Herxing — Another Weird Part of Lyme

Lyme-Disease wordleI promised you in my last post that I’d keep you updated on my second journey of battling Lyme disease. In my last post, I said I had debilitating fatigue, muscle aches/weakness, nausea, and some anxiety for about 3 days. Those symptoms are the Lyme disease reacting to the antibiotics, the disease fighting back against these invaders. This reaction is a positive sign that the antibiotics are working and is known as the Jarish-Herxheimer reaction. Commonly this name is abbreviated to herxheimer, “herxing,” or simply “herx.”

What is known about Lyme disease herxheimers are based heavily on the reactions seen in syphilis. This is due to the fact both diseases are caused by a bacteria known as a spirochete, the former being Treponema pallidum, the latter Borrelia burgdoferi (Bb). However the herxheimer reactions in Lyme disease are not identical to those seen in syphilis. Bet you never thought you’d see a discussion of syphilis with one on Lyme Disease!

A herxheimer occurs because the Bb bacteria, under attack from the antibiotics, start to break up and die, releasing toxins and other harmful debris as they do so. This, in turn, causes the body’s immune system to temporarily go into overdrive in order to cope with the abrupt deluge of toxins and debris.

A herxheimer can last from a few days to two weeks or more, depending on how disseminated the Bb bacteria is in the body. The greater the dissemination, generally the longer a Herxheimer will last. During this time, in addition to the temporary worsening of previous Lyme symptoms, one may also experience chills, low-grade fever, headache, increased joint or muscle pain, nausea, a drop in blood pressure levels, rash, and hives.

In some patients they occur only once or twice (if at all) and with others continue throughout the course of treatment, usually lessening in severity. They can occur and are more often described in cycles (example: every 4 weeks) and have been reported to last from days to weeks. The good news is that the herxheimer is thought to indicate that the antibiotics are indeed working and that following each worsening may bring about more improvement.

My Sofa Recliner & Desk

My Sofa Recliner & Desk

Well, I am on my second herxheimer reaction and am typing this from what is becoming a familiar place to me…our sofa recliner, wrapped in heat wraps. For a woman going through heat flashes, this is NOT good (lol)! The first time I herxed, I missed 1 full day of work and a few hours the next morning. On this herxing episode, I will be missing 3 days. The frustrating part is you never know when it’s coming. I felt fine all day Monday & Tuesday, and then Tuesday evening, I began to get body aches, a slight fever, and fatigue, and I knew I was beginning another herxing episode.

So what is God teaching me through these herxheimer episodes? First, I’m not in control; God is (which is a good thing!). Second, it’s easy  to get disappointed, helpless, needy, and self-centered. To combat this, I ask God to show me someone who needs encouragement and I call, text, email, or actually put a card in the mail (how novel, huh?). Since I am an extrovert, I also need to talk to people, so I pick up the phone and call someone. Third, because this disease and some other weird ailments I’ve had are hard for others to understand, God is allowing me to share in the sufferings of Christ. To know what it’s like to be misunderstood, to know what it’s like to be in pain, to know what loneliness.

The beauty in snow

The beauty in snow

But God also keeps me still so I can hear His voice, know there’s hope, and enjoy the beauty of His creation.

Lyme Disease…the Battle Begins Again

“Wow, that just doesn’t make sense,” I said to the ENT doctor. He explained how I had some structural problems in my nose that are probably the cause of some severe sinus pain I’ve been experiencing for the past 6 months. It didn’t make sense because I’ve never had sinus problems in my life, and now, all of sudden, I was having sinus pain so bad, I was calling off work and sometimes taking Vicodin for the pain.

Over the past year, I also began to have severe pain in my right hip. After several visits to the hip orthopedic doctor, several injections to the hip joint, and 8 weeks of physical therapy, an MRI showed I had several structural problems and a labral tear. I was referred to a doctor who does hip arthroscopy and another who does hip replacement. Both said I didn’t actually have a labral tear, but that the tissue attaching to my hip joint was deteriorating, and that can’t be fixed with surgery. They both said it really didn’t make sense for a woman of my age who has been physically active her whole life. Hmmm….something else that doesn’t make sense.

Could my Lyme disease be active again? I didn’t really know if I wanted the answer to that question, but after a friend also asked me the question, I knew I had to pursue it. I saw my Lyme doctor on January 28 and we discussed what I described above, along with some short-term memory issues I was having, two surgeries within a year, not being able to exercise in a year, etc. He said he didn’t think it was my Lyme, but there was one test that would tell us for sure, CD57.

His office drew the blood that day, and 3 days later called to tell me that my Lyme was active again. Tears welled up in my eyes. I didn’t really think this would return. Even the doctor thought that. I don’t want to go through this treatment again because I know I’ll get worse before I get better. God, give me strength.

So the battle begins….again. I’m on two oral antibiotics, Doxycycline and Ceftin, and they are kicking my butt! I have debilitating fatigue, muscle aches/weakness, nausea, and some anxiety. Those symptoms are the Lyme disease reacting to the antibiotics, the disease fighting back against these invaders. Fortunately, this should only last a few days, and then level off.  I am on day 2 of these symptoms and off work. My prayer is that God will give me strength to return to work tomorrow (and beyond) and be able to be productive. In a few weeks, I return to the doctor’s office to get an infusion of glutathione to boost my immune system.

I will be chronicling my journey through this battle in this blog, with the hope that I can educate and help others who may be suffering with Lyme and may not even know it, or may not know where to turn for help. I will be explaining what the CD57 test is, and why it’s a good marker for Lyme. I will be sharing resources, both online and in your community. I will share what exercise works and what doesn’t.

But most of all, I want to share hope. Not only for you “Lymies” out there (Lymies are those with Lyme disease), but for those who struggle daily with chronic illness. Daily I cling to this verse from Psalm 16:8, “I keep my eyes always on the Lord.With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”

Okay, I do feel physically “shaken” today and there will be other days I “feel” the same, but I have a peace in the process, knowing the Lord is walking through this with me and He will not leave me.

Guest Blog from Dave Hershey, Campus Pastor for Penn State Berks

Today  I share a post from a guest blogger, Dave Hershey. Dave is the campus pastor for Penn State Berks and leads a club on campus called Christian Student Fellowship (CSF).  This post is one of the best explanations on sharing Jesus that I’ve ever read. If you enjoy this post, please visit Dave’s blog at http://davehershey.wordpress.com.

What A Student Who Loves Doctor Who Taught me About Faith

On Monday, November 23, I found myself in a theater surrounded by “Whovians.”  For those of you who don’t know – a “Whovian” is a fan of the British television show Doctor Who, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.  The show’s recent popularity is due to its return in 2005 after a long hiatus.  Many young people on both sides of the Atlantic have become fans.

The show follows the Doctor, a Time Lord, who travels through Space and Time in the TARDIS that looks like a British police box.  When mortally injured the doctor can regenerate into a new body.  This is the reason the show has lasted for fifty years, with eleven (or is it twelve?) different men portraying the Doctor.

I first heard of Doctor Who a two years ago from a student named Elizabeth.  Elizabeth came to CSF to observe us for a project she had to do in one of her classes (a mini-ethnography).  We have had a few students come to CSF for this reason before and usually they don’t hang around after the project is over.  I don’t think Elizabeth planned to either, but she did.

She found a welcoming and life-giving community in CSF.  When she interviewed me for the assignment we discussed her Catholic faith and whether that was a barrier to being a part of CSF.  I recall explaining that CSF seeks to be a place where all Christians can come and grow in their faith in Jesus.  (Of course, we also hope to create a place where people who are not yet disciples of Jesus can come and learn too.)  I know there are things Christians disagree on, and we discuss such things sometimes, but we try our best to lay those aside on campus so we can focus on what really matters.  On a campus filled with broken people there are more important things to do then argue our particular theologies.  What matters on campus is learning to love Jesus and spread this love to others.

Soon Elizabeth became good friends with many members of CSF.  She was part of an especially tight-knit group of ladies.  The next year, which was last year, she served on our leadership team as secretary.  Now in her senior year she continues to be involved in CSF.  Just a few weeks ago I took a group of students to the Penn State football game to work in a concession stand with the CSF group up there. Elizabeth could hardly hold in her excitement as she got to see Hannah, one of her best friends, and one of the first students to welcome her to CSF two years ago.

Elizabeth is a huge Doctor Who fan.  When you meet Elizabeth you soon find someone who enjoys good books, movies and television shows.  I suppose this is appropriate for someone who is a professional writing major.  As Elizabeth talked about Doctor Who other students who watched it also talked about it.  Others of us were so intrigued that we soon began watching it too.

This is how I found myself in a theater full of Whovians the Monday before Thanksgiving.  Bryson is another of those students who first welcomed Elizabeth to CSF.  He is now at University Park but was home for the holiday.  I joined Bryson and Elizabeth in watching the 50th anniversary special in 3D on the big screen.  Fun, nerdy times!

