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Reborn as Lyme-Free Michelle

I am about to celebrate my new birthday in life on the second of October, the third anniversary of my complete recovery from a disease that had nearly destroyed me. If I could go back in time and visit my former self, in despair at how decrepit I had become, I would explain that my body could be the doctor; that my body was capable of autophagy that incinerates diseased cells. In my quest to recover from late-stage Lyme disease, I had been so intent on putting substances into my body to heal that I hadn’t considered taking things out of my body would be the cure.

Three years ago, after years of protesting the phrase “get accustomed to your new normal,” I found a Siberian doctor who purportedly cured patients with serious diseases through extreme fasting methods that activate cells to burn bacteria and viruses in the body; through his methods, inflammation is eliminated.

Close to committing assisted suicide, I had nothing to lose. But this doctor’s radical treatment consisted of dry fasting—refraining from eating or drinking anything including water—for an extended period of time (that one builds up to through shorter fasts and a stringent protocol).

Although my family fretted about this treatment that may be unfathomable to most of you, I had no fear of autophagy. The science made sense to me. My body felt as if it were full of debris from the inflammation, so I was ready for what my new doctor called “natural surgery.” But the skeptics told me I would die, that I would destroy my body. They had never tested the science of cellular degradation on the human body before, whereas my doctor had perfected this treatment over thirty years.

To illustrate that my family was at rock bottom in the battle against Lyme, my Russian husband—who had stood in line as a child for bread and milk and had an innate fear of starvation— convinced the Siberian doctor to take me on as a patient. So, I went on a journey to the remote mountains of Siberia to spend two months with a wise medical doctor whose methodology was the antithesis of every specialist that had ever worked on my spirochete-ridden body.

Instead of filling me with antibiotics, he supervised me as I put absolutely nothing in my body—no food, no liquid, no pills—until my body ate my diseased cells.

I was told that dry fasting would be a battle, but Lyme had already trained me to be a warrior. Over short dry fasts, my doctor prepared me for the extended one that would eradicate Lyme once and for all. I had begun to think of it as marathon training. I was training my body to increase its endurance for dry fasting similar to how a runner trains for a marathon.

Determined, and witnessing dozens of his other patients endure nine days and nine nights without coming in contact with food or water, I persevered through the fast. What fueled me when food and water didn’t, was my gentle doctor’s words: “Dry fasting has colossal power to heal the body, and to enhance one’s natural system of immunity.”

I woke up each day and affirmed: I am stronger than these diseased cells and spirochetes. I set the intention: If this radical treatment of starving myself in Siberia works, I vow to share it with others who might be close to burning out their wicks, too.

As the days passed under the Siberian sun, I grew stronger rather than weaker, as I recount in my memoir Starving to Heal in Siberia. By the time I was told to start drinking hot spring water after the pivotal ninth night had passed, I looked radiant. By the time I left Siberia, I felt like I was shining and bouncing, and I have never looked back.

Autophagy cleared my debilitating joint pain completely (and it hasn’t returned in the three years since). The persistent chronic fatigue, sinus congestion, tinnitus, migraines, psoriasis, and candida: all gone. My chronic back pain: also gone (and it, too, has never returned). My memory and my ability to think critically returned to me, as well.

I reincarnated back into the same lifetime, but in a new body, a body and mind that allowed me to hike again, to write, to remember what I once knew, and to stay upright all through the day without any fatigue. Now I don’t even tell anyone I meet for the first time that I ever had Lyme; I shed the identity marker of being ill as part of my radical recovery.

I hope that the science of dry fasting can save fellow Lyme and autoimmune patients from the fate that was almost mine. Even though my Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins is not in the realm of the sciences, I have conducted extensive research on this subject with the help of my doctor. In my memoir, I aim to elucidate the science of dry fasting and dispel myths and misconceptions. For, I feel a moral obligation to share my remarkable experiences and pay it forward.

