She took her first antibiotic at the age of 19.
“I never really got sick,” Katina L. Makris told an audience of about 30 people on August 18 at the Chilmark Community Church.
This was all before she was bitten by a tick and later diagnosed with Lyme disease.
Ms. Makris’s inspirational talk was part of Bite Back for a Cure, a day on Martha’s Vineyard dedicated to finding a cure for the tick-borne illness. Sponsors included the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance and the Lyme Center of Martha’s Vineyard.
Enid Haller and Sam Hiser of the Lyme Center of Martha’s Vineyard greeted and thanked the audience for taking part in Bite Back for a Cure Day. Then they welcomed Ms. Makris, author of Out of the Woods: Healing from Lyme Disease and Other Serious Illnesses, Body, Mind and Spirit (Elite Books, 2011).
“At the Lyme Center we have three favorite books. This is one of them,” Mr. Hiser said. Out of the Woods is a book chronicling Ms. Makris’s 10-year journey from Lyme disease, what she described as “a hidden epidemic illness.”
Her story is told from a patient’s point of view. It is “a success story of someone who has beat Lyme without antibiotics,” said Mr. Hiser.
Ms. Makris, who spoke without notes, began the talk by polling the audience on what they wanted to learn more about.
“Prevention?” she asked.
Nobody raised a hand.
A few hands popped up.
Almost everyone’s hand shot up.
“Inspiration and help?”
Everyone raised a hand. One woman raised both hands.
“Spiritual and emotional components?”
Half the room raised their hands.
She took the lead from her audience and began a conversation that focused on recovery tools, inspiration and help. She shared her first experience with Lyme disease, the years she lived with an undiagnosed disease and the years she lived with a misdiagnosed disease. Ms. Makris then spoke about the five years following her diagnosis of Lyme disease, what she referred to as her healing journey and time of treatment.
In her life, the first time she ever remembered getting sick was in 2000. “I came down with a wicked flu,” she said.
She described what she called her “dark days.” Off and on chills, and the routine of waking up and having the room spin; at one point she thought she had malaria.
The audience listened. Heads nodded up and down. “I really thought I was going to die,” she said, “What kept me alive was my seven-year-old boy.”
She continued: “My career was gone, money was gone, marriage was gone. I had to sell my house to pay medical bills.”
She contrasted this terrible time in her life to her earlier life before Lyme, calling herself a “type A achiever” with a great education. Ms. Makris is a graduate of Duke University. She also graduated from the Stillpoint School of Integrative Life Healing.
“I lost it all. I lost the American dream. I did what I was supposed to do and it didn’t work out for me.”
She read a selection from Out of the Woods and then told the audience that Lyme disease put her on her own spiritual retreat. Ms. Makris told the story of finding a spiritual advisor at the Stillpoint School named Meredith Young-Sowers who helped her begin a healing journey. “She helped me reform words and statements,” she said.
In 2010, after five years without any diagnosis and another five years of treatments, Ms. Makris’s health was restored.
“I wrote this book because I came out on the other side,” she said. “I am healed, I am well, I have rebuilt the systems in my body.”
Her recovery memoir was written for people who need all types of support after being infected with Lyme disease or other chronic illnesses.
Following the talk, the author fielded questions from the crowd. She listened to people talk about their individual experiences with Lyme. People praised her for sharing her story.
And even with the high rates of people infected with Lyme disease, Ms. Makris is hopeful a cure will be found. “We are going to make the strides we need to, to end the suffering,” she said. Bite Back for a Cure kicked off at 11 a.m. with a five-mile bicycle ride from the Lyme Center of Martha’s Vineyard to Beetlebung Corner. Following that was Ms. Makris’s inspirational speech. The day concluded with the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance fundraiser at the Grange Hall.