October 22, 2018
Speaking from the Heart
Before I board a 15 hour flight to join Jimmy in Korea, I have a few minutes to reflect on my recent trip to New York City.
I was asked several months ago to speak at a few different Lyme Disease related events. I am beyond honored that Focus On Lyme and the Global Lyme Alliance wanted me to share our family’s Lyme journey.
Although not as long of a time period as many with Lyme, it has been a two year struggle to find answers and get healthy; the healthy part is still a work in progress.
I have met some amazing people along this journey. So many stories and people that are so incredibly sick and have seen far too many doctors before given a diagnosis. This is unacceptable. It is criminal! Had many of these people been given the proper diagnosis early on, their prognosis would be so much better. As it is, many of these individuals have gone years without an answer, their bodies breeding grounds for this horrid bacteria to run rampant on their immune systems.
I have met so many people with ports in their veins, exhaustion in their eyes, but smiles on their faces. Smiles of hope and encouraging words, because that’s what they are clinging to.
I have also met people that were so beaten by this disease that giving up seemed like the best option.
Stories of hope and heartbreak surround Lyme Disease. Although Jimmy and my voices are just a part of this bizarre puzzle, I hope they are loud enough to make a difference.
On Thursday October 11, 2018, I spoke at the Global Lyme Alliance’s annual fundraising gala. I was so nervous to stand in front of 800 strangers and tell our story. How do you cover two years and two journeys in five minutes? Standing at the podium with heads of business and well known personalities from the entertainment industry in the audience, I knew I had to try to not flatly read my speech and it could not be memorized because Lyme’s impact on your brain. Yet, I fumbled through the words with tears in my eyes.
During my run though I was asked to make it emotional. I certainly didn’t have to fake the emotion. Jimmy was playing in Malaysia playing golf and had shot a one-over-par in a small field, leaving him near the back of the pack.
As I started my speech, reliving our win at the 2016 PGA Championship I was overcome with so many feelings – happiness reliving the win but also sadness and anger about what would shortly follow. Frustrations at not being where we once were, golf wise, but thankful for the victories like symptom free days and a stronger bond as a couple.
At the end of the night I had brought a few tears to the eyes of the audience and the Global Lyme Alliance has raise over $2 million dollars – desperately needed funds to continue research and awareness for this awful disease.
If anything positive can come out of all this, it’s the hope that if my words can lead even one person to a quicker, correct diagnosis and treatment then I feel like it’s all worth it.
July 31, 2018
Lyme and Sport
In previous posts I have talked about the physical effects of Lyme; the aches, the flu feeling, exhaustion. The list of physical symptoms for this disease is seemingly endless.
Another factor of Lyme is the neurological components. The “brain fog,” dizziness, the feeling of knowing what you want your body to do but somewhere along the way your brain says “do this” and your body says “no, not today.”
Take all of those factors and try to make it over four foot obstacles with a 1,500 pound animal underneath you.
My doctor was against me riding this winter. The chances of serious injury even when a healthy person is piloting an animal around, are high in my sport.
This winter I felt like falling over from the vertigo when I was trying to walk my course. (In show jumping, the human athletes get to inspect the course on foot before the class starts. This helps us determine the number of horse strides – steps – in between the fences, which in turn helps us navigate the course effectively and safely).
When I would work my horses, my muscles would intensely burn. I’m normally very active and in shape but I was struggling to make it two or three times around the ring at a trot without feeling like I needed to stop and give myself a break, my muscles on fire.
And the biggest challenge of all was the perpetual feeling of brain mush. My “feel” on a horse was non-existent. I would jump into a line and start to count my steps and get lost counting. I didn’t trust my eye to see the correct distance to the fence. Finding the perfect take off spot helps the horse clear the fence. If you find a too long or too close distance, it can result in the horse refusing to jump and the rider falling off or the horse taking off and crashing through the fence; causing both rider and horse to flip over. Basically, if you can’t find the distances, jumping starts to feel really scary. (And finding a distance is 100% up to the rider. The horse does not help in part of process. Their job is to clear the fence if the rider gets them to the appropriate spot.)
