Lyme, Trails ‘n Tails and the Great Beyond
“Life is not a matter of holding good cards,but sometimes playing a poor hand as well.” – Jack London
Since the end of May my days have ranged anywhere from incredibly difficult to highly rewarding, and my emotions throughout have fluctuated accordingly. After getting diagnosed with Lyme Disease on May 31st I have worked damn hard to keep on hiking as much as possible, and for the most part I have been able to thanks to having the greatest AT partner ever/ significant other. Deciding to continue this adventure wasn’t up to questioning, not to me and not to Seamster.
Highlights from the past month and a half/plans for the future:
- We made it to our 1,000 mile marker!
- We made it to Harpers Ferry- “The Psychological Half Way Point”!
- We are over half way done with the trail!
- We met some pretty cool folks that I am glad to have crossed paths with.
- Seamster attempted and failed miserably the Half Gallon Challenge. I shall attempt and conquer at a later date, with non-dairy ice cream. I shall overcome. I will eat all of the damned ice cream.
- I decided to order a child sized guitar for the trail, because I fucking miss playing guitar. Before you say that I am child sized, shut up.
- We got to go to the Woody Gurthrie Folk Festival thanks to Mary and John (Seamster’s parents). This was the best place to get some rest, drink whiskey, play some tunes and realize three things: 1) I miss whiskey and singing, 2) I need to deal with what’s left of the Lyme some in Illinois before going back to the trail, 3) I miss my Kerrville family.
- We are chilling in Illinois for a few more days-ish. I am currently doing a Lyme Detox, resting up, and awaiting four more week’s worth of antibiotics before hitting the trail again. Though I know the rest is necessary, I just wanna be back on the trail already.
- Miss Parsnip Moo, our little cat girl, was-in her typical fashion-unimpressed with seeing us again. She has been doing well with her grandparents and has even managed to become quite the chubby kitty. I love and miss her and am glad to spend time around her.
- I am aware that this Lyme been a major setback. I am aware that we very well may be “behind” due to no hiking/low mile days. That is quite alright. We will probably end up doing some more south bounding to ensure that we get every single one of those 2,189 miles under our boots. No, we will not be yellow blazing.
Now, let’s talk about Lyme, shall we?
I was originally prescribed three weeks worth of Doxycyline, which quite frankly wasn’t nearly enough. With some research and advice from a knowledgeable Trail Angel I learned that getting my hands on more antibiotics was necessary, but it wouldn’t be a simple task. Although there is a great deal of evidence showing that more often than not a few weeks worth of antibiotics is simply not enough to get rid of Lyme, a few weeks is often all that a doctor will prescribe. There is a wealth of misinformation when it comes to Lyme Disease, and all the bullshit that’s out there isn’t just limited to the public, a hell of a lot of doctors either don’t know much about Lyme or are scared to treat Lyme the way it needs to be treated in order to help those infected get better. So, in order to ensure that I would get more antibiotics, I decided to bend the truth. With my bull’s eye rash gone, I decided to tell the doctor about my symptoms, about how I’ve been hiking in the woods and about how many ticks I have pulled off of my skin. I left out the detail about having already been on Doxycycline- hell, I lied, and it worked. I got enough to have another two week’s worth. A sad truth is that Lyme Disease is as much a medical issue as it is a political issue, this is precisely why I felt the need to lie, and it is also precisely why even many doctors prescribe to the misinformation about Lyme.
I strongly urge anyone reading this to watch the documentary Under Our Skin for a deeper look into the political and scientific issues that underline this incredibly serious disease as well as the impact that it has on lives when it goes under-treated. I also strongly urge not only thru-hikers, but anyone going on any sort of outdoor adventure to treat your clothing and gear with Permethrin, it is much more effective as a tick repellent than DEET, you don’t have to put it on your skin, and as a bonus you can find it for pretty cheap. Also, do daily tick-checks after an outdoor activity. These are the best proven ways to be tick free. Lyme disease is spreading through Deer tick populations all over the world, and most of the “hot zone” maps out there are either out of date or inaccurate. I have encountered one too many hikers who claim they won’t be worried about ticks until they are further north, or hikers who just don’t even consider tick bites as an issue. Please, please, please check for ticks, be aware and do your part to help educate others on tick safety.
