“Frightened and relieved was how I felt after hearing my diagnosis.”
While her specific initial Lyme infection date is unknown, Susan believes it may have occurred in 1996 at a southern Indiana campsite that was overrun with thousands of freckle-sized ticks.
However, despite seeing specialists in internal medicine, immunology and rheumatology, Susan continued to experience a myriad of symptoms, including joint swelling, immobility, pain and bruising, mysterious inconsistencies in liver function, suppressed immune function, extreme fatigue, memory loss and other issues. At one point, she was even required to go on bed rest for nine weeks. Still, she had no diagnosis to help make sense of all of these symptoms.
Nevertheless, Susan continued to move forward in her career and in academia. In 2010, she completed a master’s degree in Informatics at Indiana University, taking part in numerous special projects and overseas research. She also remained active in the community, supporting local sustainability issues and participating in local politics.
But, in the spring of 2012, Susan received another tick bite in Monroe County, followed by a rash consistent with the bacterial infection Bartonella, a common co-infection of Lyme. The steroid treatment prescribed by her former doctor suppressed her immune system even more, allowing dormant Lyme bacteria the opportunity to re-emerge.
Then, in June of that year, after experiencing significant neurological symptoms — including loss of muscle control, Bell’s palsy and speech impairment — Susan Coleman was diagnosed with Lyme disease. While the diagnosis was frightening, it was also appreciated, as it allowed Susan to seek treatment for the unexplained symptoms that had plagued her for the past 17 years.
Shortly after the 2012 bite, while experiencing dramatic neurological symptoms, Susan visited the emergency room but was sent away without treatment despite visible symptoms.
Less than 24 hours later, she saw a Lyme-experienced medical doctor who began treatment immediately. Having tried strong rounds of oral antibiotics (much to the dismay of her digestive system) and herbal protocols in the months that followed, Susan started intravenous antibiotic therapy in April 2013 and finally saw significant improvement over the course of the ensuing months.
Susan also adheres to a strict grain-free, sugar-free, alcohol-free, caffeine-free diet with minimal processed food – a lifestyle that has augmented her treatment to tremendous effect. “Diet and detoxification have been critical components to my healing,“ Susan says. “I know in my heart that I would not be as far along as I am in my healing without these protocols.”
Of course Susan’s bubbly, bright, can-do personality still shines through, even in the face of this debilitating illness. Because she has lost a significant amount of weight, some people don’t even recognize her. But her spirits were lifted when, one day, an old friend came around a grocery aisle to tell her they heard her laugh across the store.
Susan is the co-founder of Indiana Lyme Connect, serves as the secretary to the board of directors and after years of treatment is finally back in the workforce. Susan returned to work part time in September 2017, and in March 2018, nearly six years after her diagnosis, she accepted a full-time position in her field. Susan is beyond thrilled with this development, remains diligent about her treatment and self-care, and is hopeful for the future.
“I am truly humbled by God’s grace and the love and support of my family, doctors, friends and the Lyme community.”