Friday, 21 September 2012

Relapsing: Down, but Not Out

Sometimes life has a way of handing you lessons you never even realized you needed to learn and often times a lesson you never really wanted to learn.  This illness has been the single most humbling experience of my entire life.  Everything about my life I once knew and depended on has been turned into something that now feels like a vapor. It’s just gone.  The most frustrating thing is that when you’re sick like this, you never get to take a timeout and recharge.  But things were gradually getting better after we returned home from treatment in June.  We were hopeful, encouraged and starting mentally “almost” making plans for the things I would do in possibly a year’s time and then . . .  it all fell to pieces.  A little over three weeks ago I started to notice a change in my body.  At first it was little things and then, well, it quickly became everything.  Formerly non-allergenic foods started to cause major issues. Even my own dental mouth guard started to bother me.   The scent from chemical particles started to become more intensified when I didn’t feel that was possible.  The last two times I received my Gammagard (gamma globulin) infusion, I swelled up BAD and reacted w/ horrible all over itching.  In previous weeks I had nearly NO reaction to this medication.  Something had gone horribly wrong.

When we last left off, I shared with all of you our need eliminate toxins and provide me with a better indoor environment in our home.  This would help lower my allergic load and allow me to heal and become less affected by every allergen exposure.  Per the advice of Dr. Rea, associates, and other environmentally ill patients, we were strongly encouraged to start with the bedroom.  It is, after all, the place where a person theoretically spends 1/3 of their life.  So we dove in…Oh did we ever.  People who are desperate for something better tend to act fast.  Perhaps irrationally so.  People who have young children on a tight schedule with impending school start times tend to act at LIGHTENING speed.  We would be those people.  Our plan for the master bedroom/bath began with the most critical aspect: the flooring.  Rip out the master bed/bath carpet and install porcelain tile.  It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  And although it is hardly a non-labor intensive project for those producing the final product, it really IS a pretty simple order.  That is IF you’re not environmentally ill, and therefore allergic and affected by nearly everything . . . which I am.

Here is where the humbled become, well, even more humbled.  Both my husband and I consulted with one of Dr. Rea’s associates from the center, Carolyn Gorman, the author of “Less-Toxic Alternatives: A Complete Guidebook for Natural Healing, Gaining and Maintaining Optimum Health,” before we decided to pull the trigger on our “little” project.  We consulted her because she, as well as Dr. Rea, is familiar with the process of detoxing one’s home and creating a safer, healing, environment. The majority of products used in today’s typical home construction are full of things like petrochemicals, formaldehyde, ammonia, polymers, etc.  These ingredients can cause adverse health effects to some humans and the environment.  Some people may only see the effects of them when exposed on a regular basis or later in life.  However, people who are environmentally ill and suffering from multiple allergies to foods, mold, chemicals, etc. can become immediately and severely impacted by exposure to them.  Unfortunately, despite the advice of an educated professional, we managed to massively mess up this home project because we didn’t really heed all of her advice.  Finding safe products is hard, if not impossible and we were on a mission to get things done – fast.  (Here’s a good lesson if you’re environmentally ill: Nothing happens fast. Nothing.)  Despite the existence of MSDS sheets, it is extremely difficult to find the exact ingredients in these products.  We researched a lot of products, and selected stuff that we thought would be ok.  Then we successfully interchanged the ingredient list for one grout with another and in doing so chose a grout that even our misguided minds would never have used (in hindsight the ingredients we thought were in it weren’t very good either).  So, we managed to use backer board and most horribly an incredibly wrong grout that contains polymers, petrochemicals and aldehydes.  In the words of Carolyn Gorman whom I recently spoke to regarding our colossal mistake: “You used about the worst possible thing imaginable.  Your husband and children should not even be going in there.  Crack the windows, close the door & tape it shut.”  And so we did. (I should note: the grout may be “cured” but it can potentially off gas for up to a year and we can’t handle having this stuff in our house for a year.  )

So the other family members are protected, but it appears as though the damage has already been done to me.  The chemicals in the products we used have done a real number on me. I tried repeatedly to sleep in our bedroom, and never awoke feeling refreshed and better.  Instead I would awake gasping for air ar 4:00 a.m. or w/ a migraine and often times felt dizzy and foggy headed when I went in there.  My body never acclimated to the environment, but we just kept waiting, thinking the floor needed more time to cure and off gas.  Apparently the just the aldehydes alone (used in the grout) can actually become a sensitizer in the human body.  I have no idea how one knows this, but I can only attest that my already ridiculously sensitive and sick body has become even more so.   It’s disheartening to say the least.  There have been many tears shed and cries of frustration and anger.  We realized our huge error about two weeks ago, but my emotions were running much too high to compose anything about it. 

It is what it is.  What’s done is done. Where do we go from here? 

We recently had a telephone consult with Dr. Rea and he feels the project can be salvaged. He feels that we can save the tile and make it a safe room for me by having the bad grout chipped out and safe grout replaced.  At this point in time, he is advising us not to use a sealant.  Even a low-toxic one would probably be too much for me.  This is something we can revisit in a 6mos.-1 year.  I already have a sample of a low toxic sealant that came recommended.  At this point I have not been able to find any unmodified grout that is truly safe, so we may have our contractor make a homemade grout with Portland cement and fine sand w/ color pigment added so it doesn’t look like concrete.  I’ve already ordered a few pigment samples.  Even finding out if there is an unmodified Portland cement to use is proving to be a challenge.  Finding unmodified products is REALLY, REALLY challenging.  There aren’t a lot of pigment choices, but I really don’t care at this point.  I just want my bedroom back and a house that isn’t rapidly poisoning me. 

The game plan for now is that I will return back to Dallas to stay in safe housing.  I have no choice because I don’t have anywhere else to go.  This is probably a wise decision, as I’m sure I could use some further medical evaluation and allergy testing, since I appear to have developed new allergies.  Our hope is that by getting my overall toxic load down from staying in safe housing, I will be able to return to our home once the project is complete and the area has been thoroughly cleaned.  Unfortunately I will be on my own this time, as my husband needs to be home with our children and keep up with his career.  This will be a little scary and challenging for me as I can’t even put gas in my own vehicle, nor shop for groceries, but as Blanche Dubois famously said: “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”  Poor Blanche.  :o(  I think I’ll come out of this a little better than her.  God will see me through this time and put good people in my path who can help see me out.  People I haven’t even met yet.  And besides, it’s a short flight to Dallas for my hubby

Recently I read Mark Batterson’s book  “Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity.”  The following quote is something that really stuck out to me, though he wasn’t referring to chronic illness in this particular text.  I still feel like it’s applicable and it’s the type of mindset I feel I need to adopt to make it through this very difficult experience:

“I’m absolutely convinced that the greatest predictor of success in any endeavor is persistence.  It’s not only how hard you try, it’s also how long you try.  We tend to overestimate how much we can accomplish in the short term.  But we underestimate how much we can accomplish over the long haul.  Why?  Because energy is exponential.  The harder you work and the longer you work, the more it pays off.  Energy turns into synergy.  And that persistence pays off.” 

