Debbie Gibson isn't just a pop star. For the past year, she's also been a patient.
Gibson, who is best known for her '80s songs such as "Only in My Dreams" and "Shake Your Love," revealed on her blog Wednesday that she's been diagnosed with Lyme disease. The singer, 43, wrote that she decided to disclose her condition because people were commenting on the weight loss it had caused following performances she gave in Chile earlier this month.
"Amidst the posts online celebrating the wonderful concerts in Santiago, I would come across comments about my weight and appearance," Gibson wrote. "Some were just plain mean and ignorant. I want to urge you all… NEVER JUDGE… ANYONE! You never know what someone is going through. These comments hurt the people writing them… not me."
Gibson explained that she began experiencing the symptoms of the tick-borne illness in the spring of 2013. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 300,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the United States, although only about 30,000 cases are reported. In cases where it's caught early, Lyme disease is quickly cured. However, the symptoms can be severe while they last, as Gibson has discovered.
"I found I could not touch sugar, starch, caffeine, certain oils, etc., without having a severe reaction that felt like jolts of electricity running through my body. I felt like a live wire. Talk about 'Electric Youth!'" she wrote, referring to the name of her hit 1989 album.
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Gibson also described enduring nerve pain, fatigue, and back pain as she continued to battle the scale. Doctors were testing her for "everything under the sun," but no one could determine the culprit.
"I just kept resting and meditating and eating a ton of protein and fat to try to keep weight on… egg yolks, red meat, you name it!" she noted. "But the weight kept failing off and I had a gaunt and 'spinewy' look and felt extremely fragile as well as emotional and depressed. I could barely walk. I started feeling numbness and tingling in my hands and feet, which is very disconcerting for a pianist and dancer to say the least. Night sweats, chills, fever, nerve tremors, nightmares, and migraine headaches were at a fever pitch without a minute of relief.
"Somewhere along the way, my body could no longer tolerate the amount of fat I was eating," she continued. "If there is any doubt that starch and sugar and grains is what keeps weight on, I had confirmation. At times, my boyfriend would insist I eat some pasta and butter, even though I did not feel great doing it. 'You need to gain weight,' he would say. My spine was frail and unprotected. He was right. So, when I had a few days to deal with the discomfort, I would purposely eat things that would 'stick to my ribs' so to speak."
The star even tried Botox to get rid of the deep lines in her forehead because she was desperate to improve her frail appearance before appearing in the third "Mega Shark" movie, but that didn't turn out so well.
"With Lyme still undiagnosed, both the trauma of the needles and the toxin itself wreaked absolute havoc on my physical and mental state," Gibson wrote. "I will NEVER put this or any other toxin into my body for vanity reasons EVER again. I hope anyone out there considering this approach takes this as a precaution. Some never have any reaction, but on the other end of the spectrum is my experience.
"Five days after the treatment, I was texting my boyfriend and he noticed I was mixing up my words," she continued. "I had trouble with directions and driving. I was terrified. This was like pouring gasoline on an already lit fire. The tremors intensified and now I had tingling and pain in my head, along with migraines. I had no idea my immune system was so compromised to begin with, and now this. I learned a very big lesson… the hard way."
Finally, Gibson was referred to a doctor familiar with Lyme disease, where she was tested for it. She endured an "intense regime of antibiotics and other medications" that left her run down.
"I remember sitting in [the doctor's] office, despondent," Gibson wrote. "'I am in here somewhere,'I said through tears. By this point, my cognitive thinking had been affected… my sense of direction, sleep, moods, stamina, muscles and joints. And, I had this sunken in look and dark circles under my eyes. All the times you saw me on Vine, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube laughing and singing, I used concealer to cover that up and pulled from my reserves to bring you my best."
And the songstress's long ordeal is not over yet.
"I am still in this process and undergoing treatment," she blogged. "But, beyond just 'glimmers of hope,' I actually feel like 'ME' again. These last round of shows have been therapeutic and uplifting. We all face challenges and I am learning much from the ones I am facing. No disease in the body can keep the spirit from soaring, the love from pouring, and, nothing can stop the music!"
Through it all, Gibson seems to have kept up her upbeat spirit. There was that "Electric Youth" joke and the witty title of her post, "When Life Hands You a Lemon … or Lyme!"
She even took the opportunity to encourage her fans.
"Keep rockin' through whatever adversity is presenting it self," she wrote. "We all face challenges. Let it flow on through. It has no power over you!"
In other words, be electric!
- Disease & Medical Conditions
- Debbie Gibson
- Lyme disease