It's not easy living with Lyme disease– especially for athletes who rely on the strength of their bodies to excel in sports.
Imagine this: you’re running late. You hop in your car, and the gas is on empty. There is no time to stop and fill up. So, you spend your entire trip wondering if you’ll have enough fuel to get where you need to go...
Life as an athlete with Lyme disease is a bit like this. We have to be really careful with our fuel– and sometimes we unexpectedly have a lot less than expected. When flu-like lethargy hits, we have to learn to manage. Sometimes nerves don’t fire that should– which can make everything (especially jumping as a figure skater) very tricky. We have to be mindful of Lyme triggers, our diet, and making sure to plan as best we can to maximize our training without causing a Lyme flareup.
I’m Carolyn, I’m 39-years-old, and I have chronic Lyme disease. I’m an adult figure skater, aerialist, photographer, actor, wife, and mom.
The first step for me when I was diagnosed, was to find a coach who understood: someone who understood that I was not being lazy when I couldn’t push through on days where I was in a full blown mast cell or Lyme flareup. Who understood that skating in an older rink wasn’t an option because of mold.
If you’re reading this, and you already have Lyme, you don’t need me to describe the searing sensation of broken glass in your joints, like someone using your connective tissues to put out their lit cigarettes. Adding insult to injury is the incredible amount of inflammation that comes with Lyme– which means shifts in balance, swelling, and pain. It means some days my skates feel three sizes too small, and my balance point is off.
But skating in a Lyme flareup doesn’t just feel like I’m skating in someone else’s missized skates– it feels like I’m skating in someone else’s body.
Why not just quit? Because I am stubborn, and skating is part of me.
I’ve started skating outdoors as much as possible, because older rinks aren’t an option. The mold spores that others might not notice are detrimental for a Lyme patient. I have ice skates and also in-line figure skates, so that I can be outdoors in the fresh air as much as possible.
I’ve incorporated stretching, flexibility work, and off ice work, for the days that I don’t have enough fuel in the tank to skate. On high inflammation days, I focus on edgework over spins and jumps.
Most importantly, I practice self-love and compassion. As a teenager, my goal was to go to the Olympics, and every step away from that goal was a source of shame and self-punishment. Now, I’m grateful to just be able to skate at all. Instead of pounding my body trying to land double and triple jumps, I focus on big beautiful single jumps. I’m grateful to be able to do even that.
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The above material is provided for information purposes only. The material (a) is not nor should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nor (b) does it necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of Global Lyme Alliance, Inc. or any of its directors, officers, advisors or volunteers. Advice on the testing, treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
*Opinions expressed by contributors are their own. Carolyn is an adult figure skater with late stage Lyme disease. She’s used her skating & coaching in the film industry, where she works as a stand-in and an actor. She also runs a photography business, focusing on weddings, newborns, and content creation. During the pandemic, she was featured on Sports Illustrated’s website advocating for cold water therapy as a treatment for Lyme disease. She’s also an aerialist, polar dipper, wife, and mom.