Amanda Barber

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It's Dark Out: A Health Update and Other Ramblings

16 December 2020

No one has ever accused me of being the Pollyanna type. Pollyanna was actually one of my favorite movies as a kid. Even though it’s a sweet tale, grown up Pollyanna’s are a little disturbing to me. Like reality is a little too hard to face, so let’s make up a saccharin sweet story…kind of people. I have always been a “let’s face the music and dance” sort of person. When life is terrible, it does the soul good to admit it, and then get on with things with a smile on your face if you can muster it. So, let’s just face it: This has been a terrible year, hands down, personally and collectively. Today, I have brain fog; a headache; I’m cold in spite of jeans, a flannel shirt, cozy socks and a wool sweater; my face hurts (who knows what that’s all about), my clothes are getting tight on me though my eating habits and physical activity levels have not changed (more on that in a moment), and I’m exhausted even though I had a full night of sleep last night, and slightly depressed. Nevertheless, I sit here feeling an undercurrent of hopefulness, happiness (?) and contentment. It’s very dark, but there’s a light on. And the light is truth.

After my last appointment with my Lyme doctor, this was the opening paragraph on my discharge paper:

New (bloodwork) results show hypothyroidism and Hashimotos with positive antibodies. Your thyroid is LOW and consistent with hypothyroidism. This can cause symptoms of brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, temperature irregularity, fevers just to name a few.

The last two years of my health adventure have been a whirlwind to say the least. I started it off by finding a great doctor after my quality of life had been degraded to such an extent that I felt like a shell of my former self. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I know what my former self even was, as most of my health issues began in childhood. At any rate and after some time on a wait list, I finally became a patient of a fantastic Functional Medicine Doctor in the DC area. She went over my health history from birth to the present with a fine toothed comb, ran a lot of bloodwork, and then the diagnoses rolled in thick and fast:

  • Lyme (tick transmitted)
  • Mycoplasma Pneumonia (tick transmitted)
  • Systemic Candida
  • Interstitial Cystitis (my most hated to this point)
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (tick transmitted)
  • Toxic mold exposure
  • Histamine intolerance
  • Mast cell activation syndrome
  • POTS
  • Sensitivities to about seven different foods including gluten, eggs and dairy
  • A uterine fibroid
  • A cyst on my ovary and …
  • Hypothyroid, likely a consequence of Hashimotos Thyroiditis which is an autoimmune disease, and which explains why I’m getting fat!! Grrr

But I’m hopeful, and I’ll tell you why. Because I know a lot of truth now. Even more than I did two years ago. Truth about the human body which is amazing. Truth about the kind of medical care that gets results instead of managing symptoms. Instead of giving me diagnoses and sending me off to five different specialists for symptom management, my doctor told me what we were going to do to fix my problems and strengthen my health over all to bring about healing.

And though I still have bad days, I have made real, concrete progress over the last two years. Progress that I can see with my own eyes by looking at my old lab results and ever more decreasing symptoms. Two years ago, my stomach hurt all the time. Now, my stomach hurts only occasionally, and any pain that starts usually resolves in a couple hours or a day instead of going on for weeks.

Two years ago, I had painful bladder flares that would last for days and days, making it difficult and miserable to leave the house and go anywhere. The constant urge to urinate kept me awake far into the night. Today, my bladder flares are few and far between and much less severe. Two years ago, I had bad insomnia. Today, my insomnia is practically nonexistent. I might have one night every 4-6 months where I can’t get to sleep before 3:00 AM.

But what is most exciting to me is the fact that I got Covid this year. And I kicked its nasty butt! I don’t think I would have done that two years ago. It wasn’t fun and it felt bad, but I had zero breathing issues, no cough, and no lasting effects. That is incredibly impressive, considering my many health challenges and my recently diagnosed autoimmune disease. And it’s a testament to the phenomenal health care I have received over the last two years.

I will always have Lyme disease. Research indicates that full eradication of the Lyme bacteria with antibiotics and herbals is practically impossible due to its ability to hide in cyst form and evade the immune system and antibiotics underneath biofilms, or burrow in spirochete form deep inside tissues. However, my bacteria load is drastically lighter and my immune system is currently keeping everything in check. I understand that I’ll probably be walking on a razor’s edge with this for the rest of my life. I’ll need to keep my system strong to keep Lyme under wraps. As soon as I drop the ball and let myself get run down, remaining persistor bacteria could come out to play and start reproducing again. But I can deal with that reality, and I know what needs to be done to put myself back in remission. And even though I have this autoimmune disease on my hands, my doctor has a plan that she’s communicated to me very clearly, and based on her track record, I am confident that we’ll kick Hashimoto’s nasty butt too.

Because I have been so blessed with a competent doctor, the Covid situation in the US and around the world makes me angry. Specifically, the absolute failure from public health officials to communicate actionable steps people can take to protect themselves and prepare their bodies to overcome the cytokine storm this virus produces in so many people. The darkness is real. The fear that comes from unncessary helplessness is palpable. And the advice to “stay home, wear a mask, wash your hands, and if you get it, get tested and go to the hospital if you have breathing problems” is NOT health care.

As soon as it became clear that runaway inflammation was killing patients, public health officials should have been asking, “How do we cool down the inflammation in these people? How do we prepare people to handle this inflammation BEFORE they contract Covid?”