Each human body is a vastly unique and often times unpredictable.  I can’t say definitively what my body will and won’t do in any length of time, but I have some knowledge from experts in the field of environmental illness and those who live with it every day.  We could work ourselves silly trying to make a better life for me and never see any pay off.  That could happen.  But it’s far more likely that our persistence WILL pay off. 

I pray.  I pray a lot.  But prayer without action is empty.  I may not be capable of doing much right now, but I have many capable people in my life and I have a spirit within me that says “Don’t underestimate these efforts.  Even when you falter and make mistakes, you’re still on the right path.” 

We are down, but we’re not out.  :o)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

My Big Fat Overdue Update

This is a LOOOOOOONG overdue update, but I’ve been completely overwhelmed with finding a replacement car, administering/understanding new treatments, rotation diet planning, and home improvement. In the interest of attempting to over simplify an overwhelming quantity of information, I’ve decided to break everything down in sections.  Bless you all for reading & trying to keep up w/ me!  Thank you SO much for checking in.  My apologies to those I haven’t directly responded to.  I have just had my hands in so many different pots that I have really let the blog slide.  All for a good purpose, of course. :o)

Car Replacement: After my “safe,” well aged (off gassed), non-perfumy car was totaled in the storm while we were in Dallas, we had to rent a car to drive home.  A sweet friend was kind enough to ship me her high powered ozone machine to minimize the damage.  It helped . . . some.  However, a ten hour drive in a new, off gassing vehicle, is going to take its toll.  I made it about six hours before I started to pray for death. (LOL!)  After much research, I’m pleased to report that we’ve found a lovely replacement vehicle.  It’s a beautiful six year old Lincoln and it stinks to high hell.  This car was detailed so meticulously that it actually now has a very good recreation of the “new car” smell.  Lovely.  So why did we buy it?  Because we gave up the search for a scent free car & the price was right.  Scent free or mostly scent free cars just don’t exist.  If it’s not cleaning agents, it’s perfume; if it’s not perfume, it’s cigarettes.  So we will keep working on this car w/ our ozone machine and eventually it will be tolerable for me.  There IS an upside to all of this . . . My husband has been working very hard on my minivan to make it acceptable to me and he has made great progress.  I can now be in it for approximately 40-45 minutes w/out horrible reactions.  I’m THRILLED!!! 

Pets: Our furry feline friends are gone.  A dear family member has given them a home.  My children have very mixed emotions about this and frankly, I do too.  Mostly seeing their tears of longing for their pets keeps the wound still there.  But on a regular basis, we all seem to do pretty well. Honestly though, I’ve noticed a slight improvement by not having them in the home.  Their hair and dander is still everywhere, but we are very gradually reducing it.  Any tips on residual pet hair removal? I’m all ears.

Treatments: Upon completion of all my testing at the Environmental Health Center in Dallas, I am now armed with several treatments.  Currently I have about twenty vials of various antigens for foods, molds, mycotoxins, chemical, hormones and candida. Though in total, I’m actually being treated with 50+ different antigens because most vials contain more than one food, mold, etc.  Additionally, I am now also armed with an immune boosting vial created specifically for me.  This vial is actually considered a vaccine and it is called Autogenous Lymphocytic Factor (ALF).  This vaccine is created from my own blood.  It is designed to establish my own personal immunological blueprint.  This blueprint will contain specific antigens that are only found in my cells.  When these cells, called lymphocytes, are placed in a cell culture, the weak die and the healthy grow robust.  In 2-4 weeks, many extremely healthy cells exist.  Upon completion of this process, the ALF vaccine is made.  The hope is that ALF may assist my immune system to lessen hypersensitivity and allergic reactions.  It can boost my immunological response to pathogens.  It doesn’t work for everyone, but many patients with hypersensitivities to foods, chemicals, molds, etc. have been helped by ALF.  Some find relief right away, but often times it can take months. All of the above vials (injections) are rotated every four days, so I only have to poke myself about five times/day.  Typically most patients need to be treated consistently with these antigens, and immune booster, for 18 months before full results are achieved.  Everyone is different.  Some of them may need to be a part of my daily life for years.

Furthermore, I am also being treated with IgG therapy with a product called Gammagard.  Gammagard is a subcutaneous infusion that I receive once/week in my home.  Initially a home health nurse administered this medication to me, but after some training my “quick study” husband is now able to administer it.  This medication can be given intravenously, but the form I receive is a subcutaneous infusion that takes about an hour.  (May I just pause here and say: “Thank GOD my husband doesn’t have to poke my tiny veins!”  Needles don’t bother me all that much, but the one exception is an IV.  My veins just don’t cooperate with them.)  Back to Gammagard.  Gammagard is a treatment created to replace missing antibodies, also called immunoglobulins (Ig). Naturally occurring antibodies protect the body against infections by attaching themselves to invading germs (pathogens). This makes it easier for other immune system cells to locate and destroy the germs. Since there are different types of germs, there are different types of antibodies that bind to specific germs. One type is immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. IgG antibodies are formed in large amounts and work in the blood and body tissues to fight germs. (Totally stole that off their website – so there ya go, credit where credit is due).  This treatment is, in my words, pretty “hard core.”  Those recovering from long battles with cancer have received this treatment.   The rate for allergic reaction and side effects is relatively high, so I met my first infusion with great excitement as well as trepidation.  The first two treatments didn’t go so well, but I’m pleased to report that I’m doing much better w/ subsequent instillations.  My fifth treatment was yesterday, 7/30/12,  and I did really well with it.  My treatments are scheduled to continue for a full twelve weeks. At the end of twelve weeks, my t-cell counts will be re-checked to see if my immune system is responding favorably.  As a side note, this is a blood product, so a very kind thank you to all of you who donate blood. 

