Battling Lyme disease
Forty-six year old Jeffrey Moffatt has a great sense of humor, a positive attitude, and a tendency to erupt often in good-natured laughter. These traits may not seem overly remarkable until you find out what he's gone through in his 16-year battle with Lyme disease.
His first tick bite, acquired on a fishing trip in 1997, was easily detected.
"I noticed a tick at the very upper portion of my right thigh," said Moffat. "It had that telltale sign of a red ring."
Opting out of an expensive Lyme disease test, Moffatt simply showed the bite to his doctor who prescribed a two-week prescription of Doxycycline, the conventional treatment.
Since none of the traditional Lyme symptoms of fever, aches, or stiffness occurred, Moffatt was relieved. He assumed he got the treatment early enough and that all was well.
"Fast forward about a year, " said Moffatt, "and I notice another tick on the bottom of my left bicep. I asked the doctor for more Doxycycline."
This time, there was no ring around the bite. The doctor declined the request for antibiotics. He advised that Moffatt keep an eye on the bite and watch for flu-like symptoms.
"I was in my early 30s at that time," said Moffatt. "Throughout that summer I had some strange symptoms for a 30-year-old man. I had a sore back, a chronic headache. The inside of my left eye was terribly bloodshot for a week or two. It was just different things, subtle little ailments. The symptoms would come and go."
It was in August that year while working for the Farm Service Agency that a very frightening symptom manifested itself in the young man.
"All of a sudden my heart went nuts," said Moffatt. "It was actually out of sync. It was a constant flutter."
Another doctor appointment resulted in heart medication. However, the strange ailments did not stop. The next one was Bell's Palsy causing Moffatt's left eye and left corner of his mouth to droop.
His mother noticed the stroke-like symptoms so she called the doctor. The doctor asked if Moffatt received a tick bite recently, stating that Bell's Palsy is sometimes a symptom of Lyme disease.
"I kind of had to laugh," said Moffatt. "I said, yes, I got bit in June. That doctor told me not to worry about it. Now I'm half dead."
This time Moffatt chose to have a Lyme Titer test.
"It comes back in little graphs with bars," said Moffatt. "If you are infected, there will be portions of these bars that are red. Mine were solid red. It was off the charts. I was plumb full of Lyme disease!"
After another round of Doxycycline, once again his condition seemed to improve for a time. The respite did not last. Over the years, other symptoms manifested themselves in his body including Tennis Elbow in both arms, a mock pinched sciatic nerve in his right side, and degenerative arthritis in his hips.
"I could barely walk," said Moffatt. "I was about one a day away from a wheelchair before I got a hunch and thought maybe it was Lyme disease."
More Doxycycline alleviated those symptoms.
"So that's the kind of thing I've been battling," said Moffatt. "Lyme mimics other things. The only constant for me during all of this is fatigue. I am constantly tired. It's like I can't sleep enough.
"I used to love to travel, to go, to just run. Now I'm just zapped. I know I'm getting older, but now my favorite thing to do is sit in a recliner and watch TV. That's just not me."
Staying inside is not an option for Moffatt. His job as a real estate appraiser brings him outside every day. After so many encounters with Lyme disease, does a walk in the woods inhibit him?
"No," said Moffatt with his good-natured laugh. "If that's my world, if that's going to kill me, well, I guess that's my fate."
While undergoing conventional treatment with antibiotics for the past 16 years, the chronic Lyme sufferer began to do his own research. He read articles and books and listened to radio programs on the subject. He also spoke with other people affected by the disease.
Early in April, upon the recommendation of other people affected by Lyme disease, Moffatt attended an informational seminar held in Moose Lake by a chiropractor who offers an alternative to antibiotics, a holistic based treatment.
"What I thought in the past was that Doxycycline didn't harm you," said Moffatt who has since learned that heavy doses of antibiotics can have a negative effect on the body's immune system.
For the past two weeks, Moffatt has engaged in a holistic approach to what he hopes will be a cure for him.
"I need a different approach because the conventional methods are not working," said Moffatt. "I'm throwing my arms up because I can't throw in the towel yet. I'm going to try everything I can."
So far, the holistic approach, consisting of a variety of natural supplements, has been working.
"It works almost immediately," said Moffatt. "I have 21 steps between the lower level and upper level of my house. I know when I'm having a good day or bad day by how fast I can go up and down those steps."
While greatly encouraged by his improvements, Moffatt firmly believes only time will tell if this alternative treatment will truly heal him of Lyme disease.
"That's what sent me there," said Moffat, displaying his ever-present positive attitude. "I've got nothing to lose. I want to see if what I have can really go away."