A thousand times this winter I considered giving up riding. The sport is expensive and challenging, not to mention my confidence in myself was non-existent. Why was I spending so much time away from my family and so much money to constantly feel frustrated? It was a question I asked myself a lot.
But the answer is, I love horses. I love riding. It’s part of my soul. It gives me an outlet for myself, when the rest of my life is devoted to helping my husband be the best he can at his sport/job, and to raise good kids.
I understand to some extent what Jimmy is going through on the golf course. Some days there isn’t a simple explanation as to why bad shots happen. Why the putts aren’t going in. When there are no other answers as to why the round, the week, the month goes badly then you have to look at the most obvious answer – the neurological effects of Lyme.
I know he has been immensely frustrated with not quite being as sharp on the course as he has been previous seasons. Although he hasn’t said it, I wouldn’t be surprised if the thought of quitting as passed through his mind as well. When you work so hard at something and your body refuses to cooperate it’s maddening.
With Lyme there is an unquantifiable, unexplainable factor that consumes you. It sits there, taunting you that you can’t be the best version of yourself. It makes you want to scream, cry and give up all at the same time. But if that happens, Lyme wins. And Lyme. Can’t. Win. Not in this household.
Finally, in the last few weeks I feel like I have some of my mental focus back. I can feel the sharpness in my riding slowly returning. My muscles don’t feel like fire when I’m working my horses.
With the clear rounds, my confidence is returning. This past Sunday I had my first win in quite a while. But more importantly, Lyme isn’t the thing winning anymore!
I share this so that people understand what Lyme sufferers go through. We look “normal” on the outside but on the inside we feel anything but normal. But with proper diagnosis, proper treatment, normal starts to feel like it’s within reach.
Watch me compete at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival here:
May 15, 2018
More than a Win
Once again, I’m writing from 32,000 feet. For those who haven’t figured it out, I pretty much live on an airplane.
It’s been a hectic past few weeks. Some really solid golf played by Jimmy mixed with my first Lyme disease speaking engagement and shuffling kids to school.
The kids and I had to leave in the middle of the day on Sunday, missing the last round of The Players Championship. Mom duty called and after missing the past week of school to attend The Players, I had to hustle the kids home to get ready for Monday.
I was getting a lot of text updates of the Jimmy’s round. Not a lot was being shown of him on TV but luckily we had a friend following him, who kept me informed.
I must admit, this one feels like a win.
During The Players last year he had second degree burns on his hands, arms and ears from trying to play on his Lyme treatment, Doxycycline. He couldn’t practice, had no energy, was upset about the whole situation and ended up having to sit out for a month to finish his Doxy treatment.
I am so proud of how far Jimmy has come in a year. I have my husband back. Not just the great golfer, but the great husband and father too. The mood swings are gone. The depression is gone. The exhaustion is gone.
It’s frustrating that he lost so much ground professionally in a year — world ranking, Ryder Cup points etc. But, it’s all so trivial compared to what he has been through.
I have said this before, but it is so important I’ll say it again — every time he tees it up he gives hope to thousands of people living with this wretched disease. He has proven to the world that proper, early diagnosis and treatment can lead you back to a normal, healthy life.
Jimmy has also proved over the last few weeks that he’s ‘back’ on the golf course as well. And, when THAT Jimmy Walker is back, great things happen.
April 10, 2018
Onward and Upward
Sitting on the airplane and headed to Utah, I have had a few quiet moments to reflect on the past week.
My husband, Jimmy, was frustrated with his play these past few days. A few too many missed fairways, a few too many missed birdie putts. Tied for 20th. Good. But, not great.
I gently reminded him on Sunday night how far he’s come in a year.
The exact same week last year is when we found out about Jimmy’s Lyme diagnosis. We were headed out the door on the Wednesday evening of Masters week, on our way to the Chairman’s cocktail party. Stunned silence filled the car. A few moist eyes. And the feeling of “ok, now what?”
It hasn’t been an easy year. Lyme is physically, mentally and emotionally draining. But, with a proper diagnosis, I’ve seen my husband slowly and surely climb out of the black hole that attaches itself to chronic illness.
