Born to Fight: The Story of a Lyme Warrior

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else. ” -Emmerson

I remember standing in front of my bedroom mirror, looking, imagining. Standing up straight in my US Army uniform, I blocked out the reflection of my white sock feet and instead admired the government-issue fabric that ensconced my adolescent body. Over time, my uniform was supplemented with authentic battle gear: a suspendered belt with pouches to hold clips of ammunition and a poncho tied on across the back. I hunted down a one-man first aid pouch and clipped it upside down to the left suspender for easy grasp just like I saw in real life.  But even as I came closer and closer to being a perfect imitation of the soldier I aspired to be, the day of reckoning was flanking my youthful vigor.

For many years I was a soldier for Halloween; getting to show adults a all-inclusive preview of what I expected to be was a rare highlight. Occasionally I’d wear my uniform to the grocery store but on those outings the dummy hand grenades and authentic Kevlar helmet I eventually accrued always had to be left home. Yet however much or little of my GI ensemble I was allowed to wear, while I was in it I embodied the persona of a skilled warrior and left my weak, pain-prone, Lyme Disease riddled body as transient features of the enemies I eliminated in countless bedroom firefights.

Spent NATO 5.56 bullet casings used by US forces.

However, like all battles in every war, the fighting eventually subsided and it came time to formulate the casualty report. In moments of clarity that betrayed my increasing maturity, my faithful, imaginary M-16 was stowed in the armory of my mind and I realized that the obstinate belief of being a frontline defender of freedom had been long-filed under the heading Killed in Action.  At this realization I became a soldier of misfortune, a prisoner of a war I would never fight.

Gazing loathingly at my thin arms lacking muscle, glaring at my chest stretched tightly across my ribs, and staring at my slumping bony shoulders in the mirror I wondered what it was I would be, what I could be, what Lyme disease would let me be. After years of being held in continual custody by an enemy power—my own mind, not the foreign government of a real soldier—I realized that the warrior mentality needn’t die in the absence of a battlefield.

From birth my body has been ravaged by a microscopic enemy: borrelia burgdorferi, the spirochete that causes Lyme Disease. And since age two I have been on antibiotic treatment with the hopes of eradicating the infection.  So while I was prevented from ever being a soldier in the ranks, I now look back on all the hardship that I’ve endured over the course of my affliction and say with certainty that I have always been an army of one.

Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria

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2 responses to “Born to Fight: The Story of a Lyme Warrior

  1. It seems you’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. This entry is certainly moving, and I look forward to reading more; your power of description is a real treat!

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