My Specialist said, “If You Had Lyme, You’d Be Better by Now” A flu-like illness, positive test in an endemic area, expanding symptoms in spite of treatment---if it wasn't Lyme, what was it?

By Daniel A. Kinderlehrer, MD
Dr. Dan Kinderlehrer practices internal medicine in Denver, Colorado. In the following excerpt from his book: Recovery from Lyme Disease: The Integrative Medicine Guide to Diagnosing and Treating Tick-Borne Illness, he discusses how his personal experience with Lyme disease led him to focus his medical practice on the treatment of tick-borne infections.

S ometimes there is a moment in a person’s life that, although seemingly insig­nificant at the time, heralds a drastic and unalterable change in everything that follows. For me, it was August 15, 1996.

Lyme disease unalterable changeThe “insignificant event” was, I thought, a virus. I had a fever and chills. The fever was high, 104 degrees, and the chills made my teeth chatter and the bed shake. My body ached so much I felt like a discarded New England Patriot’s tackling dummy.

But I had no other symptoms commonly associated with the flu, no cough or respiratory congestion, and influenza does not occur in the summer. I didn’t have the upset stomach or diarrhea typical of a stomach bug, either. I never saw an insect bite, and I didn’t notice a rash. For two days I was so sick I stopped worrying I would die, and started fearing that I would live. On the third day, it was all just a memory.

It seemed quite strange, but since I was able to resume full activity, including sev­eral three-mile runs, I didn’t think much of it—until one week later, when it hit again. Once more, the fever, chills, and muscle aches lasted two days and then went away. Still pretty strange, I thought, but since I felt well after this relapse I chose to ignore it.

Denial works well when you feel okay. But when the symptoms recurred for the third time a week later, the denial stopped working and I began to worry. This time I went to see a physician friend of mine. Upon examination, he palpated an enlarged spleen. He ordered some blood tests, and the laboratory reported a positive antibody test to Lyme. The diagnosis came as a relief. The cause of my problems was a simple bacterial infection. Two weeks of antibiotics would clear it, and then I could resume my normal life.
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