He’s not completely healthy yet. His golf game isn’t back to perfect yet. But, it’s closer and closer every day.
I’m so damn proud of him. I know he’s still frustrated with his play, but by simply standing on the first tee and ripping driver, he’s giving hope to thousands of people with Lyme. Hope to people that they too can get better, get back to a more normal life and not let the disease keep control of them.
So to me, The Masters 2018 was a success. Jimmy has come so far in a year. And I hope that after a few days of reflection he can recognize that.
There is always more golf. Health and family come first.
April 2, 2018
It is Masters Week!
It is that time of the year again, time for The Masters! All of Team Walker arrived in Augusta, Georgia on Sunday. Be sure to follow my Instagram feed for updates this week!
March 29, 2018
Team Walker Appears on ‘Inside the PGA TOUR
Jimmy and I were thrilled to provide a glimpse into our lives on and off the course! Click on the video below to check it out!
March 7, 2018
As my husband battles back from this horrible disease, people are quick to point out his faults. Inconsistency, irritability and even silly grammar mistakes. The pitfalls of being in the public eye.
A few recent incidents with the “media” has compelled me to bring up a few points about Lyme disease. The cure for this disease is a marathon, not a sprint. This blog post isn’t about making excuses, but it is about pointing out realities that many Lyme suffers have to deal with.
After a rough day at the Honda Classic, a reporter wanted to interview him about Lyme and Jimmy declined. The writer then wrote a story that included that Jimmy was visibly upset and didn’t feel like talking. Of course he’s upset! Jimmy has been sick for a year, is finding his way back to form and is frustrated this whole situation is taking place. He doesn’t want to be talking about Lyme. Jimmy wants to be interviewed about playing well. He wants to be back to normal! Playing some of his best golf for the past five years, followed by contracting
Lyme feels like getting hit by a truck after you’ve just won the lottery. Not only are the physical symptoms of this disease taxing, the emotional toll is as well.
Lyme zapped him of any extra energy last year and as a result, his play and his swing suffered. Although he appears “normal,” he is not back to 100%. He felt terrible on Wednesday during the pro am at the Honda Classic. His flu-like symptoms were back, his joints and back were bothering him so much he wasn’t sure if he could continue after nine holes. This is the everyday struggle Lyme disease sufferers face. One good day, one bad day. One good hour, one bad hour.
The physical and cognitive symptoms of Lyme are still affecting his performance. He’s working his butt off to get back to pre-Lyme form, but some days he’s simply not there yet. Golf is hard under normal circumstances and playing this game with a disease like Lyme is even harder. Jimmy seems to be having a few “lyme-y” days a week when he’s working. Another frustrating fact with this disease is we can’t pinpoint what is causing the weekly flairs. Is it humidity? Is it golf course pesticides (some Lyme patients suffer extremely adverse reactions to chemicals). We can’t do anything about those two circumstances; they are part of his job that cannot be controlled.
Recently, quite a few people also felt compelled to point out a silly grammar mistake Jimmy made on Twitter. I want to yell at those people “Welcome to Lyme, jerks!” I’m trying to sit here and write this blog piece and words are failing me; the simple flow of writing is a struggle today. Trying to articulate what is happening inside the brain of a Lyme sufferer is hard to put into words. It’s even harder when you can’t remember the words!
This blog post is to point out that although Lyme suffers appear normal on the outside, a war is raging on the inside. My husband chooses to keep his head down and trudge on. I choose to be his voice and the voice for so many Lyme suffers that find it hard to articulate what is happening to them.
March 1, 2018
We are thrilled to announce the birth of the first Dynomite Ranch foal! A filly! By Rio Olympian Emerald van’t Ruytershof (Diamant De Semilly x Carthago) out of our mare Umbra 34 (For Pleasure x Narew). Big thank you to Spy Coast Farm for all they have done.
February 9, 2018
I just watched my kids toss around in their beds on the monitors. I miss them.
My husband just sent me a glorious sunset picture from Pebble Beach. I miss him.
What is the cost of keeping a part of yourself? Is it worth it? I’ve struggled with these questions since marrying my husband, a professional golfer, in 2005.
