As I was sitting in the library scrolling through Instagram, a picture of Yolanda Foster in the hospital popped up on my newsfeed. In her caption, she had #LymeDiseaseAwareness. When I turned to my friend Katherine and asked her exactly what Lyme Disease was, I learned that my friend Katherine had suffered through this disease too.
Katherine explained that lyme disease is a bacterial infection usually from a tick or deer bite. Since the tick is so small, it usually goes unnoticed until symptoms start appearing.
“I lived in New Jersey when I was a child, which is abundant in ticks. I probably got Lyme disease from a tick that attached to me while I was playing in the leaves or in the forest around my house. I think I was around 4 years old at the time.”
“I don’t remember specifics because I was so young when I first contracted Lyme disease but I remember feeling constantly tired, agitated, and unable to focus on basically anything. Most doctors either didn’t know much about Lyme or didn’t believe it existed when I first got the disease. Doctors told my parents everything from your child is just lazy, to your child is just a bad kid, your child has ADD, your child has turrets syndrome. They didn’t understand the disease and so they refused to acknowledge that it even existed. I wasn’t diagnosed with Lyme disease until four years after contracting it. My parents took me to the only pediatric Lyme specialist in the United States at the time, Dr. Jones, who had a practice in New Haven, Connecticut (he first diagnosed me and came up with a treatment plan for me.)”
“I took a lot of antibiotics to treat my Lyme. One of the antibiotics I was on was called rocephin. I had to get an IV placed in my arm for about 6 months to take this medicine daily. The IV was painful going in and coming out, and it itched a lot and got agitated easily. The rocephin also gave me gallstones, which were probably most painful experience of my life.”
“Lyme Disease was really hard on my family, especially in the years before it was diagnosed when we all knew that something was wrong but didn’t know what it was and therefore didn’t know how to help. I was in and out of the hospital a lot and missed a lot of classes and my parents had to dedicate a ton of time to helping me catch up in school. (Doesn’t sound like it would matter because it was grade school but I missed a lot of class teaching basic reading, writing, & math skills). After I started getting treatment from Dr. Jones, he suggested Hyperbaric oxygen treatment, which was only available in Florida at the time so my mom (who was pregnant at the time), my younger sister, my younger brother and I had to move to Florida and live with friends for 2 months while I went through the treatment. This was obviously really hard on my family because my dad had to stay behind alone in New Jersey for work.”
“Lyme disease definitely still affects my life today. Doctors still don’t know a lot about Lyme disease and there is a lot of debate back and forth but it is very obvious to me that Lyme is a chronic disease. Even though Lyme is not “active” in me right now, it reoccurred in my sophomore year of college and when I’m really tired or really stressed out I still notice ticks that I had from Lyme (aggressively blinking eyes, clearing throat).”
“This disease is so underestimated by so many people in the medical community just because it is not understood. I think its awesome that famous people like Yolanda Foster and Avril Lavigne, that have suffered from the disease too, are using their platform to raise awareness. I’m an English major so one day I want to write a book about the disease and my experience with it that will get people to acknowledge its existence and the effect that it has on the people who have it. I don’t want anyone else to have to experience what my family and I did during the first years that I had Lyme.”
Lyme’s disease is often referred to as a ‘mystery illness.’ The symptoms of lyme disease are so broad and can often lead to a number of different diseases. The CDC estimates that 300,000 people are diagnosed with lyme disease every year but since diagnosis is so difficult, experts believe that the real number is much higher. Here’s some information about lyme that you should know:
- Most cases of lyme disease occur in late spring and early summer
- Be cautious when walking in the woods (wear long sleeve pants and shirts)
- There are sprays that you can put on your clothes to propel ticks
- Always check your body at the end of the day to make sure you don’t have any ticks on you because they can carry diseases other then lyme
- If you do find a tick carefully remove it with tweezers
- The most common symptoms: a red circular “bulls-eye” rash & muscle/joint pain