Back in July, Jimmy Decotis announced that he had contracted Lyme disease and would be sitting out the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. At best, the infectious disease causes flu-like symptoms, headaches, soreness and stiffness, and in some cases mental issues such as mood swings or fogginess. Left untreated, however, and the disease can cause permanent nerve damage, inflammation, serious mental health issues, and many other severe chronic illnesses. After making big lifestyle changes and focusing solely on his recovery, Decotis is back to spinning laps on his bike and is overcoming what he says is the toughest challenge of his career. Being that it’s not a typical motocross injury or ailment, we were especially curious to find out about Lyme and what Decotis has had to go through to get back on the bike.
You’ve been off the bike for awhile because of Lyme disease, take me through that ordeal and how you found out that you had it.
I found out when we started getting into outdoors. I was feeling extremely tired and fatigued, I wasn’t myself and I wasn’t feeling right. I didn’t even want to go out on dates with my girlfriend. After a while, I was thinking about how I race motocross for a living and have a beautiful family and beautiful girlfriend, and I realized that I shouldn’t be feeling the way I did. At first, when I got checked out, I thought it was Epstein-Barr for like a month. I took some time off and then one of my friends suggested that I might have Lyme. That was how it started. I went in and got the test done and that was crazy. When I was first diagnosed I didn’t think it was awesome, but I was glad to have an answer to what’s been going on and why I was feeling so down and tired. That made me happy, but then as I learned what Lyme really is and how hard it is, that changed really fast. For me, it’s been diet; no coffee, no alcohol, none of that stuff, only good things and probiotics for my stomach. It’s now been almost four months and I’m better than I was before health-wise and I’m getting where I need to be. A lot of people don’t understand how gnarly Lyme is and what it does to your body and brain. It affects everything in your body. It’s been a tough road, it’s harder than any race or moto or anything in life. There are only a few things that have been as hard as this.
Was there any indication as to how you ended up contracting it or is that still a mystery?
The only way I can think of is that it was a tick. Being from Massachusetts, I’ve had ticks on me my whole life. They only need to be a pin sized tick to have Lyme and you wouldn’t really know. I don’t remember vividly ever pulling a tick off of myself in the last year or two. I’d have to guess it was that though, and being from New England it makes sense.
What is the recovery process like compared to overcoming a broken bone or torn ligament for example?
With knees and bones and that sort of thing, you heal and then you’re done. With Lyme, I have to fight this for a long time. I have to be really strict on my diet and sleeping. It will come around, and I’m confident that by January I’ll be where I need to be to challenge for race wins. To see where I was two months ago when I first got diagnosed and was on antibiotics and I was herxing [Herxheimer reaction]. It’s such an unbelievable process and I’m so thankful that I have my Lyme doctor back in Massachusetts at the Lyme and PANS Treatment Center in Cohasset. Dr. King has really helped me and he’s shown me all of these flushes and drinks to get my body better. It’s really a never-ending battle, but I’m confident that I can return to racing where I was before and I actually feel like I’ll be better than I was before. Lyme really affects your mental state, lifestyle, and everything else. As I get over this and feel better every day, I think I’m going to be a new guy in 2018.
It’s probably hard to be exact, but do you feel like you’re closer to say 80 percent riding-wise, or are you at almost 100 percent right now?
I would say I’m about 85-90 percent right now, but only because I started training about a month and a half ago. That’s been primarily road biking, so I haven’t been on the dirt bike as much. That’s where I feel like I’m lacking a little still, but as soon as I get more laps under myself and get the bike fitness back I’ll be good. I can still hang in there for 10 or 15 minutes right now, but it’ll take time to get that fitness back. I’m just confident with Swanie training me and Seth Rarick, we’ll be right where we need to come Anaheim 1 or wherever we are, East or West.
Have you had the chance to ride the 2018 CRF250R?
No, actually I’m not really sure what my plans are next year. I will be doing 250’s, East or West, but I’m not sure what team. I don’t believe it will be GEICO Honda anymore, but that’s something that we’re working on at the moment. That’s tough because it’s the stuff that’s out of my control. I got results last year and I did my best with the situation I was in dealing with Lyme. As long as I’ve got a bike under me at Anaheim 1 and I’ve got a confident team behind me and people that believe in me, which luckily I still do, I’ll be right where I need to be. As of right now, I’m not currently sure where I’ll end up.
In your situation, is it safe to assume you won’t be doing any off season racing?
Yeah with the sickness and all I won’t do any off season stuff, like Australia and all of that. I’m just going to stay here and train and start practicing Supercross in October here shortly. I’m just getting into the swing of things. Supercross is the goal and I want to do good in that, but for me, I really need to prove myself outdoors to get on a good factory team so that’s the goal. Everyone knows I can ride Supercross so it really comes down to showing everyone in the industry that I can ride motocross too. I think when that happens, my career will change for the better and I’ll start really being an upfront guy every single weekend.