Combat Strategy

Those who have made the connection between their illness and toxic mold have become warriors. They are on the front lines. Their enemy is powerful and elusive. Combat strategies become imperative.

There are all sorts of weapons available in the form of supplements, binding agents, and pharmaceuticals, but experts in the field agree: The first line of defense is avoidance.

I read this recently in an article on tactics used by martial artists:

"Standing your ground and attempting to block, pits you against your opponent’s best techniques and allows him to use the advantage of size and strength. This situation can be avoided through evasion and retreat."

Avoidance is tricky. Mold hides. Mycotoxins are invisible. But it's critical to a successful battle plan.

Every time we use a crosswalk or traffic light we practice avoidance. We don't want to be hit by oncoming vehicles so we do our best to stay out of the way. My daughter has a severe nut allergy. Her best defense is to avoid nuts.

Diet is a critical aspect of mold avoidance. Yeasts, peanuts, aged cheese, and dried fruit are a few of the potentially "moldy" foods. The website "Mold Survivor" has an excellent article on diet. Turmeric, cinnamon, and cloves are 3 spices proven to reverse the effects of mold poisoning.

Microbial warfare is not for the faint of heart. It requires vigilance, fortitude, and determination. Those who have been injured in battle know this. I have grown weary of our life in the trenches. It's not easy to stand up under the pressure of battle every day. General Douglas MacArthur said it best: "It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it."

Personal Update

I sent an email to friends in our Colorado community today. I include it here to provide an update on our home and health.

We signed a 12 month lease Friday and it became real that Monument will not be our home for awhile. I knew, then, that I wanted to update our community of friends who have offered such support these last two years. It's hard to believe that school is beginning soon for all of you. I will so miss that first day of school.

We continue to progress here. The climate is a contributing factor to this, even in the dog days of summer. We were at 107 yesterday. The progress is slow. Very slow. Some days I can't see it. Last night, as I watched all of them play at the park, I saw it.

Brandon: His neurological recovery continues. He's much calmer and able to sit still. His rashes have greatly improved. He is extremely sensitive to any and all chemicals and his eyes will redden immediately. He continues to suffer severe nosebleeds.

Colin: his migraines are infrequent. Abdominal pain is rare. His blood sugars are still erratic. And just last week colonized fungus appeared all over the backs of his legs. This shows the de-tox is working. It also shows how far we have to go. He and Brandon are on a baseball team.

Kaitlyn: is extremely sensitive to the environment. Her immune system is so taxed that we had to stop her horseback riding lessons for awhile. She struggles with rashes and strong allergic reactions. Her vision has improved and she is back to reading! She has two friends and is excited about our new house.

Reagan: his light sensitivity has improved. Rarely has a migraine. Is still dizzy and struggles with the tinnitus. We are going after this intensely and he has had moments of no dizziness. This is very hopeful. He has become quite the magician and has some amazing card tricks up his sleeve.

Kristen: is chronically fatigued. Her pituitary was hit hard so we have been working on this. Her peripheral neuropathy is still an issue. She may try a few classes at the local high school. She loves photography--especially the Arizona sunsets.

Ryan: has decided against the conservatory in New York for financial and logistical reasons. The focus of his future has changed as well. He has responded well to the de-tox and is the healthiest I have seen him in years. He is meticulous about his diet. No gluten, sugar, etc. His digestive system was hit hard by the mold. Some exciting opportunities have already come his way.

Shannon: is working hard at her recovery. Her dedication is an inspiration. She loves the hiking here and is looking into possible classes in the fall.

Megan: is struggling. Her road to recovery will be long due to the complications from her Africa and Peru trips. Exposure to toxic mold becomes a breeding ground for parasites and other microbes. She has done some amazing video projects and continues to persevere.

Erin has decided to join us for a few months. Her rashes continue (which simply means there are more mycotoxins to come out) and her fatigue level is abnormally high, another common occurrence after a mold exposure. She is going to miss Rosie’s terribly. And I know many of you will miss her

Chris is doing well. Dogwood won an award recently and he's excited about his new book, June Bug. He is the most chemically sensitive of us all. I am grateful he can work from home in a "known" environment. He has been an amazing rock of support for me. He has gotten me up off the ground many days by his wisdom and humor. I don't know what I would do without him.

