From Issue #42
IN SICKNESS & IN HEALTH:
the power of friendship
By Ali Maldoff
The Vampire Diaries star Candice Accola talks standing by your friends—through the good days and the bad ones.
There is perhaps no greater need for a true friend than in times ofloss, pain or illness. It is life’s struggles that put friendships to the test, and if you can come out smiling and knowing that the other is always there for you no matter what, then that’s a friend worth keeping.
The Vampire Diaries star, Candice Accola knows first-hand what it’s like to support a friend with a chronic illness. One of her best childhood friends has been dealing with the crippling effects of Lyme disease for the past four years.
Although Candice and Terri started out as school friends, Candice says that, “Terri was the kind of person I just knew I would keep in touch with when we went our separate ways after high school.” Candice left her hometown of Orlando, Florida to pursue music and acting in the bright lights of Los Angeles, while Terri went off to college in Miami. “Terri was a true friend with a great heart and an exciting life ahead of her,” Candice beams.
But soon after she got settled in Miami, Terri got really sick. “It all began with a blackout at a concert near her school,” Candice explains. “After a couple of different blackouts, she knew something was wrong.” Terri soon ventured home to Orlando to seek the help and support of her family and her doctors. As the years dragged on, Candice kept in touch with Terri while her medical team struggled to find a diagnosis.
When it was finally concluded that Lyme disease was the issue (after about three years of symptoms and what felt like a million tests), Candice says she was embarrassed to admit she didn’t know much about the disease. She knew that it was contracted by a bug bite (certain kinds of ticks carry different strains of the disease), but that was about it. Candice got on her computer to learn more and was startled to read how badly this illness can cripple a person’s body, and how little awareness there was out there in the world. She was ready to do anything to support Terri and her family through this fight.
We sat down with her to talk a little bit about her friend Terri’s condition and how their friendship has evolved as a result.
Faze: How has your friendship with Terri changed since her illness?
Candice: It’s been interesting to see how friendships grow regardless of illness—they change and evolve. I come to find the people I hold near and dear to my heart aren’t necessarily the people I see every day. It’s the people that—even if our lives are on separate paths—months later, and years later we get together and after five minutes we are back where we left off. Those are the most beautiful friendships—the friendships without judgment. There’s an open ear, and time and place don’t factor in. I know that Terri’s someone I would have been in contact with whether she had gotten sick or not. Modern technology has been a wonderful thing, as I’m moving around a lot with the industry I’m in, and she is bedridden at this point, so it helps to keep us connected.
Faze: What kinds of things have you been able to do to help Terri in her struggle with Lyme disease?
Candice: I have been trying to do everything I can to get involved in projects for treatment and awareness. There’s this online community for people who have Lyme, (and their family and friends) to share information about the disease, called Turn the Corner [www.turnthecorner.org]. Terri’s mother sits on the board, and through that I have been able to do some PSAs [public service announcements] to bring awareness to those who do not know about the disease. Turn the Corner wanted to take action, and I had the time on hiatus to be a part of it which was so great. I’ve also partnered with Show me Your Mumu [www.showmeyourmumu.com/shop/lyme] to raise funds for Lyme in honour of Terri by selling a featured piece aptly named the “Original Bird Mumu,” after Terri’s family nickname.
Faze: But this mumu is not what people might think when they hear that word, right?
Candice: Oh, no. This is a beachy, fun, California mumu; not a park-yourself-in-front-of-the-TV mumu. They are perfect for the summer—just breezy and stylish. You can throw it on with jeans and a blazer, or use it as a beach cover-up. And anything wrinkle-free is okay by me!
Faze: What is the most important thing that everyone should know about Lyme disease?
Candice: To not only be aware of what this disease can do to your body if left untreated, but to be aware that it even exists at all. What’s so beautiful about our generation is that all we have to do is a Google search and we have an encyclopedia of information. There’s a documentary film called Under Our Skin [www.underourskin.com]—of which Turn the Corner is a big supporter—and this documentary completely opened my eyes to what this disease really is. Lyme is a pretty prevalent subject in the medical community right now, as there are a lot of doctors who don’t know how to go about treating it, and are torn as to how to define it exactly. What I love most about Turn the Corner is not only do they focus on awareness, but they also focus on treatment.
Faze: What is the best way to help any friend with an illness?
Candice: Love. I think love helps everything. I know that sounds like such a coffee-mug, refrigerator-magnet thing to say, but you’ve got to approach your friend with love, an open ear, and sometimes just some good old girl-chat gossip. Every time I talk to Terri I don’t want her to feel obligated to talk about her situation. If she’s sick of dealing with it, then I can distract her with things like celeb gossip, boys and shopping. Sometimes you need the light stuff when there’s a lot of heavy stuff in the air. It’s as simple as love and laughing. You can’t go wrong with that.
Symptoms of Lyme disease:
-Red bite or rash (often, but not always, looks like a target or bull’s eye)
-Sore throat, swollen glands, stiff neck
-Abdominal pain, nausea
-Poor concentration and memory loss
-Irritability and mood swings
-Blurred vision and eye pain
-Headaches, lightheadedness, dizziness
-Mysterious migrating symptoms that seem to come and go
Lyme is the number one tick-borne illness in the U.S.
Fewer than half of Lyme patients recall a tick bite or rash.
Lyme disease symptoms can be mistaken for those of other diseases such as MS, Autism, Parkinson’s, and Meningitis (among others).
Info from www.turnthecorner.org
Candice is wearing the Original Bird Mumu from www.showmeyourmumu.com.
Photo by Ryan Hebert.