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Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Bella Hadid says illness stole her teenage dreams of horse riding at the Olympics

Bella, along with her mother Yolanda Hadid and brother Anwar Hadid suffers from the tick-borne illness that the model says forced her to resort to homeschooling and giving up her passion for horseback riding
Bella Hadid (Jim Spellman/Getty Images)
Bella Hadid (Jim Spellman/Getty Images)

Bella Hadid, along with her mother Yolanda Hadid and brother Anwar Hadid suffers from the tick-borne illness that the model says forced her to resort to homeschooling and give up on her passion for horseback riding.

In 2015, in an episode of the 'Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,' Yolanda had revealed that her two children suffering from the disease explaining, "Bella was diagnosed with Lyme disease and co-infections about three years ago. And Anwar shortly six months after that." The mama bear also took to Instagram posting a picture of her beside Bella, who seems to be getting treated with an IV line hooked up to her with a heartwarming caption that read - "2015-Watching my brave babies suffer in silence in order to support me in my journey has struck the deepest core of hopelessness inside of me, it is because of them that I continue to fight relentlessly....... I will not allow them to live a life of pain and suffering……. I will prevail and walk to the end of the earth to find a cure for them and millions of others debilitated by this invisible disease!!!! We all deserve to live a healthy life, don't you think?"

In the episode, Yolanda explained that because her children spent their childhood at a farm, she thinks that's where they were bitten. "There are millions of cases worldwide. We lived on a horse ranch, we had ticks everywhere, every day of their life," she had explained. Yolanda went into more detail on her blog saying, "Bella and Anwar were diagnosed at the end of 2013 and have been in extensive holistic treatment ever since. It's very common for multiple family members to be affected by Lyme disease. The children and I lived on a horse ranch in Santa Barbara for 10 years and spent the majority of our time outside in nature. Bella had to give up her lifelong dream of having a professional riding career and a shot at the Olympics due to her severe symptoms and inability to ride. This was the biggest heartbreak of her life and an extremely sensitive subject for her. She is resilient and focused on a new direction--she's made a name for herself in the modeling industry while she struggles with symptoms of chronic Lyme every day."

Yolanda Hadid (C) and her daughters Gigi Hadid and Bella Hadid celebrate her birthday and the premiere of her new Lifetime show, "Making A Model With Yolanda Hadid," with friends and family on January 11, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Lifetime)

Bella herself has spoken publicly on her illness and has not strayed away from bringing it awareness. The supermodel spoke to Evening Standard in 2015 speaking of the time where she first got diagnosed revealing that it was a "dark time" for her after she was diagnosed in her junior year of high school. "I stopped driving because I kept crashing because my brain just stopped working. It was when I first got sick. It was a dark time. I was exhausted all the time. It affected my memory so I suddenly wouldn’t remember how to drive to Santa Monica from Malibu where I lived. I couldn’t ride. I was just too sick. And I had to sell my horse because I couldn’t take care of it," Bella revealed

Back in 2015, Bella explained more on her symptoms revealing their intense nature and how she was 60% when it came to her health. "I still have Lyme in my spine; my back has been in excruciating pain for three years. I have it in all my joints and it goes up to my brain. So sometimes I have trouble with putting together sentences. I go to sleep at 10 pm and wake up at 10 am fully exhausted."

In 2016, Bella was honored a the Global Lyme Alliance's second annual 'Uniting for a Lyme-Free World' gala where she dedicated the award to "all the teenagers out there that have really gone through what I'm going through and have suffered from this disease without an end in sight." Her father Mohamed Hadid, posted a clip of the event to his Instagram with the caption, "About last night. @bellahadid was on point. And she was so Beautiful poised and she killed it. Perfection. #globallymealliance I was so proud of her. And support her."

 Honoree Bella Hadid accepts award from mother Yolanda Hadid onstage during Global Lyme Alliance's second annual "United For A Lyme-Free World" gala on October 13, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Global Lyme Alliance)

Her speech at the gala brought to light the misunderstanding around the disease as Bella for support for the people who suffer in silence. "Life isn't always what it looks like on the outside, and the hardest part of this journey is to be judged by the way you look instead of the way you feel. I know where you’re coming from, you’re not alone," Bella added. "My teenage years were taken from me. I was forced to start homeschooling my second year of high school, which of course I didn’t want to do because I’d rather go hang out with my friends, go to parties," she said

"It was the dream of my life and what I did every single day until I just stopped and realized I didn’t have the brainpower to ride horses anymore, so that was the end of that," Bella explained. "I know what it feels like to not want to get out of bed from bone pains and exhaustion and days on end of not wanting to socialize or be around people because the anxiety and brain fog just isn’t worth it. After years of this, you begin to get used to living with the sickness, instead of getting cured and moving on with your life," she continued.

Regardless of having to deal with symptoms and treatment, the model along with her sister Gigi Hadid are extremely successful supermodels that walk for big-name designers such as Tommy Hilfiger, Versace, Dior and Chanel. Having walked the 2017 Victoria's Secret fashion show in Shanghai, Bella had taken to Instagram to reveal that she felt, "Emotionally, physically, mentally, in my health, I feel so much stronger in so many ways."

May is National Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and it brings an opportunity for Lyme patients, activists and educators to share tips and open up about Lyme and tick-borne diseases. In this column, we highlight the struggles of celebrities and talk about preventive and cure measures.