Musician remembered as battler against Lyme disease
Boston Globe - Boston,MA,USA
LEWISTON, Maine --A music legend in Asbury Park, N.J., as a founding member of what became Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, Bill Chinnock was also a legend among Mainers stricken with Lyme disease.
The Emmy-winning singer-songwriter had been waging his own battle with the tick-borne illness that can cause exhaustion and joint pain while leaving patients confused and forgetful.
"I don't know how he did it, but he always stayed so positive," said Jodi Ireland, who was devastated at the news that Chinnock, 59, committed suicide March 2 at his home in Yarmouth. "I can't believe he gave up," she told the Sun Journal of Lewiston.
Chinnock's manager said he took his own life. His sister blamed his death on the disease he had been living with for years.
Friends and family members gathered Saturday at the First Parish Congregational Church in Yarmouth for a celebration of Chinnock's life.
His elder son, John Chinnock, said his father lived the life he wanted and followed his dream.
As neighbors in Fairfield, Chinnock and Ireland both became sick in the late 1990s. Chinnock helped Ireland find a diagnosis for the crushing fatigue, headaches and numbness that plagued her.
"We realized we were both having a lot of the same symptoms," said Ireland, a dance teacher now struggling with a Lyme relapse.
Chinnock eventually saw a doctor in Connecticut who diagnosed his illness as Lyme disease. He called Ireland, excited, urging that she undergo testing that would show that she also had the disease.
"I will always feel that I owe him so much. He helped save my life," Ireland said.
Chinnock and Ireland went through treatment, including antibiotics, but some symptoms persisted. After Chinnock moved to Yarmouth several years ago, the two kept in touch.
More than 23,000 new cases of Lyme disease were reported in the U.S. in 2005, nearly 250 of them in Maine, according to the National Centers for Disease Control. If caught early, the disease can be cured with antibiotics, experts say, but those who go undiagnosed for years can develop chronic and severe symptoms that leave them bed-ridden.
"It's almost like a death every time you get sick again," Ireland said.
Constantly upbeat and unfailingly positive, Chinnock was a champion for the Lyme disease community in Maine. Like many Lyme patients, he had his ups and downs but always seemed eager to comfort others.
He advocated for greater public education about the disease and met with Lyme sufferers, recommending doctors and suggested treatments. Sometimes he simply ...
commiserated, a blessing to patients who felt unheard for so long.
"A lot of people knew Bill. He helped a lot of people get diagnosed," said Constance Dickey of Hampden, founder of the MaineLymeDisease support group on Yahoo and chairwoman of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.
In 2004 and 2005, Chinnock seemed to be doing well. An herbal supplement had been helpful and he was working long hours on a new album, the first in years.
But when Chinnock called to check in with Ireland last year, he told her he wasn't feeling well again. That was the last time she heard from him.
Some Lyme patients now wonder how they can be strong enough to handle the waves of pain and fatigue if Chinnock, their champion, couldn't.
"This has been a huge emotional blow," said Dickey, the support group founder. "It has rocked the community."
But even as they grieve, Lyme patients say they hope Chinnock's death will draw attention to the need for research and education about Lyme disease.
"I bet that's what he would have wanted, too," Ireland said.