HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) -- With word that West Michigan may experience a larger number of ticks, we have heard from many people who suffer from Lyme disease. They say the disease is more prevalent than people think and doesn't get the attention it deserves.
Douglas Flamboe of Holland told WZZM 13 he often tells people he wishes he had cancer, "because then the government and insurance companies will let the doctor do whatever and anything needed to cure it. With Lyme, you're just stuck. Each year it gets worse and you can do less, until for many in this country, it takes your life."
Flamboe says the disease has "destroyed" his life at age 52. He was bit by a tick while camping at Holland State Park in 2010.
Sufferers endure headaches, muscle pain, vertigo and other symptoms that spring from a degenerating central nervous system.
Victoria White and others say they've been frustrated with a medical community that struggles to diagnose their disease. "They just send you home and say, rest, so I do, but it doesn't go away or get any better." At age 31, the married mother of two can no longer work, drive, or complete a day not filled with pain and dizziness.
Bonnie McKenzie says she was diagnosed in 2013 after nine months of "guessing games from doctors." In an email to WZZM 13 she wrote, "The entire medical community needs a complete overhaul regarding treatment and diagnosis. More and more people will get this disease and go too long being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed."
Samantha Thurston of Holland has battled Lyme disease since 2001. She said it's been a "devastating journey" that has "drastically changed my life for worst."
Stacey Kuipers, also of Holland, told us she's battled Lyme disease for over six years. "This disease can rob you of life as you know it," she wrote. "I went from being a busy, healthy mother of four young children, running a full time business and also a part time business on-the-side... to spending years of my life in bed, years of IV antibiotics, taking more than 50 pills a day, with a long list of symptoms and very little relief. I will never be the same."
There is a Facebook page that offers support and information to Lyme sufferers: https://www.facebook.com/lymers.roberts#!/groups/lymers/