Warrior Jessica Crawford
Lets meet some Warrior Heroes!
Top of my list is Jessica Crawford. Jessica was a full-on badass PRIOR to lyme - a college athlete, honors student, and all around amazing human. THEN, you know what happened… a mystery illness (spoiler alert: tick borne diseases) took her out at the knees.
She went from water skiing for Arizona State University to being bedridden, suffering severe muscle spasms and joint pain, drenching night sweats, chills, heart palpitations, anxiety and memory loss. Only 20 years old, Jessica was stuck at home administering her own IVs while the people around her were out having fun and, as a result of her illness, she says she lost a lot of friends.
Undaunted, Jessica hit the books, taking lots of online classes from her bed and graduating—a semester early!—cum laude. She even did an internship in NYC, all while taking non-stop antibiotics through a chest port.
Jessica has gone on to do incredible things for the lyme community. We met about three years ago, and I was instantly drawn to her optimism, grit, and dedication to not only to her personal health but to helping others now and in the future by focusing on the SCIENCE behind tick-borne diseases.
Meet my dear friend Jessica…
Jessica: Warrior & Advocate for Better Science
Jessica is the Director of Development at Focus on Lyme, which her mother, Tammy, was inspired to establish after enduring Jessica’s grueling journey to a diagnosis.
The foundation’s mission is to develop an accurate Lyme diagnostic tool to spare the legions of lyme disease sufferers who, like Jessica, experience years of symptoms before getting answers. “As the lyme community knows, we need science,” Jessica tells us. “Once we have the science, we will prove that lyme is a real thing, and that will propel everything else forward: funding for treatment, a better understanding of the illness.”
Currently knee deep in trials for a better lyme and tick-borne disease test, Focus on Lyme will also strive to discover better lyme treatments, to spread awareness of the disease and advocate for better tick protection.
sd: what you may not know is that the current lyme disease diagnostics are over 50 percent false negative which is a real problem for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that if diagnosed and treated immediately, the odds of a full recovery from lyme are much better than if it becomes chronic.
The best advice that Jessica has for newly diagnosed Lyme Warriors
Jessica: Find a lyme literate doctor. The uphill battle of trying to get a doctor that doesn't understand Lyme to be on your side is not worth your energy. Keep fighting, keep researching, and be your own advocate. Know that you’re not going to get better overnight, but that doesn't mean you're not going to get better. Learn patience, try to be able to just sit with the process and understand that each stage of healing is helping you to get closer to where you want to be—even if it’s really really hard. And secondly, don’t be afraid to ask for help. You’re not a weak person for asking for help; you're actually a strong person for asking for help.
sd: ya, I was a colossal failure at asking for help in the beginning. It’s not a weakness people. It is practical and necessary. Drop the pride and ask for assistance. You can pay it forward when you are better ;)
The Mental Health Game
Jessica: When I am in those really down and dark times it can be really hard to pull myself out. I have to work just as hard on my mental health as I do on my physical health. You can take the supplements, you can do the IVs, but focusing on your mental health is such a big part of the puzzle, too. During the really hard times I journal every single day. I also try to get myself out of the house. Even if I don’t feel good and don’t feel like doing it, I still try to get and surround myself with the people I know are there for me, or I have them come to me. Surrounding myself with positive people is so important.
sd: AMEN to all of that!
Believe the Best is Yet to Come.
Jessica: The fact that I’ve gone through a lot and I’m still going—and not just with lyme. My dad passed away when I was 14, for example. But in spite of the hardships and struggles in my life, I still strive to be positive and have a healthy and happy outlook. I keep believing that the best thing is yet to come. It took me a lot of work to get there—it’s so easy, when you go through hard times, to close yourself off and shut down. To be able to not be afraid and to allow myself to still feel—I’ve worked really hard on that.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it, what would it say?
“Lyme disease is the #1 emerging infectious disease and is in all 50 states.
Know the signs and be prepared.
Educate yourself so you and your loved ones don’t have to suffer.”
Everyone Needs a Hero
Jessica about her #1 Heroes: First of all, my mom. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren't for her, and her belief in me and my symptoms. She was my advocate when I was so sick—I don’t think she slept for a year with all the research she did all day and all night. I’m the typical Lyme story, going to so many different doctors who all had different opinions on what was wrong, even with a positive Lyme test! My mom knew that my symptoms had to come from something else; she didn’t believe them, or didn’t care‚—she did her research to know that there’s a whole community of people that struggle with this and can’t find answers. She was able to get me to the top doctors. Without her, I would be wheelchair bound or dead at this point—I was very, very sick.
My second hero would be Sharane. She’s such a badass and she is so good at taking a negative thing—her chronic Lyme—and making something positive out of her experience. She's such a good friend and wife and she puts everyone else before herself, even when she doesn't feel well. She’s started to really share her journey and I’m very proud of her for that. The fear of “what are other people are going to think?”—I don’t feel like she has that a trait in her, and I really admire that. Anyone that takes something really hard and uses it to help people around you to not have to go through what you have—that is very, very admirable.
sd: awwww, thank you! (And this is somewhat awkward to post, but I appeciate all the kind words!)
Why Jessica says it’s ALL ABOUT gratitude… Even when things kinda suck.
Jessica: When you have to really tough something out every single day, with no end in sight, you learn to live in the present moment. That’s something I never did in the past—I was always so focused on the next thing, where my career was going, how my relationships were developing. Through Lyme, I’ve learned to be thankful for what I have today, the job I have now, the people I have in my life. I don't always have the energy to do all the things I want to do, and I’m not excelling in the way I feel I should be by the world‘s standards. So instead I have to be thankful for what I have, each and every day.
Want to Support Jessica and Her Mission?
Attend the FOL Golf Classic in Flagstaff, Arizona.