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Survivor rebuilds life after battling Lyme disease

Alisa Thorsen

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Briana Beaver, a Chico State alumna, endured several painful symptoms for years and nearly died before doctors diagnosed her with Lyme disease in December. Photo courtesy of Briana Beaver.

“I have been in survival mode the last three years.”

Within one hour, Briana Beaver, a Chico State alumna, may experience nearly a hundred painful, crippling symptoms.

Beaver has Lyme disease, which is an infection spread by ticks that can affect any organ of the body. This Includes the brain, nervous system, muscles, joints and the heart.

This is not that first obstacle Beaver has faced in her life.

One hour after Beaver was born, she died. She was resuscitated by doctors and brought back to life, she said. However, this left her with permanent cerebral palsy.

“I never let this stop me,” Beaver said. “I pursued my passions and did my best to live a normal life.”

Beaver went on to graduate high school in only three years and then moved on to Chico State, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude.

Shortly after graduation she started to notice painful symptoms.

“The pain became horrifically intense,” Beaver said. “I had extreme sensory overload, so that every stimulus — sight, sound and smell — everything caused pain. I was so mysteriously debilitated that I was unable to eat or drink.”

She had no choice but to put her life on hold. The doctors were unsure of what illness was impacting her in such a powerful way, she said. They did not diagnose Beaver until after she nearly died.

“It can completely destroy a person and ultimately lead them to their death,” Beaver said. “Which is what almost happened to me in 2012.”

After graduation, Beaver was so incredibly sick she was no longer sure if she had a chance of surviving.

“By summer 2012, I was in Stanford Hospital, wasted away to 75 pounds,” she said. “The pain was so torturous that I welcomed the thought of death.”

It was not until December that Beaver was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease.

Beaver experiences many symptoms in just one day. She can sometimes have all of them within a thirty minute span, she said. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Digestive issues
  • Muscles cramping
  • Nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Joint pain
  • Headache
  • Visual disturbances
  • Extreme fatigue

Despite the symptoms, Beaver feels she is very lucky to have her mother by her side through this battle, she said.

“I would not be alive if it weren’t for my amazing mother,” Beaver said. “She has gone above and beyond the call of duty. And she keeps me going. I have no words to express the amazing human being that she is.”

Beaver and her family are putting together a campaign titled “Take Back My Life.”

Proceeds from the campaign will go towards her medical treatments and it also hopes to reach out to people who want to have their artwork displayed on the “Take Back My Life” T-shirt.

The winner of the design contest will receive $50 and a gift certificate to the Funky Trunk. The shirt will also be sold through various social media and other businesses in Chico, Beaver said.

“The expenses continue to pile up,” Beaver said. “And will stay that way for quite some time.”

The shirts will also help spread awareness about Lyme disease, she said. After years of being confined to her house, Beaver is ready to take her life back.

With the help of the community, Beaver can start to rebuild her life. She also has a page where donations can be made that go to her medical expenses and other needs.

“’Take Back My Life’ is about discovering those thrills,” Beaver said. “What makes me tick — what makes me whole. I am ready to take back my life.”

Alisa Thorsen can be reached at [email protected] or @alisathorsen on Twitter.

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Survivor rebuilds life after battling Lyme disease