Her doctors were baffled by the mysterious illness that was dismantling the life she'd built. Could the strange dream she'd had be a harbinger of happiness?
- Posted on May 24, 2017
In the dream, 18 months before I came to the Nevada desert as a last resort, I stood at the window of a cozy lakeside cabin staring out at the tranquil blue water. How did I get here? I didn’t know. But I wasn’t alone. By a large stone fireplace, a tall, lean man watched over me. Although I couldn’t discern his features, I felt him smiling at me with pure radiance. He knew me better than anyone could. I was happy. Peaceful. Hopeful. Alive. Then I woke up to another day of pain.
Now I was receiving treatment at a facility in Reno, Nevada, for the illness that had stolen so many things—my job, my fiancé and most of my friends—before I even knew what it was: Lyme disease. I worried I’d die before the treatments took effect. They were brutal and intense. Most patients here had loved ones by their side, to help them through the grueling process. A friend from back home in New York, Jeanette, was able to stay with me for two weeks and accompany me from my hotel to the clinic.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “You’re going to be okay. You’re not alone in all this.”
I bit my tongue to keep from laughing bitterly. Not alone? Once Jeanette left, who would be here for me?
For the past seven and a half years, I’d spent nearly every day in pain. First, it was just a rash. Then flu symptoms that wouldn’t go away. Within two months, my immune system was shot and I was sick virtually all the time. I shuttled between medical appointments and my bed. I was exhausted the moment I woke up in the morning. I couldn’t focus on anything. Work became impossible, and I had to give up my handbag design business. Eventually, I had to sell my home to cover the bills. It became too much for my fiancé to deal with—he left me. Who wants to marry someone who is always sick?
At last, a doctor figured out what was wrong: Lyme disease. I’d been bitten by a tick carrying the bacteria. Finally. A name for my illness. A diagnosis. Now I would get better.
Well, not really. When not caught early, Lyme can spread throughout the body, causing heart problems, severe muscle and joint issues, and neuropathy. My disease had progressed so far, I was on the verge of organ failure. Worst of all, a cure at this stage was very complicated and expensive. Sometimes all that could be done was to try to minimize the pain and fatigue.
What reason did I have to keep going? Always tired. Constantly nauseous. Joints aching. Unbearably anxious. Ninety-eight percent of me was ready to quit. I cursed the insect that had bitten me, the tiny speck of living dust that was ruining my life.
Then I remembered that dream before my diagnosis. So vivid, so real. I’d woken with the blaze in the fireplace still warming my skin. The feeling of being loved, protected, by the faceless man who knew me intimately. I’d stared at my bedroom ceiling later that night, wondering who he was, wondering what it had all meant. Was I meant to keep fighting? That happiness I’d felt looking out that window...I couldn’t forget it. The two percent of me that was still willing to fight clung desperately to that hope.
In the 18 months since, I’d researched the best treatment and managed to get a spot at one of the best outpatient Lyme centers in the world, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. But I had no reason to think I’d ever get better.
Two days before Jeanette was scheduled to leave, I sat hooked up to an IV, drugs pumping through my system, feeling ill and antsy. “I need to go to the kitchen,” I said to my friend. I left the room and towed my IV pole down the hall, bags swinging. Maybe I’ll just walk out the door and into the desert someplace. Only Jeanette would miss me really. I turned my head.…
Out of nowhere, a man rushed around the corner, holding his IV pole as if it were the stick of a race car. Bam! Our poles collided. Mine nearly toppled over.
“I’m so sorry!” the man said, trying to untangle his IV from mine.
“No, it’s my fault,” I said. “I was spacing out.” I tugged my line free from his and looked up at him. He’s handsome. Tall, skinny. A grin spread over his face.
“Hi,” I said, “I’m Ana.”
“I’m Greg,” he said. “Funny bumping into you like this...”
He didn’t stop smiling for the next hour. He followed me to my room and we compared notes on our treatments, all the days of misery we’d spent not knowing what was wrong with us. But we also shared things that had nothing to do with why we were there—he told me about a beautiful river that ran through Reno, his current home, and the condo he was renovating for his mother. Three hours later, he offered to drive me back to my hotel. I almost forgot about Jeanette.
“It’s okay,” she said, smiling. “Ride with him.”
The day Jeanette had to leave, Greg took her to the airport. “I know how it feels to be alone in this,” he told me. “Maybe we can help take care of each other.”
After all that had happened, I figured I had nothing to lose. If things didn’t work out, I wouldn’t be in a worse position than I was before. Who knows? I thought. He might even stay.
Greg stood by my side through the worst of days. He never flinched. Through it all, he radiated a warm kindness that felt so familiar, even though we’d just met.
Five months of his presence was enough to get me thinking—maybe that tiny tick was really a love bug. After all, the suffering and pain had ultimately led me to Greg. We married one year later.
An acquaintance found a condo for us to rent in Lake Tahoe, close enough to the center so we could easily continue our treatment. The minute we walked in, I knew I’d seen it before. The calm, blue waters of Lake Tahoe visible through the window. The large stone fireplace. And Greg, smiling broadly, his eyes shining with a stronger love than I could have ever dreamed.
For more inspiring stories, subscribe to Mysterious Ways magazine.