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How I'm Using My Experience With Lyme Disease to Educate Others

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By Patrick Plum

I have chronic Lyme disease. You can’t see it on the outside and most people can’t tell unless they look closely. I, however, have not had a moment where I didn’t feel a symptom for over four years. Here is my story:

It was summer of 2012. I was living in the Midwest of the United States a few months before my 33rd birthday. I had my dream job as a pilot for a major airline for five years. I’d been dating a girl for two years and had just bought an engagement ring. I was in excellent shape. I had just earned my first degree black belt, was teaching boxing and working out two-plus hours a day. I was an avid motorcyclist and enjoyed sharing this passion with others as well as teaching people to ride.

On my days off from work I’d often volunteer taking friends and their kids on single engine airplane rides and taught flying part-time at a local airport. To be cliche, I was living the dream. My hard work was starting to pay off. One day, I looked in the mirror and saw a big “yellow bruise” on the left side of my chest. It didn’t hurt, so I didn’t think much of it. Little did I know, this rash was about to change my life…

In August I had just returned from a trip to Jackson, WY. I’d also been spending a lot of time at my dad’s cabin in western Wisconsin. One morning, I woke up with a pounding headache and what felt like the worst hangover I had ever had. I tired easily, and even though I continued to work out, I got weaker. I thought I’d been working too much or was experiencing jet lag from jumping time zones frequently, but no matter how much I rested, it got worse. Then came a myriad of other symptoms. Digestive problems, swollen glands, fatigue, malaise, muscle stiffness and several others.

I saw MDs, chiropractors, NDs, nutritionists, dentists, physical therapists, infectious disease specialists, etc. After 36 doctors, including some very well-known specialists, they found nothing major. Low magnesium, low vitamin D, high mercury and high cholesterol. Several doctors attempted to steer me toward a mental health diagnosis, but I knew my body and wouldn’t accept that. I decided to seek out a doctor who just treated Lyme disease, an LLMD. I fit every symptom of it. She asked if I had been tested for co-infections which, like most people, I had no idea what that was.

In April 2014, I had an answer. I tested positive for several tick-borne infections. Since I had what is considered “chronic” or “late-stage” Lyme disease, I was told recovery would not be short or easy. This was an understatement. In May 2014, I made the decision that in order to fully fight Lyme disease head on, I needed to temporarily hang up my wings. My company has been a godsend and told me to come back whenever I felt better. In May of 2015, I went public to friends, family and over social media.

It’s been the hardest four years of my life. Some of my symptoms resolved quickly and completely, others linger. Some of my friends and family amazed me with their compassion, others shocked me with their lack of loyalty. I continue to ride the roller coaster of symptoms. Above my counter with all of my meds and supplements, I have a picture of myself happy, healthy and in my uniform at work. Since this is my goal and gives me something to work toward.

In the meantime, I’ve found a purpose in being an advocate for others struggling with Lyme disease since I know what they’re going through. The crushing loneliness and isolation, the horrifying physical symptoms and fighting the fear that we may all be stuck this way – all while seemingly fighting this on our own while a large percentage of “modern medicine” ignorantly and foolishly turn their backs on us.

Since doctors are unknowingly poorly educated on this subject, and some don’t believe in chronic Lyme disease at all, I’ve made it one of my goals to educate and spread awareness. I’ve used my teaching background as a mode to educate. Some of my posts and videos are meant to hit people deeply on an emotional level. Others are meant to entertain with scientific fact mixed in with humor. Since most people won’t get it until they “get it” (get infected), I have also made it one of my life goals to be a voice for the millions senselessly struggling in silence due to medical ignorance with Lyme disease. I have vowed that the rest of my life will be used to try to change this. I’ll continue to do this long after I’m symptom-free and have my “life back.” That tick attached itself to the wrong person!

I firmly believe my story is still being written. Just like it is for you! There is healing from chronic Lyme disease. Don’t believe me? Keep watching!

Patrick Plum began advocating through his YouTube channel and Facebook page after he was infected with Lyme disease in 2012 because he was in search of people that “got it” and figured other people must be struggling with the same emotions he was. Patrick mixes humor with knowledge in his Lyme advocacy efforts and is a regular contributor to the Beyond The Basics Academy podcast.

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Photo via Digital Vision on Getty Images

Originally published: November 22, 2017
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