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American Skier Beats Lyme Disease and May Represent US at the 2014 Winter Olympics

by lmatthews on March 11, 2013

skier with lyme disease angeli vanlaanen

Angeli VanLaanen believes she's had Lyme disease since she was just ten years old.

A Bellingham skier may be heading to the Winter Olympics after a two year battle to defeat the Lyme disease that has plagued her since she was ten. Angeli VanLaanen finished 6th overall in the Women’s Halfpipe at the World Ski Championships in Norway earlier this year, placing top amongst her fellow American snowboarders. The event is set to appear for the first time in the Olympics, to be held in Russia in 2014 and the 24 year old VanLaanen is excited to be healthy enough to attend.

UPDATE! VanLaanen has released a new documentary, LymeLight, dealing with her battle with Lyme disease.

Over A Decade of Lyme Disease

VanLaanen has spent the last two years fighting the Lyme disease she now believes has been responsible for a range of symptoms she has suffered since she was ten. More than a decade of misdiagnoses meant that the Bellingham local continued to have severe bouts of fatigue, pain and dizziness but none of this stopped her from pursuing ballet, figure skating and soccer before finally throwing herself into skiing after she graduated from high school in 2005.

Intensive Treatment for US Skier

After spending plenty of time skiing Mount Baker, VanLaanen went on to place in the top five in the X-Games in 2007-2008 and in a number of other competitions between 2005 and 2009 when she finally received a diagnosis of Borreliosis. The athlete began intensive treatment to fight the infection and, two and a half years later, is back doing the sport that she loves, with a chance to represent America at the Olympics in Sochi next year.


What Next for VanLaanen?

VanLaanen may not consider herself lucky but her remarkable achievements in spite of Lyme disease are just that, remarkable. Untreated Lyme disease can cause joint damage, organ damage, nervous system dysfunction, cardiovascular problems and even death, although many cases caught early are easily treated with the right antibiotics with no lasting effects. That VanLaanen managed to get to the top of her sport with an active bacterial infection is phenomenal and it remains to be seen what the young athlete can do now her health has been restored.

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