It’s not every day that the average person gets a chance to reflect on their journey, and to reminisce about what lead them to where they are standing today. Unless you are a Late Stage Lyme patient, that is. For those struggling with Lyme Disease, each passing day is a reminder of how far you have come, what you have gained, what you’ve lost, and how far you have to go. As a Lyme patient, I’ve come to learn that though each waking day is a battle, it is also a gift that should never be taken for granted.
I’m Candice. I’m 22 years young, yet I feel as though I’ve learned more in my 22 years of existence than most are fortunate enough to learn in their lifetime. For that, I consider myself to be very lucky. Wisdom is a gift, and to be humbled by something much bigger than myself is something that has changed my life forever.
I fell ill at age 16. Before I got sick, I was a soccer player for my high school team. I was an Honor Roll and Advanced Placement student, who treasured her goals and had big dreams. I lived in a world that most teenagers are wrapped up in, one that consisted of sporting events, school dances, math tests, and college prep. Then, as this stealthy disease notoriously does, Lyme crept up and tipped my world upside down. At 17, I found myself laying in a hospital bed, fighting for the life that I once knew and loved. My day no longer entailed planning for prom or preparing for college and for my future, but it was spent living minute by minute, taking each moment as it came. As a teenager, this caliber of struggle matures you, and launches you into adulthood before you are entirely ready. You are required to find hope, courage and endurance that you never knew you possessed.
Because Lyme Disease is under-diagnosed and is typically misdiagnosed in the conventional medical community, the cause of my illness went undetected. The disease was therefore allowed to burrow into each of my organs and slowly deteriorate my body’s vital strength. Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon story amongst those afflicted with Lyme Disease. Once the disease enters its late stages and becomes chronic, a Lyme patient must face climbing a very rocky, slippery slope back to health. For me, once I was diagnosed, treatment involved years of being passed from doctor to doctor as we tried to find someone who could successfully treat a patient as debilitated and fragile as myself. The majority of those years were spent either on the couch, in my bed, or on a gurney in an Emergency Room. It is undoubtedly a treacherous plight, but it’s an experience that has shaped who I am, and I like to believe that it is providing me with the qualities and the knowledge that I’ll need to leave my footprint on the world. I remind myself of that every time I miss out on another big event, or watch my peers reach major milestones, like when my graduating class received their college diplomas this past June. Like many other young Lyme patients, the difficulty that comes with the desire to be there with them is inevitable. Yet, I remind myself that I am receiving an education too, one that will never replace the events and the college experience I’ve missed out on, but that has provided me with wisdom, strength, and a sense of compassion that wouldn’t have come along with my college degree.
Eventually, I was blessed with a very kind, skilled, intuitive practitioner who was able to ease me into treatment despite my fragile state. He was able to halt my downward slide and provided me with my first baby steps forward, steps that I have cherished one by one. I’m lucky enough to be able to go to sleep at night and have faith that there will be a tomorrow, a sense of hope and security that I will never take for granted again. Yet, as a young adult who fell ill as a child, finding the resources and financial means to support the treatment that is putting me back together again has proven to be one of the greatest obstacles yet. Many young Lyme patients face the same feat, having not had the opportunity to work at all or save for life’s challenges and future endeavors. One can only sell so many possessions and ask for so much help before before one’s outlook and ability to continue treatment begins to look grim. This is why the LymeLight Foundation is much like a port in a storm. They give young patients like myself, whose futures have been clouded with uncertainty and indefinite illness, the greatest gift one can give. Hope. LymeLight Foundation may not be able to give us back the years that we’ve lost, but they are able to give us a chance at reaching for brighter years in the future. For that, I will be eternally grateful. Going to sleep at night knowing that I’m going to have the chance to strive for a better tomorrow for a little while longer is an indescribable feeling that I believe that every young Lyme patient deserves. Thank you, LymeLight Foundation, for believing in us, valuing us, and investing in our futures. It’s my dream to do something meaningful, and change lives just like you have changed mine.