Help Musician Jon Alvarez Battle Lyme Disease
The musician's story begins with a vacation to Japan last summer. "I went to Nara and visited a world famous tourism park with a Buddhist shrine," he recounts. "A few days later, I woke up with a rash on my thigh." Thinking nothing of it, Alvarez returned back to his home and normal routine as a musician practicing six to seven hours a day. Then the pain started.
Still without a proper diagnosis, Alvarez's Lyme disease began to manifest in more severe symptoms as summer turned into September. "My left hand started to tingle so I thought it was a pinched nerve," he recalls. "Tests were run and everything came back normal." Physical therapy was the remedy offered, but no relief came. "Eventually my left arm swelled up and the pain kept me awake for many sleepless nights," Alvarez says pausing briefly to gather himself through the memories. "It felt like a gnawing, burning sensation."
The musician turned to internet searches hoping to find what the cause of the symptoms could be that was bringing chaos to his life. Lyme disease stood out among the rest. "You get it from a tick bite," he tells me. "I typed in Lyme disease in Japan and the first thing that popped up was the park I visited." Nara, the rash from last summer, and all the confusing pain that ensued all began to make sense finally. It was only by this February, nine months after the initial rash, that Alvarez had found a doctor that properly diagnosed him with Lyme disease and co-infections. Before that time, his life had become hellish realm of around the clock pain and profound disability.
A specialist outside of his medical insurance in San Diego began treating him and things seemingly were on the upward course from then on. "My mood improved, my pain subsided and I was planning on going to UC San Diego for school," Alvarez notes, "But in May I got food poisoning." With Lyme disease having weakened his system, what might have been a short-lived period of discomfort for others turned into a relapse. "I've lost 20 pounds in the last two months and I had to stop taking my meds," he says. "The symptoms came back stronger." The medical bills continue to mount.
Alvarez first began playing music in grade school. He took up piano before his early teens brought on interest in electric guitar and heavy metal. At Cypress College, the musician actually wanted to study to become an auto-mechanic before jazz bass centered him back to his life-long talents. Now, after dealing with his chronic illness, he can only manage only a few minutes practicing whereas just last summer the same activity consumed hours of his day.
"This whole experience has really taught me to be grateful," Alvarez reflects. "I hope and pray that I can go back to playing music and continue my dream, but I just want to live a normal life again, whatever it is."