Working in my backyard garden February, 2000.
I call my story Triumph because from where I started and what I lost, I have almost made it full circle.
I was working in the garden, one of my favorite things for stress, which after 6 long years of tearing out, replanting and redesigning myself, was so beautiful. Unfortunately, while replanting a plant, the stake I was working with broke off and part of it landed in my hand. Things went from extremely painful to worse than painful. My physician initially put me on medication for a period of five days but it didn’t help.
I went to dr. after dr and each told me there was nothing wrong with me and my symptoms were all in my head. I was covered in sores, and they attributed it to me doing it to myself. By December of that year, a doctor told my son I was crazy and needed to be hospitalized for a mental disorder. Right, here I was a 54 year old woman with a highly successful job as a project development specialist for a large developer, a beautiful home, a wonderful and successful son, two g/daughters, and wonderful friends. I had never been sick except for minor colds and flu. I certainly had never had a psychological problem. Worse was the fact that my primary physician had taken care of me since I was 25 years old. He, of all people, knew me very well.
Doctor after doctor tried all sorts of creams but no doctor ever ordered blood work. And, every new doctor, talked to my primary physician who told them I was making it all up. Doctors then treated me with disrespect and would not listen to me. I was just the crazy person. After time went on, I became very foggy and could not remember things. Then, I could barely walk. Getting dressed to go anywhere took me at least two hours because I was just too exhausted. I was fired from my job because my boss felt I was crazy and making up my symptoms. I lost my health insurance. The gentleman I was in a relationship with told me to stay away from him and he was just done. That one thing almost destroyed me because we had been together for 15 years. This man was supposed to be my soul mate. Right!
So, here I was practically bed-ridden, broke, no self respect left, without the “love of my life”, and there were times when I would just sob. I thought many times, if this is the way it is going to be, I would rather just die. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like that but it was me just talking to myself. I never said anything to anyone about my feelings. My friends stuck by me. One of my best friends, for over 30 years, I attribute to saving my life. She is a nurse, and she would prescribe antibiotics for me. They helped but certainly I did not really improve to any extent. I was at a status quo; not good but slightly better. We visited each other every week. I will never forget what she did for me. Because of my illness, she felt compelled to research my symptoms. She believed that I had Lyme disease. So, on her own she went to a seminar in Monterey given by Dr. Stricker and Ginger. I received a hectic phone call from my friend when she was at the seminar. She remembered the bulls-eye rash I had a few years back. She was now positive I had Lyme. We made an appointment with my physician. She went with me. After the appointment she said the doctor was not listening, and I was not going to get any help. She had talked to Dr. Stricker, and I was told to call his office. That in itself was stressful because I couldn’t get an appointment because he was not taking new patients.
A few months later, and I can’t remember exactly how it occurred, but I started an email situation with Ginger at the request of my nurse friend. She kept telling me that I had to assert myself and push to get help. And, thank you God, Ginger was coming to California to work with Dr. Stricker, and I could see her. One of my girlfriends accompanied me to SF for my first meeting because I was still very ill and could barely walk a few steps without being extremely exhausted. I was very nervous, very tentative because of all of the horrible treatment I had received from physicians during the previous 5 ½ years. That first appointment was on June 28, 2005 and approximately 5 ½ years from the onset of my illness. The lab work came back positive for Lyme and positive for another parasite from the tick. Because of my skin and symptoms, I was also diagnosed with Morgellons.
Finally, after I lost 5 ½ years of my life, I was vindicated! I can’t tell you how happy I was with the diagnosis; it was not in my head. I wanted to scream so every doctor who ever treated me could hear me. I was also filled with tremendous anger at the medical profession and their attitude. If they have not read about it in a medical book, the disease did not exist. They give you their 15 minutes, and tell you it is your fault because you are crazy. I surmise from my experience that doctors really don’t care to try to find out what you have. They just move on to the next patient.
I firmly believe that if I were a man, I would have been treated with more respect. Why did the doctors write me off? Probably because at the onset of this crazy disease, I was 54 and menopausal. That is the reason they constantly told me and why I was so crazy.
I wrote every doctor who treated me with such disdain telling them of my diagnosis. I also addressed my anger because the loss of my job, loss of my self respect, my health insurance, and worst of all their efforts to destroy my life rather than believe me. I can assure you, it was the letter of a woman hell bent on telling them exactly how I felt. Of course, not one doctor responded to me. That in itself tells me a lot about the medical profession in real time.
Where am I today? I feel like the emancipation of Fran. I have had a rebirth! I am back working; starting over at 61 years old. I lost 5 ½ years of my life; probably the best years of my life. But, on the other hand, I realize now how much respect my peers have for me. I am grateful every single day of my life for Ginger; for her efforts to help me, for her efforts in Lyme, for her caring, understanding and support.
No, I am not all better or 100% just yet, but I am almost there. I consider myself one of the lucky ones.
What did I learn from having this disease? Oh, so many things I can’t begin to tell you. You learn who your true friends are. Sometimes, I think it all happened for a reason. I was not sick enough to die (even though I felt like dying) but certainly sick enough to spend most of my time in bed thinking about life; what I had and what I lost. About the man in my life who was my life for 15 years, well he is gone. But, he was not the guy who loves someone in sickness and health. He was the guy who clearly did not love me enough. I don’t think I would have ever realized it was a one sided love affair if I did not get sick. I wrote him a letter too and told him of all of the people who I thought would kick me to the curb; he was the one person I thought would be there for me. I felt good telling him my diagnosis. I felt free at last.
Any my family and friends. My son is thrilled he has his mother back. He never wanted to believe I was crazy, but the doctors kept telling him. Since we seem to think that doctors know what they are doing, he almost had to believe them. My friends are still with me and so thrilled that I am back to the “old Franny”.
Lastly, I have a very different outlook on life now. I value my family and friends much more; I believe I am a kinder more gentle and compassionate person. I am not in such a big rush to be so successful. I now take the slow road. No, I don’t have the money I once did, but I am starting over in business and am confident I will be okay. I have Ginger! The other day it rained here (my favorite time of the year). I just stood in the rain, looked up to the sky and thanked God for the opportunity to be almost well and to have the ability to stand in the rain just glad to be alive.
Recently, we had a very hard freeze here in the Valley. The farm workers are out of jobs can’t pay their rent and can’t pay for food. Something I would have probably never thought of prior to being sick because I was just too busy, I picked up my two g/daughters after school, and we went grocery shopping for those who have less than me; less than my family. I explained to my g/daughters how fortunate we are as individuals, as a family, to have the opportunities that other do not have. We took an entire trunk load of food to the poor.
Oh, life is good; to see the sun come up, to stand in the rain, to wake up every morning just happy to be alive and almost well, to spend time with my son and g/daughters, to spend time with my friends. And, every morning and every evening I think about Ginger and her efforts to help Lyme patients.