Beth Renov discusses her journey with Lyme disease, Bartonellosis, and co-infections throughout the years - in the hopes of spreading awareness.
I remember being introduced to Lyme Disease from MTV’S The Real World: Seattle, specifically by the cast member Irene. Irene’s whiny voice saying, “Steven…I have Lyme Disease” was the butt of many jokes at the time because she looked fine and just seemed like she used it as an excuse for her behavior. Little did I know that years later I would become an Irene.
My name is Beth Renov. I’m a licensed clinical social worker, psychotherapist, writer, podcast host, comedian, and I’ve been diagnosed with Bartonella, Lyme, and many other co-infections. I’ve never really felt healthy my entire life and was told as a child I was just trying to get out of school or something I didn’t feel comfortable doing. I was always tired and felt like something was just off.
From an early age, I’ve suffered from stomach issues where I got a diagnosis of colitis, IBS, gluten intolerance, and leaky gut, but nothing ever helped– except when I would go on really rigid diets. I experienced anxiety and depression which has manifested in different ways during specific periods of my life. But in my twenties, I suffered from the worst depression that left me unable to work, and pretty much bedridden, hopeless and helpless.
Going from doctor to doctor with no answers and the anti-depressants not working made me feel powerless. I was diagnosed with PCOS and my doctor felt that my depression was probably connected to that but besides birth control and antidepressants there really was no protocol for it then. My mother urged me to try an integrative doctor who at first was really helpful and was able to see I was on the wrong medication. I did psychiatric DNA testing to understand what was going on and found out I have mutated genes like a double armed MTHFR mutation that’s Val/Val, a COMT mutation among many others that can be correlated with emotional dysregulation issues.
I was so happy to have some sort of answer and decided I just had to follow what this doctor advised, and I’d get better. I was put on tons of supplements and was doing ok for a few years but still felt like something wasn’t right and the expense of seeing an out of network doctor every two to three months and spending anywhere between $1,000-$3,000 a month on visits, tests, medication and supplements was not sustainable.
I contracted mono in 2015 and believe I never really recovered from that and, somehow, it’s connected to activating my Lyme and co-infections. Slowly I began to experience new symptoms over the next few years. By January of 2019 I had intense bone hurting fatigue, memory and word loss, brain fog, pain that migrated throughout my body, intense migraines and chronic sinus infections, quick weight gain that would not come off, heat intolerance, pins and needles, numbness in my extremities, joint pain, nausea/diarrhea, and TMJ/Bruxism. I had talked to my allopathic doctor and he attributed it to my gluten intolerance, but when I went to my integrative doctor, she had just recovered from Lyme and said the symptoms sounded similar. She decided to test me.
April of 2019, I took an ELISA test through MDL and Erlichia came back positive. I went on 30 days of doxycycline, alinia, probiotics, biocidin, cats claw, RNA tinctures, and all my other supplements. I improved for a few weeks but was still not at my baseline. By August I was still not feeling well and was retested. Erlichia did not come up again but this time Bartonella did. It wasn’t in a high range and it came back as a late stage infection meaning I didn’t recently contract it, so my doctor ordered more testing to determine a treatment protocol. I did a FISH test through IgeneX and in September 2019 I received a positive diagnosis of Bartonella. I had searing pain in my feet where I couldn’t walk. My headaches and the pain throughout my body got worse.
"I had positive tests with me that were completely disregarded, and it was the first time I consciously knew to not trust a doctor just because they were a doctor."
The most intense symptom though was my mental health. I was having angry outbursts and rage that felt disconnected from me and so out of character. I’d go from being really depressed, anxious, irritable, to a rage spiral in seconds. It was really hard to function. I felt so unstable and helpless. I had to cut back on work, and I was bedridden for a while again. I was put on antibiotics to treat the Bartonella, but they did not help. The expenses kept piling up without positive results, so I decided to go in network and found an infectious disease doctor. The first one told me I didn’t have Lyme or Bartonella and instead had Fibromyalgia because he touched my back lightly and it hurt. I had positive tests with me that were completely disregarded, and it was the first time I consciously knew to not trust a doctor just because they were a doctor.
"There came a point where my doctor told me he couldn’t help me anymore and suggested I go somewhere else. I felt so defeated, rejected and just flat out crazy. But something inside me did not let me settle with that answer."
