Interview by Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio
27-year-old Tiara Smith of Olathe, Kansas, had always been an avid hiker and fitness enthusiast, even participating in rigorous bodybuilding competitions. She also had a demanding job as a financial copywriter, but she still managed to find time for social activities like concerts, attending local festivals, and meeting new people.
But in 2020, Tiara developed several symptoms that began to disrupt her usually busy life. She turned to medical professionals for help, but they couldn’t explain the changes she felt and saw happening in her body. As a caregiver to a former spouse with Lyme disease, Tiara recognized she was likely dealing with the tick-borne disease herself, and she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Armed with extensive knowledge and caregiver experience, she knew she didn’t want to pursue antibiotics for recovery. Instead, she embarked on a natural healing journey and believed Dr. Bill Rawls’ herbal protocol would be a good fit for her.
Months after beginning herbal therapy for Lyme and making some significant changes, Tiara shares with us the steps she’s taken to reclaim her health and life — naturally.
▶ Last year, I did two Western blots. Both of them came back with one band positive. They were done through my PCP (primary care physician), and then I was referred to infectious disease. They both had a positive ban, but the doctors felt it was negative because you have to have five (bands) to be considered CDC positive. Then, I did a DNA conneXions urine test for different strains of Borrelia on my own because, when you have one band positive, and they tell you that you’re negative, and you still have symptoms, something’s not right. So I went off and took another test and lo and behold, it was positive.
▶ The last time I saw my PCP, I said to her, “I know you told me I shouldn’t worry because I only have one band positive. But obviously, I still have symptoms. And since then, I went on my own, and I started doing some herbal protocols and had started getting better. She was like, “Well, that’s good; it’s just hard. You know, if you say you have symptoms, I can’t just give you antibiotics if you’re not considered CDC positive. But had I listened to what she said, I’m very confident I would not be in good shape right now. I had a hunch I had [Lyme disease], and I was able to catch things quickly once I started to feel lots of symptoms. I was in a very stressful marriage at the time, so I imagine my immune system couldn’t hold out anymore.
▶ At one point, I did bodybuilding. I’ve been healthy all my life, and I notice when things are different in my body. The first sign was, when I was moving some things in the house as a double-person lift, I was shaky, and that had never been the case before. I started to notice ringing in my ears. I was trembling all the time, especially during any kind of conflict. I was a little brain foggy; I noticed I was in a room, but I wasn’t fully able to pay attention, and it was getting worse. I started to get pretty bad muscle spasms, even when I wasn’t moving them. I decided to shrug it off at first because that’s all I knew. Then, it just started to slowly progress in intensity.
▶ I was in a very abusive marriage, and I thought I was just having really bad anxiety or stress — natural in those types of situations. And that’s what my family was telling me. Even during my first Western blot test, I was told, “It’s probably anxiety,” and to go to counseling. My ex actually had Lyme disease, so I was the caregiver as well. I really thought I was stressed or something, and that it would go away as things, hopefully, cooled off.
▶ [My ex] was very sick and was on lots of antibiotics — pills every day. I would take care of her, and it got to the point where her body was telling her, “I can’t do antibiotics anymore.” So, I would stay up in the evenings and look up different alternative treatments and natural ways of healing, and I happened upon the herbal protocol. That’s how I started to learn and read Dr. Rawls’ book and really started to educate myself.
I’m so thankful that, if I had to get [Lyme disease], I was able to educate myself ahead of time and know how to handle it early on, versus allowing the medical industry or other people who maybe aren’t familiar with it make you feel like it’s in your head. Seeing what my ex-wife went through, it was just very expensive. And I didn’t want to go that route, not only for expense but a multitude of other reasons — my gut health and understanding the impact that that has.
▶ A lot of people just don’t believe in Lyme, and they don’t believe in chronic Lyme. I definitely feel like they’re dismissed. I still don’t think my PCP necessarily believes me. She’s like, “Oh, you’re taking herbs. Okay. Whatever.” I don’t believe that anybody really truly believes me. Unfortunately, this is very common. There are even family members and partners who are going to gaslight you and tell you, “You’re fine. Chill out.” It’s honestly so frustrating and mentally exhausting, and all you want is to get better.
If I would’ve listened to doctors who didn’t necessarily believe me and said, “It’s just all in your head; it’s anxiety,” if I would’ve listened to my previous partner or other family, I would be in a very different mental and physical state. So, I’m grateful I listened to myself and my body versus listening to other people.
▶ I didn’t really have a ton of intense herxing with the herbal protocol, but I think part of that was because I’d already taken some of the core antimicrobial herbs. From a procedure standpoint, it was really easy — three pills from each of the four bottles twice a day. It’s been pretty easy for my schedule. It’s been really easy for me to remember to take it.
▶ One of the other things that I implemented was a high, raw vegan diet. So I eat lots of fruits, lots of vegetables, a diet pretty low in fat, and it’s really helping my body detox some things out. I also started implementing enemas, like coffee enemas, to help my body continue to release things, walks to help with lymphatic drainage, dry brushing to help as well with lymphatic drainage, and then I’ve got my infrared sauna to help kill the bugs. So I’ve kind of tried a lot of different things — doing whatever I can to aid my body.
▶ I never would have guessed in a million years that I would have gotten sick. But I have to say, I’ve tried to just be optimistic; I don’t have a nightmare story like everybody else does. I’m thankful that I had the basis of knowledge that I did and read the way that I did. A lot of people have had it for 10 years, have no idea, are told they have fibromyalgia, or they have anxiety and depression, or it’s all in their heads. So, I’m very thankful that if I was going to get it, I got it the way that I did and that I had the knowledge base that I do. Certainly, my symptoms have gotten significantly better, but I still have them. Unfortunately, I’m not fully in remission. I still have my twitches and things, but things don’t hold me back as much as before. I don’t feel weak.
▶ I never had a tick bite. I never had a bullseye rash. I’d always been extremely healthy, so I suspect it was sexual transmission, unfortunately. That’s one of those things I wish people knew because they would know to protect themselves. Hopefully, I can help other people in protecting themselves because there isn’t a lot of research out there. If I can use my experience to help other people and make them feel better or recognize things a little bit earlier or protect themselves if they do have a partner who happens to have it, then I’m happy.
Follow Tiara on Instagram: @naturally.me.t
1. Middelveen MJ, Burke J, Sapi E, et al. Culture and identification of Borrelia spirochetes in human vaginal and seminal secretions. F1000Res. 2014;3:309. Published 2014 Dec 18. doi 10.12688/f1000research.5778.3