Bodies in Motion: An Athlete’s Journey Through Lyme Disease

Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz
Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Bodies in Motion: Part 1

By Rebecca Parsons

Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest will remain at rest unless an outside force acts on it, and a body in motion at a constant velocity will remain in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force. The later, I think, sums up my life quite nicely. Or at least it used to.

I used to be the person no one could keep up with, a body in motion at a constant (high-speed) velocity. I’d cycle through friends, going for a run with one, a paddle with another and so on, as if life was a relay and I was competing solo against a stacked team. I ran cross country and track in high school and went on to compete at the collegiate level, squeezing in surf sessions and backpacking trips on weekends. After graduation, I shifted my focus to lengthier endurance events, another half or full marathon constantly on the horizon. My surfing obsession grew along with my increased mileage and I spent every spare hour in the water, my hair constantly wet and my morale high. Once I added paddling to the agenda, it became a juggling act. I had to shuffle my schedule to find time to surf, run, and log double-digit-mile paddles. Between my job, family and friends, and what I considered to be the sports trifecta, I was constantly on the go and everything was perfect.

Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz
Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

Then, in July of 2015 everything changed.

I began feeling more tired than usual, taking naps occasionally and skipping workouts here and there (a rarity for me). As the month wore on, I began to fear I was depressed, although everything in my life was going well. My desire to run became seemingly non-existent and was instead replaced by teary eyes and a running nose in the evenings. My boyfriend became concerned and my mother deeply worried, so in August I went to the doctor.

A few days after my visit, the doctor called and informed me that I had mono. For the first time in a month, I breathed a sigh of relief: Mono was normal, I could handle mono.

Seven months down the road, though, I was no better. In fact, I was much, much worse. The fatigue became so severe that I was only working part-time, had quit running entirely, was only able to paddle or surf for ten minutes on the good days and spent countless other days in bed. I’d had a dozen blood tests and seen nearly every doctor in the facility, still with no answers. So I decided to see a specialist.

In March of 2016, I met with a doctor whose emphasis is chronic fatigue syndrome. After talking for an hour or so he decided to run a Lyme disease blood test through the trusted IGeneX lab. The test came back positive.


Since the diagnosis I’ve seen many more doctors, endured countless blood tests, and had more IV’s than I can count. I’ve tried supplements, oils, energy treatments, laser therapies, antibiotics, antivirals, blood ozone treatments, and have drastically changed my diet. I could tell you about how mistreated Lyme patients are and how the disease is not understood by the government nor the medical community. Or how I’ve spent thousands of dollars paying for obscure treatments out of pocket. But I won’t. Because that isn’t the purpose of this story.

The point is, everything happens for a reason. And while I’m still searching for the reasons for my ailments, I know they’re there. If I can help just one person through my experience, then maybe it’s worth it.

While Lyme disease may not be your demon, we’ve all got them. Maybe yours is migraines, diabetes, cancer, a handicap, or even an injury. Whatever it may be, it isn’t easy or fair, but if you want to be a successful athlete, you have to learn to overcome it. Through this biweekly series I plan to share my journey of being an athlete with a serious illness and how I’ve managed to cope. I’ll share the things that have been hard, things that have helped, things that work and things that don’t. I’ll share about the good days and bad days, tears and triumphs, but most importantly about the many lessons I’ve learned through the experience. Join me on this journey and maybe we can overcome our demons together.

Check back in two weeks for Rebecca Parsons’ next installment of Bodies in Motion.

More Health and Fitness.

Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz
Photo: Jonathan Kemnitz

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, subscribe on YouTube!