Photo by Gaby Sepulveda
I feel compelled to address a health related issue I have been dealing with. Last year, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease. It is an elusive disease that disguises itself as many other things and creates a lot of pain and discomfort along the way.
At the start of 2013, I spent time both on the West and East Coast followed by travel overseas. I am not exactly sure when or where I picked it up, but, in the early spring, I began to show unusual symptoms. A lot of Lyme symptoms mimic symptoms of anxiety and stress. Friends kept saying, “Well, it’s only natural that you are a bit anxious!” I was about to start taping a network TV Show.
The first symptoms came in the form of food sensitivities. I found I could not touch sugar, starch, caffeine, certain oils, etc., without having a severe reaction that felt like jolts of electricity running through my body. I felt like a live wire. Talk about “Electric Youth!”
I started getting nerve pain and muscle fatigue in a way I never before had. My back would light up with fiery pain as cameras rolled. Every chance I got I would close my dressing room door and meditate or do some form of guided relations. I was extremely fatigued. I thought “Do I have mono or something?!?” I got tested for everything under the sun, though it did not occur to me, or my West Coast doctors, to test for Lyme. It is typically an East Coast thing.
After taping the first episode of the ABC show “Sing Your Face Off,” my back went out. I knew I had Gay Pride concerts to do in the NY area about 10 days later. I just kept resting and meditating and eating a ton of protein and fat to try to keep weight on… egg yolks, red meat, you name it! But the weight kept failing off and I had a gaunt and “spinewy” look and felt extremely fragile as well as emotional and depressed. I could barely walk. I started feeling numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, which is very disconcerting for a pianist and dancer to say the least. Night sweats, chills, fever, nerve tremors, nightmares, and migraine headaches were at a fever pitch without a minute of relief.
Lifted by the love of my hometown crowd, Long Island Pride rocked! Though, after the show, a fan jokingly commented, “Get this girl a burger.” I took that fan’s advice and forced down a burger. It got me through the next show.
During the next several months, I would continue to cycle in and out of this flu like state and my doctors, unable to see me in person due to my touring schedule, would deduce by phone I had H Pylori or maybe an upper respiratory infection. I was put on Z paks, Amoxicillin and Dixilant. These combos of meds made me feel considerably better. But I would only stay on a typical 10-day course. With Lyme, it takes cocktails of numerous meds for long stints to truly cure it as well as all its co-infections. The symptoms would be staved off for a few weeks then return. I kept performing and filming through the discomfort. I refused to be a “patient” or a “victim.” Though I still had not gotten to the bottom of what was going on, I kept saying to myself, “this is temporary,” as I felt like I was disappearing. I lacked vital energy… a shell of myself.
Somewhere along the way, my body could no longer tolerate the amount of fat I was eating. If there is any doubt that starch and sugar and grains is what keeps weight on, I had confirmation. At times, my boyfriend would insist I eat some pasta and butter, even though I did not feel great doing it.”You need to gain weight,” he would say. My spine was frail and unprotected. He was right. So, when I had a few days to deal with the discomfort, I would purposely eat things that would “stick to my ribs” so to speak.
But, the fat consumption began to affect my gall bladder. Or, maybe there was a GB coinfection, due to the Lyme. I found myself, moments from going on stage with bands and symphonies around the country, in nearly debilitating stabbing pain. It was hard to breathe, let alone sing. In a last ditch effort, before going to a hospital to potentially get it removed, I did a very intense cleanse. WOW. It was life altering. I will spare you the details, but let’s just say… it worked! I felt such tremendous relief.
But, the symptoms returned. I was not absorbing water properly and could not drink enough of it to stay hydrated. Because of this, my appearance was pretty harsh. I was self conscious about the deep lines on my forehead. I got a call right at that moment to do a cameo in the 3rd “Mega Shark” installment. I hated the thought of appearing on camera looking so gaunt and depleted. I went to a dermatologist to see about a peel or any treatment that may help cover the lines and signs of whatever was going on, and she suggested Botox. Just as casually as you say, “pass the salt.” I usually do tons of research and due diligence before undergoing any treatment, but, in a knee jerk reaction, I said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” I completely forgot there is a word TOX in BOTOX. It is a POISON.
With Lyme still undiagnosed, both the trauma of the needles and the toxin itself wreaked absolute havoc on my physical and mental state. I will NEVER put this or any other toxin into my body for vanity reasons EVER again. I hope anyone out there considering this approach takes this as a precaution. Some never have any reaction, but on the other end of the spectrum is my experience.
