Just two years ago, Nathan DeJong was confined to his house by Lyme disease. He’s since gone through three pairs of shoes in one year and completed an obstacle race, inspiring hundreds of patients.
I am re-posting the contents a Facebook group post here, with permission, because even within the first hour or two posted it was as inspiring to dozens and dozens of other Lyme disease patients as it was for me.
Nathan DeJong had this to say of his accomplishment in the popular (and very active) Facebook group Lyme Disease Awareness:
With so much bad news on here I’m posting this for the opposite kind of news. Here’s me from a race last weekend. Two years ago I was confined to my house with no strength or ability to do what I just accomplished last weekend. Physical exercise daily has helped me recover and of course loads of antibiotics. While I’m not 100% and probably never will be I’ve been able to live my life. So here’s to good vibes and God’s speed recovery for all you out there suffering in anyway. There is hope!
He offered the following details about his accomplishment within the very long thread of comments that quickly followed his post. The dozens of inspired patients have since grown to about 300 as of the writing of this blog post, about 24 hours later. I’ve broken up the text a little, for the sake of Lyme patient’s whose neurological symptoms make Facebook-comment-style blocks difficult to read (though for those seriously impacted, this whole blog/website needs to be broken up a LOT more than it is–sorry guys). From Nathan:
Thanks for the kind words everyone. For those wondering how I went from not being able to climb a flight of stairs without being out of breath to doing this; I’ll share what I’ve done the past two years in hopes it’ll help someone else.
Antibiotics and my LLMD are responsible for the biggest change. I’ve been on Plaquenil and Biaxin oral antibiotics for the past two years and it’s been up and down. Diet-wise I haven’t changed a thing.
In the beginning I felt too dizzy to walk but I would still make myself do a short walk everyday. I remember times I almost fell over in a snow bank.
My dogs have been the greatest inspiration to make myself ‘get out.’ Everyday I walk them 2-4 miles at a brisk pace. Some of those days I felt like falling over but as long as I didn’t die I didn’t mind. I enjoyed being outdoors.
I started trying to regain strength through lifting lighter weights for higher repetitions at home (That weight set came in handy after all!). I then moved onto doing some light jogging and would herx pretty bad afterwards.
I eventually found a job as a dog trainer/ dog walker that required me to be active outdoors in the elements (sun, rain, humidity, snow). I worked my way up from doing a few miles a day to doing upwards of 15-20 miles a day on rare occasions stretched out over the course of a day.
Over the course of a year I walked so much that I went through 3 pairs of shoes! After leaving that job I started kettlebells which is a mixture of cardio and strength training. That was ROUGH getting started but going 3-4 days a week has helped me in many many ways do things I didn’t think possible. I noticed the more I herxed and the longer I stayed on antibiotics the less frequent I had symptoms; so I continued to push myself everyday until I found this obstacle course race.
The thing I’ve learned is no matter how bad it gets you can’t be inactive. Exercise killed me on many different levels but sticking with it, I believe, has helped to naturally kill off the bacteria due to an increase in body temp and heart rate. I hope this helps someone and if exercise is too much for you right now just do what you can!
From Nathan’s Story
I’ve needed and benefited from inspirations like this, tucked in
to my subconscious to use as needed (the image of Jordan Fisher Smith hiking with his kids in Under Our Skin, for example, was with me for years, reminding me that it was possible).
Additionally, though, he speaks directly to having pushed himself. We are all different, and some of us know through unfortunate lessons learned that we can’t get there through pushing (or that we don’t know how to limit ourselves when we do so). He listened to his body, though, and it worked.
Courage, Caution, and Progress
My inner voice is not reliable (currently) at acknowledging limits and is very apt to propose exceeding them.
So in the bigger picture I think I’ve gained ground in recovery through activity (or at least deeply enjoyed it whenever I’ve been able). But I have more recently been harmed by it, but I very much believe that this has more to do with a faulty awareness of limits rather than exercise being inherently bad during recovery.
It is just as dangerous after a relapse, in my opinion, to move too far away from activity for too long out of fear (but I have so far experienced one major recovery and one major relapse in my four years of Lyme, making me far from an expert).
Exercise and Herxing
The idea of “herxing” after exercise makes a great deal of sense to me (herxing refers to a Herxheimer reaction, which in broad terms is the experience of negative symptoms when your body tries to expel too many toxins too fast). I can’t put actual science to it at the moment from my own reading or research, but have read in the past that spirochetes don’t like oxygen, so bringing more into your blood stream through activity could have the potential to reduce your spirochete load. If there is any truth to that, you are having to get rid of the dead spirochetes.
(Look for discussions of Herxheimer reactions on my resource pages at a later date or on LDA and Lymedisease.org resource pages, or in the information section of MD Junction’s Lyme Disease Support Group forums.)
My LLND (Lyme Literate ND) stresses for me right now that if I am wiped out the next day I’ve done too much. But as I get better (again), I think that observing whether some of the ‘crash’ that I experience is more herx-like, which could help me balance and limit myself without shying away from exercising when I can (and there are steps we can take to mitigate for a herx).
I was previously diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which has a different set of rules and consequences. So as I repair from my current relapse, I’ll once again be drawing from stories like this one in reminding myself that returning to a physical lifestyle is possible and that my attempts to regain it aren’t necessarily going to undo my progress.
For Lyme patients in general, it is wonderful to see these pictures because someday we’ll get there, too.