Tsawwassen resident Karen Marchand says she used to pride herself on being a healthy person, but all that changed a few years ago.
In late 2008, she began suffering from a range of symptoms - back pain as well as ear and throat infections.
"Just all these things started happening," she says.
Then, in January 2009, she ended up in the hospital with extreme pain in her head, neck and abdomen.
Marchand says she was given a battery of tests but doctors were unable to pinpoint the cause of her pain.
Over the years, she endured a myriad of painful and debilitating symptoms, and visited numerous doctors, clinics and specialists.
No one was able to tell her what was causing her symptoms. She says she was told the problem was all in her head, to go home and do yoga.
"Eventually I consulted with a naturopath who diagnosed me with Lyme disease and additional co-infections," she says.
May is Lyme Awareness Month and Marchand is organizing a workshop to help bring awareness to the disease.
"We need to be recognized," she says. "This is a real disease."
Lyme disease is an inflammatory infection caused by a bacteria that spreads to humans through tick bites.
The disease has a long-ranging list of potential symptoms, many of which can also be attributed to other health issues. Common symptoms include chronic headaches, sweating/ chills, sore joints and muscles, palpitations, tremors, neck stiffness, numbness, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and sounds, digestive problems, and memory/speech/balance problems.
The total number of possible symptoms exceeds 70 and ranges from physical to mental and neurological problems.
"During the most painful and debilitating period of the disease I experienced close to 40 symptoms, a common phenomenon as experienced by many others with chronic Lyme," Marchand says.
She is dealing with a number of symptoms on a daily basis, including acute inflammation of nerves and spinal cord, severe cognitive limitations and memory issues, joint and muscle pain, balance problems and an unsteady gait, and chronic fatigue.
She says she has lost the ability to organize and track her banking and financial information, and now has difficulty processing information, understanding concepts and conveying thoughts. She has lost 20 per cent of her body weight and now must follow a strict diet to ensure she is getting enough nutrients.
At its worst, Marchand experiences excruciating pain in her organs, muscles and head, is unable to remember how to do simple everyday tasks like using her coffee maker and loses the ability to communicate as words lose meaning and are elusive. She has to rely on others for transportation and to even take notes and ask questions during medical appointments.
The effect on her life has been devastating. A successful interior designer,
Marchand was forced to close her business after 24 years, she lost the ability to paint and is no longer able to entertain, socialize and engage in the community, something she relished doing in the past.
"It was terrifying to struggle in vain on convince doctors of the seriousness of my symptoms," she says.
Marchand hopes the upcoming workshop will spread awareness and help those who are also struggling with Lyme, or suspect they might have the disease.
The free session is on Thursday, May 30 at 6: 30 p.m. at the Little House in Tsawwassen (5061-12th Ave.).
The workshop will include presentations from special guest speakers Dr.
Ernie Murakami, president and founder of the Dr.
E. Murakami Centre for Lyme Research, Education and Assistance Society, and Gwen Barlee, policy director for the Wilderness Committee in Vancouver and a Lyme disease advocate.
For more information about Lyme disease visit www.CanLyme.org.