By Rollo Skinner
The Reluctant Activist
My scholarship attempt crumpled before I’d even had the chance. Left with the detritus of a dream cut short – a microscope, lab coat, Facebook page, Instagram account and ridiculous footage of me wishing to fairies at the bottom of the garden. I was no longer going to ‘spectacularly fail’ at curing a disease!
I was staging a protest. The first protest I’d helped organise. Interviewing attendants for a short youtube film (link below). I can’t feign sainthood because it was in the interest of a scholarship. And this isn’t my X Factor sob story. It’s more of a guilty confession. I’m ashamed that the incentive of free tuition was what finally propelled me to action. A Reluctant Activist… But I have been changed for the better…
A small upstate New York town becomes mysteriously sick. One by one the townsfolk fall victim to this debilitating flu-like illness. Coincidentally, across the water, on an island just a few miles from the town is a government research facility. The facility houses captured Nazi scientists from WWII. Who, coincidentally, are working on biological warfare…
The plot to the latest Christoph Waltz blockbuster? Sadly not…
This is the story of the town of Lyme and Plum Island in the 1970’s. And this is the first reason why you don’t know about Lyme Disease, one of the fastest growing infectious diseases in the world. In a nutshell Lyme is a debilitating disease you get from a tick bite, which left untreated can leave you with devastating symptoms. The medical establishment insists that Lyme disease is similar to a flu and has only short term effects – however, scientific evidence consistently shows that symptoms are on-going.
Pharmaceutical giant infects thousands with faulty vaccine.
Again, this isn’t the tagline to the next Stephen King thriller.
This is the 90’s scandal of GlaxoSmithKlein’s problematic Lyme vaccine, Lymerix.
But what does this all mean? In short, it’s cheaper for the US medical establishment to totally ignore chronic Lyme Disease and maintain that it is an easily treatable, non threatening disease. Rather than be held accountable for all the historical negligence.
I have been dealing with Lyme Disease for about 4 years; along with 10 family members. I was given the all clear a year ago, but I’m back on treatment after my symptoms returned a few months ago. And whilst all of my close friends know, it’s something I’ve always felt awkward discussing with others. Let’s be honest, disease isn’t sexy! And Lyme disease definitely isn’t sexy, because it takes a helluva lot of explaining. (I’m slyly doing this now so I don’t have to explain 40 times why I’m not drinking wine or eating pasta. Battling the Curse of Knowledge and trying not to sound like a conspiracy junkie!)
Here’s my confession: I wish I could tell you that I now instinctively fight for what I believe in. But when asked to photograph patients meeting their MPs in Parliament this coming Tuesday and to film a conference for Scientists and Lyme Doctors in October I immediately said no, out of fear.
SCA is all about being Yes Men… So yesterday I thought FUCK IT and I said yes to both…
I’m no longer the Reluctant Activist.