NEWS: Sacramento State teacher/athlete shares fight against Lyme
The student newspaper from California State University, Sacramento, profiles Pamela O'Kane, who fought back after Lyme treatment to compete in world class athletic events.
From the State Hornet:
Lecturer shares fight against illness
Published: Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Sacramento State lecturer Pamela O’Kane said her most memorable moment during the recent International Triathlon Union World Championships happened a few minutes before she crossed the finish line.
She was on the home stretch when she saw a sideline supporter waving an American flag and shouting "Team USA! Team USA! Take the flag! Take the flag!"
"I ran faster after that moment. My energy was renewed, as if I had just started the race," said O’Kane, who recently came back from the championships in Budapest, Hungary last month. "I felt so proud to be representing my country, the United States of America. The feeling brings tears to my eyes. That meant so much to me."
Despite having contracted Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness infecting the bloodstream, a few years ago, O’Kane is determined not to let her illness get in the way of her doing what she loves.
In the past two years, O’Kane, who was afraid of heights, has climbed the 8,000-foot-high Yosemite National Park’s Half Dome. She has also competed twice in triathlon championships, with the second one held last month.
"I never forget that there are people who cannot race," O’Kane said. "There are people in wheelchairs. There are people who have been paralyzed by Lyme disease, and there are people who will never be able to walk again. Those are the people I run for."
In 2006, O’Kane began experiencing the first symptoms of Lyme disease. These include rapid weight loss, decreased muscle mass, slurred speech, trouble walking and uncontrollable leg and arm spasms, among other neurological difficulties.
"Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed. At first doctors told me I had ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), an incurable neurological disease, and told me I only had a few more months to live," O’Kane said.