One evening a few months ago I was at the diner with CSF students.   They were talking about Doctor Who.  There was probably a new student who had just confessed to not ever seeing it.  I recall Elizabeth made an interesting comment – “I never tell people to watch Doctor Who.  I just talk about how much I enjoy it and they want to watch it.”

“And there’s your lesson on evangelism for the night,” was my response.

Too often we Christians create this huge pressure to sell Jesus to unwilling customers.  We approach it like a used-car salesman.  We hate it though as deep down we feel dirty…kind of like our stereotype of a used-car salesman.  But this is not what evangelism is.

What if evangelism is simply talking about what we are passionate about, what defines us, and what if this is primarily Jesus Christ?  I don’t need to take a class to learn how to tell someone I love my wife.  If you spend time talking to me, my likes and dislikes will come out.  And just as people may watch a television show we are very excited about, they may decide to visit our church or crack a Bible due to our excitement.

I feel the need to add a caution – this is not a program.  This does not mean we need to artificially create a false-excitement for the Jesus.  When I talk about my wife, or a book I really liked, or a movie I saw recently, I don’t pretend to like it out of outside pressure to get you to like it.  I really and truly love something and it naturally bubbles out of me.

So the challenge for me, the challenge I give my students and those reading this now, is to get to know Jesus.  Read the gospels, encounter the real and amazing person at the core of our faith.  I believe through this you won’t help but talk about him.   As you do, you’ll find others are wanting to marathon the Gospels much like marathoning episodes of Doctor Who on Netflix.

I’m Working My Way Back to You, Babe…


I couldn’t resist using a song from the 60′s as the title for this post. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve posted here, and I hope to change that going forward. Yet, some of that is out of my control. I last posted in December 2012. I had robotic-assisted surgery for a hysterectomy, and my first few weeks were amazing…pain free. Shortly after Christmas, pain returned and except for working, much of my spare time was spent on referrals from specialist to specialist searching for pain control.

None were successful, so I’m kind of back to square one, scheduled for surgery next Monday, August 19, to see what’s causing the pain. It’s going to be a laparoscopy with the goal of removing any scar tissue, adhesions, etc. that are causing pain. It probably sounds weird, but I’m looking forward to it. After 8 months of unexpected pain, I’m praying for skilled hands of the surgeons, being pain free, and being off work only a week (the expected recovery period). I covet your prayers for perseverance in the next week, for the surgery, and for the recovery.

On a completely different note, I attended the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference July 31-Aug. 3, absorbing information and being encouraged by other Christian writers such as Bob Hostetler, Ken Gire, Cindy Sproles, and many others. I had the opportunity to have 15-minute appointments with and have my writing critique by agents and editors. It was my 4th conference, and it’s always both overwhelming and uplifting. I hope to post some of what I learned in future posts.

For now, I just want to let you know I’m back and hope to be sharing my heart and hearing about what God has placed on your heart, too!

Crumbling Walls

Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem

Nehemiah rebuilding Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a devotion that was published at http://christiandevotions.us on November 12, 2012:

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven…” Nehemiah 1:4

 One by one they tumbled out. I wanted to weep. Anxiety, sleeplessness, exhaustion, financial worries, and a serious accident due to being over-medicated. These were the prayer requests of the “good kids.” What about those who don’t know Christ?

 At the university where I work, there is a club where Christian students fellowship. My husband and I have come alongside the pastor to support him and his ministry to students there.

 One night toward the end of the semester, the students shared the prayer requests above. Then the female student next to me handed me a note asking me to pray for and help her with a serious personal issue that she was too ashamed to share. Her walls were crumbling. My heart was heavy for these students, and, on the way home, I wept. I fasted and prayed and several days later, God gave me a plan to help this student strengthen her walls.

 When Nehemiah’s brothers came to see him, Nehemiah cut the small talk and asked about the wall of Jerusalem. Sadly the brothers reported it had large holes, was in rubble, and the gates were burned down. Nehemiah’s first reaction? He sat down and wept. Then he fasted and prayed, asking for God’s favor and wisdom, which was granted.

 Jerusalem’s wall was rebuilt in an astounding 52 days. This filled Jerusalem’s enemies with fear and awe because they realized this could only be accomplished with the help of God.

 My tears for these students emanated from their current pain and the perseverance that would be needed to rebuild the holes in their walls. Rebuilding and restoration can be long and difficult, but drawing on God’s strength can favorably change that process.

 When your wall is crumbling, it’s okay to weep. Then fast and pray for God’s wisdom and forgiveness. Wait for Him to give you your first brick to rebuild your wall. As you obey Him, you will amaze others with your transformation, and you will draw others to Christ, as they will want to know the architect who remodeled and rebuilt your life.

