Local Woman Fights for Lyme Disease AwarenessJul 27, 2023 12:00AM ● By By Tamara Warta
Melissa Moya receives one of many treatments for her Lyme disease. Photo courtesy of Melissa Moya
CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - For as long as we’ve had a way to share news, stories of devastating diseases and how they affect lives are often shared both on television and social media. While COVID-19 held the headlines for a good three years, other illnesses have never been fully brought into the spotlight of public awareness. Lyme disease is an example of a condition we rarely hear about, especially those of us living in the city and surrounding suburbs of Sacramento.
Melissa Moya agrees. “I would like for them (Sacramento County residents) to know to take that extra moment to protect themselves before going out,” says Moya, founder of Lyme Fight Foundation.
Moya’s own Lyme disease journey started seven years ago, and it was a path she never expected to find herself on. Following a hysterectomy, she started to not feel well, suffering with aches, pains, and brain fog, among other symptoms.
“It took me three years to figure out what was wrong,” she recalls. “I went to doctors in Sacramento and San Francisco, and even to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.”
After suspecting a variety of illnesses including Fibromyalgia, Moya finally received her diagnosis of Lyme, Bartonella, and Babesia. Unwilling to sit back and live passively with this new reality, Moya formed the foundation in April of 2020. As she says, “My silver lining turned into the foundation.”
Lyme Fight Foundation aims to educate, raise awareness, and provide information and resources. They work with both the general community and those who are suffering from Lyme disease and its complications. Lyme disease treatment is not typically covered by health insurance, and Moya herself incurred a cost of $50,000 for one surgery. It can also be difficult to diagnose. According to Columbia University Irving Medical Center, in early Lyme disease the test is negative 50-65% of the time. This is difficult news for an illness that must be treated as early as possible for success.
Known as “the great imitator” due to its penchant for being diagnosed as other illnesses first, some have claimed to achieved remission, but for most Lyme patients like Moya, the condition is chronic and lifelong. Her Lyme disease has broken through her brain barrier and also reached her heart. As a former marathon runner and track coach, her days are now physically limited.
“Your whole day is really just going through your protocol,” Moya shares, explaining that life with Lyme disease includes pills, treatments, and definitely a nap. “I can’t do what I used to. I am usually limited to a couple of outings per day.”
While the doctors never determined exactly how or where Moya contracted Lyme disease, she has made it her mission to protect others from a similar experience. While she has spent portions of the past four years traveling to San Rafael for further treatment, she is also furthering the spread of information and awareness wherever she can here at home. Lyme Fight Foundation holds workshops and speaking engagements, provides medical and tick testing resources, and arranges peer mentoring. The group is also holding a gala on September 30 at the Gibbons Community Center in Carmichael.
When asked what was the biggest reward of running Lyme Fight Foundation, which consists of just herself and three women on an executive board, she says it’s been the opportunity to talk with others who are dealing with Lyme disease, and the relief in their voices to find someone who understands. The biggest challenge?
“Getting people to realize how serious it is and to understand,” says Moya.
Locals would be wise to listen to her. The Sacramento-Yolo Mosquito and Vector Control District have discovered ten times more ticks than usual in 2023, including even on the beaches of San Francisco, which isn’t a typical place to find them. Such an unexpected surge in the tick population is exactly why Moya continues her Lyme Fight Foundation work, even when she struggles to feel healthy most days.
“Everybody need[s] to know what [is] out there,” she said, “where you can go for treatment… and have ticks tested if you find one.”
If you would like to get involved with Lyme Fight Foundation, the nonprofit is always looking for volunteers and donors. Besides the upcoming Gala, the group can be found holding a Lyme awareness rally at the Capital, serving the community at river cleanups and at local races including the California International Marathon. You can visit their website, lymefightfoundation.org, or call (916) 628-6692 for more information.