Lyme in the coconut.

When we first decided to move to Indonesia 2.5 years ago, there were a lot of question marks about what would follow. We were testing the waters and prepared to make things up as we went along. All we felt certain about was a mutually shared desire to let go of the life we’d known: living in San Francisco, and working -anywhere.

After 2 years, we both felt good about the leap we’d made, and the lifestyle that it represented, and wanted to take the next, real, BIG step that was always hovering above us: cash out and cut the cord. The prospect of actually selling our home and leaving San Francisco took a while for me to embrace. The final decision was rooted in the awareness that -with luck- we had maybe 20 solid years left in which to travel and explore the world as ruggedly as we like to -that’s all. When viewed through that big lens of our lives, it was a no brainer -voluminous sentiments and precious memories aside. My 30 years in SF brought me more happiness and rewards than I could’ve hoped for, and it will always be my favorite spot on the planet.

By the end of 2015 the decision was made for me to return to SF in mid April to begin the process of selling our home and most all of our possessions. Jennifer would stay behind in Ubud for a month or 2 to wrap up vital details there. The loose plan was for us to return to Indonesia sometime in the Fall once the house was sold, and start our new life as nomads. For her birthday in February, we motorbiked to the sea and went swimming. Typically, we chose a spot where only the locals swam, and made happy fools of ourselves. But shortly afterwards, Jennifer began to feel not right, in a new way. In the days and weeks that followed, she suffered a migrating stabbing pain, and other body aches, and extreme fatigue. The local doctors could not find the source, but were trying various medicines and approaches as I boarded the plane.

There was so much for us both to do. But at least I was feeling healthy (though I returned to SF with a nasty, month-long bug and needed to hide away). Poor Jen took on the several serious tasks at hand, slogging through them until she was finally able to leave Indonesia and come join me. Within a few weeks back home she had a diagnosis for her new ills: Lyme disease. This would change our plans. There was already so much going on, but throwing Lyme into the mix at this point was a very significant monkey wrench, and one which needed to take top priority among the other important tasks. In between selling our things, car woe$, home repair tasks, and interviewing real estate agents, we met with several doctors from Monterey to Santa Rosa, and learned about the widely varying beliefs -and disbeliefs- about Lyme within the medical profession, which only served to blur and complicate matters. It was a lengthy search. In the process, Jen had copious medical tests and gave more blood to more labs than we could count. Surprisingly, she also tested positive for Dengue Fever. Her binder of test results and research notes about Lyme grew to take up 2 boxes, which she lugged around until we at last found a doctor whom we liked and trusted -a former Lyme sufferer himself (cured)- in Redwood City. Lyme is contracted through a teeny tiny tic’s bite, which can leave a “target” mark afterwards. 40% of Lyme patients -including Jennifer- never see that mark, and as in her case, many years can go by before the symptoms reveal themselves. Based on her records, Jen’s doctor thinks it possible she was exposed to several infections going back to 1987. Lyme can be very debilitating and evasive, and can mimic or create many co-infections.

What became apparent was that we would not be returning to Indonesia -or traveling overseas- until Jennifer was cured of Lyme, which in her case could take 9-12 months-or more (for some people it can take a decade, if at all). So we’d now need a home to live in during this approaching time (the irony of sellng our home and possessions -and then needing those sorts of things was not lost on us!). So after our estate sale, and choosing the agent to sell our home, we were free to explore where we wanted to live during Jen’s monthly treatments. We rented a VW Westfalia camper and explored towns such as Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Sonoma, Healdsburg, Calistoga and Cloverdale. We had fun, and saw some of the most scenic towns and landscapes in the country. But our enthusiasm was curtailed by our following visit to Jen’s Lyme doctor, who sobered us up with test results that would require our next home be mold-free during her Lyme treatment. This is a very hard thing to find, as mold is so common. What’s more, Jennifer will not be allowed into friend’s homes, bookstores, movie theaters, antique shops, large stores, indoor restaurants (patio only), and other places that are known mold magnets.

So now we’re in a 22′ RV that we’ve named Lurch, which comes with a big bed, shower, toilet, and kitchen, and we’re searching for our next shell. The doctor suggests that new homes of 5 years or less offer the best chance of being mold free. We have a mold test kit that requires swiping dust from each prospective home and then sending it to a lab in New Jersey. But each swipe test cost $350, so we’re trying to be judicious about it. We like the idea of living in a small town such as Calistoga or Cloverdale, but it will all depend on where the mold-free homes are. This RV is brand new and mold-free, so we feel that we have the time to look for the best situation available to us. If it takes all of November, or even month(s) more, we can do that.

This is day 5, and it’s been mostly fun. We found out the hard way that parking such a behemoth in SF is not easy-nor allowed (I also learned the hard way about the low-hanging tree branches that can shred the rolled up canopy that runs along the topside of the RV). Fortunately as I drove aimlessly, Jennifer learned of a lovely spot in Sausalito along the harbor where we were able to park that first night. The next night we stayed in the parking lot of the Rohnert Park Walmart, and learned of the fabulous and bustling Amy’s Drive-through (or not) vegan and organic restaurant. The third night we stayed in Cloverdale, which we really like and will revisit. It’s quite a small town, with small town charms, a great brewpub / music scene, and more public art than expected. Now we’re in Calistoga, where we’ll stay put for several days if not longer. Like Cloverdale, we like it and could exist here for the coming year by using our bikes and legs rather than our car, which really appeals to us. We saw and swiped a house just yesterday and should get the test results back soon, but we doubt it’ll pass the test.

We know not where we will wind up living in the year ahead. But it will likely be a difficult year of treatment and recovery for Jennifer regardless. We are framing everything that we experience as part of the big adventure that life is. And in that big picture we are quite content.

Pea ess: I splurged and bought my first laptop last week, and so am finally once again able to continue with this blog. I’ll post photos as able, as I figure that out.

-matt

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. genewms
    Nov 04, 2015 @ 20:28:41

    Dears!Been wondering just what was going on, hoping for good news. Happy that you’ve found a doctor you trust–very important. Good that you have a place to call your own and yet be mobile at the same time. And about that irony… good that you recognize it for just that and not an indictment of your life choices.

    Having known at least one person who’s gone through treatment and is still recovering, I know the mysteries of lyme are complex and varied. You have my complete sympathy through all of this.

    I can only offer what you already have–love, friendship and support. I hope that we can meet up sometime [soon?] Even if we have to take it outside to avoid complicating things. All the very best from my heart to yours. soonagainloveGene

    Reply

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