I have been on doxycycline since mid-Summer, and have done really well on my current combination of meds. So when I started talking to my doctor about coming off of doxycycline for a trip to sunny sunny Mexico, I was really nervous about a backslide. I had to quit the drug 5 days before my trip, to eliminate the bulk of it from my body, and then stay off during the duration of my 5 day vacation.
I’ve had pretty bad sun reactions to doxycycline even here in the shady Northwest, and was tentative the first time I removed my jacket and let the strong southern rays hit my bare skin. To my surprise and delight, I had NO reaction at all being in the sun on day 6 without meds. It felt amazing to sit in an outdoor restaurant near Los Angeles airport without concern.
My health stayed far better than I expected, actually. Interestingly, I noticed the largest increase in symptoms in days 2-5 of being off doxycycline. It wasn’t too bad, though. I had increased jaw and facial pain, revival of my old trigger points and muscle knots in my upper back and traps, increased neck stiffness, tension headaches and my good old right sided eye twitch came back.
Of course, these days were pretty stressful – leaving a job like mine to go on vacation is always bananas. In my world, 50-hour work weeks are the minimum and no one covers your work while you’re on vacation. And you certainly don’t get LESS work because you’re going on vacation. In order to take time off, I have to do a TON of work before leaving and I’ll be absolutely buried in work coming back. The 3 days that I worked and wasn’t on doxy were 12+ hour days and felt like constant emergencies. And in recent months, on this totally amazing combo of meds, I’ve been able to do just fine in that environment without much in the way of additional symptoms. Take away doxy, concentrate the workweek into 3 days, and I think having a little increased pain is probably fair. I mean really, a physical reaction like this to that kind of work environment would be fair even for someone without Lyme. I know I’m really lucky being able to tolerate work like that at all, let alone off one of my meds. It’s a far cry from where I was this time last year, homebound and unable to tolerate even looking at a computer screen. I’m so grateful.
Once I got to Mexico, the stress was pretty much off. Days were slow moving, the sun was shining, I read 2 books and I got tons and tons of playtime with my friend’s 1-year-old. I mean, what could be more stress reducing that baby snuggles?! I felt very good while on vacation, pretty close to my recent (very very good) Lyme normal with only one noticeable exception: I did struggle with a LOT was pressured / plugged ears.
This is a persistent and challenging issue for me overall. I recovered from major vestibular damage this time last year. And although I’ve seen tons of improvement to my plugged ears in recent months, I think the combination of being off doxycycline, having recovered recently from a bad chest cold, flying from Seattle to LA and enduring the many many elevation changes of the drive from LA to Northern Mexico was just too much. My ears were plugging off and on throughout the whole trip. I broke out some of my old coping techniques including my favorite invention ever, the otovent, and while I didn’t enjoy the experience of plugged ears, I coped ok with it. I’m home again now and the ears have definitely settled back down. Thank goodness.
We all have those symptoms that we just REALLY struggle to tolerate, don’t we? For me, those are vision and plugged ears / hearing loss. It just stressed me out man!!
Actually, traveling with Lyme is definitely a little more stressful than I’d like overall. It hurts my ears and muscles to be on planes, I worry about what I’ll be able to eat, and I can’t keep up with my travel partners as well as I used to. But I’m glad I went and tested my comfort zone. I proved a little bit to myself that this is an okay thing to do. But it’s also nice to be home, back in my routine and back on my doxcycline. After all, the Seattle rain suites me just fine.
Here are a few of my favorite pictures from the trip: