Despite setbacks, Rebecca finds joy in standup paddling.

An Athlete's Journey through Lyme Disease Part 4

By: Rebecca Parsons

The worst day was when my Lyme test came back positive. I knew how bad the disease could be and I didn't want it. Since then, I've had a lot of bad days. For the most part, they blend together and will eventually be forgotten. But one day in particular will forever be ingrained in my memory.

It was summer and it wasn't a particularly bad day, nor was it a particularly good day. My boyfriend picked me up and drove us to Doheny. He lugged my longboard down to the sand and offered to tow me out for one wave. It would make me feel better, he urged.

We hopped on my board, tandem style, and he towed me out into the lineup. A set rolled through and I paddled for my one wave, the five minutes of fun my weak muscles and limited endurance would allow.

If you've been to Doheny, you know it's packed with beginners and every wave is a party wave. A man dropped in 50 yards to my left and I dropped in as well, keeping my distance in front of him. A newbie dropped in on me and I pulled back, allowing her space and embracing the party vibes of the classic break. Unfortunately, the man was not in a party mood. He ran over my board, forcing me to pull out of the wave and plop into the water.

I looked over at him and said flatly, "Guess you didn't feel like sharing."

You need to know that this was totally out of character for me. I never call people out or say rude things in the lineup, it just isn't worth it. But that day, I did. As we were paddling back out, he started explaining surf etiquette and rules I was well aware of, his tone growing harsh and agitated.

I was at my breaking point. All I wanted was to feel normal for five minutes. Just five minutes of fun.

On the verge of tears, I shot him my best stink eye and told him the truth–I had Lyme disease and all I wanted was to catch just one wave. You know what he said in response?

"Well, that's not my fault."

That’s what stung the most. Because it's not my fault either, but I'm forced to live with it everyday. I'm the one who can't surf anymore, who can't work anymore, and who has to live with my parents and be taken care of again, like a child.

I paddled back to shore, sat on the sand and cried for everything I'd lost over the past couple years–my life, my fitness, my job, the friends I seldom see, and the fact that I snapped at a stranger over something that normally would have been no big deal.

As with everything in life, there comes a lesson. From that experience, I learned the importance of kindness. Everyone is fighting their own battle–regardless of whether it's apparent or not–and you should always treat others kindly—even the jerks.

I try to be positive and think I typically am, but sometimes I break. For a while I was improving, but over the past month I've relapsed quite a bit and it's been tough. It's tough physically, mentally, and financially. There are days I lose hope and don't think I can take it anymore, but then I remember there is no choice.

So I go to the doctor, take my meds, eat healthy, and confide in my family. And sometimes, I break down and cry. I am human after all.

I still go to the beach as much as possible because the ocean–despite that discouraging day at Doheny–is my happy place. I'm learning my new limitations and trying to accommodate them. Unfortunately, surfing has been put on the back burner for a while, but standup paddling in harbors is my new jam. Sure I can only paddle for fifteen minutes, but the waters are calm, the people are friendly, and the sunshine feels oh-so-good. And it’s on those days, I feel a glimmer of joy and hope.

As they say, "If you're lucky enough to live by the sea, you're lucky enough."


Part 3 of an athlete's journey through Lyme disease.

Part 2 of an athlete's journey through Lyme disease.

Part 1 of an athlete's journey through Lyme disease.