As it turns out, I made it out of the woods — off trail for 2015 — before this previously-written post was scheduled to go online. This post was written while I was rallying with a course of antibiotics, just before I headed back over Kearsarge Pass for a third time. After the beautiful words of encouragement, comfort, support, and solidarity that I received in response to last week’s post about Lyme forcing me off the Pacific Crest Trail, I felt it was necessary to explain the context of the words below, as without context they might indicate that I’m still trekking northward. I considered not posting them at all, but I’d like this post to stand as evidence for myself that I am stubborn when it comes to fighting Lyme; I’m stubborn and resilient and sometimes even follow my own advice, as I tried intrepidly to return to the trail before calling it quits. (The tale of my farewell to the PCT is a fun one, but I’ll save that for another day…)
Once upon a time — when I dared to hope that my case of Lyme had been acute, when I was healthy and training for a marathon, and when I was poring over maps and guidebooks in my family’s living room in Kentucky — I drew up a plan for the PCT that included less than one week of zero days. Now, after taking two weeks of zeros in one go while fighting off a Lyme relapse at Teresa and Laurie’s in Acton, I’m heading back to the Sierra.
In any case, I’m not ready to give up yet.
Thanks to antibiotics and detoxing, my symptoms have diminished significantly. One week ago, I couldn’t walk to the bathroom without becoming so dizzy that I needed to lie down; now, I’m capable of walking at least four miles without issue. (Standing still is more challenging.) I realize that walking around the neighborhood is a little different from carrying a large pack up and over 12,000-foot passes, but I’m hopeful.
At first, it felt strange to be off the trail and frustrating to think that the future of my hike was in limbo. However, once I was able to stay awake between meals, my zero days gave me lots of time to write and think and catch up with family and friends. I also enjoyed cooking with non-dehydrated fruits and veggies and binge-watching Doctor Who, Orange is the New Black, and Chasing Life. And, I took it upon myself to be introduced to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, which seemed important, given that my trail name is Rainbow Dash. (I may have absolutely loved the show.)
I think the most important outcome of this relapse and the time I spent dealing with it is the fighting spirit I cultivated toward Lyme disease. Up until this point, I’d just sort of accepted Lyme as part of my reality, figuring that the spirochete population inside me would periodically grow and rebel and I’d just fight it off again with some antibiotics when it debilitated me. One-on-one and in small group settings, I’d spoken to people about the problems inherent in testing and treating the disease, but I’d basically been overtly complacent about those issues.
Now I’m angry, ready to fight, and done fighting alone. I’m going to start seeing a LLMD, and I’m going to try to end this, even if doing so forces me to feel a whole lot worse before I can feel better. I’m going to participate more actively in Lyme advocacy. And, I’m going to figure out some way to leverage the outdoor community in fighting back against this epidemic. It shouldn’t be that those who are most ill with Lyme disease are the only ones advocating for more research, awareness, and education: Hikers, backpackers, hunters, fisherman, mountain bikers, geocachers, orienteers, nature photographers, wilderness therapists, naturalists, biologists, conservationists, foresters, etc. have a vested interested, too, even if they don’t realize it yet.
But, first, I need to get to Canada, at which point I’ll be able to give $2703 to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, which is a good start. I’m not sure whether I’m more excited or nervous to hit the trail again. I think I’ll choose the former.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a shout-out to the trail angels who helped me through this relapse. Certainly, Teresa and Laurie (and Frankie and Laci!) are spectacular friends. Pine Nut’s mother, an acupuncturist and herbalist, gave me priceless advice and encouragement by phone. And, Chloe O’Neill of More Than Lyme inspired me and continues to inspire other adventure-loving Lyme fighters. Thank you all!