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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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What my Radical Recovery from Late-Stage Lyme Disease can Teach Us about Immune Boosting

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.

–Michelle Slater

This is the first blog post in a series of posts to come about the author’s recovery from Lyme disease.