What the doctor said to me was, “I don’t think you are sick. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. You want attention and this is your way of getting it.’”

Arbor Vitae resident Jennifer “Jenn” Kane, appearing in Open Eyes Pictures’ recently-released feature length documentary 
Under Our Skin: The Untold 
Story of Lyme Disease
What the doctor said to me was, “I don’t think you are sick. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. You want attention and this is your way of getting it.’” Arbor Vitae resident Jennifer “Jenn” Kane, appearing in Open Eyes Pictures’ recently-released feature length documentary Under Our Skin: The Untold Story of Lyme Disease
Taking area Lyme disease education to a new level, the Arbor Vitae-based Lyme Disease Awareness Network has partnered with Lakeland Cinema 6 to present a free admission Sept. 12-18 run of the award-nominated Andy Abrahams Wilson documentary Under Our Skin: The Untold Story of Lyme Disease.

The film will be shown evenings at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. and weekends at 4 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Lakeland Cinema 6 on Hwy. 51 in Woodruff. Complimentary Lyme disease information cards will be available at the Under Our Skin screenings, courtesy of Marshfield Clinic.

An eye-opening picture

Following the stories of debilitated chronic Lyme patients and embattled physicians as they fight Lyme for their lives and livelihoods, Under Our Skin brings into focus the U.S. health care system and its ability to cope with Lyme.

"The film is both educational and frightening, as real people ... tell their story," said Jillayne Waite, co-founder of the Lyme Disease Awareness Network. "One can only wonder, if the diagnosis says 'no' but the symptoms say 'yes,' what we're to do. Our family has learned the hard way and passes on this word of caution: be your own advocate - it's not all in your head."

Indeed, Waite and her husband, Jeffrey, have become intimately acquainted with Lyme disease over the past five years as they've watched their daughter, Arbor Vitae resident Jennifer "Jenn" Kane (Lakeland Times, April 29), battle debilitating chronic systemic Lyme disease, which many in the medical establishment maintain doesn't exist.

Kane, who is among more than three dozen Lyme victims featured in Under Our Skin, developed Lyme disease at age 30 after she was bitten twice by ticks during a March 2003 family camping trip to Lake of the Ozarks State Park in Kaiser, Mo.

At the low point of her protracted five-year Lyme battle, Kane said she was "basically a vegetable" from all the narcotics that were being pumped into her body from misguided treatment attempts.

One physician suggested that Kane was making it all up.

Recalled Kane in one of her three on-screen cameo appearances in the documentary, "What the doctor said to me was, 'I don't think you are sick. I don't think there's anything wrong with you. You want attention and this is your way of getting it.'"

Five years and more than ten doctors later, Kane in recent months has finally found some much-awaited relief from chronic systemic Lyme disease and two exacerbating tick-related co-infections.

A "Lyme literate doctor" in Fond du Lac, one of only an estimated 15 nationwide, put her on controversial experimental long-term antibiotic "pulse therapy" treatments, which alternate different antibiotic therapies for blood-borne and intra-cellular Lyme bacterias until the Lyme symptoms are gone - and for another three to six weeks beyond to avoid a Lyme rebound.

Kane told The Lakeland Times Monday that she's been getting "better and stronger" by the month since beginning the pulse therapy treatment regimen this past spring, regaining some of her old vitality.

"The light is getter brighter at the end of tunnel," she said.

Kane was interviewed for the Under Our Skin documentary three years ago when she and her father traveled to a medical conference in Virginia shortly after her belated Lyme diagnosis, part of an effort to better educate themselves on the disease.

At age 55, Jeffrey Waite had taken an early retirement from his career as a military aircraft and submarine maintenance consultant to become his daughter's full-time medical advocate as she battled chronic systemic Lyme disease. Today, he and wife Jillayne spearhead Lyme Disease Awareness Network's regional Lyme educational initiatives.

Kane said the debut and wide distribution of Under Our Skin is an "exciting" development, noting it goes a long way toward raising public awareness of Lyme disease and "getting people to understand the severity of the issue."

"You cannot walk out [of the documentary] saying we're making it (chronic Lyme) up and it's all in our heads," she noted. "We're all basically saying the same thing. There's truth in numbers as they say."

Kane praised the community-minded generosity of Steve and Alma Conway of Three Lakes, who have owned Lakeland Cinema since 1978.

"I'm just speechless," she said. "They've given us (Lyme Disease Awareness Network) and the community such a wonderful gift. Showing the film for a whole week and not charging admission is more than we could have ever hoped. I hope people take advantage of it and come see the movie. I thank the Conways for this incredible gift."

Educational documentary praised, receives award nominations

A tale of microbes, medicine and money as suspenseful, dramatic and hair-raising as any Hollywood thriller, Open Eye Pictures' full-length 103-minute documentary investigates the until-now untold story of Lyme disease, one of the most misunderstood and controversial illnesses of our time and an emerging epidemic larger than AIDS, West Nile Virus and Avian Flu combined.

Each year, tens of thousands of Americans go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, often told by physicians that their symptoms are all in their head, chalked up to "Lyme hysteria" or "disease du jour" hypochondria.

The film, described by producer-director Wilson as "a chilling tale of the pursuit of profit and prestige at the expense of science and very sick patients," investigates the human, medical and political dimensions of the current Lyme scene in the U.S.

An alumnus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and California's USC Film School, Wilson is an Emmy-nominated and award-winning producer, director and cinemaphotographer.

Under Our Skin is the work of Sausolito, Calif.-based Open Eye Pictures, Inc., an award-winning non-profit production company specializing in creative educational media. Open Eye was founded by Wilson in 1994.

The groundbreaking documentary film, three years in the making, had its world premier in April at New York City's famed Tribeca Film Festival, where the "Audience Award" finalist documentary was feted by festival organizers as a "compelling, informative and emotional experience..."

Praised as "well-researched," "suspenseful" and "artfully-shot" by Variety's Alissa Simon and feted as the year's "most important documentary" by XM Radio's Molly Dedham, Under Our Skin has headlined a number of U.S. film festivals since its Big Apple debut, including the Berkshire International Film Festival in Great Barrington, Mass., where the documentary was an "Audience Award" runner-up.

Under Our Skin has also been nominated for "Best Socially Conscious Film" honors by the 9,000-member Independent Film Producers (IFP), the nation's oldest association of independent filmmakers.

Under Our Skin provides viewers with an eye-opening look not only at the behind-the-scenes science and politics behind Lyme disease, but also at the hidden world of those whose lives have been affected and nearly destroyed by Lyme - everyone from debilitated chronic Lyme victims who once led vital, active lives to so-called "Lyme literate" doctors who risk their medical licenses and insurance coverage to treat their patients with unconventional and highly controversial long-term antibiotic therapies.

"It's a real revealing story - a heart-wrencher," said Lyme Disease Awareness Network co-founder Jeffrey Waite. "When you look at the stories of the people like Jenn ... who have just been ravaged by the disease, it's a heart-wrencher ... Please take the opportunity to view it. You'll probably not come out of it feeling real good about what the disease can do to people, but you will feel good about what we can do to help people who've been afflicted by the disease - supporting them physically, mentally and socially."

Adds Jillayne Waite, "We encourage anyone who walks in the yard or woods - and anyone with Lyme or Lyme symptoms - to become educated. Come see the film, meet us and become involved in getting the word out about the symptoms of Lyme disease."