Ryan Sutter finally has a diagnosis for the mystery illness he's been battling for the last year and is sharing his story to encourage others to advocate for themselves when they know something is wrong with their health.
"The Bachelorette" star appeared on his wife Trista Sutter's podcast "Better Etc.," where he shared his diagnosis and the couple talked about the difficult year they had navigating the health and insurance systems.
"I now essentially have Lyme disease — it seems like something that I will always have, it's just that now I know, and I will try to build back my immune system to fight it off. And Epstein-Barr — I showed that virus, and this weakened immune system may have allowed that to come back in. On top of that, COVID, I tested positive for that," Sutter, who works as a firefighter, said.
Epstein-Barr is a common virus that spreads through saliva and causes mononucelosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms are in line with what Sutter described, along with those of Lyme disease and COVID-19.
"My body would just itch for no reason, severe headaches, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, night sweats, fevers, really deep bone aches and muscle aches and joint aches, periods of extreme fatigue, almost paralyzing fatigue," Sutter, 46, said.
At first, Sutter thought it was just the training he was doing at the fire academy. He added that he usually viewed it as a badge of honor to feel tired after a long shift, but something about this was different. He recalled feeling so tired that when he was thirsty on the couch he would have to "summon energy" in order to get up and get a drink.
"It seems to be that what happened is that my immune system was weakened through exposures to toxins and especially to mold," he said. "There are other people in the fire academy that probably had the same exposures who aren't dealing with these exposures because their genetics are stronger, they're able to get rid of the toxins easier."
Last December, Sutter went public with his medical mystery and revealed that his wife, who he met on the inaugural season of "The Bachelorette," had been helping him advocate for himself when doctors didn't have answers. When the couple went public with the mystery illness last year, Sutter had already seen an oncologist and was told he did not have cancer.
"My wife went on a mission, developing a medical strategy and path towards hopeful answers while at the same time leaving daily reminder notes to keep my spirits up," Sutter wrote on Instagram last year. "My family has rallied behind me, my friends have shown tremendous support and my colleagues a high degree of understanding and patience. For all of this I am grateful. My intent in sharing this is to make a single point... Resiliency is not a solo act."
Trista Sutter talked about how hard it was to see "my hero, my best friend, the love of my life, my prince charming" suffering without answers.
"It's a really difficult thing to see the person you love most in this world struggling ... All I could really do is advocate for him," she said on her podcast.
Sutter said things are now "looking up" and that he is seeing improvements in his condition. He said he is avoiding gluten, dairy and refined sugar to help ease his Lyme disease symptoms and has added more fruits and vegetables for his digestive system.
"I've gone on specific diets and things to try to alleviate a lot of those things so my internal organs can function more efficiently and begin to fight back some of these viruses and bacteria that they were able to hold back prior to going through this last year," he said.
Trista Sutter said the couple wanted to share their entire, unedited story to encourage other people to not ignore their bodies when something feels off, even if one doctor doesn't have a diagnosis.
"Do not feel that going to one doctor and that answer to be definitive," she said. "Keep advocating for yourself. That is my biggest lesson in all of this."