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“I don’t want anyone to go through what I did,” says Lyme warrior Kasey Passen. “The disease totally changed my life.”

  Kasey Passen is passionate about keeping people healthy. She’s also passionate about increasing awareness of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Passen will bring her two passions together next month when the Matthew Rachman Gallery opens its space for a special “Evening of Art and Education” on Friday, March 9, 2017 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. This special event, spearheaded by Passen, owner of Culinary Gatherings, a boutique catering company that also offers at-home culinary classes, is designed to raise awareness about the escalating incidence of Lyme disease in Chicago, and to help raise funds for Global Lyme Alliance (GLA), the leading nonprofit dedicated to conquering Lyme disease through research and education. Two leading Lyme-literate doctors—Dr. Casey Kelley, an integrative medicine practitioner at WholeHealth Chicago, and Dr. Christopher Janson, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Chicago—will present essential information about Lyme and related tick-borne diseases. The program will provide those attending with crucial information about Lyme prevention and disease symptoms, tick-transmitted co-infections and risk, and will be followed by a Q&A. Not only will 100% of ticket proceeds go to GLA, but 10% of all proceeds from art purchased in person at the Matthew Rachman Gallery or at matthewrachmangallery.com for six months, March 9, 2017 to September 9, 2017,  will be donated to GLA. “Lyme disease is very under the radar in Chicago and too many people are unaware of the risks they face,” say Passen. “It’s a serious, growing problem and people need to know more about it. Also we need to build more support for the growing community of people silently suffering from chronic illness.” Passen’s drive to raise awareness about Lyme in Chicago stems from her own experiences with the illness. She suspects she suffered for many years before accurately diagnosed, but had been told her full body pains were due to fibromyalgia. However she felt progressively worse, suffering from extreme exhaustion, alarming night sweats and cognitive problems such as brain fog and severe headaches. Passen sought medical help, but with very few Lyme-literate doctors in Chicago, she was only diagnosed two and a half years ago.“I don’t want anyone to go through what I did,” she said. “It took me a long time to find answers to my own health questions.” “My hope is to spread awareness and education of Lyme so that people will be able to recognize the common signs of symptoms and know the right questions to ask their doctors.  Lyme is very misunderstood in the medical community and we must advocate to get the right tests and treatment,” she says. Some 330,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. If diagnosed early, Lyme can usually be effectively treated with antibiotics, but current Lyme tests are notoriously inaccurate and can produce false negatives 50 percent of the time. Longer term infections can produce more serious symptoms, including joint stiffness, brain inflammation, heart abnormalities and nerve pain. Even when treated early, up to 20 percent of patients continue to suffer from chronic symptoms. With no accurate diagnostic test, no standard of care, and no cure, proactive measures to prevent tick bites are critical. GLA’s research portfolio includes a broad range of projects including the development of reliable diagnostics and improved treatments. “Federal funding for Lyme research is miniscule, yet the Lyme threat keeps growing,” said GLA’s CEO Scott Santarella. “This speaks to GLA’s importance in working with private donors to fill the void and drive advancements in the field. The more funds we raise, the faster we can solve the mystery of Lyme disease and bring about change for the millions who suffer from tick-borne illnesses.” Tickets for the event are available for $40 and can purchased at GLA.org/events. The Matthew Rachman Gallery is located at 1659 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, IL.