Marilla, NY -- An Iroquois High School senior spent years going from doctor to doctor trying to figure out what was making her sick. Finally, a doctor told her she was suffering from Lyme disease.
Stephanie Szymanski enjoys playing with her dog Scruffy, and the high school senior is also training to one day open her own bake shop. But when Stephanie was in eighth grade, a day playing outside in her grandmother's backyard would change her life.
She just wouldn't know it for about a year later.
"My mom took me to the pediatrician, thinking it was just a sinus infection. So we went there, and she just said it was an infection and I had to wait seven to ten days and it would go away," says Szymanski.
But it didn't. Stephanie and her parents were about to start a very frustrating journey.
"I wasn't able to function," she says.
They went to several doctors, including three neurologists, trying all sorts of treatments, but nothing worked.
"The one neurologist said it was psychosomatic, I was crazy. That I didn't want to be in school, that I didn't want to do anything," she says.
"How did that make you feel?" asked Channel 2's Kelly Dudzik.
"Oh, I was so upset. It just hurt me because I knew there was something wrong," said Stephanie.
Then, finally, three years after her tick bite, a doctor got it right. Stephanie had Lyme disease.
"I still have the headaches every day. And, I still am very tired. And I still have neck pain and jaw pain," she says.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by deer tick bites. Once infected, you might not show symptoms for up to a month after you're bitten. So far this year, there are only four confirmed cases of Lyme disease in Erie County. And at first, just like Stephanie, you might think you have the flu unless you have a bull's-eye rash.
"The diagnosis can be a little bit tricky. Also, you know, except for the rash, the other typical symptoms are very non specific. You know, body aches, pains, fatigue," says Erie County Health Commissioner Gale Burstein.
Preventing Lyme disease is as simple as using bug repellant, covering your skin when you're outside, and checking yourself for ticks.
"It just takes over your whole body. And, you need to check. You need to make sure nothing's on you. Because it's no fun. It ruined my whole high school years," says Stephanie.
The doctor who finally diagnosed Stephanie was out-of-network, so her family ended up paying tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket. Her parents even refinanced their home and spent their entire savings treating her disease. There is a fundraiser for them this Saturday in Lancaster at the Elks Lodge. Tickets are $20. It goes from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, you can call Regina Wojcik at 716-393-6253 or Joanne Tatarski at 716-860-0750. Donations are being accepted at and Alden State Bank for the "Stephanie Szymanski Benefit Fund."