Danielle Pashko has been on a long health journey, battling Lyme, cancer, and COVID-19.
I made it my mission to learn everything I could about wellness to not only prevent myself from ever getting sick, but I also had a strong desire to help others.
Ironically, I received all my education prior to becoming sick with Lyme disease. I became very interested in alternative ways of healing after watching my young mother die from breast cancer when I was a child. She introduced holistic healing methods to me when I was still under the age of ten. I became familiar with meditation, homeopathy, a Macrobiotic Diet, as well as how consciousness affects our healing. Because she left this world too soon, I made it my mission to learn everything I could about wellness to not only prevent myself from ever getting sick, but I also had a strong desire to help others.
Life Before Illness
In my 20’s, I was working with some of the most well known physicians in their clinics helping clients with nutrition and supplements. I was also teaching yoga and working as a massage therapist at Equinox Fitness, The Sports Club LA, Exhale Spa, The Peninsula Spa and The Reebok Sports Club. I was extremely fit, physically disciplined and was “A Picture of Health.” That was the case until I turned 30 years old and started developing very strange and scary physical symptoms. It took over a year for a diagnosis but I was finally diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer. It was frightening to hear, although after my surgery and radiation I was functioning once again at 100%. I was so excited to feel well again that I even wrote a book about gratitude called “Smile At Your Challenges.”
A Myriad of Strange Symptoms
I wish seven years later I didn’t have to get another scary diagnosis! I began feeling terribly sick with blurry vision, light sensitivity, nausea, exhaustion and I was positive that my cancer had come back. When I went to the endocrinologist they did all the necessary testing and said my blood work looked totally normal and so did my thyroid ultrasound. I went from doctor to doctor (at least a dozen) with no answers except maybe I was stressed or anxious (implying that my symptoms were psychosomatic). I actually did take a Lyme test even though I never saw a bull's eye rash. I found it strange that I had some positive bands, but this first test did not show enough to be Lyme positive according to the CDC.
Finally, a Lyme Diagnosis
I continued on my quest for help and another doctor did numerous tests on me and I then showed up positive for Western Blot and my Lyme was confirmed. I was both frightened and relieved. I had always spent summers in the Hamptons. My symptoms started after a weekend at the beach and I recall walking through brush to get to the sand. I must have been bitten by a nymph tick too small to see. This is way too common and so many people think they have to see a tick or have a rash to have any worries.
At the time of my diagnosis I was already a year out from my bite. It was too late for a round of doxycycline and I had to go pretty heavy on the therapies. I was on Bicillin antibiotic injections for six months in my butt (which were pretty painful I have to say), Alinia (an anti-parasitic drug), weekly IV vitamin therapy, UV Light blood Irradiation sessions, along with many 10 pass ozone treatments. Additionally, Chinese herbs, supplements, nootropics and peptides became a daily ritual. Even though it was a slow climb out, within a year and a half I began to feel close to 85-90% better. I regained my energy, my vestibular symptoms drastically improved and I felt for the most part “normal” unless I had a trigger like a crappy night’s sleep or maybe having more to drink than a glass of wine.
By the time the pandemic rolled around, I had bounced back so much that out of boredom from the lockdown, I would run my stairs in the stair well up and down to the 10th floor. My doormen thought I was nuts. I also would take walks from Manhattan to Queens as something to do to entertain myself besides doing the trail in Central Park. In my mind, “I was back!” But that was sadly until I got Covid…
COVID-19 and Reactivated Infections
As we have learned, for some people Covid has a way of reactivating old viruses and conditions that may have been dormant or in remission. You see this with The Epstein Barr Virus, Herpes, Asthma, old Lyme etc. This is the scariest thing about this virus at this point in time. Depending on your health status, most likely it won’t land you in the hospital, but for some the aftermath of Covid and subsequent Long Covid can be hell. I actually had a fairly mild case and assumed once I was done with my ten days that I’d bounce back and be normal again. That didn’t happen though… I started feeling physical symptoms that reminded me of when I first had undiagnosed Lyme. My vision became blurry, I had brain fog, light sensitivity, fatigue rapid heart rate and sensitivity to heat (which could potentially be POTS syndrome as well). I went to see a few doctors who passed it off as transient and told me it would get better with a little time. After having been through what I have physically, I knew this was in no way normal.
I took things into my own hands and went back to my original Lyme doctor and we tried antibiotics again, but this time they didn’t work. I then tried ozone therapy but it didn’t have the same healing effect on me that it miraculously did for the Lyme. So, I went all out with 50 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen, 30 sessions of PBM (Red Light Therapy) as well as 20 sessions of neurofeedback. I also started up again with weekly IV therapy with the addition of NAD+ as well as peptide injections. I also did regular acupuncture, cranial sacral therapy and Chinese Herbs.
Sadly the majority of these therapies are not covered by insurance and something needs to be done about that because mainstream medicine offered little to no benefit for my symptoms. I also am very careful with my diet. I avoid the common triggers like processed foods, gluten, dairy, alcohol as well as high histamine foods which seem to be an irritant to most Long Haulers. I was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. For that, I also take a prescription anti-histamine.
This has not been an easy path by any means. But I know that when I’m feeling down I can’t let myself stay there. I am very cognizant of how the brain effects healing. I do daily exercises to retrain my brain and limbic system, visualize healing and try not to get sucked into too many support groups or social media posts that focus on illness. I want to hear the healing stories. I’ve always been extremely disciplined with my body in terms of diet and exercise. The greatest challenge has been to marshal my thoughts and believe that I will fully heal (because I’ve healed from thyroid cancer and Lyme) and this feels like another test which I plan to pass.
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The above material is provided for information purposes only. The material (a) is not nor should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nor (b) does it necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of Global Lyme Alliance, Inc. or any of its directors, officers, advisors or volunteers. Advice on the testing, treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
Danielle Pashko is a holistic nutritionist and health coach, who works in a functional medicine clinic in New York City. She has been immersed in Wellness for over 20 years and in addition to nutrition, she has certifications in yoga, polarity therapy, Reiki, and somatic therapy as well as being a licensed massage therapist.