“It was a long road to get here,” says Erika Schlick, certified health coach, author, and founder of The Trail to Health blog. “I went from being a high-functioning member of society with so many achievements to a shell in such a short amount of time,” she adds. The health and wellness aficionado is reflecting on her life-altering recovery journey after being diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2014.
By no means a straightforward road, Schlick has now arrived at a destination where she’s not only recovered from her own debilitating health problems but is in a position where she can help others who might be going through something similar. “Today, I am able to live a symptom-free life in remission from all of my conditions,” she says. “That means I can focus on living a healthy and fulfilling life again.”
The battle for a diagnosis
Schlick often speaks candidly about her life-changing illness that all started with a camping trip. After visiting Yosemite for the third time in 2012, she had no idea that it would “change my life forever.” Not long after, she came down with flu-like symptoms that would come and go — but this wasn’t your usual seasonal cold.
“What was different, was that it never really went away. I just kept getting sicker, more exhausted, and felt really out of it,” Schlickexplains.
Schlick spent two years going from doctor to doctor, receiving various diagnoses and treatments for food allergies, but was still no closer to answers. “Nothing was working. I continued decaying before my doctor’s eyes and they could not figure out what was wrong,” she says.
It wasn’t until she broke down during a doctor’s appointment, asking desperately if there was anything they had not tested for yet, that they finally made a breakthrough. At this point, the only possibilities they had not yet ruled out were Lyme disease or chronic fatigue viruses.
“I remember telling my doctor, ‘I doubt it’s Lyme since I am the least outdoorsy person in the world’, but to test me anyway,” she says. “I was desperate for answers.”
The trail back to health
In 2014, Schlick was diagnosed with Lyme disease and co-infections with a CDC-positive test. “I had so many emotions when I found out,” she says. “Part of me was thankful I had a diagnosis, but the other part of me was furious.”
Schlick’s long wait for a diagnosis, she discovered, was not unusual. While she received answers within a couple of years, others had gone a decade or two before discovering that Lyme disease was the root cause of a multitude of problems.
But while her diagnosis seemed like the beginning of the end of her health problems, it was really only just the start. “It was just the beginning of an even longer journey,” she says. “Lyme is an incurable disease, and with it comes a host of co-infections and other issues, so you are really battling up to 30 potential diseases at once. I had over a dozen co-infections in addition to Lyme disease, which were just as debilitating and came with their own host of symptoms and treatment methods.”
A profoundly challenging journey ensued when Schlick was forced to withdraw from friends, neglect her social life, and exist as only a fraction of herself. But after starting treatment in 2014, slowly it started to help “bring me out of this darkness I was existing in.” After two-and-a-half years, Schlick found she was about 60 percent recovered, but eventually experienced a plateau. “I made the decision to get stem cell therapy, using my own stem cells and that is what got me into remission in early 2017.”
Paying it forward
In losing her sense of self throughout her own uncertain health journey, Schlick discovered a new purpose in helping others. “With my healing journey came a tremendous amount of new-found knowledge about health and healing,” Schlick says. In 2015, she graduated from the Institute For Integrative Nutrition (IIN) as a certified health coach — someone who helps people navigate all aspects of their health and wellness to bring it all together — and started a health coaching practice to help others trying to heal from chronic conditions.
Working as a health coach, Schlick is able to provide guidance to people who feel lost, just as she once did. “I have chosen a very unpaved path for my healing journey and am hoping to help and inspire anyone else out there that is willing to step off the main trail and really explore different ways to heal and recover,” she says.
Schlick is also the author of Wandering Palate, a paleo-friendly cookbook, and runs The Trail To Health blog, where you can find dozens of articles spanning a range of topics, from recipes and travel guides to home improvements and personal essays.
“There is light at the end of the tunnel and we will all get there,” Schlick says. “It is just a windy, unpaved path we have to take.”
Find out more on The Trail to Health.