Lyme Disease survivor facing a new struggle

TOUGH: Kazz Tokek has recovered from Lyme Disease, but the illness and treatment took a toll both physically and financially. The Maitland woman is struggling to find work, despite experience and determination. Picture: Marina Neil
TOUGH: Kazz Tokek has recovered from Lyme Disease, but the illness and treatment took a toll both physically and financially. The Maitland woman is struggling to find work, despite experience and determination. Picture: Marina Neil

KAZZ Tokek almost lost her life to Lyme Disease and now she is ready to grasp her second chance.

The Maitland woman spent six years suffering from a long list of ailments that started after a series of tick bites in bushland in Queensland in 2006. Doctors continually dismissed her symptoms, until a Lyme literate medical doctor diagnosed her with the disease and the common co-infection Babesia in 2012. At that point she was frail and very ill.

A chance encounter with a chronic illness specialist saved her life through three years of treatment. But it was not cheap. She was too sick to work for four years and had to sell her home, most of her belongings and use all of her savings. She has spent $450,000 on a disease the federal government doesn’t believe exists in Australia. 

When she went into remission 18 months ago she finally had a chance to regain her health. She is ready for a part-time job, and desperately needs the money, but nobody will give her a go.

She has applied for more than 250 jobs in the past year and tried everything from administration, customer service and stocking shelves to a waiter, service station operator, and lab technician.

“I’ve re-written my cover letter so many times and I’ve tried to show how my skills are transferable,” she said. “I don’t want anyone else to go through this.”

Ms Tokek, 36, registered with Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions in January so she could get a job with an employer who would be sympathetic and give her a chance. 

She is an experienced biologist with an impressive resume of conservation work, but still has not been able to secure employment. 

Mai-Wel LabourForce Solutions manager Kyllie Tegg would not comment on Ms Tokek’s situation, but said the unemployment rate and the competition for jobs did not help job seekers.

“We continue to get people jobs every day, at the end of the day it is tough going,” she said. 

Ms Tokek believes she contracted Lyme Disease in Queensland in 2006.

She was also bitten in 2010 at Gloucester, and at the Barrington Tops in 2012.

“I’m so lucky to be alive,” she said. “I’d never heard of Lyme Disease until 2012, and if I had known about it I would have taken precautions out in the bush.”

This story Survivor’s next hurdle first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.

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