With over six million recorded cases of COVID-19 in the United States, it’s logical to think about boosting the immune system, since the potential for contracting the insidious virus is high. When stress is at record levels, though, the sympathetic nervous system gets overworked—secreting surges of epinephrine—making us more susceptible to corona virus droplets lurking in the air. I was once in the high-risk category for contracting a virus like COVID-19, so I empathize with those who have it, and those that fear it.
My autoimmune system was suppressed as a result of battling late-stage neurological Lyme disease for years, and I had developed a raging autoimmune disorder. Thanks to a radical treatment that took me to the remote mountains of Siberia, the death knell that sounded for me is in the past. Now I boast about my immune system more than I talk about boosting it. I’m eager to share my story as people across the world suffer from acute and lingering symptoms from COVID-19 that remind me of where I once was.
Over the years, Lyme disease had sucked all the marrow out of me and spit me out like an enervated double of my once effervescent self. I could no longer endure the Sisyphean battle of waking up feeling depleted as I struggled through the most basic tasks before repeating the cycle the next day. I could not play my musical instruments, could not hike, could not teach. Reading, writing, analytical thinking—former sources of great joy and part of my routine as a professor—had all been stripped from me.
Despite countless visits to specialists, modern medicine just left me to accept a “new normal,” that was grossly abnormal. In constant pain and deeply fatigued, I didn’t recognize the person I had become. By the look in his eyes, I could tell my husband did not either. I had fallen into another epic Lyme flare-up in the winter of 2017. Things just started falling apart in my body, more than ever before, and I couldn’t live in it anymore. I found a clinic in Switzerland that offered assisted suicide.
But I didn’t believe in suicide; I was a carpe diem kind of a girl that trekked through the Scottish highlands from Glasgow to Ben Nevis when I was a teenager, hosted champagne brunches at Dartmouth that earned me the nickname “champagne Miche,” and played alto saxophone sonatas on the Pont des Arts in Paris for fun on Sunday afternoons. I was on my way to becoming a tenured professor, proud to arm my students with critical thinking tools and stoke their creative intellect, when—quite suddenly—the quality of my life deteriorated to the extent that the day had seized me.
I wasn’t the first to contemplate suicide in the face of Lyme. Researchers estimate that at least 1,200 suicides a year in the U.S. can be attributed to Lyme disease. Chronic pain, decreased mobility, and depression (induced and exacerbated by the disease’s inflammatory cytokines) eventually become intolerable. From what I have read, suicide rates in the era of COVID-19 are skyrocketing, too.
But I wasn’t about to go into that good night, even though I had taken every medicine, every herb, every allopathic and alternative treatment available to me. I had become my own doctor after medicine failed me. I had read every health study, every health book, every medical journal. I had experimented on my own body as if I were a laboratory animal. I had nothing left to try.
Desperate—immobilized and covered in psoriasis rashes—I launched my millionth Google search one summer afternoon. In bed, clutching my phone with claw-like hands, I came upon a Siberian doctor that purportedly cured patients of serious diseases through a method of extreme fasting that “incinerated diseased cells in the body” and “drained the swamp of inflammation.” This was the most intriguing sentence I had ever read; if it were true, I had a chance to save my life.
As I write in my (heretofore unpublished) memoir, Starving to Heal in Siberia: My Radical Recovery from Late-Stage Lyme Disease, I took an arduous odyssey to Siberia, where I underwent a radical treatment that led to a complete recovery, one that doctors said would never be possible. It’s a story about hope and resilience, and one that paid off. On October 1, 2017, I stepped off from the plane in New York feeling as if I had reincarnated back into the same lifetime, but in a new body.
I want to pay it forward. I now practice this treatment at select intervals throughout the year on my own, for it’s a remarkable tool that can be used not only for a multitude of serious illnesses but also as a regimen that maintains health and increases longevity. In the era of COVID-19, when nearly every individual on the planet must be thinking about how to stay healthy, I believe this is the ultimate way. It left me feeling like I was “shining and bouncing,” something I never thought I would feel again. I’m eager to share it with you, and I’ll leave you with a little clue: it’s about autophagy.
This is the first blog post in a series of posts to come about the author’s recovery from Lyme disease.