Santa Clara County, CA
Infected: Unknown (believed to be contracted in Oldtown, Idaho)
Current health: “Defeated Lyme, now battling the aftermath, one day at a time.”
I no longer see my health journey as a curse. I see it as a true journey in leading me to become the physician that people need. –Rachel H.
We first encountered Rachel at a Bay Area Lyme-sponsored Tick Trailblaze event and her story touched us. She has taken her own frustrating experience with Lyme disease — contracted as a young child — into a career-inspired journey now helping others suffering from the disease as a practicing chiropractor (not to mention motivational trailrunner!) Here, she shares here story:
“My story is probably similar to many individuals’ stories: a history of misdiagnoses and inadequate treatments. The actual date I contracted Lyme disease is unknown to me, having never shown the classic bullseye rash or even knowing I had ever been bit. I wish I knew that not only ticks but other insects now carry the disease. I grew up in the country, and was always playing outside or having annual camping trips with the family. I remember growing up not being the healthiest kid: multiple strep throat infections, constant digestion issues which I always thought was the ‘stomach flu,’ eczema-like rashes, … But for the most part, I was pretty healthy, participating in sports and holding high academic achievements. It wasn’t until I was 19 years old, in undergraduate school for nursing, that the dark journey began.
“I thought I was just having cold-like symptoms until one day in class I felt as if I was going to faint. I walked out of the classroom and collapsed on the floor. I don’t remember much after that, and after an ER visit the conclusion was low blood sugar. From that day on, I never felt the same. It started with the dizziness and fainting feeling becoming more and more common. I would just stuff my face with calories to prevent it from happening. I remember being in a public speaking class and praying that I wouldn’t faint during my speech and shaking the entire time. After a few weeks my symptoms started to progress — first, the classic brain fog and extreme fatigue. Then, I started experiencing the most painful ear infections I could ever imagine, one after the other. I got a rash all over my legs that looked similar to folliculitis, but my primary doctors had no idea what it was. Then my heart kicked in — a racing heartbeat that wouldn’t alleviate with rest. I couldn’t even get up from the bed to head to the bathroom without feeling my heart pump out of my chest and exhaustion.
“I saw my primary care physician who did test after test. Blood glucose testing, every blood test you can think of, and finally after months of testing found Mononucleosis (mono), which is a very common co-infection with Lyme. From that point on, every symptom was tagged under that diagnosis. I got weaker and sicker by the day. I remember at one point sitting in the doctor’s office as he was taking my pulse (of resting 120bpm) and him saying, ‘some of this might be in your head.’ Like I could make my heart beat that fast! Well, he did have one part right — I did have Lyme in my head, but that wasn’t what he was referring to. I also saw a cardiologist and wore a heart monitor for awhile, which led to me being diagnosed with dehydration and sent home to ‘drink Gatorade.’ WHAT?!
“Thankfully my mother had also been talking to her naturopath, who suggested that I might have Lyme disease. We did the Western Blot with the doctor, which came back negative (shocker), and we had to beg him to sign the release to get tested with IGeneX Labs. After getting the results and finding out I had Lyme (not by the doctor’s standards), I went into severe depression. The naturopath had told me about Lyne and the long road it would be to recover. We went to a Lyme doctor in Seattle Washington, who was supposed to be a naturopath, but mainly just prescribed antibiotics for me. Months of antibiotics proved no help, as I was resistant to almost every one we tried, and my digestion got ruined in the process.
“I was bedridden for almost two years. I had so much pain, migraines, and brain fog. I lost a majority of my friends, and had severe depression. I read the book Cure Unknown and watched the movie Under our Skin (which is awesome by the way!) which gave so many answers to questions regarding the disease, but left me even more depressed and angry at my situation at the time. I questioned my walk with God so many times, and I remember desperately wishing that I had cancer, so that I could have a physical illness people could see. Like many with this disease, I ‘look normal.’ I can’t tell you how much that bugged me — if only they knew I was literally dying on the inside. But I would always put on a brave face. I was sick of telling people no I can’t do this or that, or them feeling sorry for me. I desperately wanted to be normal, so that’s how I acted, which led me on a road to the wrong kind of relationships.