Five days after the treatment, I was texting my boyfriend and he noticed I was mixing up my words. I had trouble with directions and driving. I was terrified. This was like pouring gasoline on an already lit fire. The tremors intensified and now I had tingling and pain in my head, along with migraines. I had no idea my immune system was so compromised to begin with, and now this. I learned a very big lesson… the hard way.
Eventually, I sought more medical care. So many of my doctors throughout my lifetime were of the more natural realm or ENT docs for my voice. My boyfriend, Dr. Rutledge, is always there to advise, as I received outside medical care. It was time to broaden my reach beyond just voice doctors and energy work practitioners, who helped me through much of the year. A wonderful practitioner named Dr. James Stoxen did a lot of work with me on improving my circulation in an attempt to help the body heal itself. It helped me get through some intense appearances, performances in sub zero temperatures, and the holiday parade in Chicago. I am so thankful to have had care and support, while looking for the underlying cause.
I thought at one point the issues were hormonal and an OBGYN performed, what would later be found to be an unnecessary procedure, which would cause the worst Lyme flare to date. I had just started to rebuild a bit through proper eating and rest, and this trauma set me back light years. My niece Diana brought me water and soup in NYC after this horrendous event, as I could not get out of bed. I decided to pull the plug on all work and would stop at nothing to figure this thing out, once and for all.
My back doctor, Dr. Gabriel Hunt, referred me to Dr. John Eneyati (Century Wellness). He ran some tests, which led him to refer me to GI doc, Dr. Rahbar (LA Integrative GI). He first discovered SIBO and immune deficiencies and tested me for Lyme. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I tested positive for Lyme. Western Blot and all the rest that followed… positive, positive, positive.
To clear my head, I went for a bike ride with Rutledge. I broke down in tears – “I don’t have the strength for this… a simple bike ride.” This from a girl who is used to dancing on stage for hours and running stadium steps!
In looking back and wracking my brain, yes, I did indeed have a few bug bites in the spring. Who doesn’t? Especially if you play in outdoor parks with nieces and nephews. It’s par for the course! It even made me think, “Maybe this has been going on for years.” It apparently is chronic and lays dormant in people for decades. Hmmmmm…
I was referred to Lyme Literate Doctor, Specialist Dr. Joseph Sciabarassi. I remember sitting in his office, despondent. “I am in here somewhere,” I said through tears. By this point, my cognitive thinking had been affected… my sense of direction, sleep, moods, stamina, muscles and joints. And, I had this sunken in look and dark circles under my eyes. All the times you saw me on Vine, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube laughing and singing, I used concealer to cover that up and pulled from my reserves to bring you my best.
The doc and his staff gave me Vitamin IV drips, daily. I lived in that office. Dr. Joe performed acupuncture on me, himself, to help alleviate the back pain. I told a select group of people what I was going through. They showed tremendous support.
I went on an intense regime of antibiotics and other medications to wipe out the Lyme. Ironically, it was wiping ME out as well!!!! It was as if I had a personality transplant. There was a plateau moment were the meds were helping. The regime definitely got me a over a major hurdle. I sat at the piano for hours… something I had been unable to do for quite some time. Certain cognitive symptoms were getting better. The nerve tremors, which were like somebody running an electric current through my nerves shaking me awake from the inside out, were a thing of the past.
It was time to head to South America to perform. I was still dealing with terrible back pain and instabilities and the weight continued to roll off. I was painfully aware of my appearance. I am an advocate of being lean and healthy and toned. Not skeletal.
Amidst the posts online celebrating the wonderful concerts in Santiago, I would come across comments about my weight and appearance. Some were just plain mean and ignorant. I want to urge you all… NEVER JUDGE… ANYONE! You never know what someone is going through. These comments hurt the people writing them… not me.
I am still in this process and undergoing treatment. But, beyond just “glimmers of hope,” I actually feel like “ME” again. These last round of shows have been therapeutic and uplifting. We all face challenges and I am learning much from the ones I am facing. No disease in the body can keep the spirit from soaring, the love from pouring, and, nothing can stop the music!
Keep rockin’ through whatever adversity is presenting it self. We all face challenges. Let it flow on through. It has no power over you!
With love and thanx for your concern and loyalty,
Please email all questions and comments to DebbieGibsonHealth@gmail.com.
See for yourself Debbie’s “coming out” performance in Chile:
“Shake Your Love” – Hit Parade 2014
“Lost In Your Eyes” – Hit Parade 2014
“80s Medley” – Hit Parade 2014
“Electric Youth” – Hit Parade 2014
“Only In My Dreams” – Hit Parade 2014