Brenda Proulx says she’s out of answers and out of money.
The Welland resident has worked hard in her life, been active, and even beaten cancer, but Lyme disease is something she just doesn’t know how to overcome.
“It’s not a credible disease in the medical or government eyes,” Proulx said.
She doesn’t understand how this disease is any different from anything else, but there is a stark difference between how Lyme is treated in comparison.
She has been infected with the disease for two years. It started with a numbness in her leg and side that she couldn’t explain, which progressed to pain and inflammation.
Originally, she was sent to Hamilton for various kinds of testing for different cancers and diseases, including Lyme, but all of that came back negative.
Since then she has had numerous visits with doctors and other health professionals who were unable to diagnose her condition.
A naturopath in British Columbia finally gave her a diagnosis of Lyme after conducting the same testing done in California. She even got second and third opinion diagnoses from doctors in the United States and Germany who are well versed in Lyme disease.
Like many who are diagnosed, however, she found herself being denied the coverage needed to pay for any treatments.
Proulx was told that despite her stuffed file folder of documentation, she wasn’t qualified for private or provincial coverage because the diagnoses weren’t from Ontario.
She has some coverage now, but not for Lyme disease. She got coverage for her chronic pain and fatigue because of an Ontario doctor’s diagnosis.
She still believes she has Lyme, but even with that belief doesn’t know where to turn.
“I don’t know what is left for me to be quite honest,” she said.
One of the biggest hurdles for Lyme disease sufferers is that they have to pay out of pocket for treatments that may or may not even work and definitely aren’t cheap.
The disease has done more than take her money, of course. She can no longer work, can’t be active the way she used to be and can’t even go about her daily life. She has to rely heavily on her husband for many things, which makes her feel guilty.
“I just want my life back. I just want to be me and I can’t,” Proulx lamented.
Considering the repeated occurrence of stories like Proulx’s, talk of Lyme disease doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. Taking into account that Lyme-carrying ticks can be found in Niagara, the possibility for more cases exists.
The kind of ticks that transmit the disease, black-legged or deer ticks, are found in the region most during the spring and fall months, meaning that tick season is here.
If anything, it actually came a bit early according to Peter Jekel from the Niagara Region’s environmental health department.
“Ticks have a lifestyle that takes them through the winter,” he said, explaining that they don’t die during the winter, but hide themselves under the dead leaves and even the snow until spring comes.
Because of the region’s mild winter temperatures, he says tick submissions have already been coming through his door.
When a tick is submitted, it is identified and then, if determined to be a black-legged tick, sent off to a lab in Winnipeg for Lyme testing.
He cautions, however, against using a Lyme-positive tick as a self-diagnostic tool.
Even if the tick is positive for the disease, he says it doesn’t mean it will have transmitted Lyme to the person it has bitten.
The health department recommends avoiding forested and long-grassed areas, to wear long clothing when going into these areas, to wear repellant with DEET or Icaridin and to check for ticks after being outside.