Editor’s Note: This website is not designed to, and should not be construed to, provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion or treatment to you or any other individual, and is not intended as a substitute for medical or professional care and treatment. For serious.
From the age of two, I considered myself a dancer.
My mom and I took classes daily at the local dance company, and as soon as I was old enough, I was taking three to four classes every day, in Jazz, Hip- Hop, Ballet, and Tap.
While most girls my age were listening to The Cheetah Girls and Miley Cyrus, I was listening to the Tchaikovsky tracks from my ballet classes.
To accommodate my dance schedule (and figure skating and gymnastics once a week), my life began to revolve around preparation for shows, recitals and practices.
There was nothing on earth that made me feel like dancing did, and even at such a young age I could appreciate the feeling. To this day, I struggle to put that feeling into words, and the best I can come up with is the essence of immortality, sunlight, fire, the unseen force that controls the tide, the uncrossable space between sun and moon, the sound of highest crescendo of the orchestral choir, the vastness of space, a mother’s love, and both having a part in and being the conductor of all inexplicable phenomenon.
My parents never pushed me—my dedication was self-generated. I was going to be a dancer. I was going to apply for the Boston Ballet as soon as I was 13, and then I would devote the rest of my youth to my training. Even as a young child, my discipline and passion prevented me from missing classes, and I was the youngest in the most advanced classes.
I was 12 when it started, and it began with my memory.
Choreography had been my strong suit—I always won the dance offs where we had to memorize eight counts, and I had a reputation for picking up our dance numbers quickly. I was often front and center for shows and recitals.
Then things began to change. I could not remember what my teacher had said three seconds beforehand. When we were expected to dance back the choreography we had just been taught, I would be in paralysis, at a standstill, to the confusion of my teachers and myself.
My spot in the front slowly became a spot in the middle, and then a spot in the back, as my memory continued to decline and fatigue began to overcome me.
A once exuberant preteen who would have cheerful energy for eight hours of recital a day, I was now sitting out numerous classes, seeing stars when I stood up, and fainting. My friends were confused, my teachers thought I was lazy and losing interest, my parents terrified. I had no idea.
And then, I lost all energy. I could not go to classes, could barely walk. I lay in bed all day long, watching cartoons, visiting various doctors for repetitively inconclusive blood tests. I ceased my studies; a once avid reader, I now would read sentences 10 times and still not be able to register the material, and math became impossible. My friends tried to keep in touch, but after a few months, the emails ceased, and I was alone in the darkness of my malaise.
I sunk, deeply and vastly, into a depression that was beyond my youthful comprehension, yet I could not ignore it.
There was no respite from the darkness that enveloped me. I was a dancer, and my legs were bound. My identity, my self, was stripped away. I think it is difficult to explain how important health is—but without it, life is grey.
I lost my will to live at an age where I shouldn’t have even understood that concept.
When a blood test finally came back positive for Chronic Lyme Disease, it was almost a relief to both my parents and me.
Finally we had a direction to go in, hope for a cure.
We learned that I had had Lyme disease, and that it had spread to basically every point in my body. I had gotten it from a tick, maybe even several ticks, which made sense, as I grew up playing in the fields of our New Hampshire country home. I had a very high count of spirochetes, one of the highest my doctor had ever seen. It had crossed my blood brain barrier, effecting my neurological function.
He listed my choices: intense courses of antibiotics that would make my body react in essentially the same ways that chemotherapy would, or a naturopathic approach that would heal the inflammation of my gut lining, which had been damaged by pathogenic bacteria that I became more susceptible to from the Lyme inflammation.
We decided to go with the second option, and I immediately began a sugar free, grain free, dairy free diet, and I saturated my body with large amounts of probiotics, fish oils, and other anti-inflammatories.
This was incredibly difficult for me at this age—I was constantly having to avoid pizza nights, birthday cakes and all sorts of other social situations where I received much more criticism than sympathy. It was a tough and lonely few years, but my health has gradually improved to even better than before. My fatigue turned to energy, the pallor on my dark-circled face turned to rosy cheeks, my short term memory returned, and I began to bring dance back into my life by practicing yoga—found my dance on the yoga mat.
Through yoga, I gained the confidence and the athleticism to take dance classes in high school once more.
While I know I will always have to be careful of my health, my recent Lyme tests have come back negative for inflammation, meaning that what spirochetes still remain are all in remission—my immune system is doing its job!
I run daily, practice an hour of yoga, am a ski instructor, a sailing instructor, take dance classes, model full time, help to run an international non profit organization in Cape Town, South Africa, box, surf, ski, and figure skate. I recently took my YT 200 Yoga teacher certification, and plan to begin teaching Ballet-Vinyasa Fusion in New York City in the fall. Traveling on a gap year after high-school has stopped me from taking regular dance classes, but I plan to take as many as I can during college, and possibly even minor in Dance so that I can incorporate more dance moves in my yoga classes.
In a way, Lyme disease was the best thing that ever happened to me.
It gave me an indestructible appreciation for my body that I believe I will always have, and a passion for living my life to the absolute fullest without any limitation.
I I write this article because I want to give hope to other people who struggle from Chronic illness that could possibly be helped with a holistic approach. I cannot guarantee that my cure will be anyone else’s cure, but I want to give people the resources that healed me, and gave me hope for a life I never thought would be possible to regain.
I believe that the connection to health and what you put in your body is one and the same, and that these tools can be applied to many autoimmune diseases and more superficial ailments alike in order to regain optimal health.
I follow a diet inspired by Paleo, Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), and GAPS. I recommend researching all of these diets and then sculpting something that can fit both your nutritional needs and your lifestyle. Some knowledgeable doctors are Dr. Mark Hymen, Dr. Mercola, Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, and Dr. Weston Price. All of these doctors emphasize a connection between the health of your gut, and intestines, and your overall wellbeing.
*Limited simple carbohydrates (honey, dried fruit)
After about two years on this, I have healed myself enough to add back in small amounts of corn, and beans, and limited sugar.
Supplements and foods to eat!
All of these supplements are excellent anti inflammatories and support the growth of healthy bacteria in your intestines!
*Green Juices/ Green Smoothies
*Lots of fresh fruits and Vegetables
*Coconut oil and coconut products
*Kefir, Kefir water
Author: Iva DeMartelly
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Author’s Own