► RELATED: Living with Lyme Disease
Chloe Cox-Haines just wants to feel like a human being again.
The past year has been a living hell for the Burnie woman, filled with an avalanche of doctors appointments, bills and emotional turmoil.
Her illness bears few physical indicators, but it’s left her with great pain, immense fatigue and completely different to the athletic, marathon runner she was before she was bitten by a tick while gardening.
She’s been diagnosed with a litany of disorders but what she’s certain she has cannot be treated in Tasmania: Lyme disease.
“It was misdiagnosed and overlooked,” she said.
“Every time I would speak to a doctor about it they would say, ‘There’s nothing wrong. You’re just stressed.’”
Ms Cox-Haines is one of thousands of Australians at the centre of a fierce debate over Lyme disease and whether it exists in Australia.
A recent Senate Inquiry into a “tick-borne disease that causes a Lyme-like illness” received almost 1300 submissions and recommended an increase in research funding.
The Australian Government recognises the existence of classical Lyme disease, endemic in North America, parts of Europe and Asia, but the idea of home-grown or chronic Lyme Disease is contentious.
Vice-president of the Australian Medical Association Dr Tony Bartone said there could be a number of competing explanations for conditions that resemble Lyme Disease.
“We’ve got to still deal with the facts and evidence-based medicine but that shouldn't prevent us from being compassionate,” he said.
"It’s not to say that the symptoms and situations aren't real, it's just that it's not Lyme Disease.”
Sharon Whiteman, president of Lyme Disease Association of Australia, said it was time for serious investment to support patients and end the controversy surrounding the disease.
“Patients bear the burden of this controversy. They are mistreated, misdiagnosed and often told it’s ‘all in their heads’,” she said.
Senator Jacqui Lambie said it was “bloody inhumane” what’s happening to those caught up in the debate.
“This is not going away … we’re not and we want some answers,” she said.
Ms Cox-Haines is currently undergoing hyperbaric oxygen therapy in Melbourne to help relieve her symptoms.
She’s fundraising to travel to Cyprus where she can received more specialised treatment, costing $20,000.
She’s “100 per cent confident” she will recover and when she does, she plans to become an advocate for the issue.
“I’m driven and passionate about it and once I get well I want to help other people.”