‘I have battled through some tough, dark days where you struggle to find purpose and self worth’ – Lancashire woman who has battled with Lyme disease shortlisted for top role model award – Lancashire Post

A young woman whose Olympic swimming dream was shattered after a tick bite while visiting the pandas in China has been shortlisted for a prestigious award for being a positive role model.

Sophie Ward has battled through some dark days since her life completely changed after being bitten by a tick while visiting the pandas in China which eventually led to a diagnosis of deadly Lyme disease.

Sophie, now 24, who lives in Garstang, was a champion swimmer destined for the Olympics.

However, at the age of 14, the former Kirkham Grammar School pupil went to Beijing in 2008 to experience the Olympics in preparation for London 2012 and, while she was out there, she went on a trip to visit the pandas, where it is believed she was bitten by a tick leading to Lyme disease.

It was only about four years later that Sophie began experiencing ill health with different ailments including recurring water infections, migraines, food intolerances and sore throats.

Despite repeated visits to the doctors and hospital tests, Sophie was told everything was fine but her health continued to decline leading to her having to give up her swimming and even drop out of college.

Sophie was undiagnosed for nine years and was only diagnosed with Lyme disease last year at the age of 23 after going to Breakspear Medical Centre in Hemel Hempstead.

Lyme disease can be a lifelong condition and attacks the body in different ways and affects tissues, cells and organs.

Sophie’s health is up and down and she needs a wheelchair for longer trips.

Despite her own health issues, Sophie is dedicating her time to raising awareness about Lyme disease and is one of the administration members for Lyme Disease UK. She also writes a personal blog of her own experience for Lyme Disease UK.

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