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Read about a Lyme warrior's advocacy journey through creativity, leading to a powerful musical adaptation of Olivia Goodreau's memoir, But She Looks Fine

It was Tuesday, February 20th– I was nervously reviewing my notes, trying to make small talk with the other Lyme advocates as I slowed my breathing to prepare to lead this meeting with Senator Bennett’s office. I wasn’t supposed to be leading this, but I stepped in because our leader was recovering from surgery. Looking at the Zoom boxes with matching lime green “Center for Lyme Action'' scarves, I was astounded that I was the most able to take this role on. Other advocates had severe brain fog, fatigue, or were recovering from surgery.  We were asking Congress for $200 million to support needed Lyme research, prevention work, and treatment support. 

The meeting was a major success, and I’m pleased to say that we received much of our appropriations requests. However, while leading this major advocacy meeting, I joined remotely from my apartment, on doctor’s orders to wait to return to work given my hospitalization for a blood clot in my brain (I’ve recently learned that hypercoagulation is something many Lyme patients deal with). It was not 6 hours after I ended the Zoom call that I was back in the hospital with another complication exacerbated by Lyme & coinfections. 

In 2017, I went on a camping trip in Maryland with my two best friends. Three days later, I came down with flu-like symptoms, went to the doctor, tested positive for Lyme disease, and began antibiotics. Within a week I felt better and was onto whatever shenanigans I was doing as an 18-year-old. I didn’t give any of it much more thought until I started developing debilitating symptoms in February 2023– 6 years later. I was living with two wonderful roommates in an apartment that had a set of stairs leading up to the door. I started noticing that I couldn’t make it up the stairs most days without pausing to catch my breath. I had to start using the railing to pull myself up, and I knew this was not normal. I tested multiple times for COVID but the tests came back negative. Like almost every other Lyme patient story, this began a months-long series of doctors appointments, blood tests, urine tests, stool tests, x-rays, and medications to try to determine what was going on. Ten doctors and many copays later, I was no closer to knowing what was wrong with me and certainly no closer to getting better. 

I work as the Dean of Culture at a public high school situated in a working-class neighborhood in Southwest Denver. I also run our after-school, bilingual (English & Spanish) drama program. I feel very lucky to get to both support students during the day and create theater with them after school. Each summer, I’m tasked with choosing two productions for the following school year’s performance season. But this particular summer, in the midst of my appointments, feeling terrible, and barely having the energy to make food for myself, I couldn’t even think about reading through scripts to try to find shows for the coming school year. But when I met Olivia and read her memoir, the idea for the show penetrated through the brain fog and came to me, clear as day. Young peoples’ stories deserve to be told, shared, and learned from. 

As a high school educator, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know hundreds of thoughtful, intelligent teenagers, and Olivia reminded me of those who wait for me in the auditorium after school every week. My drama students are kind, smart, and they are advocates— for themselves, for their friends, for their families, and for our program. So I asked Olivia if I could adapt her memoir into a musical to work on with my students, and the answer was an enthusiastic, “Yes!”

Although I’d never written a play before, the script wrote itself, because Olivia’s story was already so beautifully written. For me it all became real when I got to see my students reading it on stage. Taking on the characters of the very real people in Olivia’s life— herself, her mother, the doctor who got her to remission, her best friend and ex- best friend, etc ;my students brought a story to the stage that was oozing out of the pages of this memoir. They began to bring their own experiences into understanding the show as well. Some have shared their own struggles with invisible illnesses— mental health, ADHD, and disabilities being a few. I have watched them take on this show with passion, dedication, and true empathy. All of us have parts of ourselves that lie beneath the surface and which cannot be seen or known without taking the time to learn each others’ stories. Given the obstacles that they face in their lives and at school, and despite the obstacles I’ve had with my health, I believe we all feel lucky to be able to create theater together and share some of these stories. But let me not speak for them; here are some of their own words:

"While we were limited with resources I can proudly declare my love for this work. I believe we have the best intentions at heart and I am confident this original masterpiece is of profound work." -Ugene

“This experience was full of joy and despite all the hard work I still keep coming back to see all my friends.” -Sophie

“It has been a pleasure joining drama club, all the fond memories that I am making are one of the reasons why I keep coming back, another being my buddies.” -Juanie

“This experience can be so different depending on what exactly you’re doing or what time you’re at. At the beginning it’s so fun because you have fun making new friends and at the end you get a little stressed from all the work but in the end it’s just super fun and every time it’s a new experience waiting to happen. You meet new people and you learn many different things that can help you in life or in school. The experience is positive in every possible way, helping with insecurities and everything.” -Gabriela

With that I invite anyone in the Denver, CO area or who wants to come in from elsewhere to see the original musical, “But She Looks Fine: The Musical,” on April 26, 27, 29, and 30 at Abraham Lincoln High School. Tickets, donations, and merchandise are all available at our website: http://www.our.show/alhsdrama/butshelooksfine


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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. 
Danya Firestone

Danya Firestone

Danya Firestone

Danya Firestone is a Lyme warrior living in Denver, Colorado. As a high school educator, she works as Dean of Culture and a drama program leader. She is also the creator of "But She Looks Fine: The Musical."