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ILADEF > This Lyme Awareness Month, ILADS is proud to partner with Olivia Flowers to raise awareness about Lyme + tick-borne disease in honor of her brother, Conner. We are so grateful to her for lending us her voice in the first of two blogs, and her beautiful tribute to her brother. 

Olivia Flowers is a television personality best known for her role on the reality show “Southern Charm.” Outside of television, Olivia is an advocate for Lyme disease awareness, a cause close to her heart after her brother Conner’s diagnosis. 

I first heard about Lyme disease at an early age, but back then, I only knew it as a “sickness” caused by a tick bite. It wasn’t until much later that I came to understand the severe and enduring impact this insidious disease can have on a person’s life.

Eventually, Lyme disease took on a much more personal meaning, in the form of my brother, Conner.

Growing up, Conner was an avid athlete, playing all sports. He spent most of his time on the golf course, practicing and playing in tournaments. Ultimately, this hard work landed him a golf scholarship in college. He had an entrepreneurial spirit, constantly coming up with exciting business ideas, along with a social appetite that made him well-known and liked by everyone.

My first memory that something was wrong was when we were in high school, and he began to periodically express concerns with random symptoms. He’d mention a pain behind his eye, get terrible headaches, and felt constantly fatigued. This affected his performance not only as a student athlete, but as a person.

Over time, he’d tell me he felt his brain was working in slow motion, and that simple activities like studying or carrying on conversations suddenly felt difficult. While I remember reassuring him that “e everything was fine,” my parents took these concerns very seriously. This began his long journey in and out of doctors’ offices.

Years passed, and my brother remained without a proper diagnosis. At that point, not only were his symptoms worsening, but my family worried we were dealing with an “unknown illness.” I remember doctors would tell him the symptoms were just in his head, and prescribe medication for anxiety. For Conner (and for countless patients) this led to several missed diagnoses and unnecessary treatment.

It wasn’t until my brother was referred to Dr. Jemsek, an infectious disease specialist, that my family finally learned we were dealing with Lyme disease. Unfortunately, by that time, the disease had caused severe internal damage, and the consequences from previous treatments had drastically changed Conner’s life.

Ultimately, the death of my brother was publicized on a very public platform and raised a lot of questions. While it’s been an incredibly difficult time for my family, I wanted to use my own platform to not only tell Conner’s story, but also raise awareness around Lyme disease. I remember, when I first took to Instagram to share my brother’s story, I was overwhelmed by the countless responses from the Lyme community, all with similar stories. Stories that shared common themes of years of misdiagnoses and feelings of isolation brought on by living with illness.

Although my brother was incredibly private about his struggles, he lived to help others. That is exactly what I hope to do by sharing his story, raising awareness for this quickly growing illness, and by supporting the ILADS cause in any way I can. 

The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) is a nonprofit, international, multidisciplinary medical society dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and other complex inflammatory diseases. With these educational blog posts, ILADS aims to promote awareness and understanding of health and wellness, especially as it relates to complex inflammatory diseases, so that we can all learn and grow together. If you have any questions or want more information, you can email us at contact@ilads.org.