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The WNBA Not Exempting Elena Delle Donne for Lyme Disease is BULLSHIT

When I moved to DC in 2017, it felt like within an instant my health declined for seemingly no reason. Was it stress? Was it the new time zone? I couldn’t figure out what was wrong but I was inflamed pretty much constantly. I gained 20 pounds overnight. Many mornings I woke up with migraines and brain fog and for almost 6 months I just Jordan shrugged it off. I’ve had issues with my hormones and my digestion before and so I thought this was just more of the same. 

When I went and saw a doctor about these issues, instead of suggesting it was just something to be solved with more exercise and less carbs (like most doctors do), she recommended I take a test for Lyme Disease. 

What? 

I couldn’t recall getting a tick bite and hadn’t been around deer in years so I was pretty opposed to expensive testing for a disease I felt I had no chance of having. She mentioned that many doctors don’t have much experience with Lyme and that chronic Lyme Disease can go undetected for years. 

I was reluctant. Our first conversation was in March but I didn’t get tested until June or July. The test was expensive and wasn’t covered by my insurance. Eventually, after strict clean eating and six days a week exercise, things didn’t clear things up so I bit the bullet and took the test. 

In the Summer of 2018, I tested positive for chronic Lyme and other co-infections that attacked my immune system. It wasn’t severe but my doctor prescribed what seemed like a million pills every day. From antibiotics to herbs, to amino acids to support my immune system. And even then, she mentioned I needed to be careful about what I put in my body because this chronic disease would probably affect me and my immune system for the rest of my life. 

So when I saw the news that the WNBA’s MVP was denied a health exemption for Lyme Disease (insert link), I was shocked. This exemption was put in place for those who are immunocompromised and at high risk for COVID and that’s exactly what Lyme does to your body. For the WNBA to expect Delle Donne to choose between her health and a 22 game shortened season is fucking bullshit. 

The implication is that Elena Delle Donne is ducking out and trying to make up a health reason to not play. In an article she wrote in The Player’s Tribune, she says the same thing. 

"For nine years now, I've been dealing with Lyme disease and other coinfections that have destroyed my immune system, and I've been immune-compromised for years," Delle Donne said. "When COVID has come around, and I saw that if you're immune-compromised you have to be super careful, I've been that.”

“[The WNBA] basically told me that I’m wrong about what’s happening in my own body. What I hear in their decision is that I’m a fool for believing my doctor. That I’m faking a disability. That I’m trying to “get out” of work and still collect a paycheck.”

Faking a disability? You mean the same player who played in the 2019 Finals with THREE herniated disks? 

Oh, ok. 

To me, this has nothing to do with her Lyme diagnosis and everything to do with how few stars the WNBA has in general and how many of them are opting out of this season. Liz Cambage, Natasha Cloud, Chiney Ogwumike, Kristi Toliver are all high profile players that have decided to opt-out and now it seems that Elena Delle Donne is heading down that same path. 

To me, this has everything to do with not only how few stars the WNBA has but how poorly they are at marketing and making new stars. 

Not only is Delle Donne herself at high risk for covid, but she has an older sister Lizzie who has cerebral palsy and is blind and deaf and to whom she is primary caregiver. Not only is she high risk, with high risk family members, she is also the MVP and face of the WNBA. Can you imagine if the NBA did this to Lebron or Giannis?  

You can’t. Because they wouldn’t. 

The WNBA should do everything to protect Elena Delle Donne at all costs and thankfully that’s the perspective that Mystics owner Ted Leonsis has because they agreed to continue to keep Delle Donne on payroll if she decides to opt out for health reasons. 

Thank god.

The bottom line is this. There is a ton of misinformation about Lyme disease, and I can speak from personal experience that it is no fucking joke. I can’t imagine why the WNBA would put one of its signature players, and one of the faces of women’s basketball globally, in a position where she has to put herself and her family at risk all to play a truncated season during a global pandemic. Elena Della Donne has Lyme Disease and is coming back from back surgery; she should be resting and recovering and preparing for the 2021-2022 WNBA season instead of living through this shit show.