Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Irene McGee of 'The Real World' says she never had a rash or tick on her body
Learning from her experience, McGee decided to start her own campaign to spread awareness about Lyme disease
In the past few years, more and more celebrities have opened up about their struggles with the most common tick-borne illness — Lyme disease — which continues to affect many in ways unimaginable. If the typical symptoms are left untreated, the infection could spread all the way to joints, heart and the nervous system. Unfortunately, it is one such disease that cannot be diagnosed easily and the patients' symptoms are misinterpreted.
However, the case of ‘The Real World: Seattle' star Irene McGee helped shed light on this particular illness when she had to exit the MTV show in 1998, following a relapse of Lyme disease which got her extremely sick. She suffered constant headaches and her health condition forced her out of the limelight. It was the first time the disease was addressed on national television. However, despite the show's portrayal of her having Lyme disease as the main reason for her exit, she later said in an interview aired during the 2000 reunion show, The Real World Reunion 2000, that the real reason for her exit was her ethical objections to the show's production.
Having been treated as one of the most memorable TV moments, McGee's condition was also used as a reference in the Oscar-nominated film ‘The Big Sick’, where Kumail’s character wonders if Emily "could have lyme disease like that girl on the real world".
Learning from her experience, McGee decided to start her own campaign to spread awareness about Lyme disease. She started a movement called #nap4lyme in 2018, where she asked people to take a nap challenge. McGee tried using humor to bring attention to one of the most common symptoms of the illness — fatigue. Talking about the same she told CISION, "I wanted to raise awareness for Lyme disease, but I would NEVER ask you to run a marathon, or even go for a walk. How exhausting! And Lyme sufferers can't participate because of joint pain. We need activism for people… that can't be active!"
Sharing her own experience with the illness she explained, "The blood tests are about as accurate as a coin flip. If the public is aware of the early symptoms and doctors are more aware, Lyme, when caught early, can be treatable. I never had the 'bulls-eye rash' and I never found a tick on my body... I hate the term chronic Lyme. You'd think Lyme was a disruptive internet startup the way the disease is growing year after year. I thought of this idea in bed and I'm hoping with the awareness and money raised from the #nap4lyme campaign we can put this disease to bed. Plus, who doesn't need a nap?"