LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Two East Texas women say living with Lyme disease has been a nightmare. It's uncurable, and actually mimics the flu and then later, multiple sclerosis.
Both women say they went nearly a year without knowing they had the disease.
"One tick bite and it has changed my life," said Kerri Pepper.
Good friends Pepper and Melissa Sarver were both bit by the so-called "Lyme disease tick," in March 2011.
It took them nearly a year before they were diagnosed.
"I thought I had the flu," Sarver said.
"Low-grade fever and then it started developing into joint pain," Pepper said. "Just weird, different, little rashes and just always something new."
For Pepper, she lost the ability to walk.
And for Sarver, she got neuropathy in her hands and feet.
But that wasn't the hardest part, they say.
"I went through three doctors and a neurologist that told me 'You can't get Lyme Disease in Texas,'" Pepper said.
According to the CDC, there were 33 confirmed Lyme disease cases in Texas just in 2012.
Not the highest numbers compared to the east coast, But medical assistant Anndrea Pickett says the problem is prevalent in our area.
"They say that Texas is a low-risk to no-risk area, which is surprising especially because we're in the wooded area," Pickett said.
Pepper says staying out of the woods is a little hard for Pineywoods folks.
"Grew up in the country, you know I've had ticks before but that's the thing these ticks are the size of a pinhead," Pepper said.
Pickett adds that even though Lyme disease isn't well known in Texas, doing anything outside, especially during the months of April through September puts you at risk.
A fact that Sarver says is hard to swallow.
"I was doing what every doctor would tell you to do," Sarver said. "Get up every morning, move your person, eat right, do those things. I was doing that and then I get Lyme's disease and it makes you to where you can't do all the things that you've done before."
Pickett says that spraying yourself with deet and staying away from high grass can help prevent the disease. But she says if you do see an unknown bite, see a doctor and ask for a Lyme disease test.