Rotation Diet: Part of healing also includes dietary modifications.  I wasn’t really eating anything but fresh, home cooked, bland food anyway, and my options were quite limited due to my corn allergy.  Technically, I could say things have gotten worse because I’ve since discovered many more food allergies through testing, but knowledge really is power.  At least I now know that some of my reactions were actually to that specific food or food family and not solely due to corn cross-contamination.  So some foods have been closed to me, while a few others have been opened due to the corn antigen.  Every food I eat is a whole food.  I cannot eat any recipes and here is why: Because I tested positive to a very large number of foods including all nuts, grains (except white rice), various vegetables, a few fruits and several animals (meat), this limited the number of foods I could rotate.  I currently have about 24 foods I safely do not react to.  Unfortunately a few of those are oils and things like lettuce, which aren’t very filling.  (My options WILL expand as I continue to heal.) The rotation diet is done on a four day basis and it’s HARD.  Obviously it means I can only eat a particular food once every four days, but it goes beyond that.  I also have to rotate foods by trying not to eat foods from the same family in one day, as well as only eat from that food family every other day,  rotate oils AND I can only eat one food once/ day (no snacking on it – when I’m done, I’m done).  Example of how this works: Mon. – black beans, Wed. – cannellini beans (no legumes allowed on Tues.)  Another example: Tues. – chicken (can’t eat chicken again until Sun. Thurs. – eggs (can’t eat eggs on Wed. b/c they’re in the same food family as chicken)  It’s insane.  I spent 90% of my time in the kitchen.  Honestly, I’m not perfect w/ this diet, but when you only weigh about 100lbs and have 24 foods to rotate through, perfection may not be the ultimate goal.  So, what exactly is the reason behind this insanity?  The objective is to keep the non-reactive  foods safe.  Food antibodies take four days to clear your body and by rotating on a four day cycle my body doesn’t have the opportunity to develop allergies to these precious safe foods.  This is also the basis of treating with the allergy shots on a four day rotation as this ensures that the body is remains neutralized to the allergies being treated.  When I’m able to reintroduce foods for which I have been treated, they will be reintroduced using this strategy.  

Home detox: Wha-wha-what!?  She’s detoxing her house?  Is it on drugs!?  HA!  Wellll, in a way it kind of is.  When I was initially diagnosed with a corn allergy, we started going on a rampage to “de-corn” the house.  Corn is in everything, so my feelings were that we should just throw everything away and start over.  My mentality on this is slightly altered from before.  My new goal is to have a less toxic home overall.  Currently I am on an antigen for corn and I do believe it’s helping.  Am I going to dive into a bowl of popcorn or even allow it to be popped in my kitchen – hardly, but the minute amounts of it (like vegetable washes, trace cross-contamination, etc.) are becoming less of an issue.  As a part of my treatment, Dr. Rea explained that I need to reduce my overall toxic load.  The most logical place to start is the bedroom I sleep in.  From there, we tackle cleaning and eliminating the many offenders in the rest of the home.  As I am typing this, we are having new tile installed in our master bath/bedroom.  If this goes well, not only will I have a lovely new floor in my bedroom, but I might actually be able to go in my bathroom & closet again!  I did say “if” because this is a gamble.  We’re gambling that I will be able to tolerate the smell of the thinset, fresh grout and tiny amounts of formaldehyde & other chemicals that will be released from it.  Formaldehyde, as you know, is in practically everything.  It is a huge concern for the environmentally ill (chemically sensitive). The chemical smells coming from there are pretty intense for me.  While I’m very excited about this new possibility, my husband and I are concerned that I may be sleeping on the couch for a while.  Sometime this weekend, I should know if I will be able to go back into my own room.  (fingers crossed)

At the end of the day, I still remain optimistic that much improved health is in my future.  Our family is already starting to see little glimmers of hope and improvement.  I continue to work very hard & my husband  remains continually devoted and works his tail to the bone for me.  Our family and friends are doing anything they can and many who don’t even personally know me are keeping me in their prayers.  My faith in God to see me through this has turned into an awesome, unwavering faith that even surprises me, but it’s there.  God is ALWAYS with me.  I will be okay.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Going Home & Why it REALLY sucks to lose a 12 year old car

As a Midwesterner, I have become accustomed to violent thunderstorms storms and tornados.  At least a few times each spring and summer, we are treated to the delights of the harsh discord of tornado sirens surrounding our populated, suburban neighborhoods.  So when the clouds darkened on Wed. night and a small storm moved in, I really thought nothing of it.  (Why would I?  I don’t go anywhere anyway.  It’s not like it was going to ruin my night at the apartment complex. LOL!) But how wrong I was.  Storm fronts can change very rapidly, and I DO know that.  The hail storm that rapidly engulfed this community on Wed. night, was unlike anything I have ever experienced.  For at least a solid twenty minutes, baseball sized hail pummeled every surface, damaging trees, awnings, light fixtures, plantings, and of course . . . cars.  Every car in the hotel lot was subject to some level of damage.  Knowing what I know now, I count us as exceptionally lucky  because had we stayed at the other recommended safe, low toxic complex, we would’ve been treated to golf ball sized hail coming in our apartment windows!  :o( 

Now, I don’t know if I set myself up for these things or if I just have intuition that is somehow trying to protect my own fragile mind, but earlier in the day I actually remarked to my husband while we were driving to the clinic: “Honey, there’s a little old man who can barely see over the hood of his Cadillac who seems to be struggling to stay in the center of his narrow lane.  Let’s AVOID him if possible.  Gosh knows we do NOT need anything to happen to this car.  It’s just too precious.”  And thus sets the stage for Wed. evening’s disaster.  Yes, all of the cars were damaged.  It just wasn’t anyone’s lucky night here the hotel complex.  Some cars were so severely damaged that they prompted neighbors to come find the occupants to make sure they knew their car was “completely trashed.”  (raises hand . . . sigh)

Our 2000 Chevy Impala looks like it has been through a war zone.  When we first saw it, we were horrified, but still trying to make ourselves believe that this car could be salvageable.  But things look a little different at dusk verses broad sunlight.  So in a blaze of TX sun on Thursday afternoon, we absolutely conceded to the end of the Chevy Impala.  And today, an insurance adjuster confirmed it: “Over 10K in repair and body work.” :o(  

Blessedly, we actually managed to be carrying comprehensive insurance on the old beast, though we don't expect much of a pay out.  But here’s where it gets, well, . . .  sad.  That pile of scraps and parts was my safe zone.  I survived this trip because of the protection of the incredibly well off gassed chamber.  The real cloth seats didn’t hurt my head, sinuses or irritate my skin.  Before we left, my husband did an exceptional job of airing out the car and cleaning it w/ very safe, unscented products.  He also used an ozone machine to remove any residual odors.  People seldom think about all of the chemicals used to produce their cars and how those chemicals can still be absorbed through their skin and inhaled into their lungs.  Most people, including myself, probably never stopped to think about that wonderful “new car smell” one delightedly proclaims when they are lucky enough to score some new wheels.  Many of us generally regard the “new car smell” in a positive light.  Why wouldn’t we?  It’s a NEW car (or nearly new, those smell too).  But what the heck is that smell exactly?  Well, it’s actually the off gassing of all the chemical products used to construct the car.  Because the car itself gets so hot when it’s running and particularly in summer months, the chemicals, including  volatile organic compounds among other things, release into the air & are inhaled by the occupants.  The interior of a new car can actually be a very toxic environment for anyone.  Those affected by environmental illness, chemical sensitivity and allergies can be very negatively impacted by this process.  

