Health & hap­pi­ness

A mys­tery ill­ness robbed Avril of her spark...

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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 apaler­shade­of­

Me and Kevin mar­ried in 2012 Most days I lay in bed too tired to move

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