Tuesday, August 18, 2015

50 Best Day Hikes Near DC: Old Rag

On the 4th of July Hal and I decided to brave a new hike we've heard wonderful things about since we moved here. Old Rag is probably the most famous hike in Virginia, and now I understand why. Old Rag is in the Shenandoah National Forsest, and is the closest thing to a mountain that exists out here, so it felt a little bit like home driving into the park.
We had heard the hike was pretty strenuous, and is 8.8 miles long, so we came prepared for a long hike. There are a couple of ways you can hike old rag. If you go up the more strenuous way - the rock scramble the hike can be a bit faster, but is much more strenuous than the longer more gradient sloped path.

We opted for the rock scramble, since those are usually our favorite types of hikes, and I'm really glad we did.
We stated out the hike in oppressive humidity as we made our way through the switchbacks up the mountain. There was almost no breeze through the trees since the tree cover was so thick. We were literally dripping with sweat.

And just like a switch the weather changed. We were probably halfway up the mountain when it started trickling rain. At first we didn't really get wet. The trees offered protection so we kept hiking. And then it started raining harder and harder, and we got wetter and wetter.
Around this time I started to feel sick. Not really sick, but lyme sick. I kept cycling through moving at a crawl speed, getting a burst of more energy so I started moving normal back to moving at a snails pace. We finally made it almost to the top where the trees gave way to rocks and everything opens up to a rock scramble, right as the rain began to stop.
The rock scramble was both of our favorite parts. It definitely wasn't always easy navigating the path. I literally crawled through short sections. There were lots of time we had to hoist ourselves up narrow cracks, down through narrow cracks and up stone steps to make it to the top.

But it was all worth it. I get so tired of feeling limited from Lyme that I wasn't about to let it stop me from doing something I've wanted to do for a long time. We made it to the top and it was just gorgeous. It sure felt like a win.
We decided to go back down the easy way, and part way down we ran into people that we started with, but they took the longer easy way, and we took the harder faster way. The easier way down was honestly kind of boring. For a majority of the trail it was just a gravel mule path. I'd definitely recommend trying your hand at the rock scramble.
5.5 hours from when we started and after buckets of sweat, buckets of rain and the most beautiful view I've seen in the East, we finally finished. This by far my favorite hike I've done in the area, despite what a struggle it was to make it to the top. I've heard this hike can get really really crowded, but due to the holiday and the rain we saw less then 10 people on the entire hike, which just made it even more perfect.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Having an Invisible Illness

Are you guys ready for pictures of cats? Because talking about Lyme disease means pictures of my cats cuddling me on my sick days. Today I found this article on buzzfeed about what it's like to live with an invisible illness. I clicked on it and was even more excited to read it, after finding out it's from the perspective of a woman with Lyme disease.

Her struggle to get diagnosed was much much worse than mine, but she brought up some interesting points on what it's like to live with an illness that people can't see and the struggle it is to have the medical community recognize Lyme as the persistent debilitating disease it is. I highly recommend reading it to understand more about Lyme disease.
When you have an invisible illness you have to choose to share your illness with people. You choose to share your journey with people; and sometimes I'm grateful for that. I don't want everyone I know treating me differently because they know I'm sick. I don't want everyone to give me that look when I say I can come to something depending on how I'm feeling that day. Mostly, I don't want them to see me as my disease, but just as me.

A whole new world has been opened to me since my diagnosis. A world of people that are struggling with illness just like I am. We follow each other on Instagram and give each other tips and leave encouraging comments on each other's pictures when someone is having a bad day.
Because having a bad day doesn't mean the same thing it used to mean. It could mean something as simple as riding the metro home made me feel so nauseous and sick that all I can do is lay on my bed in a dark room until Hal gets home from work. Or it can mean I feel like I'm in the middle of the worst flu I've ever had from a herxheimer reaction, and there's little I can do about it except try to sweat it out in steaming hot Epsom salt baths, and wait it out by watching inordinate amounts of Pretty Little Liars.

Having an invisible illness I don't think means having people not believe your sick. I think people believe me. But it means some people have a hard time understanding what you're actually going through, because they can't see how you feel. It means always having people ask you how you're feeling and what they can do; when the last thing you want to do is talk about feeling sick or direct someone in what they can do for you. But at the same time, I feel so so lucky to be surrounded by people that love me enough and care to ask.
I've been on antibiotics and in treatment for 8 months now. When I think about it sometimes, that feels like eternity. I've had a setback with my symptoms and a whole change in my medicine regime which I'm having a hard time adjusting to. It just felt like I was getting better. I went from feeling worse from starting treatment, to feeling so much better and realizing how crappy I did feel before treatment; to once again feeling crappy. It often leaves me feeling disheartened, wondering if I'll ever feel better.

But I will feel better eventually. I know I will. Because there's no other option.

Friday, July 24, 2015

A Little Lyme Update

I can't believe I haven't talked about Lyme since March, so I figured it was time for an update.

And because I'm a brat and stopped responding when people ask me how I'm feeling, I know people are wondering. It's just sometimes I don't want to think about let alone talk about how I'm feeling; so please don't get offended if you send me a message and I don't respond. I promise I saw it, and felt loved that you thought of me enough to ask, but you happened to catch me on a day I didn't feel like talking about it.

