By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A mild winter and an early spring mean we could see an increase in Lyme disease cases this year.

READ MORE: Next Weather: Warmer Tuesday, Rainy Wednesday

Fewer ticks died this winter, and on average more than a thousand cases are reported each year. That news worries Chris Richter, who says the disease changed his life after he went undiagnosed for 10 years.

“Lyme disease is one of the most miserable things I can imagine. I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” Richter said.

We first met Richter four years ago, when he was learning to live with Lyme disease. Now he’s getting his life back.

“It’s been a long road, but I’ve been feeling unbelievably well right now,” Richter said.

Richter began showing symptoms of the disease 16 years ago. He actually found a black-legged deer tick on the back of his left knee. Then came a rash, and soon after severe headaches set in along with extreme fatigue.

“The disease is very limiting,” he said. “Your world becomes very small. You don’t feel like going out and doing things.”

READ MORE: Man Found Stabbed To Death Inside Minneapolis Apartment

It took doctors 10 years to officially diagnose him in 2006.

“You get depressed,” Richter said. “You just can’t avoid it.”

The disease took his business – one that he started – from him. He couldn’t even do simple tasks, like read a book. But that’s all changing as his health returns. Now he’s warming up to others.

Richter thinks the deer tick that gave him Lyme disease actually came from his dog. He’s worried with an early spring, more people will suffer a similar fate.

“It’s something people don’t often think about; but if you have pets that go into the woods, they can bring them back to you,” Richter said.

He’s almost out of the woods now. If a check-up in June goes well, Richter can finally stop treatment.

“I can get on the treadmill and run for miles,” Richter said. “That’s something I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing just a few years ago. It just wouldn’t have been possible.”

MORE NEWS: Kepler Hits Slam, Urshela And Twins Walk Off Tigers 5-4

Richter says a Lyme disease support group helped him get through the tough times. Their website can be found at:

John Lauritsen