Here is a great website that explains more about the issues with off gassing of a new car and its impact on one’s health.  This information is applicable to everyone because the health implications of new car off gassing include: allergies, birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and cancer.  This is a handy guide to help the consumer make the best car buying decision: Again, I repeat: “THIS IS APPLICABLE TO EVERYONE.”  :o) (smiles, and points at YOU)

Tomorrow we will make the long, all day drive, back home in a 2011 Ford Fusion rental.  This is obviously not an optimal situation, but the only other option would be to fly and that has some significant drawbacks as well.  My husband did everything he could to find the vehicle with the most mileage and absolutely no cigarette smell, but it’s still a new car.  When it cooks in the TX sun, it releases EVERYTHING.  We’ve aired it out, purchased an ionizer that plugs into the cigarette lighter and ozoned it like crazy.  I have my mask which I have to wear anyway and a carbon blanket to cover the seat.  Hopefully that is enough to get us home.  The car already gave me a migraine after a 40 minute drive, but that was before we used the ozone machine on it.

In future blogs I plan to get into the specifics of diagnosis, treatment and prognosis from my time at the Environmental Health Center, but I literally can’t process through all of that paperwork at the moment.  They don’t do anything online, so everything is a hand-out, but at least they give me all of my test results right away.  We still feel confident about this process.  We have heard many stories and reports of healing and incredible improvement from other patients.  Conversing with others was not only therapeutic, but also very informative.  Half of the education I’ve received here has been from other people who have been through the process.  Many of them shared their contact info with me and I look forward to keeping in touch with them.

Bless you for reading & think of us tomorrow! (Better yet, send up some prayers) 


Monday, 4 June 2012

Two Week Progress Report

We have been in Dallas for a couple of weeks now, but time is passing by rather quickly.  I spend 9:00 a.m.-4:30/5:00 p.m. M-F at the clinic for testing and doctor’s apts.  Sometimes I test on Sat. mornings as well. (Did I mention cell phones and all electronic devices are strictly prohibited in the office? It’s actually kind of peaceful, but it does cut down on my “social” time with friends back home.) Dr. Rea had a speaking engagement in Spain this past week, so I was primarily testing and met once with Dr. Sprague, the doctor who filled in during his absence.  We still have a lot of questions for Dr. Rea at my appointment this week, but this is what we know so far:

Molds, Mycotoxins & Candida – I continue to skin test high for every single mold and mycotoxin.  Mycotoxins are toxic chemical products produced by fungi. They can be found naturally in a variety of foods & products including cotton, mushroom, peanuts, other tree nuts, spices, corn, etc.  It’s extremely difficult to comprehend the vast reach of mycotoxins, as I am not a microbiologist, but I do know this much: One mold can produce many mycotoxins and they believe I have had a recent mold exposure.  Therefore, I will have issues with both.  We now realize that my newly developed mold allergy is potentially as big as my corn allergy.  I can’t really believe I just said that.  I also tested positive for candida allergy.  Candida is a type of yeast that occurs naturally in the human body. Normally it lives in harmony with a variety of other microorganisms and actually performs a couple important functions.  The problem occurs when something upsets the balance of bacteria in the body and this allows the yeast organism to proliferate and take over all the healthy microorganisms.

Immune System  – My immune system has likely been compromised due to a variety of issues, which include genetics, molds, chemical exposure, antibiotic usage and a host of things I will never fully realize.  My blood test results for my t-cells revealed low helper t-cells and low suppressor t-cells.  I’m not entirely sure what all of that equates to, but I do know low helper cells can be attributed to hypersentivity, allergies, inflammation, etc.  Low levels of both helper and suppressor cells are often related to autoimmune disorders.  I plan to ask my doctor more about what these numbers specifically mean for me.  A secondary delayed immune test revealed that my body produced absolutely no cell mediated immunity when skin tested with seven standardized recall antigens.

Other food allergies – It is very common for someone with an autoimmune disorder and extreme allergy to one food to also test positive to a whole host of other foods.  I will spare everyone the details, but I have a pretty long list of foods that I am unable to eat right now.  The reason my food testing takes so long is because each food is tested individually.  Due to my delicate immune system, they are hoping to find at least 25 completely non-reactive foods for me to eat.  We finally started making some good progress with this last Thur. after several days with many reactions.  The downside (for me), is that I only have one safe protein at this point and it’s chicken.  (Do you know how hard it is to find a non-corn fed chicken!?)  The goal is for me to eat my safe foods on a four day rotation to keep me from developing further food allergies.  Repeatedly eating the same food day after day can actually increase ANYONE’S odds of developing a new food allergy (cough, cough, healthy friends . . . just sayin’).  Some of my low level response foods might be able to be slowly added back into my diet in approximately six weeks. 

Pet allergy – Unfortunately, in addition to developing new food allergies, I have also developed an allergy to my two fur children.  Our two cats will need to be removed from our home until my body is strong enough to attempt to reintroduce them.  Dr. Rea didn’t exactly spare my feelings when he told me the cats needed to be evicted immediately.  He won’t even discuss re-entry at this point.  His goal is to get me healthy and I really have to comply. My two human children recently learned about my new allergy and they were quite upset.  It hurts.  On the upside, a very kind family member, who lives about 100 miles from us, has offered to take them so my children will be able to visit them about once a month. :o) (Oh ya, I’m also allergic to dogs, but not as bad. Booooo, hissssss! I like dogs too!)

