Doctorless Disease - Lyme disease victims search for answers

Doctorless Disease – Lyme disease victims search for answers




The crowd is growing inside the tiny atrium at St. John Catholic High school, forcing the custodians to bring in more seating. Tonight is a one-of-a-kind event and the people of Perth, Ontario have shown up.

The guest speaker is Dr. Jennifer Armstrong, one of the few Canadian doctors willing to publically discuss chronic Lyme disease. Her willingness to address the crowd is groundbreaking for this small town, which has seen numerous Lyme cases in recent years.

Tonight’s attendees are only a fraction of the growing Lyme community across the country seeking information about a disease for which diagnosis and treatment in Canada is woefully inadequate.

By 2020, more than 80 per cent of Canadians living in Eastern Canada will live in areas infested with Lyme infected ticks, according to Patrick Leighton, lead researcher at University of Montreal’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Armstrong is from Ottawa and has accreditation in environmental medicine. She is past president of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine and currently sits on the board of the Ontario College of Family Practice.

Armstrong specializes in treating chronic co-infectious diseases, and has seen a steady increase in Lyme over recent years.

The full house hasn’t surprised Lisa Saunders, co-organizer of the event.

“We had nearly 60 people at our last meeting, and we were expecting more for this one,” she says.

Saunders knows what it’s like to have life come to a grinding halt. At her peak, the four-time Boston marathoner completed the Lake Placid Ironman in 2005.

She was an active figure skating coach who usually ran 10km before the break of day. But in the spring of 2009, something wasn’t right with her body.

“I was having problems doing really simple turns with my kids on the ice,” she said.  Parents soon began to question her integrity.

“They asked my mother if I was drinking alcohol while coaching because my speech was so slurry,” she said.

Later that summer Lisa challenged her daughter Lexi to a bike race. Despite having clocked more hours on a bike than anyone she knew, Lisa lost her balance on a flat stretch and broke her clavicle.

“There is no reason why I should have fallen,” she said. “When that happened, I knew something was really wrong.”

As Dr. Armstrong takes the stage she is shocked at the size of the crowd.  Notebooks flip open, and dozens of pens across the room click to attention. Everyone sits on edge prepared for any new insight.