Lyme Disease Symptoms and Doxycycline Side Effects (the antibiotics) create chaos in one’s body. The antibiotics, especially with long term use, do their fair share of harm on the body while simultaneously clearing the body of most of the bacteria (borrelia burgdorferi spirochete is the Lyme bacteria) inserted by the tick culprit. It is not only physically painful and difficult to deal with the symptoms and effects, but it is also emotionally taxing at times. If it weren’t for the encouragement and support I have received from friends on the trail, friends and family in my life, strangers and trail angels (Bonzo and Connie, y’all rock!), my spirits would probably not be nearly as high. It seems that nearly every time my body starts to get to my head, there’s someone there to lend a smile, there’s an angel there to lend a healing space, there’s a hiker there to give me more antibiotics when I, rather stupidly, lose mine…which leads me to the story of the day I hiked about 14 extra miles.
I started carrying my medicinal regimen in my cup that is attached to a carabiner on my pack. In this cup: Antibiotics, anti-nausea meds, probiotics, Tylenol, caffeine pills. Basically my Anti-Lyme kit, sans the pipe. I had dropped my pack at the days half-way point, 7.3 miles. Keep in mind that most of my days since the Lyme have been of rather short mileage, and that doing 14 was pumping it up. Okay so, I drop pack to go take a much needed piss, and what do I notice? Yep. My cup fell off somewhere in the last sevenish miles. “Shit. Shit. Goddamn it. Shit,” I said probably more than once. After chugging some water, cramming some granola bars in my mouth, and convincing myself that they probably fell off withing the last three miles, I grabbed my poles, put an extra snack in my pocket and started the backtracking hike while Seamster lay watch over the stuff. After three miles, I ran into Bon Bon. She had some of the same antibiotics that I was on. Her doctor had given them to her as a just-in-case-you-get-Lyme. I’m fairly certain that the most logical thing to do at this point was to take her’s. I mean, it was serendipity throwing itself into my face. But, I can really be a dumbass, and so with futile hope I turned her down. I was certain I’d find my cup. The thing is, I most definitely did not find my cup. I started growing frantic. I was asking everyone I saw if they had seen the cup, most times having to explain the story, most times sounding like a crazy lady. It didn’t take long to realize I should have taken Bon Bon’s meds, and so I started asking people if I could use their phones so I could call Seamster and tell him to stop her if they crossed paths. He, of course, wouldn’t pick up. I made it back to where the day had started and ran into a hiker named Raincheck. I asked to use his phone, then lost my cool and explained to him my situation. Would you believe it, Raincheck’s dad is a doctor, and as a doctor he prescribed him some just-in-case-you-get-Lyme antibiotics as well. I was saved by Mr. Raincheck! If that is not trail magic, then I don’t know what magic is. We chatted for a bit before heading on. I felt a surge of energy from the relief of getting the meds, and so I decided to run back to the packs and my partner. And that, my friends, is how I hiked my longest day with Lyme, that is how I hiked and extra 14 miles.
All of that being said, most of the time I have been able to keep my chin held high, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there have been days full of tears, anger and general irritability. I may have or may have not once screamed “FUCK YOU, FUCKING DEER TICKS, FUCK OFF,” from a rather nice vista. On that same note, it’s pretty hard to stay in a poor mood when I’m surrounded by the woods and cute woodland creatures like chipmunks. It is basically being surrounded and en-drenched in good ole’ fashioned therapy. If it weren’t for Seamster, I don’t know that I would be able to continue my hike. If it weren’t for hiking, well I don’t want to go there- I’ll just let it be known that it would take a whole damn lot to make me decide to end my thru-hike, and I am conscious of the fact that I am very lucky that I haven’t had to pull the plug.
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