Minerals and metals – As suspected, my iron levels came back low.  Quite low, actually.  I already knew I was deficient because I know my body really well.  The downside is that I have been unable to find a supplement that did not contain corn.  We’re still looking.  One option, to get things started, might be to try intravenous iron therapy.  Again, the search for safe supplements is daunting.  I’m hoping that within a few months on my corn antigen (allergy shot), I will be able to tolerate a few supplements that contain derivatives of corn. My hair elements analysis revealed high levels of mercury in my system, though the level reported was consistent with someone who has amalgam fillings, which I do.  My homeopath had already recommended removal of my fillings by a dentist who is qualified in safe amalgam removal.  Many have reported positive impact in their health as a result of removal.  Sadly, my body is not strong enough to endure the process at this point.  Dr. Rea will guide us in determining when he feels my body is ready.  The best estimate we have right now is three to six months, but realistically it could be a year or more. 

The good news – Yes, there is good news.  :o)  I’m not the sickest person who has walked through those doors.  Sure, I still have to wear a mask and even that isn’t enough on most days.  “Stinky” people walk in the doors of the EHC and send me reeling, but sometimes I’m able to recover and continue on with my test.  (Everyone who enters the center is supposed to be scent free, but this doesn’t always happen.) Other times, my testing has to be stopped and I go home (errr, back to the hotel).  Now for the really good news: There are things I can do to climb back to a place of health and social normalcy.  The process will take a long time, but where there is the healing hand of God, dogged determination and the support and prayers of many - THERE IS A WAY back. 

The game plan – I’ll try to keep this brief, as it is quite exhaustive and obviously still a work in progress.  We obviously need to desensitize me to my nemesis, thus I’ve already started my daily injection of corn antigen.  A couple of night’s ago, I had a pretty bad reaction to the injection, but my husband believes it is because I accidently injected a vein and/or muscle, as opposed to fatty tissue.  (What can I say, there isn’t a lot of fat to work with right now. LOL!)  I was very concerned after my night of hell because end points for antigen levels can change over time.  Changing end points are not uncommon. We may retest my corn allergy again just before we go home to be absolutely sure it is at the right level. In addition to corn, I am in the process of determining which 10 allergenic foods I would like to add to a separate antigen, so I can eventually start to build more things into my diet.  A customized antigen for the molds and mycotoxins I am allergic to is also being created.  I can start on that before we leave and take it home with me.  Additionally, a customized vaccine called Autogenous Lymphcytic Factor (ALF) is also being created with my own t-lymphocytes.  It takes approximately six weeks to grow, so I won’t start on it until after we leave.  This vaccine is helpful in treating severe sensitivities and immune dysregulation.  It has about 85% efficacy rate, though results can take up to six months to even a year to be fully realized.  Later this week, I will also give the sauna a try.  After being poked in the arm 20 times/day (LITERALLY!), I think this sounds like a nice change of pace.  Sauna detox can be a very beneficial part of the process, but it’s something I can’t overdue because essential vitamins, minerals and electrolytes will also be “dumped” from my body along with the chemicals in my fatty tissue.  If it goes well, then we may invest in a home sauna.  Many patients have reported great success and have also purchased their own home sauna. 

In addition to the aforementioned remedies, my husband and I (okay, mostly my husband), will need to do some major renovation and removal work in our own home.  All of our carpet must be removed & replaced with tile, mold testing must occur, and heavy duty water filters or a whole home system must also be installed.  Creating a less toxic environment doesn’t come cheap, but we will do whatever it takes.  Some people have had to leave their homes altogether and unfortunately couldn’t return.  The little apartment we’re staying in is owned by the EHC and is designed to elicit minimal toxic impact.  Some people are actually living in the complex because they have no place else to go.  Environmental illness has a HUGE impact on an individual’s life.  At the end of the day, I feel very blessed to have the support of friends and family members who are helping to keep me alive.  Not everyone has such support. 

So that’s about it for now!  Thank you for reading & thank you for your prayers & kind words.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Visit to Environmental Health Center

Greetings from Tejas!  No, we haven’t moved away from the corn belt, but this is temporarily home until the middle of June. On May 20th, the hubs and I set out on the 10 hour drive to Dallas, TX to see Dr. Rea and his staff at the Environmental Health Center in Dallas.  The journey wasn’t easy, but we made it.  We HAD to do the drive all in one day because I could not tolerate a regular hotel room without getting verrrrrry ill.  I haven’t been inside the interior of any building other than our house in nearly four months.  Just preparing our twelve year old vehicle for the drive was a bit of an adventure, which started with an inspection and AC repair and then got well, weird. LOL! We actually have a newer vehicle that would be more suitable for road trips, but it has a lot more plastic and various smells from my “former life” with lotions, hand sanitizers, children’s snacks, etc., so it wasn’t a contender.  I can’t even sit inside of it anymore.  Hubs went nuts with the shop vac on our old car and then used a remote controlled ozone machine.  It definitely seemed to help.  At some point, he’ll have to try these things on our newer vehicle, which sadly, used to be mine.  I wore my mask for the entire trip (fun!) & covered my face with a carbon blanket/scarf type thing that a friend made when we had to stop for gas.  You’ve been spared many details of our stops during this trip.  Consider yourselves lucky.

While staying in Dallas, we’ve rented an environmentally friendly “suite” at the Marriott Residence that is in a building that is owned and managed by the Environmental Health Center.  Everything in the room has been done in a way that makes less of an impact on a person with environmental illness/allergies.  The room has not been renovated in a long time, but that is actually a good thing for people like me.  New things off gas into the air and the fumes can certainly cause serious symptoms.  All of the flooring is tile, the beds metal, the sheets and blankets are organic cotton, the blinds are metal, the sad cookware options are metal and all of the furniture is metal.  There are no curtains and no table or computer desk.  The place is really small, but a desk would be nice, as the couch is actually a futon, so computer usage equates to the worst possible posture EVER (AKA, appreciate this blog . . . it hurts! LOL!) They also provide air purifiers like the ones I use at home.  We actually brought one from home, just in case the ones they have might have developed a smell or something from the previous renter.  So far, everything in the apartment is treating me well and I feel better here than at home.  Unfortunately a previous tenant obviously used aftershave and stored in in a bathroom drawer, which is against the scent free rules, but we just don’t use the drawers (just like home). 

My days at the center start at 9:00 and last until 4:00/5:00 p.m.  This full schedule will continue for the duration of our time here, which will last until approximately the middle of June. We are still very much in the diagnostic stage, but I feel things are going well.  For a corn allergic person, just having blood drawn can cause a reaction because of the antiseptic used or the adhesive to cover it.  Fortunately, my skin has not reacted to what they’re using and we brought our own medical tape.   We both like Dr. Rea and feel he can really help me to gain some, if not all, of my freedom to live a more “normal” life again.  Areas we are currently testing are foods, molds, and general immune function. 