My Corner of Penn State

The Lion Shrine at Penn State.

The Lion Shrine at Penn State. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Grand jury investigation. Sandusky. Indictments for Curley and Schultz. Spanier resigns. JoePa has lung cancer. Says he should have done more. JoePa dies in January. Sandusky trial. Guilty on 45 of 48 counts and imprisoned without bail. The Freeh Report implicates JoePa as preventing administrators from going to authorities. No care for victims. JoePa’s statue comes down. Severe NCAA sanctions for Penn State football team.

I work at a branch, or Commonwealth, campus of Penn State. With each sentence I typed above, I felt the weight of these incidents grow heavier in my mind and my heart. All of that occurred within the last 8 months….it’s a lot to take in, regardless of your association with Penn State. But for those of us who work here, it’s difficult because we are living with the far-reaching consequences of a few men’s actions….or inactions.

I’ve worked at Penn State since 2007 and I really enjoy my work and usually look forward to going to work. I work at a campus that is considered one of the most beautiful campuses in Penn State. We have a well-stocked greenhouse on our campus and plenty of open fields that are constantly used for developing and testing by horticulture faculty and majors. I work in a restored farmhouse that belonged to the family who donated much of the property on which we are situated. Each morning I enter the farmhouse down a stone walkway that is lined with a colorful display of annual and perennial flowers. Often butterflies float back and forth across the walkway. It’s really quite an oasis on the campus.

The men and women who maintain our property are knowledgeable about landscaping, property maintenance, and equipment use and repair. They work hard to make our campus a place you want to enjoy as much outside as inside. I’m thankful for those who do this work.

Speaking of inside, we have a superb group of administrators and staff that keep all aspects of our campus running smoothly and faculty from around the world who give individual attention to our students and create many opportunities for learning, research, and internships. Many students who initially plan to come here for two years and then finish their education at the main campus of PSU end up staying at our campus all four years if they can complete their major here.

Our campus is large enough to offer far-reaching and stretching opportunities for students, but small enough that most of the faculty and staff know each other well, and really care about one another’s’ lives. We offer that same care and concern for the students who come here, too. It’s similar to a very large extended family, warts and all. We just say goodbye to each other at the end of each work day.

With each news report or press conference that gives breaking news about “the next shoe to drop” at Penn State, we all hold our breath, wondering how this will affect our daily work. What new policy may come out next as a result, resulting in additional security or procedures that must be put into place? In the last 6 weeks or so, about a half-dozen new Penn State policies have gone into effect. One of the most notable are a new background check policy that includes student employees for the first time, drastically increasing the workload of many HR personnel. Another notable policy severely limits access to athletic facilities.

So, it’s a new “ballgame” at PSU (no pun intended). More thought and time is required before certain plans can be put into place. More employees are concerned about how they are documenting or handling various transactions or procedures, as none of us want to violate any of the policies or have our names in a Freeh report. Last week, I had nausea for about 4-5 days. I thought it was some Mexican food I ate, but I finally realized it was the internal stress I was subconsciously feeling about all these changes. After the NCAA sanctions last Monday, I had to do a news blackout for self-preservation. If friends tried to talk about Penn State, I firmly but politely asked them if we could discuss something else. It may be interesting for you to talk with someone who works at Penn State to get our viewpoint, or to even vent with us, but, frankly, this employee is sick of talking about it.

Well, you are probably feeling quite glum by now reading this, but the real point of this post is to let you now that I, for one, still enjoy working at Penn State. I am proud to say that I work at Penn State and I’m grateful to God for the work He has given me to do there. I believe the majority of the faculty and staff feel the same  and are looking forward to beginning the fall semester. So, to the students, we say, “Bring it on!”

Overall, I hope we don’t overlook one of the main lessons we can learn from this difficult trial that Penn State is moving through. ALL actions have consequences. We don’t live and act in a vacuum. The sins of one man–Sandusky–affected and destroyed quite a few young men’s lives But his actions affected many others, too. The alleged actions/inactions of several other men resulted in a huge fall from grace, prestige, and security, and severely changed lives for their families. But their actions affected many others, too. The NCAA sanctions present significant challenges to Bill O’Brien and the football program and changed their lives. But this action also affects many others, too.

So the next time you are at a crossroads, and have a choice to make between right or wrong actions, good or evil, words that build up or tear down, selfishness or service, ask God to give you the strength to choose  the former…right actions, good, words that build up, service. These are the choices that most of us who work, teach, or learn at Penn State make every day.