Michelle De Feo, a model who lives on a farm in Essex, was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2016 – and is now selling nude photos online to fund her treatment.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that’s spread to humans by infected ticks.
Often, the person affected will develop a rash which can last for several months – but some people end up with flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, headaches, muscle and joint pain, tiredness and loss of energy.
Michelle, 28, had been ill for a year, with her main symptoms severe dizziness and tiredness. She also had blood in her urine.
She believes she was bitten by a tick when she was surrounded by horses, deer and woodland while on the farm.
She sought help from her GP over that year, but said they were ‘useless’ and ‘didn’t take her seriously’, instead diagnosing her with anxiety and chronic fatigue syndrome – but Michelle ‘knew it was more serious than that’.
What is Lyme disease and what are the symptoms?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that can be spread to humans by infected ticks. It’s usually easier to treat if it’s diagnosed early.
Many people with early symptoms of Lyme disease develop a circular red skin rash around a tick bite.
The rash can appear up to three months after being bitten by a tick and usually lasts for several weeks.
Most rashes appear within the first four weeks.
Not everyone with Lyme disease gets the rash. Some people also have flu-like symptoms in the early stages, such as:
- a high temperature, or feeling hot and shivery
- muscle and joint pain
- tiredness and loss of energy
Some people who are diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease continue to have symptoms, like tiredness, aches and loss of energy, that can last for years.
Michelle then went to a private doctor who diagnosed her with vertigo-related migraines, and gave her more medication for headaches.
It wasn’t until one of her friends suggested that her symptoms sounded like Lyme disease, that she decided to go back to her GP and ask to be tested.
She was asked whether she’d been bitten – she said she’d had a couple of bites previously, but hadn’t thought anything of it.
With this information, the GP carried out blood tests – but Lyme wasn’t detected.
It wasn’t until Michelle had decided that enough was enough, knowing that something had to be wrong, that she sought help from a German clinic, who sent her for a £600 blood test.
After the diagnosis, she was put on antibiotics for three hours a day, every day, and oxygen for four hours a day.
Unfortunately the antibiotics didn’t work and Michelle’s symptoms have continued to worsen.
Michelle tells Metro.co.uk: ‘I suffer with dizziness, tiredness and weight loss and it’s extremely draining.
‘Some days I can’t even more.’
Michelle has now decided to seek treatment privately.
‘If you ask other Lyme patients they will tell you the same of their struggles,’ she says.
‘At the moment I’m treating myself with supplements on my own while I raise more money.’
After researching her condition, Michelle found a doctor out in Washington, US, who she thinks can help her.
She is hoping to travel there in hopes that the medical team will be able to alleviate some of her debilitating symptoms – but this trip and the treatment costs £6,000.
Michelle has decided to start selling nude photos as a way to make up the funds.
She says: ‘I’m selling my nudes on a site called OnlyFans, to my followers.
‘I don’t take nudes every day – I have set days to take content and then I upload as I go along. So I don’t have to work every day, which is great. I see why a lot of girls do it, to be honest.
‘I’ve so far raised £3,000, so I’m trying to raise more to make sure all of my treatment is covered.
‘I heard you could make great money from OnlyFans, so I decided “Why not do that as well?”.
‘Plus I was a model before I fell sick, so nudity wasn’t a problem for me.’
OnlyFans is a website that allows a variety of adult material – including photos and sexual videos – but Michelle says she is ‘not an adult model’, as she only shares nudes.
‘Some people get confused with nudity and porn, but I don’t shoot porn’, she says.
‘I shoot really tasteful stuff.’
Michelle’s parents are aware that she is selling nude photos to raise money. While at first they weren’t happy about it, they have now accepted it and even feel it’s an empowering situation.
Michelle’s photos – all locked as private and only available to those who subscribe for £5.99 a month – show her fully naked, topless, and wearing lingerie.
‘I can sell custom content too at an extra price, which is around £30 to £50’, she says.
So far, Michelle has been able to use some of the money raised to spend on consultations here in the UK, and supplements – but she says it is hard to save up when you have a medical condition.
She’s hoping to raise another £3,000 so that she can fly over the States once lockdown measures are eased and flights to the US are allowed once again.
Michelle hopes to raise awareness of Lyme disease for others struggling with it and hopes that by sharing her story, others will feel confident enough to speak out, too.
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