Bishop's Stortford woman Jo Doyle blogs about life with Lyme disease AND coronavirus
A Bishop’s Stortford woman recovering from suspected Covid-19 has written a blog to help others with underlying health conditions who catch the virus.
Jo Doyle, 44, suffers from a number of complications including chronic pain as a result of Lyme disease, which she contracted in the United States – but its impact did not become truly apparent until after the arrival of second daughter Eva, now eight. She and husband Nick, 45, an accountant, are also parents to 10-year-old Isabella.
“I believe I contracted it after spending 12 weeks in a forest north of New York doing Camp America. It’s the most Lyme affected area of the US," said Jo. "I was really unwell just after I left, but unfortunately it was many years before the implications of it were fully realised."
Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia bacterium and is the most common tick-borne infectious disease in the northern hemisphere. Symptoms can include malaise, unexplained flu-like symptoms, soreness and achiness, light and noise sensitivity, cognitive problems, fatigue, a stiff neck, facial palsy, numbness and tingling.
According to Lyme disease UK charity, if left untreated the infection can spread anywhere in the body, leading to issues with the endocrine and neurological systems and musculoskeletal, cardiac, dermatological and neuropsychiatric problems.
Jo, who was born in South Africa, said: “It’s changed my life entirely. I lost a lot and it’s taken time to come to terms with that. I’ve fought hard to build back a good quality of life.
“Every day my capabilities are different and my pain levels wax and wane. Some days I can do more than others. That’s hard to plan around and can be hard for the people around you to understand."
Her parents, Mary and Alistair Davidson, both in their 70s, and her in-laws all live in Bishop’s Stortford.
“I can’t tell you how lucky I am to have such supportive family and friends," said Jo. "I became seriously unwell just after having my second baby and we couldn’t have given the kids what they needed without their help.”
She previously worked in marketing, including healthcare communications, after completing a media studies degree. As a result of her experiences, she is now studying to become a health coach.
“I’ve learnt so much on this journey and it makes it much more worthwhile when you can share that with others and help someone on their own path to healing or improved quality of life.
"I’ve done this to help people with chronic conditions. We can feel a bit overwhelmed and powerless with the diagnosis.
“From my own experience I know there's a lot we can do to help ourselves, but we need to feel heard and to have an advocate on our sides to do that. That’s where a health coach comes in.
“It’s so much easier to work with someone who gets what you're going through and has walked the path themselves.”
When Jo and Nick both developed coronavirus symptoms, her fear was that Lyme disease would compound the condition.
“It feels scary to take on an additional burden, especially when we have been made so fearful of this virus and heard the stories about how pre-existing conditions can make it worse," she said.
“On the flip side, having been through so much with my health I know that I must trust my body to do what it needs to do to recover. I’ve learnt many lessons about how to cope in a health crisis and I applied them when I came down with Covid-19 symptoms.
“I was careful to continue to take my medications at the same time each day. I prioritised rest and removed all sources of stress.
"I added in supplements recommended by the Institute for Functional Medicine because they are evidence-based. Vitamin C was particularly helpful.”
Jo's blog sets out a battle plan for others to copy, including adequate rest and healthy eating over the “brutal” four-week course of the infection.
She said: “I’d also advise anyone with pre-existing conditions to have a printed copy with a list of their diagnosis, medications and details of their doctor and specialists. This helps family or doctors if you don’t have the energy to explain it or if others need to organise repeats etc.”
To explore Jo’s approach to coping with coronavirus, see https://chronictonicwellbeing.blogspot.com/2020/04/recovering-from-covid-19-with-chronic.html?m=1.
Follow her Instagram account, The_chronic_tonic, and Chronic Tonic Health Coaching on Facebook.