The Steep Climbs of Chronic Lyme: Nordic Skier Siri Waxes, Wanes & Wins
Like a growing number of Americans, you discover the bull’s-eye rash around a tick bite. But you get to the doctor quickly, receive a diagnosis of Lyme disease, and complete the standard course of antibiotics. So everything will be fine, right?
Not for a sizable percentage of Lyme patients. And not for our protagonist in this episode, Siri. She’s a seventeen-year-old Nordic ski racer from Vermont who’s suffered repeated bouts of pediatric Lyme disease.
Intermittently over this odyssey, Siri has boosted her mood through cross-country skiing at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury, VT. But when suffering from deep fatigue, brain fog and poor balance, ski training has often been impossible. “There were many days,” recalls Siri, “that I just sat on the couch with my head between my legs.”
Fortunately, these past few winters, Siri has been cross-country skiing more regularly. But that was not the case after her second major onset of Lyme symptoms at age 11. Perhaps due to previous infection and treatment, Siri did not test positive for Lyme at that time, which prevented medical doctors from prescribing further antibiotics. Yet her symptoms persisted, setting Siri and her mother, Kara, on a research and treatment odyssey.
Our expert commentator for this episode, Dr. Steven Phillips, finds this to be all too often the case for people with chronic Lyme and Lyme related symptoms. “[In] most cases of Lyme, the subjective features vastly outweigh the objective features. Subjective means what the patient feels, but the doctor can’t see versus what the doctor can see,” says Dr. Phillips, a Yale-trained physician and author of the book, Chronic, which recounts his personal struggle with Lyme and professional efforts to better understand the disease complex.
“What is very well recognized,” emphasizes Phillips, “is that a large percentage of patients develop chronic symptoms after acute Lyme disease.”
In Siri’s case, that meant trying a wide range of alternative therapies, some of which she’d rather forget. “We did Hyperbaric (HBOT), which is like a pressurized chamber that’s filled with 95% oxygen,” recalls Siri. “And I remember that I hated that deeply.”
How does Siri escape the not so subtle terrors of persistent or chronic Lyme? What are her prospects for better health as she graduates from high school? And how can exercise helps chronic conditions like Lyme as the more serious symptoms subside?
Tune in to learn more about the complexities of Lyme disease, the rewards and challenges of Nordic skiing, and meet exceptionally resilient Siri, her devoted mother Kara, and a Nordic skiing family on an odyssey of twists, turns, and steep uphill climbs.
My Body Odyssey is a Fluent Knowledge production.
Original music by Ryan Adair Rooney.