By Carin Gorrell
It was May of 2017 when Linda Mahoney found the tick. It was hidden in her groin region and fully engorged by the time she saw it. This wasn’t her first tick bite: Linda’s home in Little Rock, Arkansas, is on two wooded acres, and she tends to get bit a few times a year. “I remember this one bruised me, though I didn’t get the telltale bull’s-eye rash,” Linda recalls.
Over the next few weeks, flu-like symptoms started creeping up on her. “I was hurting all over and feeling basically terrible,” Linda says. And then one morning, she woke up with one hand closed up and kind of locked in place. “I couldn’t open up my hand, and if I tried, it was excruciating,” she explains. “And this wasn’t because I’d slept on it wrong — I’ve never experienced pain quite like it before.”
Linda headed to the doctor, whose first thoughts went to the flu or arthritis. “But you don’t really wake up one morning unable to open your hand from arthritis!” Linda says. Luckily, she remembered the tick and mentioned it to her doctor, who decided to run tests for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
“I remember her calling me and going, ‘I can’t believe it, Linda, but you tested positive.’ So, I was one of the lucky ones because if you don’t test positive, you can really go through hell,” Linda says, referring to the fact that undiagnosed cases are common and can result in debilitating chronic illness that many conventional doctors simply don’t acknowledge. Linda’s doctor prescribed six weeks of antibiotics, and for the most part, her symptoms cleared up, though the fatigue she had been experiencing since the tick bite never fully went away.
“My doctor just wouldn’t believe that it was Lyme disease coming back again.”
Flash forward one year, when Linda was pruning a tree in her yard and tore her rotator cuff. Her shoulder froze up, which was tremendously painful. And with that, her Lyme symptoms came flooding back, but this time they were much worse.
“My shoulder, back, and stomach were in so much pain that I just couldn’t eat or sleep,” Linda says. “I’ve never had anxiety in my life, but now anxiety and depression were so bad I could hardly make myself go out of the house. I sell real estate for a living, and I just wasn’t able to do it anymore.”
Linda returned to her doctor and asked for another Lyme test. This time it came back negative. “I had two bands, and the Centers for Disease Control says you have to have three bands for the test to be positive,” says Linda. “My doctor just wouldn’t believe that it was Lyme disease coming back again. So, I proceeded to get sicker and sicker and sicker.”
As the months progressed, Linda’s doctors prescribed all sorts of medications, including some for anxiety, pain, and sleep, but she had digestive issues so severe that she couldn’t stomach them. She tried numerous other treatments, too — acupuncture, chiropractic therapy, short stints of herbs like passionflower for anxiety, and slippery elm for digestive distress — to no avail.
“I lost so much weight I got down to 79 pounds,” says Linda. “They were testing me for everything because when you suddenly drop 30 pounds, they think you have cancer, right? But of course, every test was negative, negative, negative.”
During this time, Linda’s life centered around her illness. She wasn’t working or leaving the house — she could barely leave her bed. “It was all I could do to get up and try to eat something and maybe take a shower,” she remembers.
“It shifted my mental attitude from thinking about being sick to figuring out how to get better.”
Her focus was solely on how terrible she felt and researching one disease after another online. She felt hopeless and alone. The one person she saw every day, her husband, was in the early stages of dementia, and he couldn’t comprehend what was happening. “I just don’t think he put it together that I was going downhill so fast.”
Finally, her daughter couldn’t stand to watch her mother deteriorate any longer. She lived in a different state but was calling Linda every day to check-in and visiting whenever she could, and her worry bubbled over into anger.
“She kind of raised her voice at me and said, ‘Mom! You’re dying!’” says Linda. “It just hadn’t dawned on me how bad things had gotten and how engrossed I was in my sickness. It shifted my mental attitude from thinking about being sick to figuring out how to get better.”
Linda started listening to positive affirmations about healing, praying for her recovery, and taking short walks to get moving again and get out of the house. “At first, I could only walk down part of the driveway, and then I started to make it a little bit further. I was just trying to get my strength up.”
She also turned her focus outward, focusing on others in need. “I made cards for other people who were hurting or in need, and I started volunteering. I was finally getting out of that self-perpetuating pity party and able to start healing.”
Both Linda and her daughter were still convinced that the source of Linda’s trouble was Lyme disease, and her daughter joined the search for a solution. That’s when she came across Dr. Bill Rawls’ herbal protocol and suggested her mom try it. “I thought, ‘What have I got to lose?’ I’ve always leaned toward herbal medicine over Western medicine,” says Linda.
But because her digestive issues were so severe, Linda thought she had better try to heal her gut first, so she started with Dr. Rawls’ gut health protocol. Adjusting her diet was key, too. “I was struggling with gluten; I just didn’t want to admit that it was bothering me. Dairy, too.” Both were on Dr. Rawls’ list of foods to avoid as part of a gut restoring diet because they so commonly cause sensitivities, so she cut them out and saw significant improvement in how she felt.
Within a month, she felt ready to move on to Dr. Rawls’ herbal protocol. She started slowly with reduced serving sizes and was sure to take the capsules with food, eating half a meal first before taking her pills and then finishing the meal. Over time, she worked her way up to the full recommended serving sizes.
“Thank goodness for my daughter, lots of prayers, and Dr. Rawls, because without them, I don’t know that I would be here right now.”
“I started to notice a difference within two or three months. It was gradual — not like Western medicine, where you take a pill and might feel better within a week. But it was definitely working,” says Linda. “I wasn’t as tired, I was able to eat, and my mental function was returning.” Within five or six months, she felt significantly better — well enough to return to work.
As with most things in life, Linda’s recovery wasn’t 100% smooth sailing. About a year later, in 2019, she tore her other rotator cuff and suffered a second frozen shoulder with severe pain. This time it happened while she was taking a couple of potatoes on a baking sheet out of the oven: she hyperextended her arm, and there it went.
“I know the Lyme had compromised my joints, especially my knees — I couldn’t even squat down,” says Linda. “But I was also under a lot of stress from going back to work, and I had a couple of clients who were riding me pretty hard,” she says. “And guess what? The Lyme came back.”
This time, Linda knew exactly what to do: She went right back on Dr. Rawls’ herbal protocol, and within four months, she was feeling significantly better. But instead of stopping the herbs altogether once her symptoms had mostly cleared up, she has transitioned to Dr. Rawls’ immunity and vitality protocol to continue supporting healthy immune function and keep her microbes in check.
Today, Linda’s anxiety is gone, she’s sleeping again, and she’s been back at work for a year. Her weight is still not back to her pre-Lyme numbers, but it’s moving in the right direction. “Thank goodness for my daughter, lots of prayers, and Dr. Rawls, because without them, I don’t know that I would be here right now.”
She’s also volunteering for Lyme Warrior, a team of chronically ill Lyme patients who are fighting for better research, treatment, and understanding of Lyme disease. Last fall, she helped raise funds for Lyme Warrior’s patient grants, given to those struggling to afford treatment.
When asked if she has any advice for other chronic Lyme sufferers, Linda offered three bits of wisdom:
“Have an advocate, somebody who’s on your side and believes in you, like my daughter. Listen to positive affirmations because mental attitude is everything. One thing I did to stay positive was I enlarged a favorite photo of myself and hung it on my mirror. Every day, I looked at it and told myself I was going to be 100% again! Finally, don’t ever give up. It’s easy to do when you’re sick and lying in bed, but you have to keep fighting the good fight.”