“I did many other alternative treatments, rife machines, herbs, etc. But it wasn’t until I met a chiropractor in Idaho, that my health started to make a turn. Using his special technique he created with adequate supplementation, I started to slowly regain my walking ability. He found Lyme with 10 other co-infections I would have never known I had (super common!) I remember the day I was able to ride my bike again and my dad driving down the driveway crying. I never thought that day would come. I decided to go back to school but was by no means healthy; I was maybe around 60%. I struggled through undergrad, having to take naps between classes, getting lost all the time and dizzy, but still managing to pull through, with honors. I knew I didn’t want to be in the western medicine field, so I explored my options.
“I then decided I wanted to be a chiropractor to help people like myself and to be able to genuinely hear people. I remember thinking, ‘If only these people would listen to me!’ I honestly didn’t want much to do with Lyme disease, it was such a dark past for me … but it is all for a purpose. I struggled through graduate school, having to have surgeries, as well as chronic fatigue and headaches, to no avail. To this day, I still do not know how I did it, but I know it was all God.
‘Through my journey, I have discovered different ways of healing myself, it has never been solely one thing. There are so many layers to chronic illness. I usually attributed everything to Lyme disease. If I had a headache, oh it’s the Lyme. Rash, oh it’s Lyme. However, through my intensive chiropractic study, craniopathy work, nutrition, and much else, I’ve been able to weed out mechanical/body symptoms from what I thought were Lyme. I had to start to rebuild my body from every angle.
“Nutritionally, I have gone paleo, supporting my adrenal glands (which were toast!) and other hormones and digestion. Heavy metal detoxing and genetic testing for methylation was key. Dealing with systemic yeast infections (which I still struggle with), and a million food allergies. Dealing with and clearing the emotional trauma, which can be like PTSD. You would be AMAZED at the physical symptoms stress and emotional trauma can provoke. I did cranial work with dental intervention, which eliminated my migraines. All has been a combined effort. And I will admit I am still struggling with some. The aftermath of antibiotics, and emotional wounds is the hardest to navigate.
“It is now my job to help my patients differentiate between various symptoms and their causes. I have learned so many different techniques because each person is unique and has different needs. I do not know the Lyme treatment protocol that the chiropractor used on me, but I am in the process of learning it within the year. Most of my allergies have had an emotional attachment to them. Sometimes our bodies hold onto things to protect ourselves.
“I no longer see my health journey as a curse. I see it as a true journey in leading me to become the physician that people need. I treat people with all different types of complaints, and it is such a joy being able to change the lives of so many naturally. The body has an amazing capacity to heal!”
Dr. Rachel Hamel is a practicing chiropractor at California Cranial Institute in Los Gatos, CA.
For more information, visit her website: http://www.drrachelhamel.com/.
3 Comments on “Rachel H.”
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Hi My name is Angel Francia Feliciano. I am 28 years old and I live in Philippines. I believe I have been infected with Lyme disease. But all people do not believe me. I don’t know where or how to find a doctor who can check for Lyme infections. Please help me.
Hi Angel, We are sorry to hear of your suffering. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere and endemic to countries throughout North America, Europe, and parts of Asia, though not generally known to be common in the Philippines.(1)
However, if you are experiencing Lyme-like symptoms, we would encourage you to consult a physician and inform them of all the specifics, including any travel to other countries or regions. They will be able to determine the best course of action, including testing and treatment. You will want to carefully document (and photograph if possible) any symptoms and you may reference the website for more information. (You may wish to share information about the symptoms of Lyme disease from our website or the US government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)).
ILADS (the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society) offers a physician referral service that includes the Philippines as does Practo, a global health organization. They may be able to help you navigate to a physician who is familiar with the disease.
We wish you the best of health.
(1) See here for more information: http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/12/14971/htm; and http://thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60103-7/fulltext