© Illustration by Kelly Fincher.

How has Lyme Disease affected your life? What inspires you?

My name is Kelly Fincher. I am 31 years old and I have suffered with chronic Lyme disease and its co-infections for over 15 years. I grew up in a small town in South Carolina – where Lyme is unheard of. I can vividly recall the majority of my childhood being spent outdoors. Whether I was in the yard playing with my brother, fishing, or camping with my family, I enjoyed the time I spent in nature more than anything else. I loved exploring the woods, hiking, canoeing, riding bikes, roller blading, swimming – you name it. My fondest memories were those of the nature trail behind our neighborhood; the neighborhood kids, my best friend, my brother and I would explore it nearly everyday. It just never occurred to me that one day, out of the blue I would wake up sick, and probably never get better.

Unfortunately, I never had the absolution of a telltale Lyme disease symptom – no bulls eye-shaped rash, never a tick that could be removed and sent away for analysis and that most coveted of commodities to Lyme patients – concrete answers.

We as kids would come home with all sorts of bites, rashes, and scrapes from the day’s adventures. Who didn’t? After growing up with what seemed to be comparatively uncommon ailments, in both amount and frequency, I muddled through my adolescence confused about what afflictions were unique to my situation, and what was considered “normal” physical and mental issues for someone my age to deal with. I attribute my delayed diagnosis to this challenging time in my life, along with a total absence of information about my illness. My life went on this way until I reached a point in my senior year of high school when I could no longer ignore my symptoms, regardless of the cause. The only thing I was certain of was that something was definitely wrong with me, and that I needed help.

My straight A’s went to B’s and C’s. My ability to concentrate and memorize – gone. I felt as if I had the flu, every day. I experienced striking joint and spine pain, ringing in my ears, sensory hypersensitivity, to the extent of being unable to do simple things like watch television, or even listen to the radio. I randomly caught sharp, offensive odors that I could only describe as harsh chemicals—seemingly out of nowhere. I slowly started to isolate myself when my friends did not understand. Isolation is a lonely word. I felt just that – alone.

One day I awoke with swollen eyelids, lips, and severe hives. My throat was so swollen that I was unable to eat. With no certain answers, my Mother was instructed to crush prenatal vitamins, so that I could retain the nutrients needed on a day-to-day basis. I was then misdiagnosed with mononucleosis. Once the infection subsided, I had my tonsils and adenoids removed. This was only the beginning of what had already gradually transformed into a long journey of misdiagnoses and rejection.

As time passed on, the symptoms grew worse; my joints and hands ached so terribly, I could barely hold a utensil or a pen to write my name. My chest felt as if an elephant were sitting on top of me and I was breathing through cobwebs. The mini seizures kept me from proper sleep, causing more fatigue, and my anxiety level felt like a 12 on a scale of 1 to 10. This is only a short list of my personal symptoms and experiences. Please know that the list is quite extensive and may vary from person to person.

With this disease comes a lot of life changes, and it has taken many things from me. Up to now, I’ve spent nearly half of my life struggling to take control of my health and make progress in conquering this disease that has already claimed so much of my youth and early adulthood. Through all the hardship, life has provided me with many valuable lessons and experiences that I call upon regularly to stay positive, and that I hope to share with others who are in similar situations. I have come a long way, but I am still fighting my battle with Lyme and my body is slowly healing. I am grateful for every bit of my journey, no matter how difficult it has been. This trial has made me humble and appreciative of life and loved ones. If any part of my war with Lyme strengthens another on their journey, then my suffering has been worth it.

The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.
–Ernest Hemingway

Special thanks to my husband, my mother, and my father – for all that you have endured for me. Thank you. I love you.
To Dr. D, without you I would not be here to share this.
To Gina, I have seen you conquer wellness. You are truly my inspiration.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. (Psalm
62:6)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *