Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Tom Seaver says living with disease seems like 'worst case of the flu every day'

Seaver was diagnosed with the illness in 1991 and his neurological Lyme disease slowly snowballed into dementia leading him to retire from public life completely last year


                            Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Tom Seaver says living with disease seems like 'worst case of the flu every day'
Mets pitcher Tom Seaver (Getty Images)

Lyme disease affects thousands of individuals but yet is called the "invisible disease" due to its common nature of being misdiagnosed. Due to its array of symptoms, and lack of visibility of the tick bite, doctors don't test for Lyme disease that often results in some cases being diagnosed years later. Many Hollywood big names have been outspoken about their diagnosis of Lyme diseases such as Justin Bieber, Amy Tan, and Kelly Osbourne so as to bring awareness to the need for its cure and treatment. One of those celebrities includes Baseball legend Tom Seaver.

In 2019, it was reported by the New York Times that Baseball’s Tom Seaver had been diagnosed with dementia at age 74. This diagnosis came 28 years after the legend nicknamed, 'The Franchise' had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. An article from lymedisease.org revealed that Seaver was diagnosed with the illness in 1991 and treatment seemed to have helped his symptoms. But, in 2012, Seaver's health started to look bad as he described his experience as "having a perpetual case of the flu” and said he had trouble remembering. This took a negative turn when the baseball Hall of Famer was diagnosed and treated for neurological Lyme disease as his symptoms worsened. Then, last year, in March 2019, Seaver's family announced that he had "retired from public life" due to dementia. With the diagnosis of dementia, it is important to note that Seaver had been struggling with Lyme disease for a while and that is an illness that can cause cognitive symptoms such as dementia.

In 2013, Seaver told a New York Daily News interviewer,  "You caught me on a good day. In fact, a very good day because this is the fifth straight day I've felt really good. You have no idea what that means — to feel good, to feel normal, for five straight days." This shed light into what he might have been suffering as Lyme affects different parts of the human body resulting in an array of symptoms that can be debilitating. We got a glimpse as to how he viewed his own struggle when in 2013 New York Daily News released an article with his story. "I felt like I had the worst case of the flu every day, and then I was having trouble remembering things and making bad decisions. I was scared. I said to myself: 'It's like I'm getting old before my time. Why is this happening?' I thought I'd had a stroke," he said. The article further revealed that Seaver couldn't recognize his head vineyard worker that had worked with him for seven years. "I looked at him and I didn't know his name," Seaver said. The article further revealed that Seaver's case was an "extreme" one and that he had suffered Bell's Palsy on the right side of his face, and "the doctors told him at the time that it was so severe that after they treated him with antibiotics, he would never have it again."

Seaver had also said in 2013, "once it gets into your blood system, it causes real problems. I'm taking 24 pills a day now, most of the vitamins, plus one penicillin pill to get my chemical balance back. It's a cycle that kills off all the spirochetes that junk up your system. It's been a slow process in which I'll still feel like I have a bad case of the flu for days, but this past couple of weeks they've been less and less. I haven't had a glass of wine or a beer in eight months and I don't miss it." This year was the last in which it was reported that the athlete was doing well, with the news that he will be away from the public eye surfacing in 2019.

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.

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