Salt Spring’s farming community and other friends are asking for support to provide ongoing treatment for Sharon Shewchuk, an islander who is experiencing a severe relapse of late-stage Lyme disease.
Shewchuk is the operator of Salt of the Earth Farm, located on the side of Mount Maxwell. She described her Lyme symptoms in the Driftwood last May as “a terrifying experience of smouldering fevers, swollen joints, trembling limbs, unearthly peripheral neuropathies and nauseating pain. It’s like being dismantled alive, part by part.”
Shewchuk’s neighbours have recently taken over responsibility for her goats, her 100 laying hens and the eggs they produce as she has essentially become bedridden by pain. Friends have also stepped in to set up a GoFundMe fundraising campaign and an Island Savings trust account for donations to help with treatment costs, which could run into the tens of thousands.
The campaign raised nearly $6,000 in the first few weeks, but with medications costing close to $1,000 per month, much more will be needed. Long-term treatment of 18 months or more may be required.
“We have every faith that Sharon will get better. We just need to give her time to do that,” said Shewchuk’s neighbour Ahava Shira. “The money we gathered so far is fabulous, but the treatment is so expensive. If we’re looking at one to two years, we need other avenues.”
While Shewchuk lives alone and has no family nearby, she has been embraced by the weekly meditation group that Shira runs, as well as the farming community.
Shewchuk was severely disabled by Lyme disease from 2003 to 2010 when the illness ravaged her muscles, joints, nervous system, immune system and vision. Swelling in the brain caused a series of small strokes which left her unable to speak for years. She required assistive devices to communicate and accomplish basic tasks.
“It took Sharon many years to obtain a correct diagnosis from an infectious disease specialist, but with the proper treatment she made an astonishing recovery. Within a year of beginning antimalarial and antibiotic therapies she had recovered her speech and progressed enough physically to become a passionate and dedicated member of Salt Spring’s farming community,” the GoFundMe page explains.
Shewchuk has located a naturopathic doctor in Victoria named Dr. Maria Payne Boorman, who has been working to develop a protocol for Lyme disease over the past eight years.
A local naturopath on Salt Spring has agreed to administer the treatment Boorman specifies, since even travelling to Ganges is beyond Shewchuk’s current ability. The cost of the drugs and supplements is very high, however, and coverage has been denied both by the province and the supplying company.
Donations can be made to the GoFundMe campaign under “Help Salt Spring Farmer Fight Lyme Disease” or to Islands Savings account #2688620.
Shira said help will also be needed for a letter-writing campaign to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix to lobby for Shewchuk’s medication coverage. Details will be announced when a date is organized.
For more on this story, see the Feb. 20, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.