When you marry a professional athlete, you enter into a supporting role. The singular focus in the family is to make that person successful. My husband’s success means everything else functions well; life is a success when he’s a success. I’m guessing it’s the same for any significant other that has a spouse with an intense job, but I can only speak from my 14 years of personal experience as a PGA TOUR wife.
Let me be clear – I am not complaining. Just laying the groundwork for what this post is about – the struggle between being yourself, being mom, and wife at the same time.
I’m an incredibly Type A personality. It’s hard for me to sit back and have a mentality of ‘let come what may.’ I don’t function well in that role. If something is wrong, I want to fix it. I’m a planner, a do-er and a go getter. That worldview doesn’t mesh well with a supporting role and my husband’s job; one in which I have zero control over.
As a result of my Type A personality, I need an outlet for my intensity, thus I have decided to remain active and competitive in equestrian show jumping during my marriage to my husband, Jimmy.
Our unique set of circumstances has presented with a few challenges. I want to be competitive in my sport, but that requires a lot of time and practice. Because we travel so much for Jimmy’s job, I have decided that the best spot for my horses is to live in Virginia half the year and Florida half the year. I know my horses are in the best care possible, but this is not exactly conducive to practice.
In general, I go weeks without practicing, show up and try to show my horses. Sometimes it goes well and sometimes it doesn’t. For my perfectionist personality, this occasionally results in some tears and a few “why the hell am I trying to do this” moments. My trainer has had to talk me off the proverbial ledge quite a few times. (There needs to be an actual amateur division for people that never practice. Call it the I Haven’t Sat On A Horse In X Amount Of Weeks – No Judgement Please Division).
But, the fact is, I love riding. I love my horses. More importantly, I love that I’m still trying to maintain a little bit of me.
When you marry a professional athlete you get used to everyone asking about him, talking about him and focusing on him. It comes with the territory and I knew that when I signed the marriage license; that’s okay with me.
But, when I’m horse showing, it’s about me. My goals. My accomplishments. Call me selfish, but it’s a nice feeling!
I’ve had to really work on tempering my expectations in the show ring. I (most likely) am not going to be anywhere close to perfect. This is especially noticeable lately with trying to ride and battle Lyme Disease. I may never reach some of the lofty goals I used to strive for, mostly due to my lack of time to practice, but I’ve accepted that. I try to focus on enjoying doing what I love, because it’s the only way I can justify my nights away from my family and when my heart hurts not being close to them. But I know I would be miserably hard to live with if I didn’t ride.
By doing what I love, I feel accomplished and that bleeds in to my home life. I work harder at being really present with my spouse and kids when we are all together. Cherishing each unique moment whether I’m mom, wife, golf spouse, or rider. (And the very rare weeks I get to be everything all in the same week, aka the Honda Classic).
I encourage wives and mothers to take some time for yourself. Find something that makes you happy and attack it with passion – even if you aren’t perfect at it. Pottery, yoga, book club. We were all unique individuals with passions before we became wives and mothers. And I’ve learned that by recognizing my own individuality, I’m better in the roles that everyone else needs me to be.
January 11, 2018
It’s been a little over a week since I posted my first blog post in about five years. The post was about my husband, Jimmy Walker, and his ongoing 14 month battle with Lyme disease.
As I type, I sit in my quiet house reflecting on the week. The response to my post has been overwhelming. We cannot thank everyone enough for the thoughtful messages, calls, texts and helpful suggestions. Truly, the support has been amazing.
But there were also pleas; pleas from so many sick people. Those pleas were simply to share. These stories help spread awareness for this horrible, underfunded, misunderstood, misdiagnosed, mismanaged disease.
And that is what we are trying to do. After more than five years away from writing, I felt compelled to tell our story. Not to garner sympathy — we don’t need sympathy — but because there are so many people out there suffering from this disease.
We are not alone in this battle. On TOUR, I know three other people that suffer from Lyme. One friend texted me after Jimmy’s story first came out to share that they had been to 20 different doctors, but when Jimmy’s story was made public they decided to get tested for Lyme. Sure enough, that friend’s test was positive.