Every day I do a pretty long round of subcutaneous allergy testing for molds and foods.  We will test for other things like chemicals, pollens, etc. in the future.  Right now, we’re testing on some foods I’m currently eating and a lot of common molds.  Dr. Rea wants to get an idea of how well I’m doing with the few foods I regularly eat, since I’m unable to rotate.  When someone who is prone to allergic responses routinely eats the same thing, they are at an increased risk of developing new allergies to those foods.  Food rotation is a very good idea for most people.  Unfortunately, because corn contaminates soooooo many very basic foods like meats, dairy, produce, nuts, etc., it is very difficult to find enough food to rotate.  Today we learned that my instincts were correct about oats and wheat.  :o(  I hadn’t been eating wheat in a long time, so I had to eat a few crackers a few hours before testing and I felt like crud. They are both common allergens and since they’re grains, and I’m already highly allergic to one grain, there is a higher chance of being allergic to others.  (Note: rice and sugar cane are also grains.  Sometimes people tend to trade one grain for another & go wild with it, so be careful if you’re experimenting with grains when you already know you’re allergic to one.)  On the upside, I am NOT allergic to coconut.  I eat coconut, and coconut oil frequently and also use a lot of personal care products that contain coconut, so that is a huge relief.   Also, I am not allergic to eggs.  I’m border line on turkey and potatoes, which I also consume frequently. Turkey is the only safe meat I can eat right now and only the Empire Kosher Organic kind from Trader Joe’s.  I’m going to have to stop turkey for a while and try it again in a few weeks.

My husband and I are quite impressed with the technique Dr Rea uses to tailor his allergy testing for each patient.  His office is able to perform testing that identifies the exact level of allergic response.  They accomplish this by iterating on the dosages until they identify the specific level for that patient.  There can be infinite combinations of the dosage and strength.  To accomplish this each step change in the testing routine is five times less than the previous dose.  Example: Oats - he started me at dose level one, which is the highest amount.  I reacted, so he lowered to dose 2 (cut five times) and I reacted again, he went on to dose 3 (cut five times again) and I stopped reacting.  And in case you’re wondering, an antigen for oats can be created and I can do allergy shots to try to gain oats back again.  Because my reaction to oats wasn’t horrible, there is a good possibility I will get to have oats again at some point. :o)

Testing has also revealed another suspicion that I had: mold  Using the above example, I tested positive at levels 6 and 7 to two to three groupings of molds.  This means I’m actually QUITE allergic to various molds and we’re still testing.  He is careful not to test too many things in one day, particularly molds as he doesn’t want to overload an already delicate and damaged system. Treating mold itself and a mold allergy can be quite difficult to manage.  Again, a custom antigen to specific molds can be created for me.  We were told that food allergies, when food antigens are used will clear faster than mold allergies, again with antigen use.  This info. is most helpful, as it’s starting to put some puzzle pieces together for us. 

A couple of months ago, I became unable to tolerate our bathroom due to what I believe was a mold issue.   My husband cleaned the VERY obvious mold in the shower that had gotten out of hand.  After this hard core cleaning, we ran an air purifier and vent fan for 2.5 weeks to get rid of the smell from the “environmentally” safe cleaner that nearly knocked me over.  (If anyone’s searching, it’s called Vital Oxide & it can be purchased online at The Allergy Store.  Corn allergic & chemically sensitive beware.  WORKS well, stinks to hell!) Once the cleaning smell dissipated, I could, once again smell something (Poor hubby, he worked so hard) I described the smell as “biological, not clean and earthy.”  He didn’t smell anything .  I don’t think it’s the only underlying cause for what has happened to me, but I do think it has a compounding effect and may have been affecting me greatly without me even realizing it.  If you’ve been keeping up with me and/or this blog, you already know that our family lived in England from early July ’11-late Jan. ’12.  I can’t think of many places that would be much better suited to harbor mold in just about anywhere imaginable.  I suspect that being in such a moldy environment contributed to my over sensitivity to mold.  My “allergy bucket” was already quite full and my health was impaired with years of other issues, so I have to suspect that traipsing about in old buildings and castle ruins and riding buses that REEKED of it, did a number on my already ravaged immune system.  Makes sense to me (shrug).  At any rate, there will need to be some considerable changes made to our home to make it more livable for me again. 

Well this seems like a good stopping point, as my back is rebelling to the futon awful.   (How did we live on these things in college?  WOW!)  In all seriousness, I feel very blessed to be here and despite getting sick from the testing and exposure to other people in the center, I feel very positive about this place and what they have to offer.  This just “feels” right and as many know, I am a very spiritual person.  I don’t do anything if I don’t feel the presence of God is leading me to it.  My prayers and talks with Him lead me to believe this is not a mistake.  Things seem to be falling into place.

So speaking of prayers . . . ummm, if you’ve got a few to spare, throw them my direction around 9:00 a.m. CST tomorrow.  We’re testing another food.  It’s one you might be familiar with.  I call it many things: “satan,” “evil,” “my nemesis,” and a few words I won’t share.  You might know it as “corn.”  The test HAS to be done in order to make the antigen.  Scary? Yes.  Will it hurt? Yes.  Does God have my back? Always. 

G’night all.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Bye-bye Books

Bye-bye Books

Today I received a call back from Dorthy, a customer service representative at Seal-a-meal Vacuum Food Storage System.  On Friday, I called to inquire about the bags they use for their system.  After about thirty minutes on the phone, she was able to tell me that the bags were made of a combination of nylon and polyethylene plastic and the inside of the bags were not coated/dusted with cornstarch.  (Oh good, we’re on the right track.  This is rare.)  Okay, next question: “Was corn starch used to dust the exterior of the bags as an aid during manufacturing?” Unfortunately Dorthy was unable to conclusively answer my question. She seemed very interested in helping me (I know, color me shocked too) and asked for my name and number so she could call me back the following week.  I know what you’re thinking: “You’ll never hear from her again.”  But I did!!!  She phoned today with even more info. than I had anticipated.  No, the bags have not been dusted with cornstarch as a packing aid.  However, and she was shocked to share this, “The ink on the box that they come in tested positive for trace amounts of cornstarch.”  Yup, that’s right . . . INK! 

