Stories

Nicole’s Quest for a Cure

It’s amazing how something as insignificant as an insect bite can change a person’s life. Nicole Bottle has spent the last four of her 20 years fighting an uphill battle against a debilitating illness and a seemingly uncaring Canadian medical establishment.

In 2007 Nicole became ill with symptoms that included fatigue, nausea, dizziness, headaches and memory loss. After a frustrating year in which she not only wasn’t cured   but, in fact, couldn’t even get a diagnosis from Canadian doctors, her parents decided to take her to the US at their own expense.

After a harrowing cross-continent trip in an RV (Nicole was too ill to travel by plane) she and her family finally got some answers from a specialist in Connecticut. Nicole was suffering from Lyme disease and needed to be treated with large doses of antibiotics over a long period of time. Her mother, Chris Powell, decided to rent an apartment so that they could stay near the specialist for the six to eight months of treatment. How she was going to pay the rent in another country for an extended time period, she didn’t know.

Through a neighbor in Sooke, Chris found out about Help Fill A Dream and was quickly approved for financial assistance. With that help and a rent reduction from a sympathetic landlord they were able to stay for the full course of Nicole’s treatment. “While the money Help Fill A Dream provided was important, the moral support we got from their phone calls and emails meant just as much,” says Chris.

The time spent in Connecticut did not lead to a cure and various treatments have continued since then. These have including regular visits with a San Diego doctor who comes to Seattle to lessen Nicole’s travel time, regular doses of antibiotics and surgery to unblock a vein in Nicole’s neck. Recent sessions of wheelchair yoga have also helped and she is making some progress with her physical limitations.

Despite continuing problems with her short term memory Nicole has managed to graduate from high school, sings in a choir, plays jazz piano and posts regular updates about her life on her blog (bitemeback.blogspot.com). She has also spoken to the BC Legislature in support of better treatment for Canadian Lyme disease sufferers and was featured in the CTV W5 program, Out Of The Wild (http://watch.ctv.ca/news/w5/out-of-the-wild) that dealt with the issue.

Nicole’s family has faced many hurdles over the past four years, including the high cost of her treatment which is still not covered by BC Health as no doctor in the province is willing to take on her case. They are also faced with costs of $1100 a month for drugs and frequent travel to the US. They are currently running a bottle drive on www.usedvictoria.com to try and defray some of those expenses.

“This has been a great struggle for all of us but Nicole has accomplished some amazing things, despite her illness,” says Chris. “The biggest frustration has been the lack of help from the Canadian medical establishment, not just for Nicole but for many other Canadian Lyme disease sufferers.”