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Lyme Disease

It’s springtime in the Rockies and, for many of us, time to head outdoors. We in Colorado love the mountains, lakes, streams, forests and valleys that blanket the landscape. We love the wildlife – from the graceful deer down to the sprightly squirrels and charming chipmunks. 

But there’s danger lurking in all that beauty. 

In 1999, Lorraine Bossé-Smith began to have strange symptoms. She started having horrible joint pain and swelling. After about nine months, she could barely hold a glass of water in her hand.

“I had fatigue, muscle weakness and started getting a chronic cough,” says Bossé-Smith. “Little did I know that it would be a frustrating and long journey to not only find out what I had” but how to cure it.

In March 2006, Bossé-Smith was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease.

Lyme Disease has been gaining more attention in recent years. It is a bacterium called Borrelia Burgdorferi that lives in mice, squirrels and other small animals that gets transmitted from black-footed ticks when they bite humans. This bacterium then lives in the human body, often hiding in a person’s cells.

Lyme Disease can be difficult to detect because it affects a number of systems such as the brain, central nervous, autonomic nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, 

respiratory and muscular-skeletal systems. 

Many people complaining of joint pain and swelling will be treated for rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or a slew of other false diagnoses that will lead to more pain and suffering because they are not being treated correctly.

And in Bossé-Smith’s case, it looked somewhat like rheumatoid arthritis. Yet, when she eventually ended up at a clinic specializing in RA, she learned she only had two of the seven critical criteria. The verdict: She didn’t have it, and they couldn’t tell her what she did have. 

“Every year since my first episode,” says Bossé-Smith, “I would have a horrible outbreak of pain and swelling. It would jump from joint to joint. And each year, the pain got more intense, and the episodes would last longer.” She was told time and again by countless medical professionals that she was healthy, and there was nothing wrong with her.  

“I finally took matters into my own hands and began researching on the Internet. Lyme’s was the disease that matched my symptoms most closely, and I had been on a hike seven years ago (in an area), that was infested with ticks.”

Bossé-Smith took an online quiz with the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation and matched many of the symptoms. She proceeded to take this to her local doctor and a Lyme Disease specialist, and had the appropriate tests. 

After six years of horrendous pain, Bossé-Smith was told she had the Borrelia burgdorferi in her system. She had Lyme Disease.

“The big question was ‘now what?’ 

“Treating Lyme’s (was) just as difficult as diagnosing it,” she says, but “the medical community continues to learn more about (it).” 

If diagnosed properly and caught early, most cases of Lyme disease now can be successfully treated with a few weeks of antibiotics, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

“In my case, it took three years to completely eliminate the bacteria from my system, and I got worse before I got better,” she says.

The CDC says steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat when possible. Check carefully for ticks after outdoors activities and remove them immediately.  

For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/