Pe­ti­tion seeks change in ap­proach

A for­mer Prince Al­bert res­i­dent di­ag­nosed with Lyme dis­ease wants bet­ter di­ag­noses and im­proved treat­ment

Prince Albert Daily Herald - - OPINION - JASON KERR

Can­dace Uh­lik will al­ways re­mem­ber the day she first learned about Lyme dis­ease.

It was the same day she was di­ag­nosed with it.

Start­ing in 1997, Uh­lik faced a num­ber of seem­ingly un­re­lated health is­sues. The prob­lems ranged from chronic back pain, to ver­tigo to neu­ro­log­i­cal is­sues like mem­ory loss. Even­tu­ally the prob­lems be­came so great she went to a natur­opath for a live blood anal­y­sis.

Af­ter ex­am­in­ing her blood un­der a mi­cro­scope, the natur­opath told Uh­lik she had Lyme dis­ease. The di­ag­no­sis came as a shock.

“I didn’t even know what Lyme dis­ease was at that point,” she re­mem­bered. “I bawled in his of­fice be­cause I’d suf­fered for 20 years with all th­ese health is­sues and had no real an­swer.”

Fast for­ward a decade later and Uh­lik is do­ing much bet­ter. She said she’ll never be 100 per cent cured, but the symp­toms are man­age­able.

“Now I feel like I’m at a point where I might be able to en­ter­tain go­ing back to work, but it’s very vari­able,” said Uh­lik, who was born and raised in Prince Al­bert, but now lives near Christo­pher Lake. “One week I might be bed-rid­den and the next week I might be walk­ing.”

While things of im­proved, the di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment process were far from easy. Even though she had a di­ag­no­sis from a natur­opath, she couldn’t re­ceive treat­ment or dis­abil­ity ben­e­fits with­out con­fir­ma­tion from a doc­tor.

That led to an­other test­ing process, which cre­ated even more con­fu­sion when it came back neg­a­tive. When her doc­tor fi­nally did con­firm the di­ag­no­sis, the treat­ment meth­ods caused an­other round of prob­lems.

Soon af­ter start­ing on an­tibi­otics she be­gan ex­pe­ri­enc­ing chest pains, heart pal­pi­ta­tions, tre­mors, spasms and, for a one your pe­riod, loss of eye­sight. Even­tu­ally doc­tors dis­cov­ered the dis­ease had spread to her brain.

Uh­lik calls this “the com­plex­ity of Lyme Dis­ease,” which she likens to try­ing to put a puz­zle to­gether. When one piece doesn’t fit, you try an­other one.

“You ac­tu­ally get even more ill be­fore you get bet­ter,” she said.

While her fight against her symp­toms is start­ing to wind down, Uh­lik has found a new bat­tle. Her ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the past two decades led her to start a pe­ti­tion call­ing for changes to how Lyme dis­ease is di­ag­nosed and treated. She started col­lect­ing sig­na­tures last spring with the goal of pre­sent­ing them in the leg­is­la­ture on Oct. 25.

“It’s how they look at the prob­lem that re­ally dic­tates their sur­veil­lance ef­forts and how they con­trol the prob­lem, but they have to ac­tu­ally ad­mit that there is a prob­lem,” she ex­plained.

“With this pe­ti­tion we’re try­ing to show them that, yes there are peo­ple con­cerned about this, so much so that maybe a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to treat this.”

Uh­lik con­sid­ers her­self lucky be­cause she found a doc­tor who took her con­cerns se­ri­ously and didn’t out­right dis­miss her first neg­a­tive test re­sult. Oth­ers are not so lucky.

Lyme Dis­ease is in­cred­i­bly un­der­re­ported by doc­tors in Canada and the U.S., with re­searchers in Har­vard Med­i­cal School es­ti­mat­ing that roughly 200,000 new cases oc­cur an­nu­ally in the U.S. each year.

In Canada, more than 90 per cent of re­ported cases come from just three prov­inces: On­tario, Que­bec and Nova Sco­tia. Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of Health, only three con­firmed cases oc­curred in Saskatchewan from 2008 to 2016. The min­istry con­sid­ers Saskatchewan to be a low-risk area for the dis­ease be­cause the most com­mon type of tick found in the prov­ince is phys­i­cally in­ca­pable of car­ry­ing it.

Re­ported cases did in­crease across Canada last year af­ter up­dates were made to the Lyme dis­ease case def­i­ni­tion.

Uh­lik ac­knowl­edges that progress is be­ing made on the is­sue, but re­mains con­cerned that not enough is be­ing done to help. For the last two years she’s joined sup­port groups and spo­ken to peo­ple across the prov­ince who say they’re suf­fer­ing with Lyme Dis­ease. The most com­mon com­plaint is that they’re not be­ing taken se­ri­ously.

“Peo­ple need help,” she said. “Ev­ery­one I know, with the ex­cep­tion of my­self and a few other peo­ple, can­not find a doc­tor to treat them.”

Uh­lik con­tin­ues to have good days and bad days as she un­der­goes treat­ment. She knows she’ll never be com­pletely cured, but as long as she’s healthy, she re­mains com­mit­ted to spread­ing in­for­ma­tion about the dis­ease.

To re­ceive a copy of the pe­ti­tion form, email Uh­lik at mon­k­ey­chick­soap@ or phone 306-989-0047.

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