CLEVELAND - From Army-Reserve fighter to Lyme warrior, a Westlake man is running from Cleveland to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness about the disease, and money for a cure.
Paul Owen is running 414 miles. And guess what? He is leaving on his 50th birthday. He said he has one big wish.
“To help find a cure,” said Owen.
Lyme is a disease Owen knows all too well.
"I take about 108 pills a day,” he said. He also described six injections a week and 3-hour IV treatments every other week.
He is not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year.
"Most people don't remember a rash of any kind, or don't remember seeing a tick," said Owen.
The bacterial infection is primarily transmitted in our area through a bite from the deer tick, or black-legged tick.
“I was bitten by many, many ticks when I was in basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey almost 30 years ago," he said.
However, it only presented itself three years ago; exploiting a weakness in his body post-surgery.
Owen said one day he couldn't get out of bed. It took him 18 months to get a diagnosis.
“I’m a lucky one because I can run,” he said. “That's why I'm doing this. Some people are in bed, some people have seizures. There have been deaths, and the suicide rate for Lyme is very high because you're going through a lot of pain for a prolonged period."
Some say Owen is crazy to run this far in his condition, but he said the fight for Lyme patients is a marathon, not a sprint, and he's willing to go the distance.
He said he’s also hopeful a finish line is in sight thanks to Lyme warriors, like himself, demanding more from the government.
"We might see a cure, or a vaccine, over the next five to 10 years," he said.
Owen plans to run 23 miles a day for 18 days.
He said running makes him feel better and his biggest concern is suffering a Lyme episode while he’s running. He deals with a constant headache, extreme fatigue and joint pain.
Owen said he’s taken the Cavs motto “Whatever it Takes” and applied it to his battle against Lyme disease.
He is running for the Liv-Lyme Foundation. You can find his event page here.