Health & happiness
A mystery illness robbed Avril of her spark...
Beauty & the beastie
Blotting my bright pink lippy with a tissue, I was ready to hit the town. I gave the mirror a saucy pucker.
‘You look like one of those celebs off the telly,’ my mate, Jayne, laughed as we headed out to celebrate the end of our exams. I was 17 and had always been a girly girl. I loved make-up. But the next morning, I felt rough.
Blaming it on my late night, I was surprised when I felt exhausted the following day, too. As the summer went on, I constantly felt run-down, and my heart often raced uncomfortably. ‘Go to the doctor,’ my mum, Anne, 47, urged. Diagnosed with mild anxiety, I was soon off to university to study for a science degree. There, I met my future hubby, Kevin, on a night out. But I continued to struggle with exhaustion – friends often found me asleep in the library. After graduating, I started working in a hospital lab testing samples, but I developed tummy troubles, too.
My GP diagnosed irritable bowel syndrome, so I started being careful about what I ate, but
I also constantly got colds and had trouble sleeping.
‘Maybe it’s all in my head,’ I thought, as I began a course of anti-depressants.
When me and Kevin tied the knot in July 2012, I looked a million dollars thanks to my flawless make-up, but I certainly didn’t feel it!
Afterwards, I developed terrible headaches, joint pain and flu-like symptoms.
‘You need to take it easier,’ said Kevin, who was studying for a PHD in material science.
‘We can’t afford for me to take any time off sick,’ I mumbled.
But one day, in August 2013,
I was at work in the lab when I suddenly burst into tears through sheer exhaustion.
I decided to see a different doctor, who referred me to see a rheumatologist. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes pain throughout the body. But the overthe-counter anti-inflammatories I was on did nothing.
In 2015, I was searching for help online when I found a private doctor who was an expert in infectious diseases.
‘It couldn’t hurt to book an appointment,’ I thought.
‘I want to test you for the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi,’ the doctor announced after he’d heard my story.
From my medical training, I knew the reason why. ‘Lyme disease,’ I whispered. I knew it was an infection transmitted by a bite from a tick.
Soon, my results came back from a lab in Germany, and they were positive for Lyme disease. But how had I got it?
My mind raced back to spending days on a farm in the west of Ireland as a teenager.
‘We’ll put you on a course of antibiotics,’ the doctor said. By then, I’d had to give up work and most days I lay in bed. One day, Kevin said, ‘You know, you still look gorgeous.’ I was living in my pyjamas and felt about 90 years old, but I still always applied make-up. It gave me an idea...
‘I’m going to start a beauty blog for people who are ill,’ I told Kevin that evening.
Lying in bed with my laptop, I began posting reviews of beauty products and top tips. Before long, loads of people were following me.
Sadly, in January 2016, my liver had a reaction to the antibiotics and I ended up in hospital.
At the moment, I’m taking a break from the meds, but I’m hoping to start a new drug to boost my immune system soon. I may never be cured of Lyme disease, but my blog is my lifeline. While I’ve been once bitten, I’ll never be shy!
Avril Mcdonnell, 32, Dublin ● Check out Avril’s blog at apalershadeofbeauty.com
Me and Kevin married in 2012 Most days I lay in bed too tired to move