Shining the Lyme Light for 90 Miles

Tanner McMillan and Ed Blandford

In November 2024, Tanner McMillan and his mate Ed Blandford will tackle the length of 90 Mile Beach on the Victorian coastline, to raise funds and awareness for the Lyme Disease Association of Australia (LDAA).

Lyme patient Tanner has achieved a remarkable recovery, and you can be a part of his next challenge by supporting his nationwide fundraising campaign. Your generous contributions will enable the LDAA to continue their work, progressing vital research and supporting individuals and kids like Tanner and their families. Find out how to donate.

Read about Tanner’s journey in his own words below.

Image: Tanner (right) and Ed, warriors in training

A message from Tanya Dupagne, OAM & LDAA Ambassador

Lyme patient 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. Tanya demands urgent action for Lyme patients in Australia. “Patients aren’t being put first,” she says.

Why I’m Walking for Lyme Patients by Tanner McMillan

Hi my name is Tanner McMillan. Some of you may know me and my background but I’ll give you a quick overview of my life as one of the many victims of Lyme in Australia.

When I was younger, I challenged myself, pushed my limits and experienced anything that I could. Growing up, the people around me labelled me using words like fearless and brave. Little did I know how much I would need these character traits when life turned on me just after my 11th birthday.

Tanner McMillan LDAA

Everything changed when I became extremely ill after a tick bite. And to make a difficult situation worse, doctors doubted my symptoms. My pain level could get so high that my body would drop into an unconscious state 400-500 times a day. Doctors told my devastated parents and torn apart family that despite it being heart breaking for them, they needed to “toughen up”. They should heed the doctor’s advice and ignore me, to step over me and “give it no airplay” when I was lying on the floor, unconscious.

The doctor said that eventually I would realise that it wasn’t worth it, and the pain receptors in my brain would just magically return to normal and realise that I wasn’t actually in pain.

My 11-year old self heard all of these kinds of discussions, occurring at the end of my hospital bed. The voice in my head screamed that it was the doctors who were doing something wrong, that this was not in my head and that I was not making this up. Yet the more I articulated what was happening to me, the more they said I was “fabricating” the story and was too invested in my own sickness. I was sent home from hospital, and on the way out I fell unconscious a minimum of 10 times between the nurses station and the car park. My mum was trying to take care of me and be seen to be following doctors orders. I had an illness that wasn’t recognised in my own country.

Tanner in hospital

I couldn’t even tell my friends what was wrong with me, why I would fall unconscious if they touched my body, because it sent my nerve pain to a level that my body couldn’t withstand. I couldn’t explain why I could no longer manage school full-time, why I couldn’t join in games during recess and couldn’t join my old sporting teams.

It took nearly 12 months to get a formal diagnosis, but because of the political stance on Lyme disease in Australia, this was generally not recognised in the medical world. Later, I found a medical team that was able to validate every symptom that I had. A team that would guide me and treat me, so that I could again function and live with this chronic illness.

At the age of 16, I have completed a life battle that 11-year-old me would never have expected to have to endure. This included 98 trips to Sydney for week-long treatments. Each trip involving endless hours with catheters hanging out of my arm, with IV drips burning and knocking the life out of me. After a week of treatment was over, I could barely walk for the following few days. It would get to the point where all the veins in my arms collapsed and it was a war between the IV needle and my veins to get my treatment into my body.

Tanner Take 5

I was on a schedule of 50 tablets per day. I remember vomiting all over myself on my first day of high school, endless vomiting at school after that, and constant anxiety that I would vomit during class. And after all of that I have come out the other end, to the light at the end of the tunnel that everyone kept talking about. I have come out as a better person, a strong, healthy, driven teenager.

Now, I want to ensure that no other child in Australia has to experience what I did; the lack of recognition, testing and treatment of Lyme disease in this country.

For a young person, living with a chronic illness that the medical world doesn’t fully understand and refuses to recognise, drives a wedge between the sick and the society they thought they knew.
(LEFT: Click to enlarge article)

The lack of understanding, empathy, control and recognition means that being sick with Lyme disease in Australia is so much more debilitating than it needs to be. In addition to the challenge of living with the symptoms of chronic illness, people continue to suffer alone. Without support from Australia’s medical system they are left to suffer and fend for themselves. I am devastated that this is how people are treated in this country and I am not standing for it. I am willing to do everything I can to change this for the better, ASAP. 

I am planning on walking the iconic 90 Mile Beach in Gippsland, Victoria, from start to finish with my mate Edward. We plan on walking from Lakes Entrance, past the Grange, through to Seaspray Surf Life Saving Club, and Woodside Surf Life Saving Club. Finally, we’ll walk through to Mcloughlins Beach, which will conclude our 90 mile walk. I am doing this in order to raise awareness and funds towards highlighting the need for change. I want to support as many Lyme Warriors as I can in order to reduce suffering, support dying Lyme disease patients, and to change Australia’s healthcare system and its attitude toward Lyme sufferers. To shine some Lyme-light on the fact that the decision-makers must do better!

Tanner and Ed route map

In order for this to happen I need a community of support, and the kindness of all of you lovely humans. I’m asking for support, sponsorship, donations or really anything that might assist me and the thousands of other Lyme disease patients on the road to health recovery and sharing awareness. All proceeds from the 90 Mile Beach trek will go to the Lyme Disease Association of Australia, one of the few true supporters of the Lyme community in this country and an association which was integral in progressing my fight to where I am today.

Thank you. I love you all so much and I hope you can throw some support behind me!

Regards, Tanner McMillan