When Life Gives You Lymes

I never intended my life to end up like it did, but then again none of us do. Some people get the

pure luck, win the lottery. Others struck with tragedy within instants. Mine is somewhere in the

middle, I’ve had my fair share of bad luck, but the lessons turned over from those situations I

suppose, I can confide that I am lucky to have learned. See, that’s the thing about me, one thing

I can confidently say I admire about myself. I try to see the best in things, use an optimistic

outlook on a, well, shitty situation. I wasn’t always like that, though and I think it was when I

first got sick that I slowly gained that.


Around August of 2012, I had just come back from a ‘teen tour’ type of thing. I was happy as

ever, joining the field hockey team for the first time (god knows why). Anyways, life for me,

seemed normal. The sort of normal that really only occurs to young adults and high-schoolers.

The only problems that presumed me were drama with friends, and family. Nothing serious. It

was only when I realized the life and energy seemed to be draining out of me daily that it

occurred to me that life didn’t revolve around your small circle of high school friends. There

were so many unknowns, so much to explore, so many unanswered questions.


Fast forward a few months and I had been diagnosed with Celiac’s Disease (basically allergic to

gluten). I had done the blood-work, endoscopy and biopsies to prove it. But what couldn’t be

proven was why I still lagged energy, struggled to get through the hallways in school, the

constant stomach and head pain was all still there. Surely it would all disappear when I stopped

eating Gluten they said. Months later- nothing. Oh how genius doctors are!


Fast Forward another few months and I am now a Junior in High School, yet had the attendance

to show maybe, if I was lucky, I knew a quarter of the things they were testing us on on the

SATs. Joy. But that was not my worry anymore, after being tossed from doctor to doctor, still,

no one had any answers for me. “She’s a teenager she’s just stressed”, “She has chronic

amplified pain”, “It’s all in her head”. Hundreds of new pills entered my body.


At one point, get this, they told me I might have Lymphoma. I’m sorry what? So there was

another surgery on the calendar. Oh, Basel cell carcinoma cells found on my leg, must get that

removed before melanoma strikes!


By my senior year, I am fully homeschooled, unable to get out of bed. Still. no answers. I’ve

been poked and prodded more than I’d like to admit, and lost just about everyone close to me

(not blood related). My mom was my biggest supporter, but other than that I felt the shame

and disbelief in everyone’s eyes every time they looked at me. It was only until January of

2015 I got my diagnosis of Lyme’s Disease.


After 3 years of homeschooling, losing all my friends, losing my job, being cut open almost

monthly, it felt weird to be relieved of yet another diagnosis. I had always thought I had Lyme

but no one, aside from my mom, had believed me. For once in my life, I got super lucky and got

an appointment with a worldwide known Lyme specialist, whom people traveled overseas to

see. Again, weirdly luckily, she was 15 minutes away from my house. The first thing she said to

me when she looked down at my blood results was, “You are a very, VERY, sick little girl”.


I started forgetting how to walk properly, I was off balance. I threw up in between every meal. I

slept around 17 hours every day, but only during the day never the night. My body ached I had

to take hot baths every night because showering was too hard to stand. I did all of this, with no

one knowing. “You look good”, was what everyone said. No, I did not have to shave my head

(even though hair was falling out). It was an invisible wheelchair. I stopped dancing, stopped

living. I would go through the motions of my life, hiding from anyone the fact I was literally

rotting inside.


Once treatment started, I got a lot worse before even improving the slightest bit. I had a PICC

line (a peripherally inserted central catheter) placed in my left arm and administered at least 3

hours of intravenous medicine to myself daily. I really became to love Netflix at this time (trying

to stay positive, remember?) I kept my spirits high, being cautiously optimistic for my future.

Although I couldn’t go off to college, I knew it was for the best. I needed to focus on getting

better before anything else. I had a few friends who were helpful to me and remained by my

side, and although I may not talk to them all anymore I will always be grateful for that. I kept it

very hidden how sick I was, I never wanted people to know or judge. There were times I just

passed out on my floor waking up hours later, people wondering why I never showed up. I fell

asleep, of course.


For four years, I went to therapy and rarely ever cried. I kept that all to myself. But in October

of 2015, much changed. I was happy, not healthy, but happy. And I was ok with that. I tried my

hardest to be able to do the things others considered normal so I had gone out all summer,

drinking was normal to me. It helped me escape, but not in an alcoholic type way. Just a way for

me to not act, but FEEL normal for a night.


I had contemplated going abroad on a GAP semester for a while, and mutually it was decided

that it would benefit me both physically and mentally. I needed to get away, and actually have a

purpose. So, I booked my flights to be away for 3 months in Fiji, New Zealand and Australia

doing service work. I was beyond excited and started working on my body to get more fit for

the physical elements of my trip.


When the time came to leave, I was at an ultimate high, feeling great, looking great. I was ready

to start my journey. I literally gave my parents one hug and ran off in the airport (casually

saying hi to George Clooney). I flew to LAX and met up with the other 11 people I would be on

my trip with. We then all flew to Fiji together. Fiji was, to say the least, incredibly amazing. It

was STUNNING, the people were such beautiful souls, and I loved every second of it. As much

as I would like to think it was all rainbows and unicorns, it was hard. Very hard. 15+ hour work

days in the 110-degree heat. Building houses, mixing cement, running around with kids. It was

all very rewarding, but my body could not keep up with it. I began living in bed every hour we

weren’t doing work, and eventually after 10 days found myself in a hospital. All of this

happening, of course, stressed me out, I had looked forward to this for so long. However, it was

unrealistic, at this point, for me to stay and continue with the group.


So, I was sent home. Depressed and stressed. Hah. It did feel better being home, I wasn’t

stressing my body so much but I should be in freaking Fiji right now. Everything happens for a

reason I guess. I have been working out everyday, and started a new job as a swim instructor

(even though I’m an awful swimmer). I’m set to start school in the Fall down in Florida, so trying

to remain optimistic!


The things I’ve learned in the past 4 years of my life, though, have been so incredible. I have

had to grow and mature more than I would have liked to, but I am grateful to have learned so

many life lessons so early on in my life. Lyme’s Disease is an unknown slowly-killing disease and

well, straight up sucks. But when life gives you Lyme’s, gotta make the best of it!

–Britt Poulo