Fitness instructor forced to live with Lyme disease after multiple misdiagnoses


Donna Jenkins, once a personal trainer and fitness expert, was diagnosed with Lyme disease in August 2012. It might come as a surprise that this normally troubling news was something she had wanted to hear for more than five years.

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease. Many of the symptoms are not specific to Lyme disease but can occur with other diseases as well. These symptoms include fatigue, depression and impairment of motor sensory functions.

“The first time I noticed something was not right with my body was in May 2007. My normal daily routine consisted of a 6 a.m. workout, followed by training my clients until around 4. I would finish off with a three-mile run. And then it seemed like within two weeks, I could not even get out of my own bed until 10,” said Jenkins.

She suddenly went from being in the best shape of her life to trying to find the strength to make her husband Stephen Jenkins dinner when he got home from work.

“It was the most helpless moment I have ever had to experience in my entire life,” said Stephen Jenkins. “To see a woman that I have been trying to keep up with for 24 years go from fitness model shape to shattering a cup of ice water because it was too heavy, killed me inside.”

The couple visited doctor after doctor only to get the same results. The doctors had not even the slightest clue as to what was going on inside of her.

“It was crazy to me to have these doctors from Emory to The Mayo Clinic and every hospital in between looked me right in the eye and either promise me 100 percent they knew exactly what was going on, or they would just say there needed to be more tests done,” she said laughing. “I even had one doctor tell me that my condition was only a mild case of depression. Depression? Depression? I looked right at him and told him that the only person that would be depressed in here was him if he ever said anything like that to me again!”

Three years go by with her not knowing what was causing her all this pain. Then Jenkins was told some bad news in July 2010. She was officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that attacks dopamine-generating cells, causing loss in motor function and neuropsychiatric disorder. There is no cure for Parkinson’s.

“It was a relief to actually know what was wrong,” said Jenkins. “But at the same time all I could think about was how I won’t get to see my grandkids grow above knee high.”

Two more years go by and her symptoms seemed to stay about the same as they have always been. The fatigue and loss of motors skills came back a few times a month but with the right amount of rest were kept at bay. She stopped taking her medications due to the fact that they made her very nauseated.

On Aug. 13, 2012, Jenkins received life-changing news while in for a normal checkup. What had shown all the suspected symptoms and characteristics of Parkinson’s disease had been proven to be a very treatable Lyme disease.

According to Body Ecology, Lyme disease patients will commonly suffer musculoskeletal pain and from neurological symptoms. Both of these are also found in Parkinson’s patients.

With a smile and tears in her eyes she said, “The worst part was asking God every day for over five years for an answer. Now I have one. Now I can live my life,”

As of today, Jenkins is currently taking daily medication for her Lyme disease and has a check-up with her local doctor once a month. She is feeling like a new person because her medication takes care of all her symptoms. Her Lyme disease is not curable but with the proper medications she feels normal.


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