As for me, I lost my mother unexpectedly on May 21st. She died of a brain hemorrhage following a severe coughing fit. My brother, my dad, and I were all with her and I am grateful I had the opportunity to say goodbye. She was a tremendous support to me these last two years and I miss her. A lot.

My health has been more of an issue in this last month as I have taken the much needed steps to recover. I am focusing on clearing my liver of mycotoxins, something my blood testing showed was a serious issue, and it has created a "die-off" which means the microbes are killed and then create sickness. My memory remains an issue and I miss it! So do my kids!

I continue my blog and have met other mothers just like me. I have secured the website "Moms Against Mold" and will continue my passion to get the word out

We have been living in a 1700 square foot home in the middle of nowhere. Eight of us sleep on air mattresses in one room. There are two bathrooms. Our next home is about 3500 square feet and the good news is, we gain 1 more bathroom! It is on an acre and backs up to a sandy area known as a “wash” where rainwater rushes through after a monsoon. It stays sandy most of the year.

We walked through the home with the builder last week. He agreed to rent to us even after hearing our story. I have a good gut feeling about the home as it is all electric and lots of tile and it has never been lived in. Still, a move brings back lots of fear and trauma. We have to continue to move foward, however, and this is a good next step.

Our home in Colorado remains just as we left it. A friend is cutting the grass for us. The home is still contaminated. We have a forbearance on our mortgage which enables us to pay the rent here. If anyone would like either of our trampolines let me know! We are pursuing legal action as this is what keeps the forbearance and keeps us from foreclosure.

I don't know what our future holds. I do know that my faith is not in the legal system or the medical world. It's definitely not in myself. I do believe that our story is bigger than our present circumstances and all of you have played an important role in it. You came alongside of us in critical ways in the days following our evacuation from our home. Thank you.

I conclude with this quote by Albert Einstein which has meant a lot to me.

"Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to a divine purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: That we are here for the sake of others...for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy. Many times a day, I realize how much my outer and inner life is built upon the labors of people, both living and dead, and how earnestly I must exert myself in order to give in return as much as I have received.”

News Story

You can see a news story about Kris' daughter in Australia (see previous post):

News Story

The story is titled "Mould Invasion" and aired 3 weeks ago. It is currently located on page 4.

Fellow Sufferers

The following are excerpts from emails I have received over the last few weeks. With their permission I share these in hopes others will be helped. I hear toxicologist Dr. Jack Thrasher's words echoing as I share these: "I'd like to retire but there are too many people suffering."

1. Stacey and her family moved out of their home in November of 2008.

"I am a former nurse and mother of 8. Our family was poisoned by toxic mold as well. I got the brunt of it in my house- it was in the fireplace, and ceiling of my bedroom, as well as the 2nd floor HVAC. Being a debilitated mother with children who have health issues is not easy. The first time my hands went numb, I was driving 6 children in the middle of nowhere! That is my worst issue now- hypersensitivity to exposure. I can pick it up on clothes, etc- and get sick within 60 seconds.

One thing we all had, except my husband, was new onset allergies and food sensitivities. We can eat most of these things now without symptoms. Before we moved out of our house, I could eat almost nothing in the end. I had 2 children who also projectile vomited frequently- all night long. NO doctor could find any cause for this in any of us. Once we left the house, I vomited only once- from exposure. My children have not vomited again.

I truly believe that God saved my life, and my childrens', through divine intervention. A woman in a doctor's office was talking about her symptoms, and I said, "Wait! What is wrong with you?" She asked if I had had my house checked for toxic mold. Until that moment, I had no idea what was causing our problems."

2. Elizabeth, her husband, and two children are currently living in a hotel.

"We are currently going through a mold remediation process at our home. For several years my husband has had chronic illness which have included symptoms such as: chronic headaches, dizziness, ringing in ears, vertigo, vision problems, one episode of viral meningitis, irregular heartbeat, lack of mental clarity, chronic sinus infections, chemical sensitivities, and IBS. He's seen all kinds of doctors from GP to ENT, Neurologist, Gastroenterologist, etc, and has had tons of testing (CTs, MRIs, spinal taps, colonoscopies) and they've found nothing. Nothing except for B12 and D deficiencies and allergies to dust and mold. Turns out we have mold. My daughters and I haven't experienced anything like what hubby has, but both girls were constantly sick this past winter/spring. We have been out of the house for several weeks due to a bad metallic taste in our mouth and burning in our throat, which prompted us to look for air quality issues in the home."

