Woman with ‘unmanageable’ pain from Lyme disease chooses to die.

After she chose doctor-assisted death because she was in agony with no end in sight, the family of a Quebec woman with Lyme disease is calling for change on how the medical system handles cases of the infectious illness.

Stéphanie Lavoie was only 30 years old when she died on May 17. She spent most of her adult life fighting a barrage of escalating symptoms that left her bedridden and barely able to eat by the end of her life.

“The pain was unmanageable,” Cathy Lavoie said about her sister’s deteriorating health in an interview.

Health Canada says symptoms of Lyme disease range from rashes and headaches to severe joint pain and memory loss. In rare cases, the tick-borne illness can cause death due to heart infections.

Lyme disease is becoming more prevalent in Canada as the warming climate pushes the boundaries of a range of pathogens and risk factors northward. A federal report noted there were 3,147 reported cases of the disease across the country in 2021, up from 266 in 2011.

Lavoie was bitten by a tick in Quebec’s Saguenay region eight years ago, but diagnosis and treatment in Canada proved difficult. Her sister said the Lyme disease diagnosis was confirmed in the United States, Mexico and Germany — but never in their home province since Lavoie’s condition didn’t meet all the markers.

The illness tore into her body. At first, aches crept into Lavoie’s feet and then spread to her knees and joints. Four years ago, she started using a wheelchair.

The pain became so excruciating she was confined to her bed for the last two years of her life. Her hands and feet curved from the disease.

Her condition worsened last August to the point where she could only stomach bananas. Lavoie weighed only 59 pounds when she died.

“She could not tolerate anything else,” Cathy Lavoie said. “And even at the end, bananas were giving her a hard time.”

As Lavoie faced mounting pain, her sister said she began considering medical assistance in dying as a last resort.

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