In 2004 I was ambushed by an invisible enemy. An enemy so evil that most people thought I was lying about it or at least exaggerating. This terrorist was so stealthy, he didn't even give up his identity until almost a year later.
This deadly assassin was called Lyme Disease.
When a person receives a diagnosis of a life threatening illness, it's like you’ve been ambushed. An ambush is a long-established military tactic, in which the aggressors (the ambushing force), take advantage of their own concealment and the element of surprise to attack an unsuspecting enemy from concealed positions.
By definition, the ambush contains the element of total surprise, which means the victims of the ambush have no knowledge of how it has been constructed, or of what measures may have been employed to prevent escape.
I had definitely been ambushed. With no clue how a person even got Lyme, and zero knowledge of what it was, I foolishly thought I could reasonably ignore my symptoms for a little while.
I ignored a rash near the base of my skull.
I thought my flu like symptoms were merely that, the Flu.
I ignored increasing joint and muscle pain.
I ignored small indications of short term memory loss, explaining it away as stress or lack of sleep.
I ignored blaring head and eye pain until I just couldn't anymore.
I saw the eye doctor four times for multiple eye problems, but, when my eyes felt like they were on fire I suspected it was more serious that I had previously thought. During my last visit to her prior to a correct diagnosis of Lyme, she told me the tissues in my eyes were coming apart. She said it looked like someone had taken a straight pin and poked holes in my corneas. She explained that she could not continue prescribing steroid eye drops or I'd be at risk for developing cataracts.
Lisa, this just isn't normal. Do you have an auto immune disorder?
No, not that I know of, at least.
I want you to see a doctor right away, Lisa. Give me your word. This is serious!
I did see my doctor and I was told there was nothing wrong with me, so I got a second opinion. These well meaning physicians almost had me convinced that whatever was wrong with me was all in my head. One thought that if I just took an antidepressant, I would be all better. But I wasn't depressed. I liked my life.
No, I was sick, not sad.
Then the day came when I couldn't remember where I lived, how to do my job and eventually, I forgot who I was.
I saw a physician who knew what I might be facing. He had me tested for Lyme with the most accurate test available, called The Western Blot Test.
All of the tests came back positive. I had Stage III Lyme and it had crossed the Blood-Brain Barrier, causing amnesia and other serious problems.
Thrust into an ongoing war without my consent.
Hey wait just a doggone minute! I didn't enlist for this!
My life was on the line and I was so sick that I didn't even know how sick I was.
The one thing about being ambushed that has been proven by the experience of war is that the only likely method of survival is withdrawal from the killing zone by “the way you came in.” All other routes out of the killing zone may be blocked, and in a very well-planned and well-executed ambush, even the “back door” will have been closed by the time the ambush is sprung. The published military doctrine is “immediate, positive, and offensive action” against the ambush.
The value of withdrawal is the preservation of the force to “live to fight another day” and this is one of the things I decided I must do, but, how could I fight when I couldn't even remember my own name for longer than a few hours at a time?
My brain feels like it's dying one cell at a time. I'm trembling so much, all the time. I can't feel my legs. I feel like I might die today.
No, sweetheart, you won't die. Stay with me. Fight.
Are you sure?
You will live and not die.
But...nothing is clear. I can't make sense of anything, even television. It's confusing to me because I can't remember what happened just five minutes ago on the screen. Oh God please take this pain away or take me home!
No! You will live and not die. Say it.
I will live to fight another day.
Don't give up.
I won't give up. I promise.
I can remember foggy mornings in my city when I was a little girl. My sisters and I would stand on the front porch to determine how far we might be able to see. It was not uncommon for there to be zero visibility. We couldn't see our own mailbox at the end of the driveway or the house across the street. We called it "Pea Soup Fog".
Zero visibility. That was my brain on Lyme.
I withdrew from my job, my church, my family, and my friends in order to survive, and with the help of three of the nation’s top Lyme disease specialists, I took action to survive the ambush.
I withdrew from work after being told how serious this illness was. My co-workers seemed very understanding and although I missed my job, I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I withdrew from my church because I didn’t have the physical strength to attend anymore. Although everyone on the pastoral staff was all very supportive and kind after my diagnosis, there were some people attending the church who were sure to tell me that they knew that I was some horrible sinner, and that’s why I was sick. One woman, who called herself my friend, was even sure to tell me that if I hadn’t detected the sin in my own heart that was making me sick, I just wasn’t looking hard enough. Another woman, who also called herself my friend, thought that she was doing me a favor by letting me know that if I didn’t get up off my butt and get well, my husband would leave me.
That was when I began to read the book of Job from the Bible, and I was comforted, because I knew that I wasn’t the only one who had ever gone through something like that. What I’ve been through with Lyme disease isn’t even a fraction of the trial that Job went through, but in spite of everything that he went through, in the end, he was still sure to express his gratitude to God. In the end, God had restored to him everything that the enemy had stolen. That gives me hope and it should give you hope, too.
I withdrew from my family a bit simply because I didn’t want to frighten them with how sick I was. Both of my children, Michael and Andrew were in the military and had now been deployed. They were soon going to be fighting on the front lines of war. I never told them how sick I was because I knew that they needed to keep their wits about them, and I didn’t want their worrying over me to be a possible reason for them not returning home.
I withdrew from my friends, because I didn’t want them to see me in that condition, but it was in that precise condition that I found out who my real friends were. There were those who would come over just to pray over me. There were those who would come to bring meals and clean house. Then there were those who would come to visit me simply because I didn’t have the strength to come to visit them.
The only person in my life that I never withdrew from is my husband. My husband’s loyalty and faithfulness helped get me through this dark time. Chuck stood fast by my side through multiple hospitalizations, grueling treatments, and endless tests. When I didn’t even know my own name, he would gently remind me. When the foggy state of my mind was overwhelming to me, he would hold me close and remind me that everything was going to be all right. When I said “I feel like I’m going to die”, Chuck would encourage me to proclaim that I would not die, but that I would live to fight another day. When my life's cadence slowed down to what felt like a crawl through wet cement, Chuck took my hand and walked with me through it. I never would have made it without him.
Many people think that to retreat means to give up. Not in this case. I had to withdraw in order to redirect my steps, my energy and my life towards a place of healing. I never withdrew from the battle or tasks at hand. I stayed within the ambush just long enough to fight my way out of it's grasp. From deep within the battle zone, I fought with all my might.
I fought to live another day.
Lyme disease is an evil that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, except maybe some terrorists. Once you test positive for Late Stage Lyme, it doesn’t go away without a miracle. You always have to stay on top of it, making sure the bacteria level within your body is low enough for you to live. This disease has caused irreversible damage to certain functions within my body, but through it all, I have refused to give up or to allow such an ambush to steal my joy.
Yolanda Foster, (Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) has Lyme Disease. She was showing improvement, but is reported to have relapsed. In the midst of her battle, she was quoted as saying these words, which I agree with 100%.
I am a firm believer that God often uses our deepest pain as the launching pad of our greatest calling...
I can attest to the fact that this battle with Lyme has indeed launched me into the greatest calling of my life.
Inspiring, helping, and encouraging people by pointing the way for them towards overcoming and conquering their own giants. Many times in this battle, I've thought that I was making progress towards healing and remission, only to find that the light at the end of the tunnel was, in fact, an oncoming train. Thankfully, it didn't mow me down.
I've decided to be the one doing the ambushing from now on.
I will ambush others with kindness.
I will ambush the world with love.
I will ambush my own recovery, joy, goals, and mission.
I will live. With joy, passion, purpose and deliberation.
I will fight to live another day.