Unexpected health update #2: Trail running & Lyme Disease

According to the NHS, Lyme Disease is a ‘bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks. It’s usually easier to treat if diagnosed early… In the UK, ticks that may cause Lyme Disease are found all over the UK, but high-risk areas include grassy and wooded areas in southern England, and the Scottish Highlands.

What happened?

Two Fridays ago, I returned from one of my regular running routes through the woods and noticed a small black dot on my right calf, which I foolishly ignored. A week later, I asked my wife to take a look as it was itchy and seemed bigger. Melissa immediately identified it as a tick and cleanly removed it with a tick tool we had for our old dog. I then logged on to the NHS website and read about symptoms of Lyme Disease, which can actually be quite debilitating if left untreated.

By that point, I’d had three of the four main symptoms:

  1. A high temperature or feeling hot and shivery. Looking back, I’d had the shivers for three days even though the temperature outside was warm
  2. Muscle and joint pain – my muscles really did ache
  3. Tiredness and loss of energy, which I wrongly put down to my new epilepsy medication.

I managed to escape the fourth symptom: headaches.

I went to my GP, who said that where we live (Clevedon, Somerset) has one of the highest incidences of Lyme Disease in the country, so he thought it was better to play it safe; I’m now on a three-week course of antibiotics.

Regrouping and feeling lucky

Having now been diagnosed with hydrocephalus (with epilepsy) and possibly Lyme Disease in the space of a month or so, it’s left me a bit thoughtful. A good friend of mine was shocked when I told him what a s%!t time I’ve been having health-wise. But, weirdly, I consider myself to be pretty lucky. Hearing my wife describe what happened during my seizure in June – the terror of not knowing if I would come round and, if I did, whether I’d have some sort of brain damage – has made me really appreciate every day since. And I thought I was a positive person beforehand!

I’m aware that I’m writing this during a pandemic, when many people are dealing with new, sometimes life-altering diagnoses, and that not everyone who gets unexpected health news will react the same way as me. And there’s space for that. I’m just really grateful to live in a country with free, excellent healthcare, where both conditions could be quickly diagnosed and treated.

And it’s given me a renewed sense of purpose

When I started this blog – Life is a Sine Curve – I wrote my ‘purpose’ down and stuck it above my desk, where it still is:

Lead by example using my positive energy, ambition and leadership skills to motivate those around me and, in turn, those around them, to break through barriers, grow and develop, achieving their own big ambitious goals. Basically: to be the best that we can be

That hasn’t changed. I’m still (in no particular order) an ultrarunner, father, husband, friend, and leader at work. If anything, I’m now motivated to help runners who might be experiencing unexpected physical challenges, and I hope that blogging about my own diagnoses might help someone reading.

If you do nothing else after reading this

  • Ask yourself where you are right now. Are you where you want to be? If not, can you say that you’re being the best that you can be with what you’ve got?
  • If you’re a fellow trail runner, CHECK FOR TICKS. It’s not pleasant but early treatment of any infected tick bites could stop the effects of Lyme Disease further down the line. I’ve learnt this the hard way.

I’d love to hear your tips for staying tick-free and physically ‘well’ (whatever that looks like for you) as a trail or ultrarunner. Leave me a comment…

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