Despite lifetime spent with incurable disease, Erin Meyers believes ‘healing is possible’ | News

Erin Meyers had a great gig.

As a private chef who specialized in plant-based recipes and food preparation for high-profile clients, she was able to hone her skills and creativity in vegan cuisine without the need to work in a restaurant environment.

But Meyers, now living in Bakersfield, has had an illness living in her body for more years than she knows — and in 2019, it came back with a vengeance. That illness is Lyme disease, a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by Ixodes ticks, also known as deer ticks.

“I have been unable to work for over two years,” she said.

Meyers grew up in Massachusetts, a northeastern state she calls “a breeding ground for ticks.”

It is suspected that she’s had the disease since she was a young girl as she has long suffered with a wide variety of ailments.

But it was November 2013 when Meyers started experiencing what she describes as autoimmune-like symptoms that would come and go and then come back again.

In fall 2019, these symptoms became chronic.

“I was officially diagnosed in the spring of 2019,” she said.

Like many people suffering with Lyme disease, she had been seen by numerous doctors and, according to Meyers, many told her it was all in her head.

“It takes a very knowledgeable doctor and special labs to properly diagnose Lyme, which is why I believe so many are suffering and don’t know why,” Meyers said.

“I have dealt with three doctors here in Bakersfield that did not believe I had Lyme and it was incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking,” she said.

She’s been through a lot in the past three years.

“I have had to have nine teeth extracted as that is where the Lyme bacteria chose to heavily attack my body,” she said.

“I had to leave my beloved private chef job as I could no longer push myself. I have had to deal with unimaginable pain. I have spent a tremendous amount of money trying to find what works.”

She says she only feels marginally better, compared to two years ago, but there are treatments she would like to try.

“Unfortunately,” she said, “a lot of the treatments that are beneficial are not covered by insurance.”

Her boyfriend, David Wyatt, has known her for 10 years, and they’ve been together for five.

“When I met her, she seemed healthy, vibrant.”

After being apart for a while, they met again — and she was clearly facing some difficult new challenges. 

“We as a couple had to go through some real growing,” Wyatt said. Establishing mutual trust was part of that process.

It was only last month that Bakersfield City Councilman Chris Parlier announced that he would not seek reelection due to increasing health challenges.

Those challenges are related to the Lyme disease Parlier contracted nearly two dozen years ago when he was bitten by a tick while working as a special agent for the California Department of Justice.

Ironically, he was in Tick Canyon near Santa Clarita when he contracted the disease. Parlier has been studying the disease ever since, including as a chair of the California Department of Public Health Lyme Disease Advisory Committee.

After more than two decades battling the disease in his own body, Parlier is well aware that Lyme remains shrouded in mystery and complexity.

“There’s a difference between European strains and U.S. strains,” he said. “It’s different on the East Coast than it is on the West Coast. In some people, it attacks the heart, in others, the joints or the brain, the neurological system.”

The Maryland-based International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, a nonprofit, international medical society dedicated to the diagnosis and appropriate treatment of Lyme and its associated diseases, acknowledges on its website that patients face a significant challenge in trying to navigate a medical structure in which Lyme and its associated diseases are often poorly understood.

This has led Meyers to seek out treatment modalities that may not always be sanctioned by the medical establishment.

“Two of the biggest things that are paramount in getting well are what you eat and the thoughts you think,” Meyers said. “Healthy food and holistic living are what I am most passionate about and I have so much I want to share with the world.

“I feel as though not enough attention or information is given on the devastating effects of this disease and I would love to … get the word out there for others that may be suffering.”

As important as it is to spread the word about Lyme disease, the bigger picture, Meyers said, is how chronic illness changes you.

“Having Lyme has been the biggest spiritual test for me,” she said. “What I mean by that is it has made me face all of the parts of myself I either stuffed down or tried to ignore.

“When you are in that much pain, feel like you lost your identity, thinking you’ll never be well again, having to rely on others … it changes you.

“Some people choose to stay where they are, and others,” she said, “see chronic disease as a catalyst for change.”

Reporter Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter: @semayerTBC.