By Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio
79-year-old Elissa MacLachlan of Bend, Oregon had always maintained an active lifestyle: She raised two energetic boys, returned to college in her mid-forties to get a master’s degree in statistics and mathematics, and enjoyed outdoor activities like Nordic skiing, walking, hiking, and swimming with her husband Robert. She also kept up a spiritual counseling practice, working with clients in person or by phone.
But in 2017, at the age of 76, Elissa’s active lifestyle began to slow a bit; she had hip replacement surgeries on both hips. The recovery from the surgeries was supposed to be relatively straightforward. However, the healing process for her left hip sidelined her for much longer than she’d anticipated. “I didn’t recover,” she recalls, “It was supposed to be an easy surgery, and yet it wasn’t.” She wasn’t regaining function in her left hip, and the surgical incision developed scar tissue consisting of adhesions, further restricting her movement.
“It was a tsunami. But I look back, and it was slowly building, I think.”
Despite the healing delays, Elissa had still expected to be ready for the 2019 ski season, but when the season arrived, her left hip was still causing problems. Elissa also noticed that she had decreased stamina, inflamed tendons, felt achy, and began having pain in her shoulders. Seemingly out of nowhere, one problem emerged after another, and she wondered if the degeneration of several joints was somehow interconnected.
Between January and March 2019, Elissa’s symptoms escalated; she had a severe flu-like feeling that she couldn’t shake, fatigue, brain fog, a level of pain that would keep her awake at night, and a new onset of carpal tunnel syndrome. She was losing her ability to function, noting that even lifting a cup into the microwave became challenging. “It was a tsunami. But I look back, and it was slowly building, I think,” she says. “I was going downhill fast.”
In search of answers, Elissa visited a neurologist, a shoulder surgeon, and went back to her hip surgeon. One doctor offered her an MRI to see what might be causing her health decline, while another suggested more surgical interventions. Given that she was nearly 80 years old, her doctors surmised that her symptoms could be age-related as well; they cautioned her about having too high of expectations regarding improvements in her health. “They were sticking strictly within their realm of expertise, and I was thinking in those lines as well. So I can’t fault them for not finding something. The focus was too narrow; we were all asking the wrong questions,” she says.
By this point, Elissa was worn out, lacking the strength and energy to look for other healthcare providers that might be able to help. Most of the time, she felt as though she was quietly suffering by herself at home, and her flu-like symptoms persisted. But help, it seems, wasn’t far behind.
Elissa routinely practices meditation, and she’d been meditating to seek guidance as to what might be happening in her body. During one of her meditations, she describes seeing an image of white, spiral-shaped objects, but she wasn’t familiar with what that could be. She recounted the details of that image to some members of The Monroe Institute (TMI), a 50-year-old consciousness study organization in Virginia, with whom she served on a committee. She informed the group that she would need to “bow out of the committee” due to a lack of energy and an inability to cope with requests the group might ask of her. “I was so sick, and I just didn’t know what to do,” she says.
In April 2019, a fellow member of TMI recognized that Elissa could be dealing with Lyme disease, and she suggested that Dr. Bill Rawls’ herbal protocol might be a good fit. The group member had two other friends with chronic Lyme disease on the protocol, and they both had achieved good results. Following that conversation, Elissa went to the RawlsMD website, recognized her symptoms among the signs and symptoms listed for Lyme, and placed her first order. Around that same time, she began reading Dr. Rawls’ book, Unlocking Lyme. She also had a friend who was a naturopath in Australia. “I sent her hair and nail samples, and she ran some tests. She came back saying, yes, she’d picked up some bacteria as well. So that’s kind of the diagnosis path,” she says.
All in all, Elissa had a relatively short span of time from when she got seriously ill to when she began to restore her health using herbal remedies. “I started the protocol, and within a month, I could actually start lifting things into the microwave. And I started getting sleep at night — that’ll clear your brain!” she says about the small but measurable improvements she began to notice swiftly.
During the summer of 2019, Elissa underwent carpal tunnel surgery, and her recovery was much smoother than her previous hip surgeries. By August, she was already back in the water, learning to paddleboard. “It was so much fun that then I started going back to the gym to get my balance better and to get my core stronger,” she states.
“I started the protocol, and within a month, I could actually start lifting things into the microwave. And I started getting sleep at night — that’ll clear your brain!”
So how’s Elissa doing now? Though she acknowledges her body is still healing from Lyme disease, she’s been able to restart her spiritual counseling practice with clients. She estimates that she’s about 80%, but she still has some symptoms that wax and wane. However, Elissa’s rapid progress with herbal therapies makes her believe the best is yet to come, and she won’t be defined by the number of times she’s gone around the sun. “There’s potential that I can come out of this better than before. Not equal to but better than before,” she says. “And that’s not even factoring in age. I keep telling my doctor, ‘Don’t use the A-word on me,’ it’s not part of the conversation. They think it’s funny, but I’m serious.”
What’s Elissa’s advice to other people who hope to find relief from Lyme disease and Lyme coinfections? Find a program that you can maintain and give your body the time it needs to heal, she says. Most importantly, “Don’t mix and match — stay with it. Keep it simple, keep it uncomplicated, and trust that you’re getting better. Your body wants to heal,” she says.