A young Black Isle woman who battled for three years to get a Lyme Disease diagnosis has written a novel mirroring some of her own experiences in a bid to help others.
Morven-May MacCallum, 24, of Tore, first noticed the symptoms of the illness aged 15 – but was miss-diagnosed with M.E and chronic fatigue syndrome three times by a local GP, a medic at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and a specialist in Glasgow.
She was forced to drop out of school aged 16 due to severe exhaustion, memory loss and concentration lapses caused by the illness, leaving her housebound for several years without any professional help.
Activities she had always enjoyed – climbing munros, swimming, jogging and cycling – tailed off and even the simplest of tasks became too difficult.
At the age of 19, Miss MacCallum was correctly diagnosed by a private doctor in England after blood samples sent to specialist units in Germany and the US tested positive for Lyme Disease.
But by this point, she was too exhausted to make further journeys to England to be given the first three to six months of treatment.
Instead, her mother, who is a nurse, administered the antibiotics at home by injecting them into her daughter’s hip.
Miss MacCallum said: “It’s cost me 10 years of my life and I have not been able to finish school or go to university, and pretty much for eight years of my life I have been housebound.
“I will never get that part of my life back, and I’ve still got a long way to go before I can catch up on all the things I have missed.”
Despite the years of hardship, Miss MacCallum has made good progress in the past year and compares how she feels now to then as like “night and day.”
The aspiring writer is now in the process of publishing her first book, entitled Finding Joy, a work of fiction about the suffering of a young woman and her family trying to find out what is wrong with her.
About 300 copies of the book will be produced and Miss MacCallum is currently in discussions with a local book shop owner about selling her work.
She also plans to attend a number of festivals this summer – including Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival – to raise awareness of the illness, as well as funds for the charity Lyme Disease UK.
The charity itself has described the work as “compelling and beautifully written, providing a telling insight into what it is like to live with Lyme Disease which is a highly misunderstood illness.”
She is also now working towards achieving her Higher English grade through a distance learning course.
An NHS Highland spokeswoman said: “Sometimes it can be challenging to diagnose and when there is a negative result it can be appropriate to consider the possibility of other conditions.”