Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Bodies in Motion: An Athlete’s Journey Through Lyme Disease – Part 2

By Rebecca Parsons

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea." –Isak Dinesen

My doctors love the fact that I'm obsessed with the ocean. Which is good, because even if they didn't, it probably wouldn't change anything.

Ever since I first started feeling fatigue and Lyme associated systems in 2015, I made a conscious effort to spend as much time as possible outside and on the water. For the first month or so, I was still able to run, surf, and paddle most days. As the bacteria (Borrelia burgdoferi) spread throughout my body, I began to feel weaker, so I dropped running entirely. Surfing was next on the hit list. Paddling I am still hanging onto.

For the first seven or eight months I was able to paddle the 1.8 miles around the Dana Point Harbor. Then I reduced the distance to a mile. Then half a mile. Now, I am only able to paddle five or ten minutes at a time, but I still make an effort to do so as often as possible.

For me it's important not to let the disease define me and to still hold on to my passions. I may only be able to paddle for ten minutes, but at least I'm paddling. On the days I don't feel up to that, I simply sit on the beach with a book, watching the waves and enjoying the sunshine. And on the really bad days when I am barely able to get out of bed, I still make the effort to go outside and take a short stroll around the block or jump in the pool. Anything is better than nothing.

The ocean is my happy place and sunshine, aside from its cancer associations, is inherently good for you. Anyone who has Lyme disease or another chronic illness knows that a small dose of depression is part of the package. Sunshine can help improve your mood as it boosts your serotonin levels, aka "the happy hormone." Brain fog is a common symptom associated with Lyme, but high levels of vitamin D in the bloodstream can help improve memory and clear up your thinking. Another major benefit of sunshine for us Lymies is its ability to boost the immune system by increasing the body's production of white blood cells as well as increase oxygen content in blood. Borellia bacteria are unable to survive in an oxygen-rich environment, so pumping the body with O2 is crucial.

In addition to the vitamin D and sunshine you soak up while at the beach, another majorly beneficial aspect of getting out there comes from walking barefoot in the sand. Grounding, also known as earthing, simply refers to walking barefoot on earth. When you do so, electrons from the earth are freely transferred to your body, resulting in significant health benefits. Earth's electrons serve as highly potent antioxidants and can improve heart rate, decrease skin resistance, speed up injury recovery time, and significantly decrease levels of inflammation (a key player in Lyme disease).

“So really what is happening with grounding or earthing is that you’re protecting your body from — I call it, collateral damage,” says Dr. James Oschman, an expert in the field of energy medicine. “Damage that was not intended to take place but does take place because we have disconnected ourselves from the earth by putting rubber and plastic on the bottoms of our shoes.”

When you've been sick for a year and half you are willing to try anything. Luckily, grounding is simple and definitely enjoyable.

While I've undergone a wide array of treatments over the past year, spending time at the beach makes me feel better every time. Whether it's mental or physical really doesn't matter, what matters is that to some degree it helps. So if you are battling Lyme disease, another chronic illness, or an injury, figure out what you are able to do and what makes you happy. For me, it's the sea. ­–RP


Bodies in Motion: An Athlete’s Journey Through Lyme Disease – Part 1