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My Open Letter to Lyme Disease

Dear Lyme disease,

I'm not angry.

But I admit you made me miserable. You sneakily rushed through my veins. Anonymous, without a name, you tortured me for months.
I didn't know who you were or where you came from. I would stare bleakly out my freshman dorm window, my eyes dull and my head throbbing. I blamed my school.

During my first quarter at Northwestern University, my boyfriend and I broke up, my grandfather died, and I couldn't get out of bed for my morning classes. I reluctantly dropped a course after meeting with an adviser who thought I was struggling to acclimate to college. I was 850 miles from home and started to believe that I never should have left the East Coast.

But Northwestern was the pennant on my corkboard at home; it was the sweatshirt my dad wore proudly to our local gym. Northwestern was in the cursive letters I signed on thank-you notes I wrote to teachers who helped me apply to college. Northwestern was the school I had dreamed of attending for years. I didn't know what I wanted as those awful days passed. I was disappointed and then scared; I believed I had worked so hard for so long, only for it to amount to the wrong decision. I started to pen essays for transfer applications.

But you, Lyme disease, were the culprit. You knew me for much longer than I knew you. You whispered into that black-legged tick's ear to bite me and let the infection begin two summers ago.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year you were the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the United States. In fact, 96 percent of the 25,359 reported cases of you came from only 14 states, my home of Connecticut being on that list.

But why me? I had spent countless summers wearing high socks and soaked in tick repellent. I underestimated your tenacity.

You caused migraines that pounded to a beating rhythm inside my head, and you rushed through me as chronic fatigue. You wickedly weakened my immune system; resulting in five rounds of antibiotics when everything was said and done. You prompted strep throat, mononucleosis, ear and sinus infections. You wrapped me in a blanket of helplessness that everyday I stained with my tears. You pierced into me and gripped my core; I heard you laughing as your chisel hollowed out my emotions and what was becoming my freshman year college experience.

It wasn't until a doctor's visit and a blood test on New Year's Eve 2014 that we were formally introduced. I was disappointed when we met, but I knew the symptoms. So I trusted my gut and asked to be tested for your presence. It got to the point where I knew that what I was feeling was a real illness, not just homesickness and adjustment pains. You held out your sly hand, and I pronounced your name with hatred.

But look how far we've come. Almost a year later, you can think of this letter as a bon voyage -- it's time for you to go.

Lyme disease, you've contributed to some of the worst days of my life. Yet you have been a "blessing in disguise," and I won't take our experience together for granted. After the diagnosis, I started a strict diet so my system could focus on eradicating you. I began to get eight hours of sleep instead of staying in the library until 2 a.m. studying, and I took supplements and antibiotics daily and exactly to doctor's orders.

Even now, I still eat well and make sure rest is a priority. You have taught me about healthy living, but even more important, you've taught me to be grateful for my health and my happiness. The idea of transferring to another school is long in the past. I never want to return to those days, but I guess you can say I'm lucky I had them. Strong again, I now appreciate what it takes to heal.

So don't come back. You're definitely not wanted, but you'll always be remembered. I'm stronger than ever since overcoming you. And trust me, I'm armed with more tick repellant than ever before.

My Best,

Tyler Kendall