The more I talked to people, the more I heard the same thing: “I didn’t get diagnosed because I never had the bull’s eye rash.”
Rewind several years:
Now ask me what my concept of lyme disease is, and this would be my longwinded answer—
“It’s a rare disease contracted by ticks [and here I don’t discern between dog ticks or deer ticks]. You feel a tick embedded in you and someone helps dig it out with tweezers [isn’t that cute? I thought you always feel them or see them!]. After this, you get a bull’s eye rash if you have lyme. You get flu symptoms. Doctor gives you meds. After a month, you’re okay. It sucks, but …. ”
And so that explains my complacency in the woods. I trudged through bushes. I waded through tall grass. Laying in a meadow was no big whoop. I had not a care in the world. The RASH would tip me off. The RASH!!!
Unfortunately, this is the problem with the medical community as well. No rash? No diagnosis. If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit.
The more I talk to people, the more I hear this same story. Mystery symptoms with no treatment. Everyone has a story. EVERYONE. Even if it’s a friend’s husband’s fifth cousin once removed. I can’t get over how many people have been touched by this illness – even if indirectly.
I found out (the hard way) that a deer tick in its nymphancy (I made that word up) can be as small as the period at the end of this sentence.
Now take some hairy guy, put him in the woods, and YOU tell ME how he’s going to find this thing sucking on him?
After a stroll in the woods (or after gardening or being in your yard), you might have an itch on the back of your neck. You scratch it. You feel a fleeting little speck of something and dismiss it as dirt. And you think nothing of it. You’re not going to be so hyperaware of this that you’ll think to tell this to the doctor months or years later when you’re exhausted.
I knew an older man, very overweight. He had arthritis and used a cane. It would take infinite eternities for him to cross a room. One day? I hadn’t seen him in a while. He walked in and just … walked across the room. Effortlessly. He always accepted his fate with the arthritic knees because he was older and overweight. It turned out to be lyme. He gushed that he hadn’t felt this good in 5 years or so.
THAT is the cunning thing. It settles in so slowly. You don’t even notice it. You rationalize the symptoms. You’re getting a little older or you’re working a bit more or you have kids or …. something. And when the doctors tell you this, you find yourself nodding and agreeing. Sometimes.