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September 20th, 2017

Guest Opinion: When Life Gives You Lymes

Debra Paul’s recounts of Chronic Lyme as transcribed by Melissa Ruiz

Growing up I was always full of vigor. I was a combination of the Energizer Bunny, I just kept going and going and going and going, and Xena, Warrior Princess, my “super-strength” allowing me to accomplish any task ahead of me. With these powers combined, nothing could stop me.

Nothing that is, except for a seemingly insignificant insect bite.

Lyme disease currently affects 300,000 people every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I just so happen to be one among those unfortunate figures. And I’ll be the first to tell you, if you’re not one of these people, count your blessings, forwards and backwards.

For those of you who may not know, Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by a tick bite. Specifically, an Ixode tick bite, otherwise known as the deer tick (and on the West Coast, it’s the black-legged tick. Many people assume Lyme is an East Coast disease, but unfortunately our fellow Americans to the west aren’t out of the woods, pun not intended). These suckers (again, pun not intended) are usually lurking in the woods and tall grass and are the reason your mother may have told you to pull your socks over your pants and up to your knees and take other precautions like that. Believe you me, a little short-term embarrassment over a wardrobe choice like that is worth twice your weight in gold to prevent the risk of Lyme.

So what is so particularly dangerous about these tick bites? It’s the bacteria that these nasty little buggers transmit into you when they chomp down. Lymedisease.org states that the disease is caused by a spirochete, a corkscrew-shaped bacterium called Borrellia burgdorferi. It works its way through your bloodstream causing all sorts of terrible symptoms, making it known as “The Great Imitator”, as these symptoms mimic a number of other ailments, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and even psychiatric illnesses like depression. And this is the short list—the disease mimics too many others to note.

As it turns out, a large number of people often go undiagnosed for a long time, until the disease has manifested itself in the worst way. You probably have put it together that I am one of those unfortunate people.

I could go on about the toll this terrible illness has taken on my body, my mind, and my soul. Each and every day is a battle that so far I have been able to overcome, but sadly the war is far from over.

There is a lot to cover about this illness, and I intend to bring awareness to my dedicated readers. This disease is found on every continent in the world except for Antarctica (at least the penguins are safe), and everyone deserves to be informed.

Of course this is just one disease of many in this world, but no disease is created equal. I feel that I should share my experiences with you and tell you all there is to know about this wretched ailment. Who knows? If you’re in the same boat, I may be able to help you or someone you know who may be suffering alongside me.

Until then, I continue to fight. I may not be all I used to be, but I’ll be darned if I’ll let this disease take all of me. This is just one of the ways I intend to fight back.

Stay tuned for the next installment of “When life gives you Lymes.”

Debra Paul is the publisher of three weekly newspapers in New Hampshire.

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