We are proud and honoured to have the following Australian personalities as LDAA Ambassadors, and fellow champions of Lyme disease awareness.
Isaac Butterfield, aka “the Buttsmarn” has emerged as one of Australia’s most popular comedians for his dangerous, no-holds-barred brand of comedy.
Used to being outlawed, banned and slandered by his opposition, Isaac is up for the challenge of championing Australians who are sick with Lyme and associated diseases.
Isaac’s celebrity rugby league mate Terry Collins was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease, so he wants the rest of Australia to understand that this disease is real, it’s tough and it may be in your backyard. With a prolific 1.7 million followers on youtube and the success of his current ‘Butts for PM’ campaign, maybe Isaac is the unapologetically honest advocate that Australian Lyme patients have been waiting for!
Dr Melissa Keogh
Dr Melissa Keogh is a clinical psychologist, writer and commentator based in Sydney, Australia.
She has appeared on a variety of programs such as The Project, Sunrise, Studio 10, The Morning Show, Today Extra and The House of Wellness TV as an expert psychologist discussing a wide range of issues.
Her media career has also involved representing major corporate brands as a spokesperson/expert psychologist such as 20th Century Fox, Hallmark and Nine Digital. Currently she holds the position of writer at E-Bubble Life, a digital health and well-being magazine. She has over 17 years’ experience as psychologist and after successfully completing treatment for internationally acquired Lyme Disease she now practices as a Lyme Literate psychologist in private practice, Sydney, supporting clients in Australia and world wide (via Telehealth) with the condition.
Dr Melissa has also held the position of writer/columnist at kidspot.com.au where she authored posts on relationship issues for Aussie mums and responded to readers’ questions via her Ask Dr Melissa column.
“I don’t know what I would have done if the LDAA was not in existence when I was diagnosed”, says Dr Melissa. “They were a great source of support and provided much needed information about a condition I knew very little about at the time”.
Dr Melissa believes that the current debate about the existence of Lyme Disease in Australia was a contributing factor to her delayed diagnosis (of 10 years) of internationally acquired Lyme Disease and as such, she is passionate about raising awareness about the condition and the need for early intervention. The paucity of treatment options in Australia also saw Dr Melissa travel to the US for treatment on multiple occasions at significant financial cost.
In total, her Lyme Disease diagnosis and treatment exceeded $50,000 AUD and spanned a whopping 16 year period from beginning to end – a situation that is sadly commonplace for many Australians. As a result of her Lyme Disease journey Dr Melissa feels strongly that Australians with Lyme Disease should have access to a range of affordable treatments at home. “We can do better than this”, she says. “We must”.
Dr Melissa is honoured to be an Ambassador for LDAA and is thankful for the support the association afforded her during her treatment.
Didier is an American-born Australian DJ/Producer and Media Personality known as The Voice of Generation Y, from music, film and TV, to fashion and Technology.
Didier accepted the LDAA’s invitation to become an Ambassador after his own health struggles led him to being diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2018.
He says “It is my pleasure to be Ambassador for the Lyme Disease Association of Australia, who represent and assist the thousands of Australian patients that face not just chronic illness and debilitating symptoms, but a lack of diagnosis and treatment.”
Didier was a willing participant in the LDAA’s #itsasign Bullseye May Lyme Project Campaign to help raise awareness throughout the wider community. Our Patron, Dr Richard Horowitz says that a solid, spreading rash (resembling a bacterial infection/cellulitis or ‘spider bite’) or a bullseye rash is present in approximately 50 percent of those with Lyme disease, so it is important to be aware of other contributing factors and that not all rashes are bullseye in form.
Tanya has spent the past 15 years running youth activity programs for over 130,000 children and young people throughout the world. Her programs have been recognised at State, National and International level.
In 2019 she was named as a Westpac Social Change Fellow, which recognises Australia’s top social innovators. She was able to return to America to spend time learning from some of the best summer camps in the world and undertake leadership and mentoring training at Harvard University.
Tanya was the recipient of a Churchill Fellowship that enabled her to travel to America to work alongside the top programs aimed at stopping generational cycles of domestic violence.
Tanya was the 2017 Australian and Western Australian Rural Woman of the Year, and in 2019 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Edith Cowan University for her contribution to children and women throughout the world. She won the Constable Care Child Safety Awards, WA Children’s Awards and Premiers Active Citizenship Award, and was one of 5 Australians named on the Power 30 Under 30 list for Australasia. She was named as one of Australia’s 100 most influential women by the Australian Financial Review, one of WA’s 50 Rising Stars by the West Australian Newspaper, one of the National Rural Women’s Coalition’s Inspiring Women and one of Country Style Magazine’s Top 30 people in Regional Australia.
Tanya says her experience with Lyme disease is a ‘painful nightmare’ that doesn’t go away when she wakes. Even though she acquired Lyme in the US, an endemic country, she struggled for years to obtain a diagnosis in Australia. That was only the beginning of her frustration, as she soon realised the complexities of the disease’s status in her home country. The average time to diagnosis for patients in Australia is 10 years, and that delay limits patients’ options for a full recovery.