3. Kris wrote to me regarding her daughter's exposure at work. She included a link to an article from the local newspaper.

"My daughter has been exposed to high levels of toxic mould in the workplace. Her health is deteriorating and we are not getting much help from the doctors in Australia."

Article in the Townsville Bulletin

The local television station did a story on Kris's daughter.

News Story

Story is called "Mould Invasion" and aired 3 weeks ago. (currently on page 4)

4. Tom became ill in the Fall of 2007 with mysterious fatigue-like symptoms. He made the connection with mold in January of this year. His recovery took a turn two weeks ago.

"My health continues to suffer and we found out Friday that our home is not safe for me after all. This could be a major piece of the puzzle for my recovery. Unfortunately, this spells disaster in the short term - and we will need wisdom and prayer more than ever. The mold has been there all along (part of a construction defect), but we didn't look in the right place until last week."

Tom's CaringBridge website

There are countless others who have not made the connection between their illnesses and mold. Often they feel crazy because their symptoms are so baffling to the medical community. I like this quote from C.S. Lewis: "We read to know we are not alone."

House Hunt

Finding a new home for our family is requiring far more than we anticipated. Our lease ends August 15th. We have been searching aggressively since May. Our current home has 3 bedrooms. One is used for Chris' office/radio studio. This leaves two bedrooms for 10 of us. This really isn't the problem. The two bathrooms is the problem. Enough said on that.

Thus, we are hoping for more space. It doesn't sound that hard. I don't care about aesthetics. Couldn't care less about floor plan. Don't care about wall color or proximity to schools. We need a safe environment.

It would be best for our family to live outdoors. This is why I've felt grateful for our current home. It's tight but it's better than camping. We have kitchen facilities and our two bathrooms have running water. Hot water.

Still, the search has been disheartening, time consuming, and draining. The phrase that follows our promise on the wall says,"He gently leads those with young." In The Message it says that He leads them "to green pasture." We're hoping to find our green pasture soon.

Promise on the Wall

Sheep are easily led astray. If the older ones head toward disaster, the lambs always follow.

Their herding instinct, however, works in their favor when a predator is near. Rather than stay and fight, sheep flee. Together. It's their only protection, really. Stick together.

I didn't think about the nature of sheep when I asked my friend Sue to paint a verse on our entryway wall. (Nor did I think about Babylon's demise depicted in the writing on the wall at Belshazzar's feast.) It was the winter of 2001. We had moved in six months prior and I was nesting. Pregnant with our 9th child, I was excited to create a haven and refuge for our flock. Our unknowing lambs had followed us all the way to Colorado.

I knew nothing of the dark days ahead. Nothing of the predator eating away at the cellulose behind our walls. Chris suggested the verse and I loved it. It served as a loving reminder that he and I were not alone as we attempted to raise our family.

Three weeks ago I received this picture of our entryway.

"He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart." Isaiah 40:11.

I have wondered many times these last 8 months what would have happened if we had seen our predator sooner. Would our instinct to flee have been as strong? Now that I understand mold exposure and brain fog, I consider it a miracle we left at all. I credit the Shepherd's gentle staff.

It hasn't gotten easier since we left. Our days remain dark and our lambs are still suffering. Nevertheless, the promise engraved on a wall that is now lonely and haunted by silence offers light and hope to all who are tired and worn.

Household Products to Avoid

I read an article the other day that would have overwhelmed me a year ago. Given our life now, I found it immensely helpful. I have asked myself repeatedly, "If we had not been exposed to mold would I still make these changes, knowing what I now know?" The answer is unequivocally, undoubtedly, absolutely, categorically YES. Poisons harm the body. The food we eat, the water we drink, and the air we breathe all matter.

The article is titled "Ten Dangerous Household Products You Should Never Use Again." It's not just a list of "don'ts." There are lots of alternatives included.

It has taken me 9 months to make these changes. Many of them we had to do immediately. Some of them have taken longer. Just yesterday I bought my first cast iron pan.

Ten Household Products You Should Never Use Again

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Dogwood and June Bug

Some exciting news came our way last night. Chris' book Dogwood won a Christy Award. The awards are given each year at the International Christian Retail Show. This year it's in Denver. We never expected he would have to schedule a flight in order to attend. Our vacated house is 45 minutes down the road.

