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MADISON (WMSN) -- It starts with a tick bite, but if untreated, Lyme disease can attack the body, and injure it permanently.



"I never thought I would turn around and come out of it. Never thought."



Tory Gensichen of Madison recalls her health care nightmare. It started in 1988, when she noticed a rash on her body.



"I ended up with a terrible flu like illness," she said. "A couple weeks later, very debilitated, and neurological symptoms."



Tory went to several doctors and endured dozens of exams, for more than a decade. Finally, a blood test revealed she had Lyme disease.



"I never knew about it growing up, and I was an outdoor kid my whole life -- loved the fall, rolling in the leaves."



Lyme disease is an infection caused by tiny deer ticks, which burrow into to the skin with a painless bite.



"Ticks have a anesthetic in their saliva so you don't feel the tick bite," said rheumatologist Dr. Steven Maciolek, Dean Health's Riverview Clinic in Janesville.



Dr. Maciolek says Lyme disease can be treated with oral antibiotics. Catching it early is key.



"Untreated Lyme disease can cause arthritis, neurological symptoms, irritate the nerves along the neck and shoulders," he said.



Or sometimes, in Tory's case it can attack the central nervous system, paralyzing the body.



"I spent three years on oxygen, and I was wheelchair-bound from 2003 to 2007," Tory said. "This can be a chronic, life threatening illness, ruins careers, takes years out of people's lives."



Tory needed intravenous antibiotics.



Two years after treatment began, the excruciating pain is gone, she's off most of her medications, and recovering.



"It's encouraging and should give hope to others not to give up."



Doctors say a daily body check in the shower is the best prevention.



If you see any unusual changes in the skin, contact your doctor.



Also, wear protective clothing when outdoors in the woods or tall grass.

Battling Lyme Disease

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