I've been in treatment for over 7 months now. When I first started this back in December I never thought I would be where I'm at right now.
Since February - the last time I actually updated a lot has changed. I have worked my way up to 4 antibiotics. For spoonie reference, I started with Doxycycline, and Biaxin. Doxy was fine, I was on it back in Cambodia, but the Biaxin made me so sick I couldn't function, so she switched it to Azithromycin, which I reacted to much better. No more constant nausea and sour stomach! I also discovered the best method to avoid nausea - I take the pills in the middle of a full meal. If I take them too early, too late, or don't eat enough I will get an instant stomach ache. But I finally found a sweet spot.
But of course you can't stay with the same anibiotics forever, so she switched me off doxy and onto Ceftin in April. This was perfect because doxy made me photosensitive and I would burn through sunscreen in less than an hour and come away with painful tingling skin. She also added another antibiotic called Tinidazole.
Tinidazole became the death of me. I take it 2 weeks on 2 weeks off. When I first started taking it, I slowly had to increase the dosage every few days. It made me herx SO badly. Basically herxing is when you're body is too filled with toxins. I felt like I had the flu constantly. But I knew that meant it was breaking up the bacteria, so that was a comforting thought.

I finally increased it up to 1 1/2 pills a day, and tried to do 2, but it just made me so sick I went back to 1 1/2 and was there for a while. It was kind of my sweet spot. Those 3 antibiotics and my bajillion supplements. Finally in April, for the first time in months and months on my 2 weeks off tinidazole, I didn't feel limited by my disease. I could go about my day, and do fun things on the weekend and not run out of energy.
Things can't stay the same though, and she added in a 4th antibiotic called Malarone. I reacted pretty well to the malarone. I had a tough time for a few days increasing the dosage from 1 to 2 a day; but after my body became used to it, I started feeling fine again.

I was so nervous for our trip home, and all the hiking we had planned, but it fell on my 2 weeks off tinidazole, and everything worked out perfectly. I had lots of energy and life was pretty good.

Until Tinidazole had to be increased to 2 a day again in June and then life became not so good. My 2 weeks off of it weren't the respite they used to be. For a solid month I have been back to having low energy and kind of the constant of feeling like I'm running a low grade fever.
We hiked Old Rag on the 4th, while I was off Tinidazole and my arthritis flared up so badly I could barely walk for 2 days. It was the first time I'd had arthritis since I started my treatment in Dec, and it was so discouraging to have it come back.

I had another Dr. appt this week and I think my Dr was more discouraged than I am, that I wasn't feeling as well as she would have hoped. And just as I feel like I've plateaued after coming back down hill, she's switching up my medicine again, and taking away and adding an antibiotic as well as another supplement, which will put me at 13 supplements, and a total of 32 pills a day. Malarone will go away, Tinidazole will be coming permanent and another antibiotic will be added.

I'm a little nervous at how I will react to the new changes, but excited as well. It feels like I've plateaued in not a great place, so I'm hoping things will go up from here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Peace Corps Wedding

I just realized I never posted about a little trip Hal and I went on over Memorial Day weekend. Two of our Peace Corps friends got married in Kansas so we embarked on the most epic road trip ever. 18 hours each way. I know, we're crazy.

We brought along our trusty companion Trophie to make the drive a little less boring. We stopped on Friday night in Indianapolis to see another Peace Corps friend and got up bright and early on Saturday to make the final 9 hours to the wedding. Thanks to a large accident we literally walked into the wedding with a minute to spare.
All of their tables were labeled with cities where they have lived, which I loved. They seated us at the BMC table, the name of the province where we and the groom lived while in Cambodia. They had a really cool interfaith ceremony with a rabbi and a minister; and had touches from Cambodia and Jewish tradition throughout the whole night; like Cambodian dancing and the most giant loaf of challah bread I've ever seen. It was delicious.
 
He was one of our province mates who we saw all the time, and she was in mine and Hal's village and language class during training, so it was so wonderful to see them come together and get married. And oh my goodness her dress was gorgeous and fit her perfectly.
It was an extra special treat that there were so many volunteers from our group at the wedding. We seriously had such a blast with them the entire night. I can't think of too many things that would make driving 40 hours in 3 days worth it, but this was definitely it. That and the foot high meringue pies we got on the way home.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Big News Weekend

Hal and I had a pretty big 4th of July weekend.

First it started with Hal taking his *cross your fingers* very last CPA exam. The past year the CPA exams have ruled his entire life, and so far he's passed all of them on his very first try, so here's to hoping the streak continues, so he can finally do a little less of this.
He took his test in Baltimore, so we used it as an excuse to spend a night up in the city. We walked around the harbor and ended up walking to Fells Point area in a state of desperate hangryness. We ended up at Riptide by the Bay and Hal splurged on his big day and snow crab until his heart was filled with happiness.
We continued the delicious restaurant streak at Miyagi the next night. Which, if you've never been, and you like sushi; definitely go. It was so good and not too expensive. We ran into some friends while there, and I got some good news.
After 2 1/2 years I'm officially a Certified Birth Doula. HOLLA! I'm so excited to finally be certified. It just felt like it was never going to happen between waiting to gather all the training and experience needed, and the 2 1/2 months it took them to finally get to my application. I can't believe it's finally done. Maybe once I get my cool name tag and certificate in the mail it'll feel more real.

And to finish out the weekend with a bang, we hiked Old Rag which is probably the most famous hike in Virginia. You'll hear more about it later, but it was so beautiful. I could barely walk the next two days from my lyme disease arthritis acting up again, but it was so worth it.
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