This is Mel's story:
"My name is Melanie and I am a Registered Veterinary Technician. I graduated from the St. Lawrence College program in June 2006. I have been off work from Airdrie Animal Clinic since October 2016 due to illness.
It started on October 9, 2016 with what seemed to be a simple cold. The last few years when I have fallen ill, it has taken me 2-3 weeks to recover and return to work. This illness seemed no different but then it kept persisting. I would sleep 16 hours a day and yet had no energy. I had laryngitis and a horrible cough that continued into November and December. Something was not right, I had never felt so weak and exhausted in my entire life. My doctor had done a complete workup and nothing of significance came out of the tests. Everything just pointed to a really bad virus that I was having a hard time shaking.
My doctor sent me to an internal medicine specialist, who then sent me to get further testing. Again... everything came back normal. I was then referred to an ear, nose, throat specialist due to the laryngitis that was still brutally holding on. He did a scope and throat swabs - everything came back normal. In January 2017, the only other thing the internal medicine doctor could think to do was change my medication, on the off chance that it could be causing the laryngitis. My voice came back two weeks later and the coughing lessened. Now I was having insomnia, still lethargic, tremors/shaking in my hands and I was now becoming depressed because no one could figure out what was wrong... I was thinking maybe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
By March, my colleague suggested I get checked for Lyme disease. I had never been bit by a tick as far as I knew and I had never had a bulls-eye rash that I was aware of either. At this point, I figured I "why not," as it certainly couldn't hurt. It took some convincing for the province to run it but once again it came back as negative. My colleague then inquired if it was the simple Elisa test - it was. They suggested I go to a different doctor and check out the CanLyme website to see if they could suggest a doctor who could see me. The Lyme literate doctor in my community is an internal medicine specialist (which I would need a referral to) and his wait list is two years!! By this time it was May (2017) and my symptoms had declined. The tremors were felt all over my body, my joints were getting really stiff and sore (especially knees and elbows), I was getting muscle spasms and I was becoming forgetful of simple tasks and words. I felt like I was going crazy because the medical community couldn't figure out what was wrong!! I made an appointment to see another person on the CanLyme list in Alberta. It was a naturopath who is very Lyme aware and literate.
Once I saw the naturopath doctor and told her all of my symptoms, she thought I could very well have Lyme and sent away more blood work. She checked for Lyme and many co-infections, as well as Mono. Three weeks later I got results that I was positive for Lyme, Bartonella and Mycoplasma Pneumonia (walking pneumonia). Apparently only about 50% of people have seen a bulls-eye rash when they are certain they have bitten by a tick, so it is not uncommon for people to miss the signs. I was so relieved to have a diagnosis! Little did I know this was just the beginning of more problems...
In the medical community Lyme is not well known and neither are the co-infections. Quite frankly, it feels like they do not even believe it exists. However, our clinic actually had a dog come in who had not been outside of Airdrie and the tick that was pulled off ended up being Lyme positive! The more I thought about where I could have contracted this, the more I thought I probably had it for a good 11 years or so, from back when I lived in Kingston, ON. It would explain why a few years back I was getting anxiety (when I never had it before), why illnesses seemed to be so much worse for me and harder to get over, and also why I had been dealing with migraines continuously for the last year and a half.
Unfortunately, treatment has not been going as well as I would like. The antibiotics have been causing problems with my liver and stomach so there have been some learning curves and changes with medications that are on-going. I still feel as weak and exhausted as ever.
I did have a thought though about the veterinary industry and all that we are exposed to. Our industry has a high suicide rate and many of the bacteria we get exposed to can cause physiological changes in our brains, as well as our bodies. I often wonder if we were getting medically tested and treated properly, if that would aid in our well being? People who suffer with Lyme disease have a fairly high suicide rate as well, one reason is because doctors are not recognizing it, but also because it is affecting their brains and the ability to reason and think normally. Not only Lyme, but Bartonella as well which has a lot of the same symptoms as Lyme including 'messing with our heads'. I felt it was important to share my story to help recognize these diseases and save lives.
I have had this for years and worked with it for as long as I could without even knowing I had it. I know I am not alone. The veterinary community is filled with the type of people to just persevere and do our job without really taking into account that there may be something wrong with us. We just chalk it up to being tired from the physical and emotional aspects of our jobs.
I am not sure what the future holds but I am optimistic. I have grateful for the support of my family and colleagues. I want to thank you for your generosity and for listening.