Kendall Sullivan knows exactly how she and her daughter contracted Lyme disease.
“I was rock climbing in Banff 16 years ago.” says the one-time Yukoner.
After the climb, her friend noticed a tick on her head, which they promptly removed and brought in for examination. They were told if they’d gotten the whole tick, she would be fine.
Shortly afterward, Sullivan moved to the Yukon, where she connected with Nicole Edwards and the Yukon Women in Music (YWIM) organization, as well as Joe Bishop, with whom she recorded her first folk album, Back To You.
She left the Yukon 10 years ago, and now lives with her two children in Peterborough, Ontario.
“I didn’t display any of the early symptoms,” she says of the disease, “but apparently it can be triggered through stress, and my second pregnancy was very stressful. I didn’t know my baby would be born with it.”
Sullivan’s daughter Ella, now six, has suffered from health problems all her life, she says.
“She was always lethargic and clingy, with high fevers and low energy. Every time I took her to the doctors they’d tell me she had an ear infection and give her antibiotics and send me home.”
After months of sickness and constantly searching for answers, Sullivan was at a loss. She couldn’t go back to the Sick Kids Hospital for more of the same, she told Edwards.
Edwards, who had also had Lyme disease herself, recognized some of the symptoms and suggested that Sullivan and her daughter get tested.
“It totally took me by surprise, but the diagnosis made sense, looking back. I ended up lucky because I didn’t have to go through what Nicole did,” she says. “I just went to the specialist doctors she found.”
“It feels good for me that my experience can be helpful to Kendall,” says Edwards. “She’s been through it with me as I’ve been treated for it, so she’s supported me over the years.”
Now diagnosed, both Sullivan and her daughter are on the road to recovery, but it’s not an easy process. For the next year, they will be in and out of a Mississauga clinic that specializes in treating the disease.
“We’ve been detoxing for the last six weeks,” says Sullivan, “We have really restricted diets. We have to eliminate dairy, fruit, anything that can ferment – so, no yeast. It’s a healthy, bland diet with lots of supplements. We’ll be going every three weeks for a 2½-hour appointment, and we’ll be doing that all year.”
The treatments she and Ella will be receiving are neither simple nor cheap. Again, Edwards stepped in to help.
On September 8, she and other local musicians will hold a fundraiser at the Centre de la francophonie (AFY building) at 302 Strickland street.
The licensed event will include a concert featuring Jim Vatour, Joe Bishop, Steve Slade, Vanessa Marshak, Dave Haddock, Kim Beggs, Grant Simpson and Edwards herself, among others.
The fact her Yukon friends are rallying to help her and Ella means the world to Sullivan.
“I’m getting emotional here because it’s so important,” she says, “The Yukon was a place I was really sad to leave. Just having the people playing for us, it means a lot that they’re helping out.
She reserves special gratitude for Edwards.
“Nicole is paying it forward. I’m so thankful that she’s there; she’s my support right now. She knows what we’re going through.”
Edwards is indeed paying it forward. She herself has benefited from such events because of health issues of her own.
“I’ve been a recipient of fundraisers before,” she says.
“They’re a godsend financially, but they’re also an incredible amount of emotional support. When you have all that good energy coming to you, it’s very healing.
“It’s been a while since Kendall lived here, but people still remember her and want to help.”
Sullivan is amazed by the outpouring of support from her friends and musical associates.
“It’s pretty inspiring to me,” she says, “At times being here with just the kids seems like a really daunting task, so to know that these people who are so far away are helping us means so much.”
The event also serves as a re-connection to her friends in the Yukon.
“I’ve been in touch with Jim and Joe, and Nicole when she comes to Ontario,” she says. “But this is helping me re-establish connections. The Yukon was really important to me musically; it helped me explore my music.
“What Joe Bishop and I did was amazing, and YWIM helped give me a voice and figure out what I was doing. I really miss the Yukon. It’s neat to have been a part of it.”
For her part, Edwards is also excited about the fundraiser.
“It’s going to be a fun event,” she says. “Vanessa is making some fabulous goodies including sushi, and pastries and lots of good stuff.
“I’d just like to say thanks to all the volunteers and donors because it’s a beautiful reminder of what a wonderful place we live in, that we are supported through all kinds of challenges in our lives.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or donating can contact Edwards by email at[email protected].