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May is Lyme Disease awareness month

My family has struggled with the effects of lyme disease for the past eight years. In 2006, I was 13 and living in Southern Maryland. I was homeschooled by my mother and we participated in a study of local salamanders by going into the woods and taking a survey of them. While we were in the woods my mother sister and I were unknowingly bit by ticks. We had no bulls-eye rash and no immediate symptoms. A few months later after symptoms appeared we were diagnosed with lyme disease. I was lucky, my treatment only took six months of a combination of antibiotics and herbal supplements. My sister and mom had several co-infections and their treatment took longer. My mother suffered from the effects of lyme disease for 7 years and is still struggling to this day. 63 doctors passed her along, refusing to help. One saved her life.

The disease caused my thyroid to malfunction and become slow. However, I did not know until I was almost 19. For 6 years a struggled with my weight, not understanding why I couldn’t lose any no matter how hard I tried. My mother became so sick we had to go to public school. Because of my weight, I was bullied relentlessly. I would come home crying nearly everyday. My dream in life was to serve in the military, I was in NJROTC in high school. Towards the end I realized that because of my weight I would never be able to serve. After I graduated my family moved to Myrtle Beach, SC because I was accepted to Coastal Carolina University. I went to establish a family doctor and he did some blood work. A few days later I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. After taking hormone replacement for several weeks I had lost 40lbs. I decided to join Army ROTC at Coastal for the National Guard program that would help with tuition.

The program was a challenge but It built character, confidence and dedication. I was running miles everyday, hiking with 45+ lbs on my back, doing push-ups and situps like I never could before. I believed in myself and my dream. I was one of the top cadets in my class by the end of my freshman year. Over the summer, my thyroid slowed again and I gained 20lbs unknowingly, but I never gave up. I climbed a mountain in western SC which was one of the most awesome experiences of my life. When I started school in the fall, a change occurred. My body became tired easily and my brain was not processing like it should. The 3 year Army scholarship I was offered soon slipped away as my PT score declined. My chances of becoming an officer were now slim, so I decided to leave the program and change my major to Education. I felt like I had lost a friend, my family and my dream.

When I started the spring semester I had my blood tested again. I had been re-infected with Lyme Disease. I was devastated to learn that a tick, a parasite had destroyed my chances of a military career. To this day I fight, I never stopped running. I try my best to stay in shape to help my body heal. I refuse to let Lyme control my life and destroy my dreams. I graduate in December 2016. I plan to start hiking the Appalachian trail soon after for awareness of this disease.

Lyme Disease is most common in the Northeast US but it is not impossible to get in other parts of the country. Check for ticks, check your pets for ticks, and get tested asap if you find one. Get out and enjoy nature but with caution.

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