed with Lyme, EBV, parasites, and co-infections. I was moving to Dallas in two weeks, so we started a protocol knowing I would have to do most of it remotely.
By the time we arrived in Dallas, my symptoms were worse. I knew I wanted to take as natural an approach as possible to my health issues, and I was still breastfeeding so this was vitally important at the time. We did a course of antibiotics, but that failed. We held off on other treatments because I was breastfeeding.
I was on an antimicrobial and antiparasitic protocol with strict instructions to rest as much as possible. Kind of hard with two kids under three and a husband that traveled often.
Lyme goes into my joints and it sucks. This is one of the symptoms of chronic Lyme. My joints swell and ache and during this time, my knees would swell up so big I could barely walk. I remember trying to make my way to Kate’s room for her 2am feeding and it would take me 10 minutes to walk down the hallway. Reflecting back, I’m not really sure how I made it through this time.
Thankfully, I found a wellness clinic that did ozone injections. I was really skeptical, but when the swelling in my knees reduced, I became a believer. Ozone therapy has been a part of my healing journey since that time.
We now live in Nigeria, and my healing journey continues. Likely, this has made healing a bit harder due to the highly toxic environment of Lagos, but I’m still moving forward.
Symptoms of Chronic Lyme
- Restless sleep
- Aching joints or muscles
- Pain or swelling in the knees, shoulders, elbows, and other large joints
- Decreased short-term memory or ability to concentrate
- Speech problems
- Depression & anxiety
- Quick to anger
The Healing Journey
I have struggled with every single symptom above. Everyone’s treatment journey will look different because fighting chronic complex illness is like a Venn diagram with symptoms and infections overlapping. In my case, my digestive, neurological, immune, and endocrine systems were and still are impacted by my chronic Lyme, but I am getting better. Chronic infections cause systemic inflammation and stress on your body, which can lead to downstream issues like hormone imbalances, and autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s.
Healing from Lyme has to start with your foundations of health. If you don’t address the foundations, your body won’t be up to the task of healing itself. The cascade of symptoms caused by complex chronic symptoms can be worsened by toxins created by the diseases on top of the endocrine-disrupting chemicals you are exposed to daily. My medical team used incredible treatments that may be unconventional, but have really worked for me.
My Treatment Plan
- Initial treatment in 2015 with antibiotics (failed)
- UBI/Ozone IV
- IV Argentyn/Artesunate/Vitamin C/Glutathione combination IVs
- IonCleanse Footbaths
- Ozone vaginal insufflation
- Antimicrobial and antiparasitic protocol
- Diet & lifestyle. (Rest, clean-eating, more rest, exercise.)
If you feel like you have Lyme, it’s imperative you work with a Lyme literate doctor, one who specializes in complex chronic illnesses—because you’re not just treating a single issue. Layering hormone imbalances, gut dysbiosis, and neurological symptoms meant I needed a really well rounded medical team. I live this journey every day, and it’s a huge part of why I became a hormone health coach. The support of family and friends is equally as important, and asking for help is okay. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have a support network, even when I live 10,000 miles away.
Vashti Kanahele is a Certified Integrative Women’s Health Coach. She has a private practice in Lagos, Nigeria where she lives with her husband and daughters. Vashti works with women in person and via video conference to find the root cause of their health issues, using a whole-body approach. Vashti is a Lyme and Hashimoto’s warrior and enjoys working with women with hormonal imbalance, autoimmune disease, Breast Implant Illness, and Lyme disease. To learn more, visit her website.