Eleven-year-old Paloma Herrera-Thomas ("Pomy" for short) of McKinleyville recently spoke with the author about her own struggle with Lyme disease.
NCJ: When were you diagnosed with Lyme?
Paloma: About five years ago.
NCJ: What symptoms tipped you off that you might have Lyme? What symptoms have you had since?
P: I used to play soccer, and [running and turning in] the cleats would really hurt my ankles, so sometimes in the middle of a game I'd have to get out. I had pain in both ankle and knee joints. [Since then] I've had headaches, stomachaches and stiffness. Sometimes I see dots and little shapes [in my vision]. I've had night sweats, night terrors, and memory problems. Sometimes I'm really tired, and it's hard to get up in morning.
NCJ: What do you do to relieve your symptoms?
P: I used to have physical therapy for my joints, but now I take medicine [antibiotics] and [herbal] tinctures.
NCJ: How do you feel on your best days?
P: Well, I feel that my joints are totally clear and my headaches are clear, and I feel fine, like normal. Sometimes, like last year when I felt good during gym, I would run the track. [On a good day] I feel like I can pretty much do anything.
NCJ: What were your worst days like?
P: My joints really hurt, I ached all over, and I felt groggy. Sometimes I got itchy rashes.
NCJ: Do you have days or weeks when you feel all better?
P: It's usually days when I feel all better, not weeks.
NCJ: Does it affect your schoolwork?
P: Yes, it takes me longer than anyone else to do tests, and sometimes my fingers are too sore to write. But teachers have asked students to write for me, or at home sometimes my parents do. And sometimes I can't concentrate very well, but if I sit in the front row it can help me [to focus]. My teacher says I'm doing great, though, and I do get good grades.
NCJ: Lyme affects people both physically and emotionally. What do you do to help you feel better?
P: When the pain is more at nighttime, going to sleep helps. [During the day] I just rest. Things that make me happy are playing the piano and riding horses, but sometimes [when the horse yanks the reins] that hurts my fingers. I like singing and drawing, and I like to have my friends over and hang out. I like to take walks in the forest and climb trees. I do Latin dance, which I like, but sometimes my ankles hurt. I also like being in plays.
NCJ: I heard that you like helping area animals.
P: Oh yeah, one of my favorite things to do is raise money for the Humboldt Wildlife Care Center, and the Sequoia Humane Society. I set up lemonade stands and then I give every penny I make to help them care for the animals.
NCJ: What is frustrating about having Lyme disease?
P: Not being able to do some stuff, and being sore a lot, and not being able to eat certain foods that I like, like pizza, bread, lots of Chinese food. [Her mom explains that many grains and soybeans increase the inflammation in Pomy's joints.]
NCJ: If you met someone today who just found out he or she had Lyme disease, what would you say to him or her?
P: Well, I'd say if you take your medicine you should get better faster. And I'd say that sometimes you want to scream because you're so sore, but it's not going to kill you, and you will get better. I'd also say that you might think you can't do something, but you should try it anyway. If you can do it and you like it, you should keep doing it. It'll be fun and you'll feel good about yourself. That's how I feel about horseback riding and dance.
NCJ: What has Lyme taught you about yourself and about life in general?
P: Well, I've learned that I am strong and brave. About life? Hmm... . Well, you go through hard things in life no matter what. And being sick can be a part of your life, but it isn't everything that you are.
At Pomy's request here's contact information for the organizations she supports: The Humboldt Wildlife Care Center can be reached at (707) 822-8839 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sequoia Humane Society can be reached at (707) 442-1782.