Sporty mum Lisa Dunkley loved the buzz she got from cycling and swimming.
The 34-year-old enjoyed keeping fit, eating healthily and raising her two daughters to enjoy life to the full.
But all that changed in the summer of 2013 when, for no apparent reason, she fell ill.
So began a rollercoaster of bad health that has left her a shadow of her former self but determined to raise awareness of the reason for her illness – a tick bite.
Lisa, from Fareham, says she very rarely paid a visit to the doctor before the problem started.
‘Sport was my thing – circuit training, cycling, swimming and especially yoga.
The more I returned to the doctors the more I would receive painkillers rather than getting to the root of the problemLisa Dunkley
‘But bizarre symptoms were slowly surfacing. I had tingling through my arms, shoulders and hands.
‘After a visit to the doctor they put it down to breastfeeding. I had strange summer flu which completely wiped me out like no other I had had before.
‘Asking for help was most unusual for me, but I had to ask family and friends to help with just walking my child to school and back.
‘I didn’t seem to fully recover. Again it was put down to my weak immune system from pregnancy.’
Around this time Lisa noticed a strange bite on her leg which had taken longer than normal to heal.
She says: ‘It had what looked like tiny pinpoint black bits in it. But because I had been gardening a lot in our new garden, which was extremely overgrown, I thought it was just an insect bite.
‘My youngest was about seven months old so, along with tiredness and low energy levels, I thought this was normal.
‘Lower back pain, sciatica and weakness through my back began shortly after. Then weird electric shock nerve pain and crawling skin. The back pain alone was pretty debilitating.’
Lisa visited an osteopath chiropractor and tried continuing just the yoga to build her strength, but even that became too much.
Once super-fit and go-getting, she now suffered with dizziness, fatigue, weakness and awful migraines on a daily basis.
She says: ‘I tried to take things as steadily as possible and eat well. I even said to my husband “Actually, I feel like I’m infected with something”.’
But doctors were baffled. More illness followed including agonising joint pains which made it almost unbearable to do simple tasks such as peel potatoes.
The pain spread to Lisa’s head, neck and spine and she was referred to a physiotherapist.
Over the years she has been prescribed painkillers, antibiotics and other drugs.
She says: ‘The pain was becoming more excruciating and the migraines, base of skull and now face, eye and ear pain was relentless.
‘A day didn’t go by without me rolling around in pain. To outsiders I kept a brave face, thinking it would pass and I had my children to look after.
‘The more I returned to the doctors the more I would receive painkillers rather than getting to the root of the problem. These made it worse. I could only take these at night when I knew my husband would be home, otherwise I couldn’t function.’
She had blood tests, saw physiotherapists, rheumatologists, spinal specialists and had MRI scans and emergency visits to accident and emergency.
Doctors even suggested she had anxiety or depression, which only added to naturally-positive Lisa’s frustration.
One day a doctor said the symptoms were similar to Lyme disease and asked if she remembered being bitten.
‘Then it clicked,’ says Lisa. And Lyme disease was eventually confirmed. After three weeks of antibiotics things started changing.
But there is no other treatment on the NHS. Now she fears the late-stage neuro-borrealis which she has is too deep in her system.
So she has taken her treatment into her own hands.
She says: ‘I researched and researched.
‘I’ve changed my diet, cut out gluten, sugars and any processed food – although I didn’t eat much of that anyway.
‘I found a great nutritionist who has experience of Lyme and could help as much as possible with detoxing.
‘Along with a huge amount of herbals every day – I rattle with vitamins – adrenal support, and pulsing of antibiotics and acupuncture which I highly recommend, I feel I am very slowly recovering.
‘But I will probably always have to keep the illness under control.
‘I still have all the issues, but I do have a few good days in-between as long as I don’t overdo it. It makes me sound like an 80-year-old but I have to.
‘It is an incredibly complex disease to understand. My husband Billy has been a total rock and helped me hold it together. But for anyone to comprehend the daily struggle for anyone out there with this illness or similar is very difficult.
I have never wanted sympathy. I am usually the one helping others. I believe that the body and the mind are amazing and can heal.’