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Punk Singer Kathleen Hanna Reveals Her Struggle With Lyme Disease

Now that SXSW is long gone, I’ve had time to read about what I missed while playing shows. I was intrigued to learn about the premier of a documentary film about Kathleen Hanna of Riot Grrrl in which she reveals her struggle with Lyme Disease. “The Punk Singer” by Sini Anderson pieces together Hanna’s life as a former stripper, still feminist, wife of a Beastie Boy, and a chronic Lyme Disease sufferer. Many of Hanna’s friends and fans appear in the film, including Joan Jett, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, Ann Powers and former/current band mates. In the film, Hanna shares her struggle with late-stage Lyme disease. It took a few years to diagnose and knocked her out of the spotlight since 2005.

Struggling with this disease myself, I am all too well aware of how Lyme disease can “masquerade” itself and go on misdiagnosed for years. I was tested and/or diagnosed with Lupus, MS, Arthritis, Menieres, Lou Gehrigs, West Nile Virus, Depression, and fibro-myalgia to name a few. Hanna said in the film she thought she was going to die. Something I too thought on the many nights of high fevers, terrible pain, ringing in my ear, disabling fatigue and headaches. Somedays I longed for death. I felt like a terrible mother, and a terrible friend. I was flakey, constantly calling in sick, afraid to plan anything. Was it all in my head? Did I just lack faith? Was I just lazy or a hypochondriac?

Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore, the Lyme mysteriously went into remission after a surgery. It wasn’t until it was gone, that I realized how sick I was. I started believing in life again, dropped about 65 pounds in a few months (bye bye inflammation and finally able to exercise). I picked up my guitar and started writing, recording and performing.

Unfortunately, a few years later the symptoms slowly started to reappear and a friend told me about the parasite testing done by iGenex labs. Finally, an accurate positive diagnosis. Not that I wanted a positive diagnosis . . . I just wanted the truth.

There is much debate about how to cure chronic or late-stage Lyme. In Texas, I was laughed at by doctors who don’t “believe in Lyme” as though it were a religion. No one bothered to ask me if I was ever bit by a tick. Which I was on two separate occasions – once in Michigan and once in Arkansas. Both times I had the tell-tale bulls-eye rash, but had no idea it was anything to worry about. Symptoms appeared a week later, so no one ever put two and two together.

I still have down days when I just can’t get enough rest, and feel too much pain. I am not alone though. The Lyme community is growing and larger than we would hope. Thank God, I have many friends who love and support me when I can’t be “all that”.

There is much to be done to find a cure, so I am proud to be donating part of the proceeds of my new album “Love’s Road” towards Lyme Disease research.

I manage the Lyme by removing toxic people from my life, working from bed when I need to, moving on a regular basis, getting lots of sunshine, avoiding junk food, and taking antibiotics and a slew of supplements. BUT, the best medicine is music. While I am writing in my studio or playing on stage, I feel no pain. Music cures my mind, soul and body.

Here is a video by Sini Anderson promoting the making of “The Punk Singer”. My hat goes off to you Kathleen Hanna! Go get it girl! You have a new fan!