When you visit Victoria's blog, Lemons 'N Lyme, you will find it hard to believe she's only in her mid-twenties. She's already created over a hundred healthy recipes and she's an accomplished personal trainer. All this while coping with Lyme disease. I can't wait to try some of her recipes, most of which are plant based. It is apparent through her answers that even though she struggles with physical fatigue her spirit remains light and vibrant. Enjoy Victoria's interview:
Tell us a little about your blog and who you are:
Well, my name is Victoria. I'm 25 and I live in Santa Fe, NM. I run a blog called Lemons 'N Lyme which combines my journey with Lyme disease and my passion for food. I not only share my experience with Lyme and the treatments I am doing, but I also share lots of recipes that fit a restricted, anti-inflammatory Lyme diet. I love to cook and bake and although I've had to alter my diet due to Lyme, it's been a lot of fun to create and share recipes that fit that diet.
What is your Lyme story?
I grew up in Washington D.C. and we had a river house in Virginia. I spent my summers growing up pretty much rolling around in the grass 24/7 at our river house. I remember pulling ticks off of myself every weekend in the summers, but we didn't know about Lyme disease back then. I routinely got strep, dealt with eczema, and had severe allergies and headaches as a child.
I had plenty of tests done, including CT scans of my brain due to the severe headaches. In high school I began developing severe digestive issues and would get sinus infections 1-2 times year. I began getting sicker, with severe fatigue and digestive issues, horrendous allergies, and constant injuries as a high school athlete. I figured it must be normal since all my tests were fine and the doctors said nothing was wrong. I knew deep down something was wrong though, I felt miserable and started to develop anxiety and depression.
I first experienced insomnia my freshman year in college and that was not fun. Throughout this time frame, I was diagnosed with parasites on a few occasions. Treating them helped slightly for a bit but the effects never lasted. Then I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's, an autoimmune condition that causes hypothyroidism. Finally, an answer. But treating my thyroid didn't help my symptoms at all. I was still tired and my stomach always hurt. Mid-way through college (4-years ago), I became very ill. I got food poisoning, but never recovered. My college health center told me it was mono even though my mono test was negative. I had almost every Lyme symptom in the book and I have no idea how I managed to finish that semester. So, I flew back home over spring break to see my functional medicine doctor who immediately recognized it as Lyme, started my on doxycycline, and told me to find an LLMD. And that is exactly what I did. I treated for 2 years with my first LLMD using oral and IV antibiotics, some herbs, and addressing mold and heavy metals.
I was able to graduate college and then moved to Santa Fe where my parents had retired. I've found an amazing doctor here who I have been treating with for the past 1.5 years. I use a variety of holistic treatment modalities now which range from diet, detoxing, alternative IV's, supplements, and more.
I see on your blog you practice yoga. What are the benefits you have found with yoga, specifically related to Lyme?
I'm certified as a personal trainer and have always been active. Getting sick with Lyme has been quite a challenge since I can't exercise the way I used to and release my stress and anxiety in that manner.
I've found that even though I'm sick, finding small ways to move my body is still very beneficial. Movement is so important for your muscles, bones, cardiovascular system, joints, and even your lymphatic system (which helps move toxins out of your body). Yoga has been gentle enough on my body but still allows me to reap the benefits of movement. Since I spend most of my days in bed not moving, my muscles and joints can get tight which creates pain. Yoga allows me to stretch everything out without overdoing it. I love doing twists because they help me detoxify, which is so important if you are treating Lyme.
You also develop and post many recipes. What is your favorite recipe?
Any dessert would be my favorite recipe. I can't go to bed at night without dessert, but I'm a health nut, too, so I don't want to eat any of the sugar-laden crap. Even if it is just a bowl of granola, I need dessert. Actually, granola is my favorite food! So maybe my favorite recipe would have to be my Gluten-Free Banana Bread Granola.
What is your most popular recipe?
My most popular recipe is my Chocolate Avocado Muffins. These are super delicious. I'm a plant-based eater now, so I'd like to recreate this recipe and make it fully vegan. Right now the recipe contains eggs.
What is your easiest recipe (selfish question for me, because I am a novice cook)?
Probably any of my smoothie recipes, I mean how much easier can it get then sticking 5 things in a blender and turning it on? My Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Soup is also super easy and super delicious.
What was your lowest point and how did you find your way out of it?
My lowest point was probably 2 years into being ill. I knew what I had but I wasn't getting better. I had a picc line in my arm with infusions 2 time a day. I was up until 5am many nights due to having 2-3 panic attacks in one night. I was trying to finish my college education, felt as sick as I had when I first got sick, and my life completely revolved around timing all my infusions, medications, supplements, and meals. I wanted to finish school so badly and not have to drop out in my last semester, but I felt so horrible it was such a challenge. I was scared and lost. I found my way out of it by just continuing to press forward. I knew there were answers and I was going to find them.
I began to connect more with others who had Lyme via social media and that really helped. I had people to talk to who understand what I was going through, who would support me, and who kept offering up suggestions for helping me find the right treatment.
Unfortunately, I've been really sick again lately, but I'm able to get through it "easier" now. I truly think that finding others who can relate to you and understand you is very important. I've made a lot of friends via social media, who I'm able to talk to on the bad days. I also consistently try to remind myself of the accomplishments I've made so far and try not to compare my journey with anyone else's because we are all different.
Finding routine and taking care of myself the best I can when I'm really low is important and taking moments in the day to do some deep breathing, stretching, or manifesting also helps a lot.
What is the one thing that you have found most helpful in treatment?
