TOUCHED BY LYME: “Axel and the True Story of an Imaginary Illness”

Dorothy Kupcha Leland

07 AUG 2020Axel and the true story of an imaginary illness

Dorothée Lorang, a filmmaker who lives in Nantes, France, has two children. One of them, Axel, is the central character in a remarkable video called “Axel and the True Story of an Imaginary Illness.”

Can you guess what the “imaginary illness” is?

Though under an hour long, the story of Axel and his family packs quite an emotional wallop–along with a lot of critically important information. It is both poignant and illuminating.

We learn about the difficulties of getting properly diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease in France, the pain and frustration of a suffering family, and the indomitable spirit of a little boy who’d rather pretend he’s Batman than undergo pushing and prodding from medical doctors who ultimately don’t believe he’s really sick anyway. (Who can blame him?)

Other issues that play a part: a mother and father’s dogged search for answers when they keep running into brick walls; the question of gestational Lyme disease; the effectiveness of antibiotic vs. alternative therapies; and the importance of Lyme patient activism.

This extraordinary film shares its story in a disarmingly simple way. (When in fact, we all know that Lyme disease can devastate a family in the non-simple manner of a runaway train plunging into a ravine, yes?)

“Axel and the True Story of an Imaginary Illness” doesn’t dispute the complexities involved. Yet, it offers a calm clarity as the parents discover new treatment approaches and weigh the decisions they must make to help their son.

The film is in French, with English subtitles. It’s available on Vimeo, where you can watch a snippet of it for free. Watching the whole thing will cost you $2.83. I found it well worth the price of admission.

Axel au pays des malades imaginaires / Axel and the true story of an imaginary illness from Vivement Lundi !on Vimeo.

(If you decide to rent the film, make sure to click the “CC” button in the lower right-hand corner of the frame. That turns on the English subtitles. I confess, it took me a while to figure that out.)

TOUCHED BY LYME is written by Dorothy Kupcha Leland,’s Vice-president and Director of Communications. She is co-author of When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide. Contact her at

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  2. TOUCHED BY LYME: Justin Bieber’s Lyme disease story lights up the internet 
  3. TOUCHED BY LYME: Winning video links Lyme to climate change 
  4. TOUCHED BY LYME: “When the story of Lyme disease is written, it will be the story of patients standing up and being heard.” 

Tags : Lyme disease in France« Previous Post TBD Working Group’s August meeting is cancelled; no word on new date

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