Amy Tan: I used to brag that I never got sick. I rarely came down with colds or the flu. I had health insurance for catastrophic illness and only used it once, for surgical repair of a broken leg, the result of heli-skiing, the sport of a vigorous and fearless person.
But in 1999, all that changed. I learned what it is like to have a
disease with no diagnosis, to be baffled by what insurance covers and
what it does not, and to have a mind that can’t think fast enough to
know whether a red traffic light means to press on the gas or hit the
brakes. I have late-stage neuroborreliosis, otherwise known as Lyme
Disease. The neurological part reflects the fact that the bacteria, a
spirochete called borrelia burgdorferi, has gone into my brain.
My case is in many ways typical. Like many, I had little awareness of
Lyme disease. I did not think about Lyme because I live in
California, at least that’s where I file my taxes. For a good long
while, it did not seem significant to me or to others that I also have a
home in New York and that I spent weekends in upstate New York. Then
again, one does not need to live on the east coast to get Lyme. You can
go hiking in the woodlands of Mendocino, Sonoma, Santa Cruz, and the
Sierra foothills, just to name a few hiking spots Lyme ticks and I are
But my particular interloper found me at an outdoor wedding on June
1, 1999. We were in Dutchess County, New York, a place that was lushly
bucolic–complete with babbling brook and trees, logs to sit on and cool
grass for walking barefoot. Dutchess County, I would learn later, also
had the most number of cases of Lyme Disease in the country that year.
And the particular swath I was in had had ten times the number of cases
as the rest of the county...Continue reading...