Tanya demands urgent action for Lyme patients in Australia. “Patients aren’t being put first,” she said. “We need change for people like me. Not in 5 years’ time, not in 10 years’ time, now, RIGHT NOW.”
Ryan Stig, who played in the National Rugby League (NRL) as a five-eighth and a halfback for the Newcastle Knights, appeared to have the rugby-league world at his feet.
Ryan burst onto the scene in 2011 after a man-of-the match performance against the St George Illawarra Dragons in just his third top-grade game for the Newcastle Knights. He went on to play 13 games for Newcastle.
Early in 2012, the former Australian Schoolboys play-maker was sidelined with a blood clot behind his eye and then battled chronic fatigue-type symptoms that saw his health deteriorate. It took two years for specialists to diagnose Lyme disease but treating the illness proved more complicated than anticipated.
Ryan had a lot of neurological issues and started to lose effective function of his limbs and wasn’t getting good results from traditional treatment in Australia, and taking to the internet, started looking at alternatives.
He subsequently went on to undertake treatment in Mexico, Germany, and Switzerland and is convinced that water fasting is also a protocol which was beneficial to regaining his health.
Ryan recently played half a game for the Knights in the NSW Cup and took the first step, of what may prove one of the greatest comebacks in rugby league history, after being struck down by Lyme disease.
Ryan feels great again now and has a wife and two young children and believes he has a lot to be thankful for.
“I have learned through my struggle that there is always someone doing worse, and that is the reason I have joined LDAA as an Ambassador, the LDAA is supporting patients when they have nowhere else to turn, and raising awareness so that Australians are coming to know a tick bite can make you sick, and I was very happy to support their work”
Andi Snelling is a multiple award-winning actor, writer and theatre-maker. She trained at the prestigious Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in London, with Dame Judi Dench as its president.
After living in Berlin and London for seven years, Andi returned to her home town of Melbourne where she has continued building a name for herself as an artist.
Her career highlights include working for the BBC, performing on the West End, being the voice of Qatar Airways, and a recurring role on Australian soap Neighbours. She has been described as “the standout” (Herald Sun), “sublimely talented” (Sydney Morning Herald) and “so skilled that you’re left wanting more” (Daily Review).
Her 2019-2021 solo theatre show Happy-Go-Wrong draws from her experience of navigating Lyme disease and has garnered rave reviews, standing ovations and won several awards. Andi was honoured to present on this work and her life as a performer living with Lyme disease at Meeting Place 2019 in Canberra – Australia’s annual forum for arts, culture and disability. Having Lyme has given her a superhuman appreciation of being alive, something which is now deeply imbued in her art.
Andi was diagnosed with Lyme and co-infections in 2017 after many years of complex health issues, triggered by a tick bite with subsequent bullseye rash, which no-one recognised as significant at the time. She continues to undergo rigorous treatments as she edges her way towards better health. Andi is proud to become an Ambassador for the Lyme Disease Association of Australia and hopes to see tick-borne infections being taken more seriously by the government and medical establishment, so that her and her fellow Lymies do not have to remain as marginalised as they currently are. She is also passionate about spreading tick awareness at a grassroots level (pardon the pun!) so that others may receive the crucial early intervention that she did not.
Tessa Wallace, who represented Australian Swimming at the World Championships, Commonwealth Games, and the Olympics, was diagnosed with Lyme disease several years ago.
Despite this she has performed tremendously; all whilst batting Lyme disease and doing it all with a smile. Tessa is passionate about raising awareness of Lyme disease in Australia.
She is extremely excited to be an Ambassador for the Lyme Disease Association of Australia(LDAA) in order to help increase action and awareness for this debilitating disease. In 2010, at only 17, Tessa won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in the 200 metres breaststroke, months after a knee surgery. In 2011 she contracted Ross River Virus and saw her health decline; however, she was determined to qualify for the London 2012 Olympics.
With constant fatigue, muscle aches and lack of ability to train, she somehow fought her way through a miracle race to win the 200 metres breaststroke to qualify for the Olympic Team, achieving her lifelong dream.
Her health however was not improving, and it was later that year she was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease and co-infections. In 2013 after six months of treatment she managed to slowly climb her way back up to the top of the swimming ladder. Tessa qualified for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and competed in other events to put her in the top three swimmers on the world rankings.
In the lead up to the 2016 Olympic selections Tessa’s symptoms flared – the aches, pain and fatigue made preparations difficult – and she just missed a Rio selection. Tessa now sees this as a blessing in disguise to devote time to putting her health back on track and focus towards the next 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, which she has been selected for. She has also been studying PR and journalism in the midst of this battle.
Daniel Kowalski, General Manager of the Australian Swimmers Association, maintains that she has character, toughness, tenacity and heart. “Tessa is someone whom I have the utmost respect and admiration for and I truly believe she would be an amazing asset for the LDAA”.
Copyright Lyme Disease Association of Australia