Exeter’s Teresa Boyce reclaims life, gains mayoral post
By Josh Vance
Special to the Sun-Gazette
exeter – No one would guess looking at Teresa Boyce, mayor of Exeter, that just eight months ago she was in a fight for her life. In June 2016, a mysterious illness hijacked her nervous system, temporarily paralyzing her and destining her for weeks of intensive care and treatment. Clear goals and determination guided her toward recovery and allowed her to return to work and become the current mayor of Exeter.
Boyce believes her story began when she stopped at a primitive rest area in the Colorado Rocky Mountains during a road trip in June. She remembers being bit by something during this stop.
“It was not a normal bite,” Boyce said as she explained that the bug bite had a hard cap that would return every day even though scratched off.
Exactly twelve days later, Boyce’s feet began to go numb. By the next morning, her hands were also numb prompting her to take two days off of work. Rest brought no relief so she sought medical attention.
An MRI was done of her head, neck and back. Each test brought no answers and she was sent home.
Each day she felt weaker and she started stumbling and falling. When a stabbing chest pain woke her in the early hours of the morning, she returned to the ER for more tests.
“They gave me every heart test there is,” Boyce said. “At this point, I was unable to walk but they told me nothing was wrong and sent me home again.”
The next symptom to strike was numbness in her face. A return to the ER gave her a simple diagnose of Bell’s palsy, a common facial paralysis. She was once again sent home.
“By July 2nd, I could no longer get out of bed,” Boyce said. Her husband called 911 and Boyce made another trip to the ER. “We were determined that we would not return home this time without answers.”
Numerous tests were done and possible explanations for her illness ruled out. When everything else had been eliminated as a diagnosis, Boyce was told with certainty that she had Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).
“I had seen this word in print before but didn’t know how to pronounce it and certainly didn’t know what it was,” said Boyce.
She learned that GBS is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system. “Every story is different,” explains Boyce, “but the common denominator is numbness in the feet.”
GBS has been known to paralyze the lungs and throat making it impossible to breathe or eat. Boyce could feel this beginning to happen but was relieved that it did not fully take over.
After five days in the ICU, Boyce was transferred to Cypress Rehab where she remained for five weeks. She was unable to do life’s simplest tasks such as bathing or feeding herself.
Boyce said she began to think, “Is this the rest of my life?” Her doctors assured her that she was going to get better but she would have to work hard. “As soon as they told me I would get better, I said, ‘Okay then. What do I have to do?’”
“I had some goals,” explained Boyce. She was nearing her 25th year of work at the Bank of the Sierra and wanted to make it to that landmark anniversary. She wanted to attend her company Christmas party and enjoy receiving the reward for 25 years of service.
“And I wanted to go for mayor,” said Boyce.
In Exeter, the city council chooses who will be mayor. Boyce had been approached by the council about considering the position in past years. Being satisfied to simply volunteer on the council and not desiring a position in the lime light, Boyce had declined.
“I didn’t have a granddaughter back then,” Boyce said as she described the reasons for her change of heart. “I’m crazy over her. I wanted her to be able to say, ‘My grandmother was the mayor.’”
Boyce did not give up and is enjoying the benefits of her hard work today. She is clear that a full recovery can take up to two years and that there may be lingering symptoms. There is still numbness in her face and feet but she is glad to be back to work.
Most of all, Boyce is honored to be chosen as Exeter’s current mayor and is delighted to be serving the community once again.