I avoid most awareness campaigns because they are by nature fad-like, and frequently fail to lead to substantive change. But I think most people in my circles aren’t aware of what Lyme Disease looks like.
May is Lyme Disease awareness month, its campaign marked with the social media hashtag, #takeabiteoutoflyme. Participants bite into a lime and share the photo and hashtag on social media.
May also roughly marks the season when suddenly, six years ago, I found myself too weak to ascend a flight of steps. Otherwise reasonably fit, I knew something was terribly wrong. What followed was an odyssey to discover the source of the problem.
I started investigating the possibility of Lyme Disease at the suggestion of a friend who was a doctor. I found I had the antibodies for the bacteria that causes the disease, but not enough to confirm a positive result. I also found I had relapsing, remitting Epstein-Barr, which is a virus that can cause profound fatigue and a feeling of weakness, and has been a real headache ever since.
Lyme is a tick-borne disease that can cause an array of symptoms from a vague fibromyalgia-like pain syndrome to widespread neurological dysfunction. The bacteria–Borrelia burgdorferi (say that five times fast)–tend to run in packs with other bacteria spread by bug bites, and with numerous viruses like the EBV (hello, Mono). Lyme can also trigger autoimmune diseases if the right genetics are in place, according to some researchers.
The medical community is conflicted on the best available treatment, the most reliable tests, and the variety of symptoms actually caused by the disease, making it difficult to find a diagnosis. I’ve even read some cases in which doctors don’t think patients can get Lyme Disease in South Carolina. Most everyone agrees that reliable testing is itself problematic.
If you or anyone you know has been overwhelmed by some mystery illness, Lyme Disease is worth looking into. And if you’re up to the challenge, post a photo of yourself taking a bite out of a lime and challenge your friends to participate. Learn more about the challenge here and #takeabiteoutoflyme!