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Up & Down & Up & Down & Up Again

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The past two weeks have been full. We had a fumigator come to tent our house and kill termites. This required us to move our food (at a minimum) and a lot of other stuff (because I am so sensitive to chemical irritants) out of the house. Then we moved back in a few days later. We’ve also had invited guests and planned a few activities to celebrate my husband’s birthday. I need a week or so to recover from all the activity. Meanwhile I’ve continued coiling and continued learning about how these infections interact with my body.

A Brief History of Stairs

In sixth grade (about 28 years ago), I had a mystery illness. I had tingling and numbness in my legs and severe pain in my lower back. After much ado about how there was nothing that could possibly be wrong with me, my pediatrician agreed to do a back x-ray. It showed a problem with my lower spine: one of the vertebrae was out of place, swollen, and pinching the nerves that run down my legs.

The solution was a back brace, no gym class, and no stairs. No ups. No downs. An elevator pass at school. Elevator in the apartment building where I grew up. Eighteen months later, I was okay again. I resumed normal activities. (This is one of the events that makes me think the tick-bite I had when I was two years old infected me with Bartonella.)

I didn’t become an athlete, but I developed an appreciation for climbing stairs. Fast forward to 2005, when I moved back to New York, and procured an apartment on the top floor of my new building, the sixth floor. It was situated at the bottom of a hill, and there was a flight of stairs to get from the sidewalk to the first floor. Having moved to New York City from New Haven, I found that I walked less. To compensate, I walked up to my apartment, eschewing the elevator, at least once each day.

A friend on the fourth floor once asked me about this habit. She thought my effort unnecessary, with an elevator readily available. I said something then that stuck in my head as unwise and possibly a jinx upon myself, “I climb the stairs now while I can. You never know what’s going to happen.”

By February 2007, I was standing in front of the staircase that led from the first floor up to my apartment. I was winded and weak from climbing the single flight to the first floor. I was defeated. I couldn’t take another vertical step. I trudged over to the elevator and got inside.

For the next five years, I couldn’t go up and down stairs at all. Walking wasn’t even an option for the first three years. And when I finally reached a point where my legs worked enough to climb, my heart was in bad shape. A single flight of stairs was enough to ground me for the rest of the day.

Starting last year, 2014, after coiling for three years and a few months, stairs stopped being an issue. I took a perverse pleasure (and a three hour nap afterwards) in climbing 152 steps from the beach to the parking lot at Seacliff State Beach, fifteen minutes from where I live in California. I no longer have to carefully limit how many times I go up and down the stairs in the house (at least most of the time), and it is something I barely think about.

So, two weeks ago, when we had to move various heavy and copious items from the second floor of the house and store them on the second floor of our neighbor’s house, I volunteered to climb up and down while my husband moved the items from one house to the other. Part of the rationale was that my husband recently injured his foot and the stairs aggravate the problem.

Of course, I overdid it. Not only did I tire myself out in such a way that I needed several days of rest (not all of which I’ve had) to recharge my battery to baseline, but I gave myself plantar fasciitis on both feet. Then I was back to limiting the number of times I could climb up or down the stairs for several days. I’ve gotten to the point now, two weeks later, that there is no more pain in the plantar fascia on either foot.

I still take an excessive amount of pleasure in climbing stairs. It represents the difference between being able-bodied and the period of years when I was severely immobile.

Still Learning about Bartonella

While recovering, I did some extra reading. The Lyme Times, published by LymeDisease.org, has a great article about co-infections by Christine Green, MD. It listed symptoms of various co-infections and how to spot them as compared to Lyme (borrelia) infections.

I learned that chronic Bartonella infections are associated with dizziness, memory loss, eye pain, shortness of breath, muscle twitching, and muscle weakness. I’ve had all these symptoms, and I’ve always thought they were from one of the other infections (like shortness of breath coming from Babesia), or was unsure of which infection caused these problems. I had read that pain behind the eyes can be from Babesia, but I never knew what caused my eyeballs to hurt. Now I know. I also remember having bouts of muscle weakness, not knowing what it was from, and more recently assuming it was a neurological rather than musculoskeletal problem.

The article also mentions plantar fasciitis as a possible symptom of Bartonella. I haven’t experienced it as such. I think the description of plantar fasciitis and the description of neurological foot pain, first thing upon waking, that goes away within a few minutes of standing or walking, sound strikingly similar. The difference is that plantar fasciitis is felt along the plantar fascia, while the Bartonella-induced nerve pain is all across the sole of the foot. Now that I’ve felt both types of pain, I can tell the difference.

While I’m writing about Bartonella, I should mention that I’ve been coiling a lot, with a few days off while I was getting my house fumigated. I experimented with the different herbal supplements I take to keep my kidneys happy and low on the pain scale. It turns out that all three of the herbs I mentioned in the last post are necessary: chanca piedra, milk thistle, and dandelion root. If I skip any one of them, the pain comes back. In fact, the pain often returns during the day, a few hours after the morning pills wear out, and goes away shortly after I consume dandelion root tea.

The other thing I’ve learned is that Bartonella makes me susceptible to migraines. I’ve been unsure of this for some time. I used to believe that Bartonella causes tension headaches (which it does) and that Babesia causes migraines (which it does) and that there was no overlap (which is incorrect). Babesia makes me susceptible to certain triggers, like bright light or loud noise. Bartonella has been generating migraines for me, including one now and one about 10 days ago, but light and sound don’t seem to be triggers. My menstrual cycle seems to be one trigger. I’m not sure what the other triggers might be.

Now that I don’t have fifty symptoms all at the same time, I can tell what the migraine symptoms are. On Monday, I had problems with my vision, things going out of focus on my right eye (or maybe my left, but the two were not in focus with each other). Then Tuesday, I had an aura in the left side of my vision. A few hours later, I had a massive headache on the right side. I had no appetite all day, even before the aura started. I wanted quiet. I wanted minimal media (radio, tv, reading). Today, I’m super tired. The migraine broke after I drank some Coke. Since I don’t normally indulge in caffeine, it sometimes does the trick.

The only problem is that two hours later, I had an aura in the right field of vision followed shortly by a headache on the left side. I’m annoyed by this. My head hurts as I type. Only, it hurts when I don’t type, so I might as well, right?

Actually, this might be an okay place to end for today. I can feel myself getting worse, looking at the screen for too long. It’s time to be quiet and rest and save the rest of my thoughts for another day.

Disclaimer

2 comments

  1. Your lazy fourth floor friend never found your stair climbing “unnecessary” at all! She found it impressive, especially considering she doesn’t particularly like climbing two flights less than what you routinely did! ;o) I had no idea about your childhood problems, which make your joy for step-climbing all the more understandable. I’m glad you’ve gotten back to it — though I’m sorry about the plantar fasciitis! I hope you’re having a good day and have many more ahead of you! ❤


    • Thanks, Melissa!



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