Denise Ryan can no longer eat through her mouth: instead, she is fed through a tube in her nostril. It’s the horrific result of terminal Lyme Disease and she’s only 33-years-old.
Her digestive system is crumbling painfully inside her, but she’s struggling to pay for medication and her last hope is specialist surgery in the United States.
So she's fundraising, to continue vital medication and need to return to Seattle to keep treating her debilitated digestive system. In the hopes that the specialist treatment can put her illness into remission and help her get her life back
“I have a gastroenterologist at the University of Washington Hospital,” Denise told IrishCentral.
“She’s amazing. She’s like this is wrong with you. We need to do these tests and possibly this surgery, but any surgery in any country is very expensive when you don’t have health insurance.”
So far she’s raised $140,000 and the support she’s received from her “incredible” donors has inspired her to keep fighting.
"Two weeks ago a guy donated and at the end of his comment he wrote, 'As long as you keep fighting so will we' so that I'd know people are with me in this. It really meant a lot to me.”
Hard as her life has become – she's unable to eat and she's living at home with her parents because she’s now unable to work – one emotion burns stronger than ever inside her: pride.
“Fundraising to go alone half way across the world for medical treatment has made me a stronger person,” she explains.
“So while I would, of course, much, much rather be doing any of the things we all want out of life, I am at least prouder of myself now than I have ever been.”
Whilst for most people their early thirties are a time of career advancement and family planning, Denise’s main aspiration is one so simple we all take it for granted: “It’d be really great to eat again.”
For that, she’s prepared to leave her parents behind in Dublin and journey halfway around the world. Whist the Irish health service is currently treating her, provision for someone in so late a stage in the disease is poor and without this treatment in Seattle her prognosis is terminal.
But she wouldn’t be totally alone in Seattle?
“I do know two girls there that I met when I went over to meet with the doctor... They both have Lyme Disease as well and they’re around my age as well. So it’d be really good to have someone there.”
Long-term her dream is to head back to Canada, where she spent four happy years before her ill health forced her to return home to Ireland.
“If I could get into remission I would love to go back,” she says.
But even if she can’t go back to Canada she remains immovably defiant.
“I really don't want the worst to happen, so I'm gonna keep trying for as long as I can and then some,” she explains simply.
If you’d like to help Denise in her fight for life you can donate to her GoFundMe page here.