Things have gotten about as weird, and quite frankly, as awful, as I thought they could get.  Within the past couple of months I’ve determined, sadly & begrudgingly, that I am allergic to books.  Though I couldn’t say with absolute certainty, I assumed corn to be the culprit.  I already knew corn was used in a lot of paper products, but my knowledge of its invasiveness was rather limited.  In order to avoid itching, headaches and hand aches, I wear a mask and gloves and move FAST when opening packages, which is frequent.  (I should also note, for the corn and soy allergic, you’ll want to avoid any packing materials that say “biodegradable.”  Biodegradable = corn or soy.  Regular packing peanuts can also be made from corn.) As long as the weather is favorable, this is all done on my front porch.  I’m sure a masked woman with blue gloves and a knife doesn’t concern my neighbors at all.  As of yet, no uniformed men have knocked on my door.  My husband also does a lot of box opening and dismantling, but sometimes he’s not here, so “a girl’s gotta do, what a girl’s gotta do!” My kids try to help me with our mail, though sometimes they find my daily request annoying. 

At any rate, this kind woman’s words of “cornstarch in the ink” prompted me to dig a little deeper into this corny nightmare and here’s where it landed me.  (Thanks to Erica over at Corn Free Lifestyle for the links/info.)

Let’s start with cardboard:

What are the possible corny culprits in the manufacturing of cardboard?

1.Corn starch is used to make the glue

2.Waxes from vegetable oils (could be corn) are applied to make a water or grease resistant container for food products (frightening…)

3.Ink (could contain corn derivatives) is used to make logo designs

“At the corrugating plant, only a few other raw materials are needed to make a finished box. Corn starch glue is used to bond the corrugated medium to the liner sheets. Because so much glue is used, rail cars or large tanker trucks deliver it as a dry powder that will be stored in huge silos at the corrugating plant until it is needed. Drawn from the silo, the dry corn starch is mixed with water and other chemicals and pumped into the corrugator to be spread on the corrugated medium as the layers of liner are added. Other raw materials are used to finish the corrugated cardboard after production. Waxes made from paraffin or vegetable oils can be applied to make a water- or grease-resistant container for food products. Brightly colored inks are also applied to create bold graphic designs for self-supporting displays featuring product name, information, and company name and logo.”


Corn- and soy-based inks are now replacing printer's ink that was made from 100% petroleum products.  Being vegetable-based makes it safe for placemats and packaging where ink may come in contact with our food.  The colors are brighter and more easily recycled, revolutionizing the newspaper industry.  Printing machines run smoother, are easier to clean, and safer for employees.


So when I felt the throbbing headache coming on & my sinuses starting to swell and my ears filling up while reading a new book to one of my young children because I forgot to wear my mask . . . well, I now have proof: CORN! (And to be honest, sometimes the mask doesn’t always prevent it.)

Sometimes, okay lots of times, I so DESPERATELY wish that the answer could be something else.  Anything.  Why? Because it would be nice to think for a second that maybe it’s “fixable”or perhaps just a fluke, or I’m allergic to ya know, some dust in our living room or loads of pollen outside. And that dust or that pollen just HAPPENED to start bothering me at the exact time I began to read that book.  My mind will grasp at these things to not have to face the ugly truth.  Sometimes, I would just like to be wrong and discover that corn is not QUITE as ubiquitous as I originally thought and I’m not QUITE as allergic as I thought.  But no, it proves me right time and time again, and yet another part of my life is ripped away.

RIP Books . . . and magazines . . . and more things I loved . . . I knew it was coming & I had already stopped reading to myself, but I can’t stop reading to my kids.  Today was reality forcing the issue.  So “thank you,” Dorthy.  We both learned something new today. Now I just have one more question: “Got any ruby slippers I could borrow?” :-/

Friday, 13 April 2012

Honestly Sick

Hi all.  I certainly didn’t plan for my hiatus in the blogging would to last THIS long.  I knew we had a lot to tackle and it would be difficult to keep up, but I simply had no idea what was yet to come.  My life is inexplicably bizarre and quite difficult right now.  Describing what has happened to me feels like an insurmountable task, but I will attempt to describe most of it as best I can. 

First of all, thank you to those who have supported me both in real life and online with your words of encouragement, help with my children, general tasks, etc.  The family and friendships our family has been blessed with are literally the only things keeping us going right now.  And God.  No, I don’t mean to give HIM last place; it’s simply that I see God realized in so many of you.  There is a dear, dear friend reading this right now, who is new to my life, but she has been my angel on earth.  She too suffers through this unimaginable existence every day.  Without her, I question whether I would even be alive right now.  Many others in my life have stepped up and gone above and beyond their own comfort levels to help in any way they are able.  Some wish they were able to come inside our home and help me cook, clean, repair, deCORNtaminate, etc., but alas, no one can come in.  We are Fort Knox.  Which brings me to the bizarreness . . .

Since I last blogged, I made a command decision to eliminate ALL medications in my life.  Before you freak out, please know that the two remaining drugs, Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and a Proton Pump inhibitor (Nexium), were not intended to be long term solutions.  My homeopath wanted me to faze them out.  She probably didn’t want me to cut Diphenhydramine cold turkey, but well it’s kind of hard to cut a capsule in half and that was my only option (remember, all of my meds are compounded).  After some tests results came in, she also determined that the Nexium was impairing my digestion, in particular my fat digestion, and creating low stomach acid.  Her recommendation was to stop the Nexium.  Other medications are currently being compounded that may stop the progression of inflammation and multiple chemical sensitivity. (Corn free compounding takes forever. I repeat: FOREVER. I’m still waiting.) Going “natural” has forced me to realize just how sick I truly am.  I’m horrified by the person I see in the mirror and the way I feel each and every day.  Simply stated, I feel quite awful.

On a positive note, I can at least say that they changes in my diet have allowed me to tolerate not being on any acid reducing medication with fairly positive results.  There are flare ups, of course, but at least that’s something.  Please note, I eat the blandest diet known to man.  Without getting into a lot of detail, I think it’s worth mentioning that I also don’t consume gluten, wheat, soy, rice, dairy and peanuts. “Is she out of her ever loving mind!?”  No, but let’s just say I have VERY good reasons for eliminating those common allergens.  Some of them may be reintroduced to my diet later, but I know not all of them are going to work for me.  I’ll take it one step further and blow your minds again: I maintain a very low sugar diet to combat Candida (yeast overgrowth) and I must also chose foods that are low in acid due to my Intersitiacial Cystitis (bladder inflammation).  Feeding a corn allergic person is extremely difficult.  Feeding me is somewhat impossible, but we’re kinda sorta managing . . . mostly.  I think. (That sounded confidant, huh?)  

