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A brief history of fitness in my post-Lyme life

Ten years ago, when first diagnosed with late-stage Lyme, I weighed 108 lbs. I'm 5' 4” and had always been strong. But I had lost a lot of weight in a short time. I was frail and getting weaker.

The doctors said to apply for disability and buy a wheelchair.

What? I thought: No way! Not me! They must be talking to the wrong person.

I couldn't even open my mouth to object. I couldn't say a single word without stammering. As I later found out, the Prednisone I'd been prescribed had pushed the Lyme bacteria into my brain. Normal speech was impossible for many long months.

I sounded like a dimwit and felt like one, too.

The IDSA doctor dismissed my Lyme diagnosis.
I remember that afternoon. I wanted to tell that doctor where to put his wheelchair, but couldn't manage to spit it out.

I was half afraid that he was right. But deep down, I knew somehow I could get well. Although the medical establishment hadn't given me any cause to think so.

After all, that doctor had seen my Lyme diagnosis with his own two eyes. I sat and watched as he read it, and blinked in disbelief as he looked me in the eye and dismissed it.

He was convinced the real problem was MS. He and his team were pushing for a spinal tap to “prove” it. I objected, and luckily fate intervened. Due to a bad rash that made that procedure unsafe, I never was subjected to it.

I was 46, and I was a wreck. I had stabbing pains deep in my muscles. My hands and head shook with palsy, my joints ached, and my heart was slamming around like a ball in a racquetball court. I'd developed a staph infection from the rash that nearly killed me. I was overwhelmingly fatigued and yet
I couldn't sleep.

But there was no way was I going to let illness define me for the rest of my life!

I had already decided what to do.

I would fight.

But first, I would find a different doctor – one who understood Lyme disease. One who would support me and battle it with me.

I found that doctor (a whole 'nother story), and started on antibiotics. One day, after many weeks in bed, I ventured out on a walk by myself.

Five minutes in, an unfamiliar dog rushed towards me on the sidewalk. I wobbled, as vulnerable as a rabbit. I thought I was toast. If he had knocked me down I wouldn't have been able to get up. But he didn't, and I made it all the way around the block.

I went out again the next day, and the next.

Eventually, I joined a gym. Then eight years after my diagnosis, I found a martial arts teacher and started practicing Taekwondo.

I've worked hard to build my stamina, endurance, and strength. Build muscles, and you can build your life again.

Muscles are the engine of youth
When the subject of TKD arises with people my age, they often say their grandson or granddaughter “is into that, too.”

I get it. We're a youth-obsessed society, and us old farts should be content sitting in the stands.

I beg to differ! And so does Kenneth Singleton, MD, a physician who overcame Lyme disease himself. In his book,
The Lyme Disease Solution, he states, “It is my advice that you get on a regular exercise program and stay on it.”

A regular workout increases oxygen, which kills the Lyme bug – a good thing. This is why increased oxygen is so helpful for improving chronic fatigue and stamina.

Dr. Singleton believes you should continue to apply healthy practices for the rest of your life. He advocates for Lyme patients to “recognize that health is a journey without end.”

If you are recovering from a chronic disease, age doesn't matter. My philosophy is, start where you are.

An exercise program is not a quick cure. It's a lifestyle. And it can transform your relationship to your body and to your state of health.

I never imagined myself lifting
Who lifts? Body builders. A bunch of sweaty, grunting guys. With huge biceps and even bigger egos, eyeing themselves in the mirror.

I've had my hand crushed in too many handshakes by some guy who didn't know his own strength. Ouch! The stereotype exists for a reason. But lately I've been lifting, and I'm discovering there is much more to strength training than meets the eye.

“Ultimately strength training is a microcosm of the macrocosm of your life,” states leadership coach and human performance expert Rob McNamara in his book,
Strength to Awaken. “How you train reflects how you live the rest of your life.”

Acknowledging the stereotype, he says “For the millions trapped in conventional forms of strength training, they are also trapped in the conventional egoic habituations of day-to-day life.”

Strength training is more than just a reboot for your body and mind. A regular practice frees you from the tyranny of living in the future or dwelling in the past.

“Most people go through both their workouts and life wanting something else, desiring something else and rejecting what is right here and now in favor of some imagined future or recaptured past, neither of which actually exists,” says Rob McNamara.

Reconnect with happiness and peace
Living in the here and now means radical acceptance of your situation. Paradoxically, it also means that as you practice, your situation will change. It will improve. Your oxygen intake increases, your blood pressure and moods stabilize. You reconnect with joy, happiness, and peace of mind.

If you are too sick right now to exercise physically, take heart. Try this suggestion of Dr. Singleton's:

“Try the following exercise twice a day after a time of prayer and thanksgiving: Sit in a comfortable and relaxed state, take a few very deep breaths, and picture your white blood cells (such as the CD57 NK cells) hunting down and finding Lyme germs and then injecting them with lethal chemicals.”

Healing from Lyme Disease takes everything we've got.
Approach it from every angle. I don't have Lyme anymore. I have muscles. Staying healthy in a post-Lyme life takes practice.

Note: Always consult your Lyme literate doctor before starting any exercise program.

Singleton, Kenneth (2010-08-19). The Lyme Disease Solution (p. 430). Kindle Edition.

McNamara, Robert Lundin (2012-01-04). Strength To Awaken: An Integral Guide to Strength Training, Performance & Spiritual Practice for Men & Women (Kindle Locations 1037-1041). Performance Integral. Kindle Edition.

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