But I haven’t heard a single word on that subject from our own epidemiologist, Dr. Linda Bell, here in South Carolina. Or Dr. Fauci. Or any of the public health officials around the country. If you know of some who have even attempted to address these questions, please let me know. At least two doctors that I am personally aware of were asking those questions. I’m sure there were more. Perhaps hundreds more. But they weren’t at the press conferences, and if they had been, the media wouldn’t have covered them. One of them was my doctor and another was Dr. Richard Horowitz, another Lyme disease specialist that I follow.

In March, my doctor sat me down and gave me her recommendations for dealing with this virus. She mentioned wearing a mask in public exactly once and that maybe Jonathon should go get groceries instead of me. That took less than five minutes of our appointment. The rest of the appointment, she stressed nutrition, exercise, getting outside in the sun and a laundry list of safe nutraceuticals to combat inflammation as well as strengthen and regulate my immune response. On the list was:

  • Vitamins A, C, and D
  • Zinc
  • Reishi mushroom extract
  • N-Acetyl-Cysteine
  • Melatonin
  • Quercetin
  • Liposomal glutathione (incredibly potent for preventing RDS).

Dr. Horowitz uses a similar approach with a few differences (read about it here and here), and of his 40 Lyme patients who contracted Covid, not a single patient had to be hospitalized. Let me just point out here, that having Lyme automatically means immune system depression. That his Lyme patients have beat Covid handily and my doctor’s Lyme patients have done the same, is nothing short of miraculous. According to the favored narrative, we should all be dead or at least suffering permanent lung damage. It turns out, that when there is a will there actually is a way. This is not a “cure” for Covid, it’s simply a way to modulate immune response so that the immune system can take out the virus without taking you out in the process. If I didn’t have to die from Covid, neither do you.

And all of this should be common knowledge. That it isn’t makes me angry. I have written about my disgust for the public health measures, the shutdowns, the mask mandating, mask shaming, and politicians telling people they can’t work, thus relegating large swaths of people to poverty and worse health outcomes. Telling people that a mask is their first line of defense instead of a last-ditch effort is a travesty.

Telling a nation full of people who sit at the office for six hours every day, barely get in the sun, are obese through lack of exercise, are overfed and undernourished (which began in school through lunches built around the faulty government food pyramid), are consequently suffering from diabetes and heart disease, are already inflamed as a consequence of diet and lifestyle–that all they have to do to protect themselves and everyone else from a virus is to stay home, wear a mask, and wash their hands… Well, that’s just a lie. Pure and simple. The darkness has been here for a long time, but I think this Covid fiasco has illustrated just how black it actually is. It’s practically Medieval.

Jonathon and I were noticing yesterday that we’ve seen a lot of folks proclaiming, “God is my medicine!” in regards to Covid, and they are understandably laughed at for behaving in Medieval and irrational fashion. But the mockers seem to forget other relics of our Medieval past such as talismans worn to ward off evil spirts and disease, etc… Masks seem to have turned into the modern talisman, especially if you consider that the research concerning their effectiveness outside of a health care situation is conflicted at best and the rising numbers of cases in cities and states with the strictest mask mandates seem to throw the effectiveness assertions into question. If you wear that mask, you’re protected. People who don’t are different, others. Witches, to be shunned or burned at the stake before they can spread death and destruction! After all this time, humans really haven’t changed all that much.

(And may I just add that when this is all over, we Christians need to have a long, hard look at our compliance. We need a theologically sound discussion about obedience to earthly authorities that takes into account who we are to obey, when we are to obey and when we should not obey. Because it’s become quite painfully obvious that “obey the government because Romans 13” is an inadequate, overly simplistic statement that overlooks all the times the Old and New Testament saints refused to obey their earthly authorities. And when that discussion is concluded, we need to discuss genuine love of neighbor while honoring the truth and facing basic facts.)

Added to all this is the physical darkness of the season. It struck me a few days ago how dark the days become as Christmas approaches. Almost like there’s supposed to be a juxtaposition of light against darkness. There’s little time left for me to write a treatise on what Christmas means to me as a Christian. But I will share some song lyrics that I have been pondering for the last few weeks. Old, beautiful words:

Hail the blest morn, see the great mediator

Down from the regions of glory descend.

Shepherds, go worship the babe in the manger,

Lo! For his guard the bright angels attend.

Brightest and best of the stars of the morning,

Dawn on our darkness and lend us thy aid.

Star in the east, our horizon adorning,

Guide where our infant redeemer was laid.

Cold on his cradle the dew drops are shining,

Low lies his bed, with the beasts of the stall.

Angels adore him, in slumber reclining,

Wise men and shepherds before him do fall.

Say, shall we yield him, in costly devotion,

Odors of Eden and offerings divine,

Gems from the mountain and pearls from the ocean,

Myrrh from the forest and gold from the mine?

Vainly we offer each ample oblation,

Vainly with gifts we his favor secure;

Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,

Nearer to God are the prayers of the poor.

Reginald Heber, 1739-1826

This is where my greatest hope lies. Because in biblical terms, hope is not a wish, it’s for sure. For bringing light to my dark world, He wants nothing but me. I have given what He wants and will continue to give it. I will speak the truth as I know it and leave it to Him to shine the light brighter and brighter as the darkness grows deeper. In my health or lack, in lockdowns or a return to sanity, during lies or truth telling—God is my light.

Merry Christmas!!!!!