Dogwood is a beautiful story of sacrifice and love. Full of intrigue and rich characters. His next novel, June Bug, comes out in a couple of weeks. It too is full of mystery and depth. The opening scene depicts a little girl in Walmart who sees her picture on the missing children board.

June Bug and her dad travel the country in an RV because "my dad says there's a lot of things people don't need and that their houses get cluttered with it, and they store it in basements that flood and get ruined so it's better to live simple and do what you want rather than get tied down to a mortgage." That line was written several months before we vacated our home.

Ironically, Chris made the final edits to June Bug in an RV parked outside our home in Colorado. His office was contaminated with aspergillus and he needed a specific phone line in order to keep doing his daily radio show.

You can find out about both books at Chris' website.

The last conversation I had with my mom was about June Bug. She had just finished it. "Tell Chris I think he ought to write a sequel. I want to know what happens to her." She would have loved this news about Dogwood.

I have the sense that many of the good things that come our way will be bittersweet. That's okay. I'll savor the sweet part.

Canary in the Coal Mine

In the 1800's canaries were used to save lives. Miners would take a caged canary to their worksite. If the bird stopped singing (or died) the miners would vacate immediately. The bird was telling them the air quality was unsafe.

Those of us who have had a major mold exposure often become chemically sensitive. Essentially we become canaries. We can sense the safety of an environment. When we first moved into our present home I became nervous. I called Kristina who relocated to Arizona for the same reason. She came over to "smell" the house. She gave us a clean bill of health. The only thing she smelled: the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) emitting from the new cabinets in the kitchen. New homes can be tricky because of the off-gassing that inevitably occurs.

Two weeks later she stopped by. I had grown comfortable with our new environment. We were circulating the air with fans, the windows were open and I , miraculously, felt safe at last. Her eyes began watering. Her breathing became labored and she quickly moved outside.

The problem? The toxins on our skin. We were de-toxing heavily and she was reacting to us! No wonder our bloody noses were back! We were reacting to each other. We stepped up our shower routine and didn't re-use towels. We were already using charcoal soap.

I was in a home recently that I sensed had mold. I began coughing within five minutes. I was there for less than two hours. As soon as I left I changed clothes and threw away the outfit. I coughed for five straight days.

The following is an excerpt from an article on bird care. It is a good word to all of us, canary or not.

"Birds have very sensitive respiratory systems, and you will want to avoid using most household cleaners and chemicals around your bird. This includes anything with a strong scent or chemical odor, cleaners, sprays, liquids, aerosols, etc. You should not use air fresheners (deodorizers and scents) when you have a bird, including sprays/aerosols, plug-ins, powders, and scented candles."

There is an excellent website called The Canary Report designed to alert us to the hazards of chemicals.

You can't choose some things in life. Your birthplace. The weather. I wouldn't choose to be a canary. Ever.

I do, however, have other choices. When it comes to my role as a canary, I think I'll do my best to keep on singing.

Symptoms of Fungal Exposure

The following is an excerpt of an article written by Susan Lillard-Roberts who heads up the mold-help website.

Fungi, which include yeasts, moulds, smuts and mushrooms, are responsible for causing four types of mycotic (fungal) disease:

1. Hypersensitivity - an allergic reaction to moulds and spores
2. Mycotoxicosis - poisoning by food products contaminated by fungi
3. Mycetismus - the ingestion of preformed toxin (toadstool poisoning)
4. Infection (systemic) - (Mycotoxicosis; the subject below)

These are the most common symptoms of fungal exposure (bear in mind, people never fit all of below criteria). Most people with some forms of Mycotoxicosis meet at least 8 (recent symptoms) of the following criteria:

