How a tick bite sent this Essex woman's life into a 'vicious circle'

Cheryl Abbate said a walk through Point Pelee National Park changed her life after realizing she was bitten by a tick.

The health unit is testing ticks in the Windsor-Essex region for Lyme disease

Cheryl Abbate said her entire life has changed after contracting Lyme disease in 2007. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

A tick bite has turned one Essex County woman's life into a "vicious cycle" of healthcare treatments as she continues to battle Lyme disease.

That bite sent Cheryl Abbate from an active life with a full-time job in the healthcare industry to becoming bed-ridden for two years — wondering what was wrong with her. 

"It's frightening when you're as deathly ill as you are," said Abbate, who was bit by a tick at Point Pelee National Park in 2007.

Her first test for Lyme disease showed a false negative.

Years later, Abbate went to Michigan for another test which indicated she had Lyme disease. 

Dedicated to support

Her diagnosis has pushed her into a life of advocacy for people with Lyme disease in the Windsor-Essex region. 

"I want people to actually make themselves aware of Lyme disease," said Abbate, who runs the Sun County Lyme Disease Awareness Support Group.

"Once you get it, you're almost on your own."

Here's the pills that Abbate takes to battle her Lyme disease. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

A chronic illness

"Everything about my life has completely changed, financially, what I eat, what I drink or not drink," said Abbate. 

Treatment put her disease into remission — but now it's back. 

"I started to have vision issues in (left) eye, I developed trigeminal neuralgia and I was also diagnosed with pericardial effusion," said Abbate, who has gone from an IV treatment to oral antibiotics and then back to the IV treatment. 

"So it's like a big vicious circle," said Abbate. 

The Leamington woman said the best way to avoid Lyme disease is to avoid the tick bite. 

The Windsor Essex County Health Unit offers tips to keep tick-free:

  • Avoid walking in tall grass and stay on the centre of paths.
  • Tuck pants into your socks and wear closed-toed shoes.
  • Do a full body check on yourself, children and pets after being outdoors.

Abbate said if someone does get bit, they should talk to their doctor right away about starting treatment for Lyme disease as well as getting tested.

Here's what's in Abbate's "Tick Kit"

A tick kit with items from a dollar store

4 years ago
Duration 0:40
Here's Cheryl Abbate's tick kit she suggests people carry on hikes.


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