I'm assuming you want to know what treatment has been the most helpful but I'm going to answer a little different. The thing I've found most helpful in treatment is listening to my body. Our bodies are amazing, they are smart and know what they want. They do want to heal and they are fully capable of it. I still sometimes struggle with this but I've learned it's very important to listen to my body. My doctor can say XYZ is what I need but he isn't me and he isn't sick and he doesn't know how my body is feeling. If something doesn't feel right, I'm not going to do it. If a treatment begins to feel off or wrong then I'm going to stop. If I'm being drawn to some absurd sounding treatment, I'm going to give it a try. I truly believe our bodies know what works for us, we just have to listen.
Do you have any advice for the newly diagnosed?
Find a great doctor who knows about Lyme and knows what they are talking about. And make sure it is someone you feel comfortable with. If a doctor is supposedly the top doctor in your state, but you don't connect with them well, then don't be afraid to switch doctors. Again, our bodies and our intuition know best, so listen to that.
Lyme is a very complicated illness (because it encompasses so much more than just the Lyme bacteria), so you really need someone who understands that or a team of people willing to work together who understand different aspects of Lyme. Also, immediately cut out the junk food, educate yourself, and begin instilling healing practices into your daily life (anything from detox baths, to healthy cooking, to meditation).
This disease is a life changer, so be prepared for that, but it's a big, important lesson, too. You got sick for a reason, you are here to learn, it's not the end, I promise.
Who inspires you in the Lyme community?
Every other person with Lyme. I'm inspired daily by the battle that everyone in the chronic illness community fights, for their willingness to keep going, their strength to battle all of the symptoms, and just for being them. Everyone in this community is who keeps me going and reminds me that I can do this, one baby step at a time.
Please share a mantra or quote that inspires you?
Maybe it's cheesy or cliche but I have this quote as my desktop on my computer and it keeps me going, "A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor." We all learn from our mistakes and hardships and, dang, am I learning a lot.
When it comes to detox strategies and alternative therapies, I am not the bravest individual.
There are many things I'd like to try, certain supplements, new essential oils, Himalayan salt lamp, infrared sauna, IV Light Therapy, the list goes on and on.
One of my nagging symptoms is the swelling of my lymph nodes and swelling in my right leg. No matter how many antibiotics I take, it's still there. The doctors think it is caused by the infection in my spine. So, for a long time I've wanted to try lymph drainage massage therapy. I am always game for a massage and I desperately need to drain my lymph, so it was a win win.
Lymph drainage massage is the use of light, repetitive massage to improve the flow of lymph in the body. It's commonly used in patients with cancer who've had lymph nodes removed, but can also be used for others with lymphedema, not as a cure, but as a treatment. The goal is increase flow within a stagnant lymphatic system to promote better immune function.
I was able to find a practitioner not far from my house. I went in having no idea of what to expect. I wasn't scared per se, my doctor told me it was completely safe, but when you stir up a bunch of stuff in a Lyme patient's body, you never know what you're going to get.
The massage table in the room was like any other massage table, but the massage therapist had me facing up. It's also done with clothing on, which added another level of comfort.
It was not like a massage in that the therapist did not rub my back or sore muscles. She used repetitive motion over small spots where lymph nodes are typically located, mostly in the head, neck, and clavicle area. Then, she used the same motion over larger parts to move the lymph toward my heart, so it could be removed from my body. Think of it as squeezing toothpaste out of a bottle, but the bottle just happens to be my leg.
After the massage, the therapist warned me I might be going to the bathroom more frequently as the fluid leaves the body. A day and a half later I noticed this happening.
Immediately following, I felt a little foggy headed, like something had been dislodged and was working it's way out. My leg also felt less tight than it usually does. Two days later I noticed one of the lymph nodes behind my ear was the tiniest bit smaller.
The massage therapist said my lymph was moving easily. She attributed it to the dry brushing I'd been doing, which was good to hear, because I haven't really felt any immediate effects. I've been dry brushing regularly for about a month. I use this brush. I bought it on Amazon for $12:
Refer to the Mind Body Green article, A Step-By-Step Guide For Dry Skin Brushing, for more information about dry brushing.
The massage therapist also told me my lymph nodes were more swollen on my right side and that in fact, the entire right side of my body was swollen, not just my leg. The crazy things that can happen with Lyme and coinfections.
Lymph drainage massage is a complementary therapy recommended by both integrative and conventional medicine. The only downside is the cost, which is about the same as a regular massage. My massage therapist told me I should go every 2-3 weeks to start and then we can keep increasing the time in between visits. When I weighed the cost and the benefits, I scheduled my next appointment right away. I wish I'd tried it sooner.
What complementary therapies have you tried that work?
"Fall in love with taking care of yourself. Mind. Body. Spirit." - Unknown
Due to my wanderlust, the editor at Lymeology asked me to write an article about traveling with chronic illness. Of course, I said yes. Writing about travel is my favorite.
One of my friends described traveling with Lyme like "traveling with a challenging passenger." An aggravating backseat driver, always interjecting at the wrong times, making everything a little more difficult.
I am so grateful I am still able to do most of the things I used to do before my diagnosis. I may not do everything as well as I did in the past, but I am not bedridden like so many other Lyme patients.
Traveling is one of those things I would be devastated if I had to give up. There are substitutions for certain foods and types of exercise, but there is no substitution for looking out over the Grand Canyon for the first time. I don't want to stop. In fact, I want to travel even more; so, over my last few vacations I developed some strategies to make the most out of my experience. You can read the full post here:
12 Tips on Traveling with Chronic Illness
This is the pill organizer I use when I travel. It fits so many pills and supplements. Also, each day is separate, so you can carry it with you while sightseeing:
And these are the shoes I bought for our most recent travels. They go with any outfit and you can walk around in them for hours:
I'm Kerry and I am healing from chronic Lyme disease and autoimmunity. This is a positive space focused on how to thrive in any situation and the transformative power of illness.