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Katerina's Story

My name is Katerina Baboulas and I am a 27 yr-old female, raised here in Toronto, ON. Up until 23 yrs of age, I was very involved in the Greek community (Vice-President of External Affairs of the Hellenic Student Association at York University), helped to organize Greek social events for the students, helped out at my local church on a regular basis, played competitive soccer, was pre-med and majoring in Biochemistry, until I fell very ill.

My illness started off as GI symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, vomiting) and progressed into something much more severe with time. I basically went from totally normal, to totally bedridden within 6 months. Not able to leave my bed or feed myself, I desperately tried to search for help. I went from doctor to doctor, hospital to hospital, and was told I had everything from depression, to cancer, to a fatal heart condition. I was kicked out of many practices, as no doctor wanted to be liable for my condition. I finally decided to gather all my test results and research myself, with the background knowledge in biochemistry that I had. I stumbled on the diagnosis of "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" CFS or "Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome", CFIDS, characterized by severe fatigue, weakness, insomnia, and systemic muscle/joint pain. This diagnosis seemed to 'fit the bill' but no one was searching for what was causing the fatigue.

After a lot more research I came across books written by physicians who have had the disease and who have recovered, that pointed to chronic infections being the underlying cause. After exhausting every Canadian possibility, and either being turned away or simply offered no help, I soon found myself in the U.S. where doctors were treating this condition. I flew out to L.A. to be treated while laying across 3 seats on a plane and on oxygen, only intending on staying for 10 days. It is there that I received the diagnosis of "Lyme Disease" that would soon change my life. Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks (small insects) of which carry with them a variety of other infections as well, deemed 'co-infections'. Lyme is but one bacterial stealth-like infection that is transmitted through the tick. I was put on I.V. antibiotics of which, in my weakened state, I simply could not tolerate. The I.V. antibiotics put my liver into a coma and almost killed me. 10 days turned to 6 months of stay, as I simply could not fly home.

Once home, I searched for an Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) that does the bulk of treatment without antibiotics (as I could not tolerate them). All signs quickly pointed to a clinic out in Seattle. The doctor there has been treating this illness for over 30 yrs and has had it himself. There are many components causing the immune suppression that allows for the Lyme to thrive. One of them being mold exposure. I recently had an Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) test performed on my home and it was found to be very high in mold, scored in the 92nd percentile. I have also had genetic testing done to see if I am susceptible to mold illness. In fact, I have what is called the 'dreaded genes', which simply mean, I am highly susceptible to mold and lyme illness, in that I cannot clear bio/neurotoxins created by these organisms which cause patients like me to become more severely ill. This means that I must either move or remediate the mold if I wish to have a chance at recovery. Each option is out of my budget and I have resorted to purchasing a tent to temporarily use in my backyard as a means to avoid the mold.

There are many aspects to treating the illness that very quickly make it very complicated. I am not interested in easy, I am interested in possible. I know it IS possible to get well, for many others like myself have recovered. The only true issue standing in my way is financial. My parents have mortgaged our home to pay for treatment as the Canadian government will not affirm the presence of Lyme Disease in this country; it is a political disaster. It is a very highly politicized illness, in that, when acutely bitten, a simple round of antibiotics tends to be curative. In the chronic stages, sometimes years of antibiotics are not enough, and even more difficult, when there are sensitive patients such as myself who cannot tolerate antibiotics, other methodologies need to be considered. If the Canadian Government was to acknowledge the fact that ticks and Lyme exist in Canada, they would stand to loose millions of dollars in health-care, so the sad truth is that they sweep it under the rug, and take away physician's licenses who try to treat the illness (I have born witness to the latter). Moreover, during my stays in Seattle while in the I.V. room, about 80% of the people I meet in Seattle are Canadian and actually from Ontario! It is really mind blowing.

Before becoming ill, I wanted to become a doctor. After almost losing my life a handful of times to this illness, I intrinsically know, it is not something I want to do, rather, it is something I need to do. I have been blessed with many talents during my life, and am very grateful for them all. After going through everything I have gone through, I have learned more than ever imaginable out of school, rather than in school. I have grown mentally, spiritually and intellectually more than I ever thought possible. My prayer was to become a good doctor. As they say, be careful for what you wish for, for the best doctors are those who have been ill and brought themselves back to health. If I had to do this journey over again, irregardless of all the mental, physical and spiritual pain, I would. I see this illness as an opportunity and blessing, rather than a curse. There is constant room for growth, and learning what I have learned and not sharing these healing talents with the world, is simply a sin. I have plans to return to school and finish my last credit (Thesis) that remains before I had to drop out, then pursue medical school and my dream of becoming a doctor. There is nothing I would like to see more than real treatment being brought to Canada for this illness, of which I hope one day to achieve. I would like to open up my own clinic along with my younger brother (who is now in Naturopathic Medical School after having a change of heart in his career due to my situation) and bring Canadian citizens what they deserve; treatment.

My story of suffering is not very different than the thousands of other Canadians suffering with this illness. However, I feel that God has challenged me for a reason. I have seen so much generosity and love come my way that I never felt worthy for. I have now come to the realization, that maybe I am indeed worthy, because I have big dreams and goals, and I do intend on changing people's lives by paying it forward, if not one person at a time.

What I would like to ask of all of you, is if it is at all possible for you to help me sell prints of my paintings that I have painted throughout the duration of my illness. A lot of the sketches I did from bed, barely able to feed myself. When I had a little more energy, I dedicated those moments to my paintings. Other paintings I painted while i still had bandages around my arms from ER visits (see "Freedom or Death" painting). The painting of Zeus vs Devil, took me over 2 years to paint. It is my Greek-warrior-like never-die attitude, that has kept me going along with prayers, thus far. I humbly accept any help and appreciate any support, even if only prayers. I thank you for taking the time to go through this message, and I appreciate your time and concerns.

Thank you very much,

Katerina Baboulas