The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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Becoming My Own Head Doctor

When a series of reputable Lyme doctors gently counseled me to adapt to a “new normal” that felt grossly abnormal, it was challenging to be strong in the face of an illness that refused to be vanquished. I had tried everything from industrial strength antibiotics to cat’s claw herbs to anti-malaria experimental treatments. But when nothing brought my body or mind back, I decided to become my own head doctor. In the age of mystery illnesses from chronic fatigue to autoimmune disorders and viruses—diseases that befuddle even the most intelligent doctors—you can become a medical sleuth, trying to solve the mystery inside your own body.

Research is what I did best in my previous life, but my brain couldn’t focus on words and paragraphs anymore. When I had respites from the pain, I logged onto my Johns Hopkins alumni account to read medical research on Lyme disease, auto-immune disorders, heavy metal toxicity, mold toxicity, and cures. These were a list of ailments I had been told I harbored. Although it can be hard to read when you’re ill, skimming the body of research pertinent to your illness, and making a list of allopathic and alternative treatment plans you would consider pursuing can be the beginning of your path to a cure. Even if there are no peer-reviewed articles about certain treatments, you can interview patients who have tried these treatments—locating them on various social media sources or support groups online—and deciding if these patients have success stories that you hope to emulate.

I recommend combining allopathic medicine with alternative medicine, starting with specialists until you exhaust all known possibilities. Then, it’s time for creative last-ditch efforts. It wasn’t until I had exhausted my own list that I took a wild risk on a treatment in Siberia that most people would call a last-last-ditch effort. I wish I had started with it, for it is the only treatment that cured my spirochete ridden body and returned my memory to me.

We need to awaken the latent physician within more than ever when it comes to Lyme disease and various other hard-to-cure illnesses. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimates that although only 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC annually, there are up to 440,000 new cases of Lyme and tick-borne diseases diagnosed annually in the United States alone. The report states that Lyme disease costs the U.S. health care system a staggering 712 million to 1.3 billion dollars annually, which means that patients are not getting well and there are more of them every year.

As many as sixty-three percent of Lyme patients experience chronic Lyme, a condition many doctors do not recognize. The lead researcher of the Johns Hopkins study, Dr. John Aucott, says that it is futile to debate the existence of a chronic condition when people are suffering from a debilitating illness. “These patients are lost; no one knows what to do with them. There’s not a magic pill. These patients already got the magic pill [antibiotics] and it didn’t work.” Lyme leaves victims bereft of their health, saddled with broken-down bodies that they are supposed to get used to, but how can one get used to a new normal in which one feels exiled from one’s own body, as I did? 

I was once a lost patient, but the success of my experiment as Michelle Slater’s head doctor lead me to believe in credo of Hippocrates, otherwise known as the ancient Greek father of medicine. Hippocrates stated it as early as 400 BCE: “Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food.  But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness.”

What I learned in Siberia is that my body is the doctor. It sounds cryptic, I know. But it originated with Hippocrates and made its way to Siberia, and I can vouch for its veracity.

The irony that my complex case of late-stage Lyme illustrated is that the pharmaceutically driven medical industry encouraged me to put high doses of harsh medications and supplements into my body over a long period of time to no avail, but what ultimately saved me was a radical treatment of putting absolutely nothing in my body.

Nobel prize-winning biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi said it elegantly in his banquet speech about his groundbreaking work on autophagy, “Life is maintained by a delicate balance between continuous synthesis and degradation.” However, physicians and nutritionists fail to heed the ancient Hippocratic wisdom that “to eat when one is sick is to feed the illness,” when that would be a time to engage in cellular degradation.

Although every doctor is familiar with the Hippocratic oath to uphold ethical standards while practicing medicine, few doctors heed Hippocrates’s invaluable medical wisdom about the internal physician each of us has in our body. My doctor in Siberia did, and in my next post–as I celebrate my third anniversary of being Lyme-free, what I now refer to as my new birthday–I’ll share just what it means when I say “the body is the doctor.”