A student’s struggle with Lyme Disease

Julia Scharf

Everyday, sophomore Olivia Cooke can count on going to school, seeing her friends and experiencing chronic headaches. Cooke has Chronic Lyme Disease, a tick-borne infection that is transferred into a person’s bloodstream when they are bitten by a tick that carries the bacteria.

Cooke’s biggest challenge is finding a way to manage being a high school student, athlete and friend, all while keeping her disease under control.

“I remember getting bit in second grade when I went to Slide Ranch, but we aren’t sure if that was the time that gave me all of my symptoms,” Cooke explained.

Each day for Cooke is a battle against her symptoms, which include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, stomach aches and muscle and joint pains. The effects of her disease make life as a student more difficult, because she is constantly plagued by fatigue, according to Cooke.

“I definitely feel like [the disease] affects my daily life, because some days I’ll wake up and just really not be able to do my schoolwork or hang out with friends,” Cooke said.

The staff at Redwood have made a significant effort to help Cooke find ways to succeed academically, while still ensuring that her health comes first, according to Cooke. Her teachers allow her extra time on many assignments, and are overall very understanding of her circumstances. However, the extra time she is given doesn’t always help Cooke feel caught up with the rest of the class.

Fighting Lyme Disease everyday does not keep sophomore Olivia Cooke from smiling.
Fighting Lyme Disease everyday does not keep sophomore Olivia Cooke from smiling.

“When I’m not feeling great, and I can’t finish an assignment, I get extra time from my teachers. But the next day they start teaching a new topic… so it’s really hard if I get extra time to stay caught up,” Cooke said.

Cooke also receives support from the Redwood community on the volleyball court. As a member of the JV volleyball team, Cooke feels encouraged by her teammates.

“One of my main symptoms is getting dizzy and fatigued… so when I play volleyball it’s harder for me to remember all of the sets that I have to focus on, or get to the ball, or even just run as fast,” Cooke said.

Cooke described her teammates’ positive attitudes toward her illness.

“They help me get through it,” Cooke said. “They come up to me and say, ‘Olive are you okay?’ Or my coach lets me get water and take breaks when I need to.”

Cooke cautioned those who enjoy the outdoors to stay aware of their surroundings.

“Just be really careful when you’re around areas with ticks so that you don’t end up in the position that I’m in,” Cooke said.

She also addressed others in the community who struggle with this disease, letting them know that other students experience similar challenges, and that they are all in support of each other.

“If you do have the disease, just know that there are people around you who are going through the same thing,” Cooke said. “It will get better and you will find something that works for you.”