Another friend suffers from the strain of Lyme that causes a lifelong meat allergy, caused by a bite from the Lone Star tick.
I understand one might have reservations about talking publicly about his or her illness. It’s hard to put yourself out there. You open yourself and your spouse up to critics, to the inevitable internet trolls, and at times, feeling like a leper.
But I’m powering through the negative because of those pleas for help. I want to help dispel myths, to raise awareness and hopefully make something positive happen from this whole horrible situation.
On to my story…
The weird thing with Lyme disease is that there are so many wildly varying symptoms. I think this is what makes it so hard to diagnose by mainstream practitioners. My husband’s symptoms are different from my symptoms.
It is hard to figure out which symptoms are related to Lyme, and which aren’t. Are they ALL connected? If so, does that mean that either Jimmy or I have had this for a lot longer than we knew? It is hard to say with certainty. The current testing isn’t accurate enough to tell us a definitive timeline.
I asked both of Jimmy’s doctors at the outset of his diagnosis direct and pointed questions; Should I be worried? Is this transmittable like Zika? We were told by one doctor that I had less than a 1% chance of my husband passing it to me. The second doctor who deals with Lyme day in and day out, also didn’t seem overly concerned.
There has been some research regarding Lyme being sexually transmitted, but the CDC emphatically says no. Maybe in a few more years they will revise that statement? There needs to be more research done to definitively solve the debate.
In late August, I woke up with three red bites on my torso area. Basically, all three were in the area where my bra band goes. One was under my left breast, one was on my rib cage and the last bite was towards my shoulder blade. I have no idea what caused the bites, as I never saw the bug. However, I know the bites did not come from a mosquito.
I didn’t think a whole lot of it because it wasn’t a stereotypical “bullseye” rash that is normally associated with Lyme.
I had three symptoms that predated the bites in August. Without seeing an actual tick, it’s hard to determine when I became infected. I have walked the golf course for 13 years, so it’s very possible that I picked up a tick that way. I am also a competitive horseback rider. Although I think less likely, it is possible I picked up a tick around the horses. Finally, we have dogs and those dogs get up on our furniture so it’s also possible that Jimmy or I picked up a tick that way as well.
The three symptoms that predated the bites are vertigo, mild joint pain and something I call “word search.”
I have been a mild vertigo sufferer for years. But this year has been different. I get waves of vertigo that make me feel like I’m going to fall over. I would be out walking the course this year and almost stumble because it would hit me like a ton of bricks. Do you know the feeling when you stand up too fast? That’s the feeling that would happen to me but it would happen while I go about my normal daily activities. (Side note – Jimmy has not experienced vertigo at any time during the 14 + months)
The second symptom is mild joint pain. I have a positive ANA Titer which points to some arthritis in my future so I’m not sure if this symptom is related to the Lyme. I am also an athlete and have been an athlete my whole life, so any mild joint pain I experienced, I just brushed off as kind of par for the course from ski racing and horse falls throughout the years. Joint pain is very very common in Lyme sufferers and it’s one of the most reported symptoms. (Jimmy also didn’t suffer any joint pain of note during the past 14 months.)
My third symptom is what I call “word search.” I equate it to “pregnancy brain” (female readers will understand what I mean.) I will be in the middle of a sentence and know what I want to say but the word alludes me, even simple words. For example I will say to my kids “Go get your milk, it’s in the …” I know what the refrigerator is and the word is on the tip of my tongue, but for some reason I can’t come up with it. This has pretty much happened since I was pregnant with both children, but I certainly notice it a lot more now. Maybe it’s Lyme related, maybe not.
After the bites in August a few new symptoms emerged.
Last year Jimmy had zero energy to work out. We would go to the gym and he would drag through the process. You could see it. The “zip,” or pep, during the workout was missing.
I started to experience similar symptoms this fall. I would go to the gym and my muscles wouldn’t cooperate. (Glutes activating? Nothing was activating!) There was no zip. They would leave me feeling exhausted, whereas, I would normally feel energized and ready to charge the day.
Part of me wondered if it was all in my head. I had been watching Jimmy for a year and I asked myself “is this some weird referring thing? Am I really feeling this way or just making it up?”
