On meeting Anastiscia Chantler-Lang you would have no idea that she has been to hell and back as a survivor of chronic Lyme disease. A lot of people don’t know what chronic Lyme disease is or what a devastating impact it can have on you if it goes untreated for six weeks after you contract it.
In Chantler-Lang’s case, even after she lost her job, her house and money fighting Lyme disease, she refused to give up. It is due to her struggle that she is now living in Lake Tahoe, painting and continuing to deal with her disease, now in remission. Lang is using her artwork to help her heal and advocate for Lyme disease survivors.
“Art creates an alternate reality for me. I get lost in it. It’s an outlet for what we’re going through and it gives me a bit of relief from being in that little world [of Lyme disease].”
“Had you met me in 2014 when I arrived here from Canada, I would have looked completely different. I was half the size I am now,” says the slender artist.
While fighting Lyme disease, Chantler-Lang underwent daily colonics, had severe constant pain in her bladder and a compromised liver. She couldn’t form a sentence and her nervous system was shot — to name a few of her issues. At times her body had to be packed in ice because the convulsing would be so intense.
Back in 2008, Chantler-Lang was bit by a tick while hiking in upstate New York and soon developed a bull’s-eye rash. A violent flu followed two weeks later coupled with hallucinations, anxiety and vomiting. Two weeks after the flu had cleared, Chantler-Lang went to the doctor for a tetanus shot.
“And, then all hell broke loose,” she says.
She spent all of her money going to dozens of doctors in every kind of specialty to try to diagnose the problem. She lost her house, her savings and her then-fiancé. She was broke, living out of her car and suffering.
Chantler-Lang went back to Canada to be with her mother and through mutual connections found out about Sierra Integrative Medical Center in Reno, Nev. She flew down to meet with the doctors and ended up smashing IV poles with a man in the hallway named Greg, who was fighting Hepatitis C. They fell in love and Greg stayed with her for the five months of treatment. At the end of her treatment, Greg took her swimming at Donner Lake.
“It was amazing to see a piece of what other people live like. The world that I came from in Rochester [New York] was so superficial,” says Anastiscia. “I was violently ill for so long, broken on every level, I couldn’t fathom meeting someone. Lyme disease shot me down so hard; it’s so brutal what you have to go through in treatment. Greg was just there.”
“I saw that she knew everyone in the clinic and poured her heart out to help them even though she was so sick herself. I was blown away by that,” says Greg. “At 50 years old, I had no kids, had never married and my motto became that song you sing at karaoke with the line, ‘When I fall in love, it will be forever.’ We just proceeded in blind faith, blind love.”
Anastiscia has always been interested in art and local history. She started drawing Native Americans, landscapes, horses and swirling colorful, detailed patterns with subliminal Lake Tahoe characters.
She uses various types of oil pastels and colored pencils, but stays away from oil and acrylic paints because the odors affect her Lyme.
“Art creates an alternate reality for me. I get lost in it. It’s an outlet for what we’re going through and it gives me a bit of relief from being in that little world [of Lyme disease]. When someone likes a painting, I feel true joy,” she says.
Now she is painting for a purpose, using her art to spread awareness of chronic Lyme disease, raising money to help with survivors’ expenses and advocating for better healthcare insurance. She hosted an art and wine tasting in Incline Village on April 9 to raise money for two projects close to her heart: Hand in Hand for Lyme Disease Inc. and the Mayday Project rally in Washington, D.C., on May 6.
“[Lyme disease] is becoming much more prevalent and can happen to anyone,” she says. “This is the first time that the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] has recognized that this is the fastest growing disease and we need to push for more affordable diagnostics.”
Anastiscia’s artwork is for sale through artrageous.info, Java Hut and the Stevenson Gallery in Kings Beach, and the Incline Village/Crystal Bay Visitors Bureau.