Fibromyalgia/mps (and several correlated symptoms)
Respiratory distress, coughing, sneezing,
Difficulty swallowing, choking, spitting up (vomiting) mucous
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis
Burning in the throat and lungs (similar to acid reflux and often misdiagnosed as such)
Asthmatic signs; wheezing, shortness in breath, coughing, burning in lungs, etc.
Irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, diarrhea, sharp abdominal pains, stomach lesions
liver, spleen, or kidney pain
Dark or painful urine
Dirt-like taste in mouth, coated tongue
Food allergies/leaky gut syndrome/altered immunity
Memory loss; brain fog, slurred speech, occasionally leading to dementia
Vision problems
Swollen lymph nodes
Large boils on neck (often a sign of
Yellowing of nails, ridges, or white marks under nail
Thyroid irregularities, sometimes leading to complete dysfunction; adrenal problems
Anxiety/depression, heart palpitations - confusion,
Extreme blood pressure, cholesterol, or triglycerides irregularities
Ringing in ears, balance problems (very common), dizziness, loss of hearing (aspergillus niger)
Chronic fatigue (also included under this classification directional confusion)
Intermittent face flushing; almost always systemic, Called the Mylar Flush (neurological))
Night head sweats, and drooling while sleeping, profuse sweating
Multiple chemical sensitivity; only upon exposure to Stachybotrys and Chaetomium
Nose bleeds (stachybotrys)
Bruising/scarring easily;
rash or hives, bloody lesions all over the skin (Often systemic, see images; skin)
Reproductive system complications;
infertility, changes in menstrual cycles, miscarriage
Sudden weight changes (Detoxifier genotypes tend to gain weight, non-detoxifier genotypes tend to lose weight)
Hair loss, very brittle nails, temporary loss of fingerprints (in rare cases)
Joint/muscle stiffness and pain
Irregular heart beat/heart attack
Seizures, inadvertent body jerking, twitching, inadvertent facial movements or numbness in face
Hypersensitivity when re-exposed to molds, which can lead to anaphylaxis
Anaphylaxis upon re-exposure to mycotoxin producing molds
Death, in extreme cases.

Soup and Mold

Chris and I ate out yesterday. For the first time in a year. I ordered soup. It may be Arizona, but soup in air conditioning is as good as soup on a snowy day.

I couldn't wait to dig in. Unfortunately, the gumbo was lukewarm. I asked the server if she would mind heating it up.

"No problem," she said.

She returned. I tried one spoonful. Lukewarm again. Chris stared in disbelief.

"It's steaming," he said.

"I know. But it's lukewarm inside." (I started to doubt myself.)

I gave the bad news to the server. I didn't really explain. I just asked her to take the soup off our bill and she did.

As she gave us our check, she asked why I sent it back. "Did you just not like it?"

"It was lukewarm again," I told her. I felt apologetic.

"We keep our soup on a warming tray. I talked to my manager. He said there's a cord that's frayed. Customers have been sending a lot of soup back. We need a new tray."

I share this story because it reminds me so much of our mold saga. My kids were sick. They looked fine. Thirty doctors said they were fine. I knew they were sick. But I still questioned my sanity.

Until I connected the frayed cord with their lukewarm bodies.

Thus the lesson that comes out of both experiences. You don't have to know everything. In fact, there may be a great deal of unknown. The key is not allowing the unknown to overpower what you do know.

Lead Paint Warning

We're in the middle of a house search. The one we are in is ideal. Just tiny for 10 of us.

Thus we receive occasional e-mails from realtors. I received one yesterday that was titled "Homes with Lead Paint." It was a helpful reminder to homebuyers to beware of lead paint. It was stunning how similar the issue of lead paint is to the issue of mold.

The dangers of lead paint were discussed as early as 1910. A hearing was conducted in the House of Representatives. At that time Marion E. Rhodes testified that, “the most eminent scientists and doctors of Great Britain…reached the conclusion that white lead is poison…the small particles that result from chalking…when taken by inhalation into the lungs, are absorbed and become poison to the system.” The bill was dismissed.

In 1921 the president of the National Lead Company stated in a letter to the head of Harvard Medical School that "manufacturers, as a result of fifty to sixty years experience, agree that lead is a poison when it enters the stomach of man."

Also in 1921, the Third International Labor Conference of the League of Nations held in Geneva banned lead-based paints from homes. The United States did not attend the Conference and did not agree to the resolution.

In fact, 56 years went by before the United States prohibited the use of lead paints. Not until 1977!

Thus when I received the e-mail yesterday and read the contents, I imagined what might happen in 20 years IF we wake up to this issue. This is the exact email I received with my changes in bold.

All sellers with homes built prior to 2015 are required to fill out a mold disclosure form and provide you, the buyer, with a mold educational booklet in any sale. Mold is highly toxic and is found in and around our homes. Mold may cause a range of health effects, from behavioral problems and learning disabilities, to seizures and death. Children 6 years old and under are most at risk, because their bodies are growing quickly. If in doubt, have the house tested and evaluated at a local laboratory.