More Than Lyme

Interview with Chloe O’Neill

Chloe contracted Lyme Disease as a child and has been afflicted with the chronic illness since. This hasn’t stopped her from embracing the outdoors and traveling, however. She recently founded More Than Lyme, a website dedicated to “raising awareness about Lyme, one adventure at a time.” Chloe’s devotion to sharing her story and those of others is moving. Learn more – interview after the jump.

Photos (C) 2015 Adam McKibben



Meet Active & Inspirational Chloe

Pulled over on the side of a service road outside of Sisters, Oregon to catch the sunset behind The Sisters (Cascade mountain range)
Pulled over on the side of a service road outside of Sisters, Oregon to catch the sunset behind The Sisters (Cascade mountain range)

Why did you decide to start More Than Lyme?

That’s a very good question. I think a big part of it had to do with my longing for a community. I have always been fiercely independent. But recently I’ve wanted to be a part of something more. More Than Lyme has been a turning point for me. Before this idea popped into my head I felt alone and scared that one step forward would always end up being two steps back. I felt I had to deal with my Chronic Lyme all on my own, that I was fighting an endless battle without an army. With More Than Lyme underway, I have found a group of people who are also fighting what seems like a life-long battle for their health. All these connections have made me realize that a one man army stands no chance against the mile high wall of skeptical doctors and co-infections. But if we take this opportunity to all stand together—to support and help each other grow stronger, then each and every one of us suffering from Lyme will be on our way to a much happier and healthier lifestyle.

Standing above the Balancing rocks with the Metolius River in the distance—off of a service road north of Bend, Oregon.
Standing above the Balancing rocks with the Metolius River in the distance—off of a service road north of Bend, Oregon.

How do the outdoors help you cope with Lyme, a chronic disease that seems to affect everyone differently?

Happy and exhausted at the top of Smith Rock, Oregon. After an unsuccessful search for some explore cache. We found these instead--definitely worth it.
Happy and exhausted at the top of Smith Rock, Oregon. After an unsuccessful search for some explore cache. We found these instead–definitely worth it.

When my symptoms flared up for the third time, the list of things I couldn’t do began piling up. Work was out of the question. My diminished eyesight and shaking hands made reading difficult and writing impossible. At first, I felt like I was left with nothing, but soon I started to see more and more of the little things in each day that I could do; being in the outdoors was one of them. Being outside has taught me how to be thankful for what health I have, instead of longing for what I don’t have. Walking the dog became one of my favorite activities, as well as plopping myself down on a blanket in the park where the ducks were kind enough to provide me with endless entertainment. Then eventually, each day I would challenge myself to do more—to venture further away from the safety of my home. This is when I realized just how much more there was to see. And so it began; the adventure bug had been planted. From that moment on I felt much happier and lighter. Even on the days where Lyme kept me in bed, adventuring was always on my mind, giving me even more reason to fight for my health.

Exploring an abandoned building left over from the Tumalo Reservoir Dam built in 1915—Bend, Oregon.
Exploring an abandoned building left over from the Tumalo Reservoir Dam built in 1915—Bend, Oregon.

Have you met others with a similar story?

Beginning of the trial to the Blue Basin Rim, John Day area, Oregon.
Beginning of the trial to the Blue Basin Rim, John Day area, Oregon.

Too many to count. Their lives and stories are a big part of why More Than Lyme has become so important to me; they are the main motivation behind this movement. With More Than Lyme I want to cover every side of each story; showing a broad range of people suffering from Lyme that they are not alone, that there is someone else out there going through the same thing they are—getting ready for an adventure, or going to a place that inspires them to keep on keeping on. A sneak peak into the lives of those suffering from Lyme can be an eye opener for not just Lyme patients, but also for those who seek a better understanding of this misunderstood disease.

Why did you choose to live in Bend, Oregon? What do you love about it?

The painted hills at Sunset, John Day area, Oregon
The painted hills at Sunset, John Day area, Oregon

Before Bend, I had been living in Seattle, a very fast-paced city that made my stress levels sky rocket and anxiety flare up. I knew that I needed to get out, fearing that all this stress might lead to a recurrence of my Lyme symptoms. So I made the decision to move to a place that would be a much healthier environment for me to live in, both physically and mentally. My brother had lived in Bend before, so I had already heard all the many reasons why it was so incredible. Perfect size, top-of-the-line coffee, delicious food, and craft beer. The town itself had so many perks but it’s what surrounded it that most intrigued me; high desert, mountains, and crystal clear rivers—the perfect place for endless opportunity and adventure.

A peaceful moment in front of Cline, Falls outside of Redmond, Oregon.
A peaceful moment in front of Cline, Falls outside of Redmond, Oregon.

How do you hope your story will inspire others?

I hope to inspire people, especially those living with Chronic Lyme, to get outside, go explore, and see new things! Make time to create a day that is your very own. Even if it’s just breaking outside of your normal routine, every part of your day can be a new and exciting experience. Never limit yourself because you think that “Chronic Lyme” is written across your forehead. Adventures will motivate and encourage you to be your best self, to never give up when it all seems impossible. You will get to the top of that hill, just like you will feel like yourself again.

Where is your next hike?

Steen Mountain wilderness area in Eastern Oregon—I can’t wait!