My name is Allison Donaghy. On November 2, 2017, I will be running 57 miles from the Penn State track to the Bucknell track to raise money for the Global Lyme Alliance, a nonprofit organization funding research and awareness on the complexity of Lyme disease. As a 2012 Bucknell alum, I was part of the cross-country and track team during most of my time at school. The 57 mile run is a men’s cross-country tradition: at the end of track season in May, at least one senior must run from Penn State to Bucknell during finals. Bucknell Homecoming (November 3-5) marks five years since I’ve graduated and a lot has changed since that warm spring day I donned my cap and gown and accepted my diploma.
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Last year (October 2016) I was diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease, after several years of searching for a medical answer to my many health issues. As someone raised with awareness of the disease, the first test I asked my then-primary care doctor for was a lyme titer. Because only three of the five bands came back flagged, my primary assured me I didn’t have lyme and I was probably just over-worked at my job. This was in 2015.
My symptoms only got worse from this doctor visit. My hair started falling out, fatigue overwhelmed me, I had light sensitivity, joint pain, constant headaches, shaking hands and digestive distress. I had several ER visits for excruciating stomach pain and chest pain, and no one seemed to be able to give me an answer. In fall of 2015 I went to the Mayo Clinic, but left with no answers. My stomach problems began getting unmanageable at this point, I began losing weight and I was instructed to see a gastroenterologist. After more bloodwork, my gastro was sure I had crohns, but after a clean colonoscopy he seemed unsure of how to help me (and then retired!). I was referred to a new gastro and she performed an endoscopy in which she found chronic gastritis and intestinal metaplasia. But because I was having so many other non-digestive issues, she urged me to see another specialist, perhaps even a lyme literate doctor.
After finding a LLMD, I was diagnosed with chronic lyme in fall 2016. Since then, I’ve changed my diet radically, taken heavy doses of antibiotics and a slew of other supplements and medicines. I have good days and bad days. Many of my symptoms are still present to varying degrees. With the support of family and friends, I take each one in stride and try to make the best of it. But still, I always find myself wondering if things would be different if I had gotten an accurate diagnosis right away.
I don’t know when I was bit by the deer tick. The only deer tick I can ever remember finding on me was in elementary school. As an avid adventurer and trail runner, there’s so many possibilities where and when I contracted the disease, it’s impossible to keep track. But harping on it won’t make a difference.
However, raising money through this run could make all the difference in someone else’s life.
I am a 27 year-old avid runner raised in New Jersey, and I’ve been running competitively for 17 years. I live in the Washington, D.C., area with my husband, David D’Alessio, who is also a Bucknell alum (2011) and ran the 57 miles his senior year. I am a freelance writer, blogger, and work as an assistant manager at Pacers Running in Alexandria, VA.
The 57 mile run from Penn State to Bucknell will be my first 50+ mile run. You can follow my journey with training and lyme on Instagram @amd022 or here on my blog!