My Lyme Story: Chris Martin

In March 2024, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease following an array of symptoms that spanned over 10 years, all of which were unexplained through various clinical tests and interventions that led back to nowhere. That was until early March ’24, the neurologist thought that given my propensity to always be outdoors, it’d be good to just check for Lyme disease. Sure enough, after an initial blood test, a second confirmation was completed, and Lyme was there!

Living with Lyme: The Challenge of Unpredictability

I have been bitten by ticks several times over the years, though it was one memorable occasion in Bavaria where I discovered one on my leg that really stands out as the potential culprit! According to some statistics, less than 4% of British ticks carry Lyme, though this doesn’t mean you need be dismissive of getting bitten!

Living with Lyme disease and its neurological counterpart, Lyme neuroborreliosis, is an unyielding battle against an often-invisible adversary. This complex disease presents a myriad of challenges, from the arduous and uncertain journey towards diagnosis to the unpredictable flare-ups that can disrupt daily life.

For many, their Lyme journey begins with a puzzling array of symptoms that can mimic other serious conditions. In my case, the fear that these symptoms bore the hallmarks of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) was a real and terrifying possibility. The overlapping signs—fatigue, muscle weakness, and neurological impairments—created a cloud of uncertainty that took time and perseverance to navigate through.

Diagnosing Lyme disease, particularly Lyme neuroborreliosis, is often a complex process. It involves a combination of clinical evaluations, laboratory tests, and sometimes, a process of elimination of other potential conditions. It also takes a long time, and an intuitive clinician to diagnose. The delay in diagnosis can be a frustrating and anxiety-inducing period, but finding clarity and understanding the true nature of the ailment is the first step toward managing and combating it.

Once diagnosed, living with Lyme disease means confronting its sporadic flare-ups. These flare-ups can range from mild discomfort to debilitating episodes that can affect every aspect of life. Short term memory limitations, hand tremors, debilitating headaches on a routine basis (mimicking migraine levels) and disrupted sleep to name a few. The unpredictability of symptoms requires constant vigilance and adaptability.

Exercise is my Mitigating Force

One of the most effective ways I’ve found to alleviate the symptoms of Lyme disease is through exercise. Regular physical activity has become my refuge and my weapon against the encroaching symptoms. Exercise helps to improve overall physical health, boost the immune system, and maintain mental well-being, all of which are crucial when managing a chronic illness. I appreciate that not all are as fortunate as I, and some are bed-ridden with this awful illness, so for that I am very grateful.

Pushing Boundaries: My Athletic Journey

In the early months of 2023, despite facing a particularly tough period of symptoms, I made a bold decision to defy the odds and put the power of exercise to the ultimate test.

Before my diagnosis, and throughout 2023, I embarked on a gruelling journey of 9 marathons, 2 half-Ironman triathlons, and ultimately, a full Ironman in Wales. With intuition and racing on ‘feel’, I conquered each event and proved to myself that I could achieve the impossible.

However, it wasn’t until I allowed myself to ease off on the training towards the end of the year that the vicious symptoms of Lyme resurfaced with a vengeance. Concerned with increasing hand tremors, and other symptoms aligning with MS, I managed to get the GP to refer me to the neurologist.

chris martin iron man

It was a harsh reminder of this relentless battle I am faced with every day. But despite the setbacks, I refuse to let this disease defeat me. I will continue to push forward, to fight back, and to never surrender to the darkness that threatens to consume me. Lyme disease may have taken its toll, but it will never take away my spirit and my determination to keep fighting.

Training for endurance events with Lyme disease requires a unique approach. Traditional training plans are often impractical due to the variability of Lyme symptoms. Instead, I learned to train based on ‘feel’, carefully listening to my body’s signals and adjusting my efforts accordingly. This meant pushing to the limits of my capability during training sessions and ensuring that I had enough energy reserves to complete each event successfully.

The Next Challenge: Swissman Extreme Triathlon

Next month, I am levelling up my endurance endeavours by taking on the Swissman Extreme Triathlon. This event represents the culmination of my training, determination, and resilience over the last 2 years. Getting to the start line is already a significant victory, given the challenges I’ve faced. The Swissman will not just be a test of physical endurance but a celebration of the possibility and triumph over adversity, and might hopefully give someone else who suffers with Lyme some hope that this thing is manageable.

Conclusion: Embracing Resilience and Possibility

Living with Lyme disease and Lyme neuroborreliosis is a daily struggle, but it’s also a journey of resilience and possibility. Through exercise, determination, and an unwavering refusal to let the disease dictate my life, I’ve achieved feats I once thought impossible. As I prepare for the Swissman Extreme Triathlon, I’m reminded that while Lyme may be a part of my life, it does not define me. Each step, each stroke, and each pedal are a testament to the power of resilience and the pursuit of possibility.

As Sir Ernest Shackleton’s motto so greatly illustrates:-  Fortitudine VincimusThrough endurance, we conquer.