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This interview is with Lauren Lovejoy, the President and Founder of the non-profit Lyme Warrior. You may have heard about one of their wonderful campaigns, such as, Kids Smile Boxes, or most recently, Ink to End Lyme. According to the Lyme Warrior website, this is their mission: Lyme Warrior is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization fighting to bring awareness and support to the sufferers of the silent, debilitating epidemic of Lyme Disease. Proceeds fund research, awareness campaigns, and impoverished Lyme Warriors. You can donate directly to Lyme Warrior or buy items from their online store. Lauren works tirelessly to empower other Lyme patients to raise awareness and make change. She truly lives up to the title of her organization.
What is your Lyme story? How do you think you contracted Lyme and how long did it take you to get a diagnosis?
I have no idea where I got Lyme. One day I was driving on a long trip by myself and had my first anxiety attack. Within a month, I was so lightheaded I could not get out of bed and I started seeing doctor after doctor. It took me a year to get diagnosed when I ended up in an LLMD's office by accident. There I was diagnosed and started learning all about the disease that had changed my life.
You are the President and Founder of Lyme Warrior. Tell us a little about the organization:
Lyme Warrior was created out of my frustration at being home bound for years. After I finally got diagnosed and found that my story was common, I felt the extreme need to raise awareness so others wouldn't have to go through what I did. I reached out to others who wanted to change this disease and together we started creating products and projects we hoped would bring awareness while raising funding for Lyme research. We are now a small team of volunteers still in our first year. Our focus is to fund different types of research while raising awareness. We became an official nonprofit just a few weeks ago, but have big plans and ideas for how to make things change.
Lyme Warrior created the Ink to End Lyme campaign. Can you tell us about it. What is it? Where did the idea come from? How did you become connected with tattoo artists across the country?
Tattoos have been an interest of mine for a long time. I had work done by many amazing artists some of whom I became friends with over the years. I reached out to a few to see if they would be interested in donating a day of tattooing to help fund research for Lyme Disease and they of course said they would love to help. With their help, many other shops wanted to help as well. We asked each shop to do anything they wanted for a day to raise awareness. Some shops offered flash tattoos, some donated gift certificates, and some just donated to the cause. With such big names helping, it has been getting a lot of attention in the tattoo world.
How is the campaign going so far? Do you plan to make it an annual event?
Because of the success, we will definitely be having a second year. With big name artists like Kelly Doty, Timmy B, Jessie Smith, and Geary Morrill we have attracted a lot of attention in the tattoo world and hope to do even more next year.
What do you want people to know about Lyme disease?
I just want people to be educated about what Lyme really is--the extent to how disabling and deadly it can be, the issues with correct testing, and the adversity patients have to go through just to get a correct diagnosis. If people knew what Lyme disease was really like the funding and change would come naturally. Like so many things, it's ignorance that creates the challenge.
Do you have any advice for the newly diagnosed?
For those newly diagnosed, I highly recommend finding support. If that's friends that will stick around, support groups, or a more stable living situation. Find the stability that will give you strength through the journey.
Do you have a role model in the Lyme community?
Many. I admire anyone battling Lyme who continues to get up every day and keep trying.
Please share a mantra or quote that inspires you:
"Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change" - Brene Brown
Follow Lyme Warrior:
"When it comes to what really matters - what makes us laugh and cry, grieve and yearn, delight and rejoice - we share the same heart space. We just fill it with different things." - Oprah Winfrey