I found a different one who was supposed to be “the best”. He confirmed I did indeed have Bartonella and possibly other infections based on my symptoms, but his approach was to just throw me on every antibiotic cocktail possible and I did that for two years. Diet, exercise, mindset was never once mentioned. I was visibly and physically declining and my stomach issues were exacerbated from all the meds, but he kept doing tests and everything came back clean and “normal” except for a relapse of Epstein Barr, which my doctors gave me different answers on whether it was really reactivated or not. I was put on antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, sleeping pills for my insomnia, medical marijuana for the pain along with another pain and anti-inflammatory prescription. It was all stuff that was not helping and just overloading my body and liver. There came a point where my doctor told me he couldn’t help me anymore and suggested I go somewhere else. I felt so defeated, rejected and just flat out crazy. But something inside me did not let me settle with that answer. I stopped seeing that doctor and continued to decline now with the addition of terrible acne when I had never had it before.
I had a feeling this was Lyme/co-infection related but was unsure where to go next. People had suggested following Dr. Jess on Instagram, so I figured it was free and why not? I came to find she had a really interesting perspective on chronic illness and terrain theory, and it led me to other people/practitioners who suffered from similar symptoms and ailments. Finding these people created a sense of community and understanding and helped to lower the feelings of isolation that chronic illness can often create. I felt called to contact a reiki practitioner, Amanda Dahl from Dahl Holistic Services, and an NTP, Chelsea Turner Wellness, both whom had similar experiences and were in remission. I booked sessions with both women and had the feeling that these people were meant to come into my life. I finally had people listening to me, believing me, and showing me ways to help heal myself.
Reiki was incredibly helpful in that stage and I had weekly sessions that helped with restoring energy, ways to calm down the nervous system, and setting boundaries. It was so helpful for the emotional symptoms of Bartonella. With my Nutrition Therapy Practitioner, we focused on opening drainage pathways using mainly Cell Core but also other supportive supplements. We also focused on how food can be healing, my relationship with food, and different meal ideas and how to prep because I had also developed a binge eating disorder. We talked about how to shift mindset and different detox and self-care tools that could help like journaling, resourcing, deep breathing, foot baths, essential oils, infrared sauna, dry brushing and other lymph activation.
Then we discussed the order in which the root cause approach works to address parasites, heavy metals, toxins, Lyme/co-infections, and mold. This was so helpful for me in the beginning because it helped me to understand that healing is possible. I was finally seeing people that made me feel better.
My NTP also assesses based on symptoms and frequency testing where finally Babesia, Mycoplasma, and Borrelia burgdorferi also came up, as well as which environmental toxins, foods, and heavy metals were wreaking havoc in my body. What I’ve come to find is that it's rarely just Lyme or one co-infection. I love the approach of root cause because it constantly asks the question, “why is this happening?” and helps to address why your body responds with chronic illness versus being asymptomatic.
The best things I have gotten out of my healing journey are a strong support system and the ability to cope rather than stay in a victim mentality. This has a time and place but it’s really hard to heal when you are coming from a place of “why me?” That takes up energy and focus that could otherwise be used to work on how do we get better and why is this happening for me? I learned that addressing trauma is a huge part of the work in healing these infections/illnesses. Therapy has always been a big part of my life, but I was open to trying new ways to process and release it. My NTP suggested trying Mind Body Spirit Release (MBSR) as she has personally tried it and has seen other clients really make significant progress with this addition. I started with Anne Sobieralski from Laura J Perry’s practice and will never look back. This has been one of the best healing tools for me and, since I have started, my growth has been much more rapid and consistent. This was the final person to make up my dream team. These people and their services have given me my life back.
I’m not in remission just yet but the progress I’ve made in the past year is incredible to me. I don’t need naps every day, my stomach issues are under control, I feel I can cope, and my rage/depression/anxiety/irritability are much less frequent and more manageable. I am able to work full time in my practice, started a podcast and now can really fulfill my role of helping people. I’ve learned not only to believe in my ability to heal, but also to understand that healing is cyclical and does not look the same for any two people. You have to throw away an expected timeline.
Research, like that funded by GLA, can help so many people find treatment that works so they don’t have to live in this purgatory of being chronically ill. The wild goose chase, the medical gaslighting, the time wasted and impacts of trial and error for such long periods cause damage and research can help these be things of the past. Although this type of healing is so bio-individual and treatment really needs to be tailored to each person, at least having resources easily accessible would be so helpful for someone struggling out there.
What I want to leave readers with is that you need to trust yourself. You know yourself better than anyone, including any doctor, so do not take what they say as a final answer if it doesn’t resonate with you or you feel unsatisfied. Find someone who listens and believes you because that security will allow you to feel safe to make progress and figure out what healing protocol is best for you. You can and will heal, but believing that you can is half the battle.
The Bartonella Discovery Program:
GLA is currently fundraising for The Bartonella Discovery Program, a research project bringing together some of the top researchers world-wide who are experts on Bartonellosis. These researchers will learn more about the bacteria and which treatments are most likely to cure patients like Beth, who are suffering from Bartonellosis.
None of the work GLA has accomplished would be possible without your support. To learn more and fund this project, click the button below:
*Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.