Our story airs today on the 700 Club on CBN. The story can be viewed at this CBN link. Or at Chris' website, which includes a Christmas reflection on Home.
Our story often raises a number of questions. I thought it might be helpful to answer some of them.
What do you do all day?
My goal when we first relocated to Tucson was to establish a “recovery routine.” It took 10 months to do this. We had one obstacle after another. Now our week has structure, and even with everyday hindrances that come with the de-tox process, we have a semblance of a schedule.
Most of my day is now spent in the kitchen. If the dietary changes weren’t so helpful I would not invest this kind of time. Breakfast involves juicing a number of vegetables, supervising smoothie production, giving out supplements and herbs, and getting the younger kids ready for school.
Our tutor, provided by the school district, comes for three hours each weekday morning.
After school, the kids go running with our oldest daughter, Erin. They do relay races and drills along with lap running.
Lunch consists of stir-fried quinoa and brown rice with vegetables. Some days we have BLTs made with turkey bacon with lettuce substituted for bread.
The afternoon involves supervising free time for the kids, a trip to acupuncture, the park, or the grocery store. Often we stay home and do chores, read, rest, etc.
Dinner involves more vegetables, a big salad, chicken or soup, red meat occasionally, red potatoes, etc.
Evening is our “down” time. Two of the kids do the dishes and the rest of us play a game, watch a movie, or work on computers.
Weekends are my opportunity to escape for a while. Any type of errand alone has become a luxury.
Sunday is the day we don’t “work” on recovery. We take a break from supplements, running, etc. We stick to the diet but enjoy “easier” foods like burgers on the grill.
This summary doesn’t include the day-to-day conflicts, heartache, tears that go with the de-tox, and post-traumatic experience. Every day is a struggle. But given our last 3 years of doctor’s appointments, hospital visits, and crises, I’m grateful for a healthy routine.
How and why do you blog?
I began this blog with one person in mind--the one who, like me, is experiencing a health crisis with no diagnosis. The person who wonders if the environment could be a factor. The person who feels isolated and alone with the questions that spring from a toxic exposure. I don’t write from a position of happy endings or miracle cures, but as one who is still in the trenches.
My inspiration comes from two historic individuals.
Dr. Viktor Frankl , a holocaust survivor, documented his experience in the book “Man’s Search for Meaning.” I read this book years ago when I was grappling with the deep suffering of Holocaust victims. I’ll never forget his description of the prisoners who gave their bread away. In the midst of their suffering, they were still able to give. That, Frankl says, gave their life meaning and thus the will to survive. That thought has been with me for 20 years.
Harriet Tubman found freedom from slavery through the Underground Railroad. She chose to go back time and time again to help others. Her life has always amazed me. When I realized that we had escaped our home and were traveling in the dark trying to find freedom, I determined to do what I could to help others navigate their way through this maze of decisions and dilemmas. One of her quotes continues to inspire me:
"I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."
There are many people who are ill due to environmental factors. If our story can help someone make that connection, I’ll keep sharing it.
As for how I do this blog, I honestly don’t know. The blog does not fairly represent the heartache that comes each day. I can’t get my head together at times and can’t imagine putting a coherent word on a page.
Sherry Parmelee, a friend from our Moody days in Chicago, volunteered to help me in January of 2009 when I began. She loves editing and couldn’t help noticing my numerous punctuation and spelling errors. She began to “tweak” my blogs for me, and this soon turned to major editing and rearranging. I would have given up months ago if it weren’t for Sherry. She has her own environmental illness journey and this only adds to her vision to help get the word out.
Sherry's husband Dan has worked tirelessly on the website Moms Against Mold. Still in its infancy, my hope is that it will be a forum for moms and others to exchange information and encouragement. Dan and Sherry have a website consulting business found at this website.
What is your prognosis?
Our story is complicated by our genetic factor. This makes it extremely difficult to get rid of the mycotoxins which have wreaked havoc on our bodies. I carry the double genotype, which means each one of our nine children carry one. Chris doesn’t carry this factor, and this is why avoidance and diet have worked so well for him. His body is slowly recovering on its own.
Thus, my prognosis, along with the children’s, is different. It will require a great deal of hard work and perseverance to recover. Any medical professional who has worked with us has assured us recovery is possible. I remain guardedly optimistic and will continue to do everything within my power to give us the best possible chance. I have no doubt there will be lifelong issues.
What is the status of your home in Colorado? Do you think you will live there again?
Our home remains as we left it on October 4, 2008. A team of experts has been in one time along with a remediator who emptied the refrigerator for us and turned off the electricity. We currently have a forbearance on our mortgage pending legal action. We’re not sure if that will continue. Legal action is our best hope to avoid foreclosure.
We tested 3 months after we left and found high levels of toxic mold. To clean the home would require another $40,000. Cleaning it would not locate the source and therefore we have hesitations about covering up the problem. We have been advised not to live there again.
My gut feeling is to follow the protocol set forth in Leviticus. If mold is found in a home, the family is to vacate. If the mold comes back after cleaning, the home is to be demolished. We have already replaced the carpet and replaced two bathrooms, and still there is serious mold amplification. Because of numerous structural defects, I think it would be best to tear it down and start again, though we are open to other options.
Regardless, we are in a difficult holding pattern until we know the outcome of the legal action.
What about your older kids? Are any of them able to work or go to college?
Our three oldest daughters each lived in the most contaminated room at some point in their adolescent years. I have shared very little about their sufferings. It’s too soon. Their lives have been put on hold as they pour themselves into recovery. I can’t say enough about their courageous determination.
Ryan was able to complete high school, but had to put his dream to pursue acting in New York City on hold. He has committed this year to regaining his health. His digestive tract took a huge hit and he continues to amaze me with his meticulous attention to his diet and exercise protocol.
Kristen is taking one geometry class through a program called Teaching Textbooks. Because of her level of fatigue, this is just the right amount of study for her. Her plan is to obtain her GED and look toward Community College next year.
What have you learned about health through this experience?
The dramatic rise in chemical use in recent years, combined with the lack of knowledge about mold and mycotoxins, along with tighter building construction, has led to illnesses which are foreign to the medical community at large. Our bodies have been unable to adapt to the chemical assault and our buildings have less ventilation. A myriad of health issues have emerged. We’re just beginning to connect these with the environment. Thanks to the information on the Internet, many of us have been able to diagnose ourselves.
I've also learned the value of symptoms. We like to make symptoms "go away" without considering the cause. I think our bodies let us know when something is off. If we choose to listen to our symptoms rather than mask them, we have a much better chance to recover.
I have taken great inspiration from Hippocrates the Greek physician, who emphasized the importance of clean air, clean water, and clean food.
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