I met Kelly, a talented graphic designer, at work almost a year ago. I was working with her office to have a document produced, and she kindly sat down with me for more than an hour to help me. During that hour, I got to know her a bit; her brave battle with Lyme disease came up briefly. I learned very quickly that the same tenacity she brings to work and helping others she brought to fighting for her life.
May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, when sufferers and their supporters come together to share their stories with the world, in hope of raising awareness and finding a cure for the illness and its co-infections that have impacted their lives.
Kelly is one of the hundreds of thousands of those individuals.
My name is Kelly Fincher. I am 28 years old and I have suffered with chronic Lyme disease and its co-infections for more than 12 years.
I grew up in a small town called Jackson, South Carolina. I can vividly recall the majority of my childhood being spent outdoors. Whether I was in the yard with my brother, fishing with my father or camping with my entire family, I seemed to enjoy the time I spent in nature more than anything else. I loved exploring the woods, hiking, canoeing, riding bikes, roller blading, swimming – you name it. My fondest memories were those of the nature trail behind our neighborhood; the neighborhood kids, my best friend, my brother and I would explore it nearly every day.
Unfortunately, I never had the absolution of a telltale Lyme disease symptom – no bulls eye-shaped rash… or a tick that could be removed and sent away for analysis… or that most coveted of commodities to Lyme patients: concrete answers.
We kids would come home with all sorts of bites, rashes, and scrapes from the day’s adventures. Who didn’t?
After growing up with what seemed to be comparatively uncommon ailments, in both amount and frequency, I muddled through my adolescence, confused about what afflictions were unique to my situation and what was considered “normal” physical and mental issues for someone my age to deal with. I attribute my delayed diagnosis to this challenging time in my life, along with a total absence of information about my illness. My life went on this way until I reached a point in my senior year of high school, when I could no longer ignore my symptoms, regardless of the cause. The only thing I was certain of was that something was definitely wrong with me and that I needed help.
My straight A’s went to B’s and C’s. My ability to concentrate and memorize – gone. I felt as if I had the flu every day. I experienced striking joint and spine pain, ringing in my ears, sensory hypersensitivity, to the extent of being unable to do simple things like watch television or even listen to the radio. I randomly caught sharp, offensive odors that I could only describe as harsh chemicals – seemingly out of nowhere.
One day, I awoke with swollen eyelids, lips and severe hives. My throat was so swollen that I was unable to eat. My mother was instructed to crush prenatal vitamins so that I could retain the nutrients needed on a day-to-day basis. Once the infection subsided, I had my tonsils and adenoids removed. I was misdiagnosed with mononucleosis, though never testing positive for it – causing me to miss three months of my senior year of high school.
This was only the beginning of what had already gradually transformed into a long journey.
As time passed on, the symptoms grew worse; my left elbow and hands ached so terribly, I could barely hold a utensil or a pen to write my name. Cognitively, there were days were I could not read or write. My chest felt as if an elephant were sitting on top of me and I was breathing through cobwebs. The mini seizures kept me from proper sleep, causing more fatigue, and my anxiety level felt like a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10.
This is only a short list of my personal symptoms and experiences. Please know that the list is quite extensive and may vary from person to person.
I struggled my way through college and work, beating myself up along the way for not understanding how I had lost my identity. I felt as if my world was crashing around me, and, after countless doctor’s visits, there was no one who could help me. The confusion, pain and chaos that this disease was putting on my life made it hard to feel anything but hopeless.
Losing hope was not going to be an option for me; I did not give up until I found a general practitioner who was willing to listen. It took countless tests and a little more than a year to be diagnosed with Lyme disease, but she was more than willing and she never turned her back on me. I was immediately referred to a specialist in Washington, D.C., to start treatment, where I have been in treatment for four years.
With this disease comes a lot of life changes. As far as eating habits, I now eat gluten-free, organic, and non-GMO products as much as possible. I do my best to cut out sugar, especially products with artificial sweeteners. I only drink water with freshly cut lemon or my mix of daily detox tea with lemon, cranberry juice and burbur drops. My daily detox regimen consists of Epsom salts and essential oils.
Up to now, I’ve spent nearly half of my life struggling to take control of my health and make progress in conquering this disease that has already claimed so much of my youth and early adulthood. Through all the hardship, life has provided me with many valuable lessons and experiences that I call upon regularly to stay positive, and that I hope to share with others who are in similar situations.
Today I feel better than I did 12 years ago, but I am still fighting my battle with Lyme disease, and my body is slowly healing. I am grateful for every bit of my journey, no matter how difficult it has been. This trial has made me humble and appreciative of life and loved ones. If any part of my war with Lyme disease strengthens another on their journey, then my suffering has been worth it.
I’d like to specifically thank my parents, husband and doctors for fighting this battle with me; without them, I would not be here to share this.
Lyme disease makes hundreds of thousands of people sick every year; it is the most commonly reported tick-borne infection in the United States. Please take a moment to learn about Lyme disease prevention, and check for ticks!
To find out more details on my Lyme life and treatment process, or if you are looking for help on finding a Lyme-literate doctor, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.