Another new symptom were the chronic headaches. In October, Jimmy and I took a trip to Italy. Our first real vacation (no kids! no golf clubs!) in six years. On the flight home, I got a headache and no pain relievers would make it better. After that day, I’ve had at least one headache a day (sometimes one that I would wake up with and last all day) from then on.
After telling my general practitioner about my headaches, a battery of standard tests was ordered, including an MRI. When all of those tests came back normal, I told him to run a Lyme test. I was the only one in the family that had yet to be tested.
I used the same lab that Jimmy used for his original diagnosis. I’m including this information in this post because we believe it is vital for an accurate test result.
The lab we used is called iGenex. You can order their Lyme test kits directly from their website, take it to your own doctor, have them draw the labs and they send it back to iGenex. This is exactly what I did. Since then, about a dozen other friends (or friends of friends) have done the same thing because they are experiencing symptoms that doctors don’t have answers for. iGenex is an extremely Lyme sensitive lab and often catches subtle Lyme infection that the standard CDC ELISA tests miss.
I had just arrived in Wellington, Florida to compete on my horses when I received the call from my doctor that my test had some back positive. I was shocked. I called Jimmy and he called his sports psychologist (who was the one to urge him to get tested in the first place). They were shocked as well. My symptoms were there, but very mild in comparison to Jimmy when he was diagnosed.
Like Jimmy, I also tested positive for mono. I have never suffered from mono at any point in my life. Roughly 90% of those that have the virus, yet do not experience symptoms. It’s not exactly understood, but most Lyme patients also test positive for mono at the same time.
My weekend with the horses wasn’t great. My mind wasn’t on my riding, it was on my health. With a lot of questions unanswered.
It’s been a wide array of emotions since that phone call on December 15th. I will dive more in to that at a later time.
As of now, I am in the middle of my doxycycline therapy. It has really magnified all the symptoms I’ve been having, along with adding some new ones. I’m trying to take it one day at a time. Sometimes it is simply one hour at a time, because I will be feeling decent one moment and feeling horrible the next.
In the grand scheme of things, we are lucky. Both Jimmy and I received the proper diagnosis before Lyme could do irreparable harm to our bodies. So many people with this disease are not as fortunate, and that is why we are sharing our stories. It may take some time but I know I will get better. When I have a bad day, I look at my husband who is back to his workout routine and about to start a full PGA TOUR schedule and I know I will get better.
Today, Jimmy starts his 13th year on the PGA TOUR. We don’t know how the year will go because he isn’t completely back to normal, but he is a long way from his misery last year.
I will head down to Florida today to try to compete on my horses. Since my symptoms are unpredictable, I don’t know if I will be able to ride or not. But, I know that sitting at home isn’t what is good for me mentally and physically, so even if I go to Florida and don’t jump a single jump, at least I #keepmoving.
January 4, 2018
Welcome to the (finally) revamped version of Tour Wife Travels.
As the wife of six-time PGA TOUR and Major winner Jimmy Walker, I started TWT in 2011 to provide a broad overview of our life on the PGA TOUR. The original blog mostly focused on where to eat, stay and shop in the cities we frequented.
Jimmy and I welcomed our first son in 2010 and our second in 2013. With the addition of two small Walkers, the days of eating in fancy, quiet restaurants and hours browsing shops in fun cities were over. Tour Wife Travels as it existed fell by the wayside and life with two small children, eating in and going to sleep at 9:30 was the new norm.
Fast forward six years and we finally feel like we have our head above water again! Our oldest is in first grade and youngest is in pre-K 4.
I am now a solid 12 year veteran of the PGA TOUR. And thus, there are far younger, trendier and more “blog savvy” women who are filling the “eat, shop, stay, golf” void.
Also as a 12-year veteran, I feel like its time to let readers in to the “real” Tour Wife Travels story. A more intimate view of our hectic life. Travel, kids, business, horses, and dealing with specific challenges we face, including my husband’s recent battle with Lyme Disease.
So, again, welcome to the relaunch of Tour Wife Travels and welcome to the chaos!