Rain on a Distant Roof

By Vanessa Farnsworth

Rain on a Distant Roof
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Rain on a Distant Roof takes readers inside the frightening but fascinating world of Lyme disease in Canada. This is the story of one woman's struggle to understand the disease that's destroying her body and mind. Armed with a confusing diagnosis, a baffling array of symptoms, ... Read more


Rain on a Distant Roof takes readers inside the frightening but fascinating world of Lyme disease in Canada. This is the story of one woman's struggle to understand the disease that's destroying her body and mind. Armed with a confusing diagnosis, a baffling array of symptoms, and a body that's filled with diabolical bacteria, she sets out to unravel the mysteries of her malady. Along the way, she discovers challenges in properly diagnosing and treating the illness, deficits in medical testing, conflicts among medical guidelines, and a public health response that is, at best, problematic. She also discovers the bizarrely intelligent bacteria at the bottom of it all, an organism so complex and perplexing that more than 30 years after it was first discovered, researchers are still having trouble nailing it down.

 But time is running out. By 2020, it's estimated that more than 80 percent of the population of Canada will be living in regions that are endemic for Lyme disease and the numbers of people infected with the illness are expected to soar. What remains unknown about the illness continues to trump what is known, placing the health of Canadians increasingly at risk. Welcome to Lyme disease in Canada. Don't go into the woods today.

Vanessa Farnsworth

Born and raised in southern Ontario, Vanessa Farnsworth is a writer and journalist who makes her home in a log cabin in the interior of British Columbia. She received her education from York University, the Humber School for Writers, and the print journalism program at Sheridan College where she picked up the TJ Allen Memorial Award for journalism. Her numerous articles on nature, the environment and agriculture have appeared in magazines across Canada and her fiction has been published in Canadian and American literary journals. One of her short stories was nominated for the Journey Prize. Vanessa is the author of two previous books: Rain on a Distant Roof: A Personal Journey Through Lyme Disease in Canada (Signature Editions, 2013) and The Things She?ll Be Leaving Behind (Thistledown Press, 2018).


I'm wheeled from the emergency room in the middle of the night and placed in a room alongside a morbidly obese patient who sleeps twenty hours a day and snores loud enough to trigger earthquakes two continents away.

Someone arrives to wake me up at regular intervals.

This really isn't necessary. The non-stop snoring ensures I won't be sleeping anytime soon.

Snort. Snort. Bluster. Snort. It's like lying next to a chainsaw with a faulty motor.

It occurs to me that this is what hospital administrators do to patients who can't take a hint. If a patient keeps coming back to the hospital after doctors have repeatedly dismissed her then they have no choice but to torture her in an effort to make sure that she will never, ever feel the need to come back again.

I feel like a character in a Stephen King novel.

The setting contributes to this feeling. The walls are painted a color that can best be described as drab and the window blinds -- which are inexplicably embedded between two panes of glass -- are broken, preventing them from being moved from their present position, which is partially raised yet slightly askew. The bed is a ramshackle disaster of technology that I can easily imagine being a cast-off from another, better hospital when it updated its furnishings forty years ago. And just to complete the horror-story effect, the hospital's power goes out several times one day, forcing the back-up generators to kick in and noisily expel stale air from the vents.

Again and again and again.

I half-expect a machete-wielding lunatic to burst into my room. I'm only vaguely surprised when this doesn't happen.

Or maybe it does; it's not like I would remember.

I'm in the hospital for more than a week, but my memory of that time is fragmentary, disjointed, as though someone loaded a random set of slides into a projector and is flashing them on a screen inside my brain without providing any narrative glue.

Slide 1.

Someone is speaking to me -- a nurse, I think -- but I can't understand what she's saying.

"Source black round fluid next."

"Are you talking to me?"

"Koi freak leaven irritate deer."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand what you're saying."

"Winter serif all?"

"Still not getting it."

"Lewis late episode are ego ant alter window?"

"Look, whatever it is, can you just pretend I gave you the answer you're looking for?"

"Rifle did jelly art kudo?"


"Jungle dime?"

"All right then, no."

"Timeless dark swallow sit table juror dad."

"Screw it. You've got a brain. Whatever it is, just figure it out for yourself."

"Swat whiskey fur."


Slide 2.

A doctor is standing at the foot of my bed, flipping through pages in a chart that's resting on the rolling table where the trays of untouched food usually reside. He's telling me that I could be in the early stages of multiple sclerosis.

Possibly lupus.

Maybe rheumatoid arthritis.

Somehow I get the impression that the choice is mine and I try to consider the pros and cons of each disease, but quickly discover that I don't know enough about any of them to feel confident that I'll choose the one that will be the least destructive in the long run.

The conversation veers in another direction.

I fail to veer with it.


Rain on a Distant Roof is an excellent read. I recommend it. Our politicians at all levels and physicians of every ilk should read it as well.

Jim Wilson, President, Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation

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