By Lindsey Shaffer
In August of 2005, Stephanie Taylor set out from her home in Kernersville, North Carolina, for an active camping trip in Lenoir, a little town in the foothills of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge mountains. On the schedule were some of her favorite activities: hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking.
Growing up in the mountains of Tennessee, Stephanie had always been an avid fan of the great outdoors. “I’ve been camping and hiking since I was 4 years old,” she explains. As a result, she was quite accustomed to pulling ticks from her body after her outdoor adventures.
But about four weeks after returning home from Lenoir, Stephanie began to experience flu-like symptoms. Instead of recovering within a week or two, her symptoms continued to worsen over the next two years. In addition to fatigue, trouble sleeping, and fever, she developed digestive issues, rashes, swollen ankles, and pain in her legs and hips.
Stephanie went looking for answers. “I was in and out of doctors’ offices. No one could give me answers,” Stephanie remembers, “They blamed it on stress and anxiety.”
One morning in October of 2007, Stephanie woke up to find her right foot incredibly swollen. “It looked like it was broken,” she explains. “I went to the doctor’s office and they took an X-ray, but there was no break. They couldn’t figure out what was going on.”
“I was in and out of doctor’s offices. No one could give me answers.”
While Stephanie was in the doctor’s office, her left leg also began to swell. “Within about 5 minutes, my entire left leg was also swollen, and I developed a rash,” she remembers. The physician’s assistant at the doctor’s office started asking Stephanie about her lifestyle. “We talked about hiking, and he asked about ticks. I told him I had been bitten in the past.”
When the PA suggested a Lyme test to Stephanie’s doctor, he told her she couldn’t possibly have Lyme, because Lyme disease didn’t exist in North Carolina. But the PA tested Stephanie for Lyme anyway, and sent her home with doxycycline, an antibiotic commonly used to treat Lyme, while they waited on the test results.
A few weeks later, Stephanie was contacted by the Centers for Disease Control, who informed her that she had tested positive for Lyme disease—but that it was most likely a false positive. “They told me that I could not have contracted Lyme disease in North Carolina, so the test must be wrong,” she says.
But Stephanie believed the results from her Lyme test were correct, so she kept taking the antibiotics for about five weeks. However, the side effects she experienced soon became unbearable, and she had to stop. “I started feeling worse,” she remembers. “I was throwing up all the time. I kept dropping weight until I lost almost 30 pounds. It was awful.”
As time continued to pass, Stephanie’s illness began to affect nearly every part of her body. She experienced cardiac issues, difficulty breathing, digestive distress, and seizures, among other neurological problems. She frequently passed out, which resulted in broken bones and teeth, caused by her falls. She was unable to drive, cook, or use the bathroom or shower on her own.
“By 2008, my right leg was inverted and I was using crutches and a walker to get around,” says Stephanie. “By 2010, I was completely disabled.”
Stephanie spent the next several years in and out of doctor’s offices, looking for answers. “I asked all of them about Lyme, and they told me that if I did have it, the antibiotics should’ve gotten rid of it. Some thought my symptoms were in my head. I was diagnosed with everything from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue to multiple sclerosis and ALS.”
In 2012, Stephanie saw a doctor who looked over her positive Lyme test and officially diagnosed her with chronic neurological Lyme disease. “They put it on paper, so people would stop telling me it was in my head,” she explains.
Stephanie spent the next several years in a wheelchair, unable to walk or take care of herself. After so many years on antibiotics, steroids, pain medications, and psychiatric drugs, she lost hope of getting better.
“I had accepted the continuous deterioration of my body and mind. I was too fearful to hope, and terrified to give false hope to loved ones,” she explains.
In 2015, she met up with an old friend, David, who she hadn’t seen in several years. By this time, she had been in her wheelchair for over five years, and she believed she would never get back to normal. “David could see how much I was suffering. He saw me in my wheelchair, with my helmet on and my leg brace, and he wanted to help.”
David began researching Lyme disease, and when he came across Dr. Bill Rawls’ book, Unlocking Lyme, he ordered it for Stephanie. He also started to help her implement small changes to improve her health.
“At that time, I would pass out if my stress level got too high, or if I experienced a small temperature change,” Stephanie remembers. “David set areas outside where I could go lay in the sun, just for a short time to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin. I began sleeping on an earthing sheet, and I started a gratitude practice in the morning. I was working on changing my mindset, so that I had the brain chemistry I needed for hope and healing.”
Stephanie kept adding more healthy habits to her lifestyle, including juicing each day and regularly seeing an acupuncturist. She was also taking herbs, and after reading Unlocking Lyme, she started Dr. Rawls’ herbal protocol. Within six months of beginning herbal therapy, she began experiencing drastic results.
“I was able to walk again!” says Stephanie. “My leg was straight. Doctors were wondering what happened.” By August 2015, she was free of her wheelchair, and her condition continued to improve over time. On January 1, 2018, Stephanie was able to return to work for the first time since becoming disabled.
“Every day I wake up, I have a cup of coffee and some water, and I meditate,” says Stephanie. “The biggest changes for me came from reducing my stress level and changing my mindset. My gut is in beautiful condition now. I’m walking and hiking again, driving, doing yoga, and just being a mom to my son. I can feel a difference in every aspect of my life.”
Today, when Stephanie runs into friends she hasn’t seen in years, they are shocked at her transformation. It’s a reminder of how far she’s come, and how grateful she is to have regained her independence.
“The hardest thing to do after spending years asking others for help is to maintain optimism and gratitude for what you are able to do that day,” Stephanie explains.