Olympic athlete Angeli VanLaanen asked this question in 2009 and it took her two years to learn the answer. She learned during those two years that even if cured, she might have to continue to live with the chronic symptoms she already experienced for the previous 14 years. Sudden dizziness, muscle weakness, chronic tiredness, and joint pain were part of her life since she was 10 years old.
Misdiagnosed by one physician after another after being bitten by a tick at age 10, Angeli continued to enjoy being active in sports. Her favorite sports of skateboarding, mountain biking and rock climbing, as well as her passion, freestyle skiing, brought her joy. In 2009, in the prime of her career as a Half-pipe Freestyle Skier, Angeli had to stop skiing completely. At 22 years of age, she had been unknowingly battling Lyme Disease for 14 years. Leaving her sport and close friends hit her hard emotionally, as it would anyone that age and so successful in a sport about which they were passionate.
Her life depended on the treatments she would receive for the next two years at her physician’s office, as many as three treatments per week. Only when the treatments were completed and she took time to recover and work to regain her strength, would she know the answer to the question – Is this disease curable or chronic?
Fortunately, Angeli had an Aunt who knew enough about her symptoms and this disease and was able to identify her illness. Her Aunt found a New York physician who diagnosed and successfully treated the disease in hundreds of patients. Even now, there is no strict standard protocol for the treatment of this disease. With someone like Angeli who had it for so many years, it was particularly important she have an experienced physician.
In 2012, Angeli VanLaanen returned to competitive Half-pipe Freestyle Skiing. In that year she finished 2nd, in the North Face Open Half-pipe, Snowpark, NZ, in her first finish that year. She has continued to ski and competed in the Olympics at Sochi in 2014. Her physician attributed her fitness and mental attitude as two important parts in her success in such a long battle recovering from her symptoms. Angeli is not considered cured, even now. She is symptom-free and her disease is in remission.
Lyme Disease is treatable and curable within a few weeks, if diagnosed correctly and treatment is begun early. The longer someone goes undiagnosed, the more chronic his or her symptoms become. It also becomes more likely they will not be “cured” using the definition of modern medicine. Medicine may only be able to state the disease is undetectable, as in Angeli’s case. Some of the symptoms of the disease can persist years after treatment is successful and the disease no longer appears to be present.
Angeli recognizes she was very fortunate in her recovery and is now involved in spreading the word about this disease in a video titled, Lymelight – The Story Of Professional Freeskier Angeli VanLaanen Living With Lyme Disease.
While we wait for vaccine and treatment protocols to be developed, there is good news in the prevention of this disease. Mosquito Squad of Fairfield County and West Chester County offers an effective tick elimination barrier spray. The barrier spray we use for ticks also eliminates mosquitoes, which of course are often troublesome to property owners at the same time of year. In yards where ticks are particularly troublesome, we also offer a Tick Tunnel program that disrupts the life cycle of ticks in your yard and around your home.