After five years of suffering through debilitating fatigue, muscle pain and severe balance issues, my dad – who’d seen every doctor from the Bay Area to the Mayo Clinic – finally had an answer: he has chronic, tertiary, long-term Lyme Disease. Sitting down to research Lyme, I immediately understood it to reside in this part of the world:
Yes, that is the original copper globe that has the phrase “HC SVNT DRACONES”, or “here be dragons”. Also to be found on that vast savannah is chronic-fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, XMRV and a host of other beasts that guarantee two things: a lot of human suffering, and a lot of other people telling them it’s all in their heads. These are the crazy diseases that inevitably become political, with patients crying out for a cure, scientists finding no disease, and government taking sides.
In sober moments, you can see both sides of the tale. Take my dad, a formerly more-than-healthy, robust symphony conductor destined to live (like all conductors with their upper-body aerobics) into ripe old age. Then, without much warning, take away his ability to balance long enough to cross the room, and then put him in bed for two days for expending the energy to rake leaves. He tests positive for Lyme Disease, and the symptoms match. The treatment? Broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Now take a bunch of doctors, who have tested the efficacy of antibiotics on long-term Lyme sufferers, and can’t reach consensus. And who’s to say it’s actually Lyme? It could be the combination of 17 other things nobody has tested for. And just because someone wants a Rocephin/Cipro/Doxycycline smoothie, doesn’t mean they can have one. Besides, didn’t tests show that the auto-immune effects of Lyme Disease continue to plague patients long after the original bacteria has been killed?
There have been reports that antibiotics can put a real dent in this thing, and for my dad’s sake, I hope so. Perhaps some of you have suffered from a phantom disease as well, and know the profound, heartbreaking relief of somebody telling you “this is real, and this is how we’re going to fix it.”
I dunno, we can deal with vagueness and uncertainty well enough in other aspects of our lives – hell, the mere act of talk therapy and anti-depressants amounts to nothing more than a crapshoot, and in most cases, it’s close enough for jazz. But when you’ve got something that adversely affects your day-to-day life, and many professionals aren’t even sure your affliction exists, you aren’t just in the land of dragons, I’d say you’re not far from Hell.