Ally Hilfiger, the producer, actress, and daughter of fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger, battled chronic health issues since she was a child. It took years before she learned Lyme disease was at the root of her symptoms. She chronicles her journey in her new book, Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy, and Almost Killed Me. In this excerpt, which has been edited and condensed, she shares what it's really like to live with Lyme.
The excruciating joint pain and flulike symptoms had been part of my life ever since I was a little girl.
My parents and doctors dismissed my complaints about my knees feeling achy and hot. I was told it was growing pains. They treated the constant bouts of strep throat with bubblegum-flavored antibiotics and never looked into my health in any comprehensive manner.
As the years went on, I felt as though my brain was not working as well as the other kids’ in my class. When I got tested, they told me I had attention deficit disorder, ADD. When I stopped being able to read, they said I had a learning disability and sent me to a specialist. When I couldn’t remember the information I had studied for four hours the night before a test, they told me to study harder. When I couldn’t wake up for school or keep my eyes open during class, they told me I needed to go to bed earlier and exercise more. When I told them I had pounding headaches several days a week, they told me to drink more water or “pop a couple of Advils,” even when the headache was so strong I couldn’t lift my head from my desk. When I was in agony from severe hip pain and random joint pain, they said, “It’s probably rheumatoid arthritis. Or maybe it’s multiple sclerosis. Or it sounds like fibromyalgia. Or it could be...”
Who is “they,” you ask? My parents, teachers, doctors, and the people in between.