Here is the downside to my natural status: I gave up diphenhydramine (AHEM, ya know, an antihistamine).  I’m ashamed to say, but I had been using it every night as a sleep aide.  (Don’t ask for how long . . . you really don’t wanna know).  My regular dose was only 37.5mg.  ONLY.  Hmmm . . . don’t let “only” fool you.  That 37.5 mg was enough to play some SERIOUS mind and health games with me.  That tiny bit of antihistamine was perpetually present in my blood stream and therefore reduced or blocked histamines by preventing them from attaching to their receptors, thus causing symptoms.  They probably weren’t completely blocking all of them, but they were certainly reducing the number of histamines.  Otherwise, I would have been completely symptom free while on them.  It’s really not a good idea to spend one’s life medicated with antihistamines to cover up symptoms.  For one thing, your body will eventually become resistant to the medication and it will no longer work.  Sadly, not a lot of research has been done with regards to long-term diphenhydramine use, but the information I could find was not terribly encouraging.  If you’re currently taking this medication on a regular basis, and feel it’s time to stop, I would strongly encourage you to use a tapering method if at all possible.  I’ll spare everyone the details of my cold turkey experience.  It. Wasn’t. Pretty. 

So it’s gone.  It’s all gone. Here’s where it gets ugly.  (Are you noticing a theme w/ my blogs?)  Ya, me too.  Some day that has to change.  More band aids have been ripped off.  (It’s just as well; the adhesive is likely made of corn.  LOL!)  Well as you already know the corny carpet powder I once used has rendered our finished basement unusable to me, but rooms of safety seem to be falling weekly.  Not long ago we discovered a mold issue in our master bathroom. Okay, I should say I discovered it. My husband has almost no sense of smell. (Ironic, isn’t it?)  We’re very limited on cleaning options, so despite my sweetie’s efforts, the mold still stands (in the shower).  We also have carpet in our bathroom (KICKING OURSEVLES over that one!) and we believe it has retained some mold growth as well.  So simply stated, until further notice: No master bathroom (and closet – it’s inside the bath) for you, MizCastle.  Okay fine, we have three bathrooms and I can still use one of them.  I share it w/ a 3 and 7 year old, but we make it work. Though I must say, their bathroom etiquette is even worse than their father’s. My youngest child’s room is an issue too.  Her room has always been the nursery and therefore has 7.5 years’ worth of baby powder, poo smell cover upper, heavily chemicalled (ya, I invented a word) toys, corny books, polyester stuffed animals and just general ickiness.  Simply stated: A chemical nightmare. I can’t avoid this room all together, but it def requires a mask.  This room will soon be getting a major overhaul, though I doubt I can be the one to do it.  Beyond rooms, I’ve also been subjected to a new toxin: finished wood furniture.  Well yes, the wood is obviously not made from corn, but the sealants & varnish definitely can be.  That’s not good, but what’s really getting me and I must emphasize REALLY getting me, is what lurks inside or even used to lurk inside.  All under the sink cabinetry must now be avoided.  Sure, we gave away all of the those products: cleaning agents, polishes, makeup (ya, ladies ALL of it), lotions, sprays, powders, bubble bath, etc.  Unfortunately, removal didn’t eliminate the issue.  Wood absorbs odor.  As a matter of fact, it does a supremely good job of retaining odor.  So, my under the sink cabinets are now verboten.  Moving on, OH this next one REALLY huts:  My beautiful bedroom furniture.  It’s Broyhill, dark wood, made to last, matches my much lovely king sleigh bed.  Ya, you know where I’m going.  Ten years of various laundry detergents, lotions, powders, etc. have set up permanent residence.  I can’t store anything in my own dresser.  I can’t even put my husband’s clothes away in his chest of drawers without being knocked out from the stench.  It hurts.  We will try some products and probably an expensive ozone machine, but I don’t know that it’s going to end well for my bedroom furniture.  We already had to give away my husband’s old childhood set used by our youngest.  (sigh)  It’s just stuff, I know, but it’s SO HARD to live under such extreme conditions.  I don’t even feel comfortable or healthy in my own home.  There is so much work to do.  Extreme actions must be taken to detox our home.  The largest will involve completely removing all of the carpet and replacing with a safe alternative.  A safe alternative has yet to be found, as chemicals are used on the surfaces of any type of hard flooring imaginable.  Plus, we would need to find a safe place to send me while the work is being done.  I don’t know that such a place exists. My return would be difficult, as I would be exposed to the off gassing of the new product.  Baby steps seem like our best and only option with regards to replacement of any flooring, furniture, etc.

You’re thinking: “That really, really sucks.  Wow. Can you go outside for some fresh air once in a while?  Does that help?”

That’s a loaded question.  The short answer is: “yes”  The realistic answer is: “no”  Let me explain.

Fresh air is a WONDERFUL thing.  As many of you may already know, inside air is actually far more polluted than outside air.  However, there are a LOT of things in my cookie cutter, suburban, squished together with my neighbor, let’s get cozy, neighborhood that reek absolute havoc on me.  It’s spring time!  Yippee!  Everything is green and lush and lovely.  Great.  “Let’s celebrate spring and bring out . . . the grill!”  I love our grill.  It currently serves as our oven as our oven (and a zillion other products/appliances) no longer work.  I don’t, however, love my neighbors’ grills.  They cook corny meat with corny bbq sauce which very much permeates the air sending particles right into my airways.  (Remember a smell isn’t just a “scent,” the scent is actually microscopic particles suspended in the air which are detected by the nose.)  Spring also invites one to start the process of lawn care and maintenance.  This typically involves weed killers and fertilizers for most.  Lawn mowing, well that’s a given and the mower’s gotta be powered by something.  And laundry. (Okay I cheated, laundry is year round, but for this purpose, it really is a part of my outdoor environment).  Grilled meats, heavy chemicals, gasoline, and dryer exhaust render me SO. VERY. ILL.  I simply cannot go outside when any of the above is taking place.  I literally almost passed out not long ago when I accidently went outside without my mask and sucked up a bunch of fabric softener from next door.  I was completely incapacitated for over two hours.  Weed killer from the yard next door, which is essentially mine as we are separated by only a few feet, disabled me from going outside for FOUR days.  Had it not rained, I’m sure the wait would have been longer. 

Inside is tough.  Outside is tough.  But remember: it’s honest.

This is honestly how allergic I really am.  To corn. To corn based chemicals. To chemicals.  I don’t even know what to call this anymore.  It’s all encompassing. 

Despite all this, I remain hopeful and determined.  I continue to remain devoted to my faith, as I believe God will use me for a greater good or purpose . . . in sickness and in health.