Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Debbie Gibson says illness left her gaunt and fragile but it won't keep her down
Before 'Dancing with the Stars' in 2017 her dancing partner Alan Bersten revealed how there were days her muscles hurt so much that she couldn't dance
Debbie Gibson, an ’80s pop star, most recently seen as a contestant in Season 25 of 'Dancing with the Stars', has been vocal about her experience with Lyme disease. While on the show in 2017, Gibson's dancing partner Alan Bersten revealed to People, "Lyme disease takes a huge toll on her muscles. Some days her muscles hurt so much we can’t dance."
Gibson had opened up to the publication about her 2013 diagnosis of Lyme disease, “I can’t be cavalier with my body. I can’t just push myself without thinking what happens next. [Lyme Disease] can affect my stamina. I’ve always been in tune with my body. But the last few years have helped me learn where I can push my limits. I’m going to choose to think of that as an advantage!" she said of her experience.
Lyme disease, known as Lyme borreliosis, is caused by the Borrelia bacterium which is spread by ticks. Sometimes it leaves behind a bullseye rash but it results in the victim developing an array of symptoms that are debilitating. In 2014, Gibson had revealed her diagnosis on her own time on a blog post on debbiegibsonofficial.com. She revealed that in 2013 she would travel overseas and spend time on both East and the West Coast, "I am not exactly sure when or where I picked it up, but, in the early spring, I began to show unusual symptoms," wrote Gibson. She told Mirror: “I had been tested for everything under the sun, though it had not occurred to me, or my West Coast doctors, to test for Lyme, which is typically an East Coast thing." She went on to reveal that "her cognitive thinking" had been affected, she experienced various food sensitives and flu-like symptoms.
She further detailed her experience revealing, "After taping the first episode of the ABC show 'Sing Your Face Off,' my back went out. I knew I had Gay Pride concerts to do in the NY area about 10 days later. I just kept resting and meditating and eating a ton of protein and fat to try to keep weight on… egg yolks, red meat, you name it! But the weight kept falling off and I had a gaunt and “spinewy” look and felt extremely fragile [Gibson's weight loss was criticized by many] as well as emotional and depressed. I could barely walk. I started feeling numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, which is very disconcerting for a pianist and dancer to say the least. Night sweats, chills, fever, nerve tremors, nightmares, and migraine headaches were at a fever pitch without a minute of relief." After a few attempts at the doctor, Gibson was given a diagnosis after her GI doctor ordered a test be done.
Later that year in September 2014, Gibson told People that she was feeling much better as that was her first month that she wasn't in pain and that she had put back on 12-15 lbs. At this time, Gibson said she was not on antibiotics anymore and was seeing a chiropractic kinesiologist. She urged people to not say that she is 'battling' the disease, “I prefer to say that I’m ‘overcoming’ it. To call it a battle implies that there’s a war with a worthy opponent, that some disease is a worthy opponent. I don’t want to give this disease that kind of power over me. It’s not a war. There’s not a winner and a loser. ‘Battle’ sounds exhausting to me! It’s a challenge that I’m overcoming.”
When asked what she would tell people struggling from Lyme Disease, Gibson told People that she would tell them that there is a solution that is not "traditional" and that each person has to find out what worked for their body. "But the one thing I’ve learned is that there’s definitely light at the end of the tunnel," she said. In 2019 it seems that Gibson was not letting her diagnosis get the best of her, as she told Parade she felt a shift in her health for the better. The singer was on little to no medications in the past few years and was on no Lyme treatments in 2019, "just vitamins for my overall health and homeopathic remedies," she said. "When you’ve dealt with a deep illness, eventually it’s about catching the wave and not overdoing as you start feeling better. When I wake up feeling “normal,” I joke, “This is the day that’ll get me in trouble,” because I’ll do too much!"
In an interview with Mirror in 2019 Debbie accepts she can’t the disease has changed the way she worked. “Lyme has given me a wake-up call,” she says. “For me, the days of being a teenage pop star running a race are over and it’s such a feeling of freedom. “Now I am only going to do what pushes my boundaries within a healthy limit. I also don’t want to prop myself up on medication because eventually, that backfires.” Further, she shared with The Closer Weekly in April 2019 how she doesn't let the 'elusive disease' define who she is — or keep her down for long. “My immune and nervous system are forever changed,” she had confided to Closer at the 2017 Open Hearts Gala on October 21 in Beverly Hills. “I have a new set of circumstances that I live by.”
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.