Within 24 hours, she was desperately ill. “It was like being hit by a truck.” Nicole recalls. “It was tiredness I had never known. It felt like I had a major accident. That was the first day I felt symptoms of Lyme disease. It was about a week later I finally ended up in the ER. From that day forward, my life changed.”
6 weeks before, she was spending Christmas with her boyfriend in Costa Rica. An avid surfer, Nicole traveled the world chasing the perfect wave. While on vacation, Nicole came down with what felt like a bad flu that came with a rash.
When she recovered and came back home to Canada, Nicole never thought she would end up in the Emergency Room. Nicole was tested for a number of illnesses: the prime suspect was Multiple Sclerosis. She was the right age and the symptoms fit. However, her neurologist saw no signs of MS from her MRI.
Still sick, Nicole returned to work and tried to cope with the constant exhaustion. “I started searching for answers, and I visited about 20 doctors over 6 years. I tried everything under the sun, but still no one could help. I was suffering, it was very hard and scary.”
Nicole’s mother started to suspect her daughter had contracted Lyme disease in Costa Rica. She was referred to a tropical disease specialist, but the test came back negative for Lyme. It seemed like a dead end. However, Nicole tested positive for another tick-bourne illness. “The testing in Canada is in the dark ages,” explains Nicole. “Years later, I discovered that people who are infected with the illness I tested positive for very often contract Lyme disease from the same tick.”
Between her trip to Costa Rica and her diagnosis 6 years later, Nicole married her boyfriend and had two beautiful children. However, Nicole was suffering: “It was heartbreaking. It was so sick. I tried everything to make it work, but I had to quit my dream job. I feel really fortunate my husband is able to support our family financially. If I was single and unable to work I don’t know what would have happened to me. ”
Fortunately, along the way Nicole visited a Naturopathic Doctor who listened to her story and felt Lyme Disease could be the answer. This led Nicole on the road to a diagnosis and treatment, but still she encountered doubt and reluctance from medical professionals. “The stigma against Lyme disease is huge in Canada,” Nicole explains. “If I’m seeing a doctor for some other reason, I won’t let him or her know I have Lyme if I can help it. The attitudes I encountered made me doubt myself and my sanity.”
Nicole hopes the tides will change for people with Lyme Disease in Canada. “The BC Women’s Complex Chronic Diseases Program is our only hope in Canada,” Nicole says. “I really appreciate what they are doing. They are the only medical establishment acting as an advocate for us. BC Women’s can push forward and challenge the stigma by educating medical professionals and the public. It will take time, but everyone across the country is counting on BC Women’s to develop a test so we can finally get quality care and acceptance for Lyme Disease.”
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