PORTLAND — In a little less than six weeks, Angela Coulombe plans to run her first marathon – the New York City Marathon. But before that, she’s going to complete a 5K in Portland – the fourth annual Lyme Disease Awareness Spotlight on Lyme.

While both events are different Coulombe, of Saco, has a similar mission. She said she wants to raise awareness about Lyme disease and raise money for her organization, Lyme Buddies.

“And three, I want to give people hope they can get better,” she said, having been diagnosed with Lyme disease three years ago.

After completing the Beach to Beacon 10K road race in 2007, Coulombe’s right leg began to swell. She sought medical treatment and a month of rehabilitation without any improvement. In fact pain increased in her shoulder, hip and knee joints.

Then, in October a large bulls-eye shaped rash appeared on her arm. Her primary care physician referred her to an infectious disease doctor who diagnosed her with Lyme disease and prescribed her three weeks of doxcycyline, considered the standard course of treatment, Coulombe said.

When her health declined rather than improved, she said she called the doctor.

“He said, ‘We all have aches and pains.’ He told me it was old age and arthritis,” she said, but wasn’t convinced.

She turned to the Internet to research Lyme disease.

“The pain was excruciating and there was no way to know if it would end,” she said, finding hope in connecting with Amie Levasseur. “She was my support during that time. We were able to commiserate and get through another day.”

She eventually found a new doctor and a treatment that allowed her to recover

The two formed Lyme Buddies, a resource for those with Lyme disease. Coulombe said it was the greatest help to her to hear about successful outcomes of Lyme disease and not just “the horror stories.”

She later met Jessica Platanitis of Saco, who started the walk four years ago in Wells as an effort to raise awareness about the disease. She decided to host the walk in Portland this year to reach a larger population.

“It’s important to know ticks (that cause Lyme disease) can infect anybody at any age,” Platanitis said.

“Until it happened (to me), I didn’t know anything about it,” Coulombe said. “It’s crucial to know how to check for ticks and how to remove ticks. Even if I had noticed the tick (that bit me), I probably wouldn’t have made the connection.”

Both Coulombe and Platanitis hope that events such as the walk and run will help raise awareness and educate people not only about the disease, but also how to prevent it.

“The general perception is if you get bit, then take doxycycline and you’ll be fine,” Coulombe said, but as with her own experience, “that’s not always the case.”


Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: [email protected]