My name is Angeli VanLaanen and I have been living with Lyme Disease
for over fifteen years now. Fourteen of those years I went
undiagnosed. Since the age of 10, doctors have struggled to explain my
wide range of health problems. I've been misdiagnosed numerous times
and even told it was in my head. Due to my strong immune system and
active lifestyle, I was able to keep many severe symptoms at bay for
years. But as my rigorous lifestyle as a professional skier took a
toll on my body, my Lyme symptoms worsened.
Lyme Disease is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria (spirochete) called Borrelia Burgdorferi, which is transferred through the bite of a Black Legged tick. This bacteria attacks the central nervous system, can cause infection of multiple organs and produce a wide range of symptoms. If caught promptly, treatment can eradicate the infection in 6-8 weeks. If left untreated, the Lyme spirochete can embed into any area of the body, making treatment long term. This condition is called Chronic Lyme Disease. Chronic Lyme Disease can be immobilizing and even fatal. There is much controversy and debate in the medical community on treatment protocol and the possibility of a cure for Chronic Lyme Disease.
Growing up in Washington State, Lyme Disease was not on any one's radar. I suspect I first contracted the Lyme infection living in Green Bay, WI when I was 10 years old. I recall a few tick bites that year, but remember not thinking much of it. My symptoms started out as fainting spells and a sinus infection that lasted the entire year. I then developed migraine headaches and a hormone imbalance. Even after returning to Washington the following fall, my symptoms multiplied rapidly. From back, neck and joint pain, to muscle fatigue and spasms, to developing dyslexia and blurry vision, to lock jaw and digestion problems, my symptom list stumped doctors all over the state.
Unfortunately my story of going years undiagnosed, is all too common. Black Legged ticks can be found in almost every state in the US and around the world. 50% of people diagnosed with Lyme Disease have no recollection of a "bullseye rash," a symptom particular to Lyme infection. In years past this rash was the main diagnosing factor. These days you will find most physicians using the Western Blot blood test. This testing protocol is not sensitive enough to pick up the bacteria 100% of the time and in many cases this produces a "false negative." These are problems you may run into if your doctor even thinks to test you for Lyme Disease in the first place. In most cases doctors overlook Lyme Disease as a possible cause all together.
In November of 2009, I was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease and began extensive treatment right away to combat the condition. Two and a half years later I am happy to report, I'm symptom free! Now my mission is to spread awareness by creating a campaign including a Lyme awareness film, "LymeLight." LymeLight follows my story of living with Lyme Disease.
The best solution for a problem is action.
To support or find out more about my Lyme Awareness Project, check out the LymeLight Kickstarter page.