Marissa Freeman, who first got Lyme at age 9, recently received a community service award from Nauset High School for volunteering 100 hours of her time to educate the public about Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness that can cause flu-like symptoms early on and debilitating arthritis, neurological issues and other serious symptoms later.
“I get a brick in the hall of fame at school, it’s pretty cool,’’ said Marissa. Her mother, Lisa, who also suffers from Lyme, helped start Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod, dedicated to the education and awareness of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
After Marissa started at Nauset this year, she connected with teacher Christine DeSimone, of Brewster, who became ill with Lyme in 1998. DeSimone had been to 17 doctors before being diagnosed and she knew the struggles of the disease. The two recently tied green ribbons – a symbol of Lyme – around trees at school.
Marissa has also helped with multiple events during May, proclaimed Lyme Disease Awareness Month by Gov. Deval Patrick. Despite being fatigued, she aided with bowling fundraises, to a Lyme day at the State House.
At nine, Marissa began losing weight and suffering from deep fatigue. Alarmed, her parents searched for answers until the exhausted youngster was diagnosed with Lyme and treated. She largely recovered but this past March, her grades began slipping and she became deeply tired again. Her doctor diagnosed her with another tick-borne disease.
“I just feel I have a really bad memory, I feel really spacey,’’ said Marissa. “I feel like I can’t focus or think straight.”
She says the Lyme work comes naturally; she wants to help others understand the disease to prevent them from becoming as sick as she has been.
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