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THE FAMOUS NOVELIST AMY TAN
DISCUSSES HER ADVANCED CHRONIC LYME

I have late-stage neuroborreliosis. I have had this disease since 1999. My case is in many ways typical. Like many, I had little awareness of Lyme disease, for I did not live in what was considered the tick-infested hotbeds on the East Coast. I am a Californian -that's where I file my taxes- and I live among the hills of San Francisco with its tick-free, concrete sidewalks. For a good long while it did not seem significant that I also have a home in New York, that I weekend in the country, and my main form of exercise is hiking. In addition to trekking in the woodlands of Mendocino, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz counties in California, I have also sojourned to leafy spots in Connecticut and upstate New York. I once loved to sit in the tall grass next to the river, and lean my back against a shady oak tree.

I passed off my early symptoms -a stiff neck, insomnia, a constant headache, and a bad back followed by a frozen shoulder- as the unpleasant aftermath of too much airplane travel. I was often tired and jittery, but that, I reasoned, was the consequence of an active and exciting life. Who was I to complain? I had a wonderful life, a great husband, lovely homes, a successful career. I was rarely sick and went to the doctor only for my annual checkup. Even when I came down with the fever, aches and pains of the "flu" earlier in the summer, I had managed to beat it back without developing any of the respiratory sequelae. What a great immune system I had!

When my feet grew tingly and then numb, I mentioned to my doctor that I had had an unusual rash earlier that year. It had begun with a tiny black dot that I guessed might have been a pinprick-sized blood blister. It grew more rounded as it filled, and then I either scratched it out or it fell out on its own, leaving a tiny pit and a growing red rash, which, curiously, did not itch, but lasted a month. Because that rash seemed so unusual, as did my neuropathy, I wondered aloud whether they were related. My doctor said no.

For the rest of her very interesting experience please log on to this page on her web site: www.amytan.net/LymeDisease.aspx.



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