Christina Kovacs is a friend of the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance and the founder of www.ladyoflyme.com where she blogs about her personal life and her treatment as a Lyme patient
1. When were you first diagnosed with Lyme disease? Were you diagnosed with any other tick-borne diseases? If so, which ones?
I was first diagnosed in September of 2011. I also found out I have Bartonella and Protomyxzoa (FL 1953), two other tick-borne diseases.
2. How long was that after you first developed symptoms or found a tick?
That was 5 years after I began having symptoms. In the summer of 2006 I came down with what I thought was just a Summer flu, but I later learned was the first signs of Lyme disease. Things were never the same after that point, but no doctor thought to test me for Lyme until I got my diagnoses in 2011.
3. What steps have you taken to help cope with your symptoms, both physically and online?
The first thing I did when I finally got a diagnosis was research online about Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. It gave me a sense of relief to learn that all these symptoms I am having are indeed linked to something and I would get better. Up until that point I was just very sick with no tangible answer. The best part of searching online was meeting other people who have been through the same thing and could offer advice and support. Tick-borne illnesses come with a wide array of symptoms, so being able to talk to others who get it and share tips for relief was a major blessing. An extra bonus was I met some inspirational people who had crossed the finish line & reached remission. It gave me the courage I needed to begin treatment & also something I could reflect on when I had a tough day. Just knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is hands down the best way to cope.
4. How does encouraging and connecting with others in the Lyme community help you deal with the disease in yourself and/or your loved ones?
I believe that knowledge is power, and the more you know about this illness the better arsenal you have against it. When you get diagnosed with Lyme disease you are thrown into a world with so many questions and not many answers. This is where connecting with those in the Lyme community was a true blessing. I was able to learn so much about Lyme and tick-borne illnesses from talking with others and vice versa. Once I felt like I had control of this disease, versus it having control of me, it changed how I could deal with challenges put forth.
5. What do you think is the most important thing about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases that the average person who hasn’t been affected by them doesn’t know and should?
That ticks carry more than just Lyme disease. Although it’s the most talked about tick-borne infection I have never met a person with Lyme who has that alone. They will always have one or more tick-borne illnesses as well. Most ticks are infected with a multitude of diseases, and it’s really important to know that. Bartonella, Babesia, Ehrlichiosis, and many others can wreak havoc on your body, and are not to be taken lightly. Protecting yourself with a tick-repellant & doing full body checks when you come indoors is important no matter where you live. I want to emphasize that disease-carrying ticks are EVERYWHERE. They are not just secluded to the northeast.
6. What has been the most difficult challenge for you in coping with this disease?
Personally, I had a hard time with putting my life on hold. I got into my dream school in Los Angeles, so I moved out there and began to study and intern in a field that I loved. However, this was the same time that my body began to fail me, and I didn’t understand why. I went to some of the top doctors across Los Angeles, but none of them could help me. I reached the point where I had to move back to Kentucky and leave behind everything I loved. I was still stubborn enough to keep up with online school while my parents and I drove all over the East Coast searching for an answer. By the time we got a diagnosis I had burnt my rope at all ends so to speak. Suddenly here I was at 23 years old with no career, living with my parents, and spending most my time locked in a dark room. It was a scary and hard place to find myself because it came so quickly. I knew this would be a long battle, and I wasn’t sure how to handle my life doing a 180-degree turn. It was a huge challenge to adjust to life with a chronic illness. No one can prepare you for the kind of emotional toll it takes.
7. How did you rise above it?
I’m a very faith driven individual. I found peace with the situation by realizing this is part much bigger plan for my life. I also joined Lyme support groups and connected with people my age who were going through the same things I was. Finding people who understood me was incredibly therapeutic and helped me not feel so alone in this battle. Along the line I made two friendships where if you took the illness out of the equation we still would be great friends because we got each other on every level. I could talk about struggles openly which they faced too, and still share laughs about every day things. It was a turning point where I truly rose above my challenges because it reminded me that Lyme did not define me, and it wasn’t who I was. Although my life had been altered from the norm I actually still had a lot of parts of me very much in tact. Before, I compared myself to my friends who were living normal lives, and when I did that it just reminded me how “abnormal” I was in comparison. I finally stopped comparing my life now to my life before Lyme, and found peace...I fully credit those friendships for that. I strongly recommend connecting with others if you are suffering from any tick-borne illnesses.
8. What would you like to see change in the future in relation to Lyme and other tick-borne diseases?
Hands down I would say I want to see a change in how patients of tick-borne illnesses are treated. Across the board from Doctors, Senators, family/friends, I want to see all tick-borne illnesses get the recognition they deserve for being deadly life altering diseases. Right now patients have to fight to get proper care or to be taken seriously when they are in insurmountable amounts of pain. I want to see the day when people get respect and help for the hurt they are going through. That’s why Bite Back for a Cure was such a perfect fit to get involved with. I believe in this mission 100%, the first step to getting adequate care is to take the message to Washington where real change is made.
9. Do you have any favorite holistic methods that you use to alleviate and reduce your symptoms that you’d like to share?
My go-to item is a supplement called Burbur. It’s an herbal tincture used for detoxification that has saved me from the grips of an awful herx many times. It comes from the Burbur leaf and drains the kidneys, liver and lymphatic system. It works as a quick and powerful detox that I use when I start to feel myself slipping under and feeling terrible. If I could only keep 1 single supplement out of everything I had, I would hands down choose Burbur, because it’s quick, its gentle, and it works every time.
10. Is there anything I didn’t ask, but you would like others to know about Lyme and other tick-borne diseases?
This isn’t specifically about Lyme, but I want to touch on the topic of how crucial support is for those suffering, because the symptoms aren’t always visible. To everyone out there who has a loved one with Lyme disease & co-infections, I want to say that the most important thing you can do is believe them. Having an invisible illness means you look perfect on the outside while being broken on the inside. It comes with a lot of judgment from others, and feeling like you have to constantly prove yourself to feel understood. Having someone say, “I believe you” is most powerful thing you can hear.
Christina Kovacs is a friend of the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance and the founder of www.ladyoflyme.com where she blogs about her personal life and her treatment as a Lyme patient.