For over half her life, 26-year-old professional freeskier Angeli Vanlaanen battled a mysterious aliment. After years of misdiagnosis, the chronic malady was identified as Lyme disease during the height of her skiing career in 2009. Since then, she has done everything in her power to fight the tick-borne illness.
Currently, Vanlaanen is happy to report that the disease is in remission. She hopes to share her story and spread awareness with the documentary film, LymeLight. Vanlaanen and Neu Productions also recently launched a fundraising campaign for LymeLight through Kickstarter.com. We recently caught up with Angeli to hear about her goals for the film, and how people can get involved with this life-saving project. Here’s what she had to say:
What is your inspiration behind LymeLight?
My inspiration for LymeLight came from my personal experience battling and overcoming Lyme Disease. When I was diagnosed in the fall of 2009, I struggled to find a hopeful outlook on my diagnosis. I searched high and low for a Lyme treatment success story to look up to, but only found horror stories and a grim reality for people battling Lyme Disease.
I looked for support from my family and close friends, but found their lack of understanding of Lyme Disease very isolating. When you have an illness that manifests as both physical symptoms and mental/emotional symptoms, it is challenging for someone who has not experienced a neurological condition themselves to fully understand the impact. Hearing that I never looked sick from friends is a testament to how invisible this disease can be.
What do you hope to accomplish with this documentary?
I have many goals for LymeLight, all of which fall under the category of Lyme Awareness.
My family and friends often felt lost in trying to help me. Navigating your way through illness is tough for both the patient and their support system. One of my goals in creating LymeLight is to reach out to the people battling Lyme Disease and their support systems. With understanding comes compassion and compassion inspires personal strength. I want to inspire people to be strong through hard times.
What are your motivations for this project?
I am motivated by preventative action! I went years clueless to the cause of my illness. For 14 years I had doctors stumped!
I found my diagnosis because of my Aunt Jenny. She saw a documentary film on Lyme, “Under Our Skin,” and recognized the symptoms in my health struggles. I asked my doctor to be tested for Lyme Disease and two weeks later I was diagnosed. That documentary changed my life! I want to make that same impact on the lives of others.
I plan to take LymeLight on a tour to talk to people, mainly schools, about Lyme Disease. By teaching kids and their parents proper tick extraction and follow up protocols, we are empowering them to catch Lyme Disease early. With exciting and beautiful imagery balancing out the struggle in LymeLight, this film will be relatable and appropriate for all ages.
Through Kickstarter, this project has the potential to become a reality. How can people help with your mission?
The biggest gift people can give is to visit our LymeLight page, donate if they can and pass the link on to others. May is Lyme Disease awareness month and we have the opportunity to create buzz around the topic. Through donations to our Kickstarter fundraiser, we can fund the completion of LymeLight and share this story around the world.
Photo: Riley Synder