Personal Progress

I had no idea just how sick I was when we left our home 17 months ago. My tongue was black, I had joint pain, rashes, brain fog, and memory loss. My front teeth had diminished considerably due to grinding (bruxism). But I was still functioning.

I had lab work done soon after we left, and everything came back normal. "Everything looks great," my family practice doctor reported.

We found a mold specialist and I had specific blood tests relating to mold exposure. Only then did the true picture of my health emerge.

I was positive for myelin antibodies. My leptin was low and my c4a was high. Neurological testing clearly showed a chemical brain injury.

My bilirubin total was high. An indicator that something was amiss with my liver and/or gallbladder. An ultrasound was prescribed to check for biliary cirrhosis.

I never had the ultrasound. I didn't have the time, energy, or money. Insurance wasn't covering our treatment in Arizona. We were running for our lives and I was desperately trying to get my children into a stable place.

As things began to settle I began to aggressively focus on my health. I can attest to the reality that it often gets worse before it gets better. I struggled with fatigue while living in our toxic home, but nothing like the "fatigue crashes" I've experienced this year.

For the first time in my life I had trouble functioning and performing everyday tasks.

I've done acupuncture, ONDAMED, orthospinology, far infrared sauna, radical diet changes, juicing, and more. All of them have helped.

I experienced a dramatic shift during a juice fast in November. We had been "green juicing" for a couple of months. I decided to try a fast for one day and found such increased mental clarity and energy that I kept it up for two more days.

I continue to eat whole foods only. I love learning the healing properties of plants, herbs, beans, and other foods.

I feel much better than a year ago. Challenges remain. And will remain for quite awhile. But I'm grateful for the progress.

The biggest issue for me is my short-term and long-term memory. Multi-tasking remains difficult. This makes the kitchen a difficult place for me. Saucepans continue to boil over, herbs remain soaking instead of boiling, recipes are forgotten. New information is extremely difficult to process.

There are some advantages to this. When one of the older kids is late I forget to worry. This is because I’ve forgotten they’re out.

If I have a disagreement with someone in the house, I forget about it in five minutes. (Of course, my husband has always been good at this. Something that has mystified me for 27 years.)

My friend Dawn told me recently that she noticed a major change in me the year before we left. "It's hard to put into words," she said. "It was like you were distracted all the time." It helped to hear she had noticed. It's easy for me to feel "crazy" instead of injured.

I've been reading the book "The Brain that Changes Itself" by Dr. Noman Doidge and have found great hope for restoring some of my lost function. The book looks at the science of neuroplasticity, which is "the changing of neurons, the organization of their networks, and their function via new experiences."

The key to restoring function, according to Doidge, is to learn new skills or new vocabulary, even a new language. The goal is to stimulate the control system for plasticity to keep up production of acetylcholine and dopamine.

"Anything that requires highly focused attention will help that system - learning new physical activities that require concentration, solving challenging puzzles, or making a career change that requires you master new skills and material."


Within three months after leaving our home of eight years we headed for Arizona, where I was forced to learn a new city, a new diet, new terminology, and a new way of life. Something I thought was the last thing I needed.

I was wrong.

More than ever I find myself leaning on these words found in the book of Isaiah:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts."

(Isaiah 55:8,9)

Building Forensics

The following article comes from the UK and is titled, "Toxic Mould and Construction Defects Harming Public Health." This clearly demonstrates that the issue of indoor air quality is an international one.


The quest for reduced carbon emissions from buildings – and therefore a lower level of air changes – has in recent times created a general increase in ‘building tightness’: new and restored buildings fail to ‘breath’ properly, leading to a general moisture build-up which in turn results in the health concerns of mould and rot or decay. Typically, Building Forensics has found that the application of new building tightness conditioning such as BREEAM, LEED and part L of the Building Regulations, coupled to poor construction management, is increasingly causing such building defects and health issues.

Jeff Charlton of Building Forensics states: “Building Forensics has found increasing evidence that construction management is failing to control quality standards or, indeed, even to comply with manufacturers’ or architects’ design or installation requirements. Worse still, we’ve found that few surveyors or inspectors have the equipment or training to undertake non-intrusive investigation or to be able identify hidden defects such as missing insulation, thermal bridging and the presence of toxic chemicals.”

He continues: “And Building Forensics is further finding that facility managers are increasingly mis-diagnosing design and build faults which cause condensation or pooling and mould. They wrongly attribute these symptoms to presumed leaks which insurers then wrongly pay to fix. And meanwhile the health problems continue to get worse.”

The combination of high cellulose materials and misuse of vapour barriers, thermal bridging from poor or missing insulation or failure to seal the building envelope properly can result in the growth of toxic mould such as Penicillium, Tricoderma and Stachybotrys.

While visible mould is a good indicator of the health risk, it should be recognised that the moisture required for mould growth, sometimes from leaks but usually from condensation, often occurs out of sight in voids or behind plasterboard cavity walls. The problems start with the building or renovation of buildings with no regard to the historic knowledge that buildings need to breath and remove moisture, especially in a cold wet climate.

And as was shown in US timber frame construction 10 years ago, identifying the problems generally requires more equipment than a standard two pin wood moisture meter and current inspection techniques.

Jeff Charlton is available for comment and interview on the findings of Building Forensics, and more information on typical health concerns and construction defect can be found at the Building Forensics website.

Nourishing Comfort Food

"Mom, this is delicious!"

That’s what I heard all during dinner recently.

I still can’t believe something this easy, healthy, and affordable is a hit with my family.

It’s called congee. It’s a rice dish. It's ideal for those with health issues because it is so good for the digestion.

As an added bonus it’s a warm meal, which is great for heating the digestive tract, especially during the cold winter months.

We have congee every morning, and Friday night we had a new version for dinner.

The basic recipe for congee is as follows:

1 c. rinsed brown rice (We also use white jasmine at times.)
7-9 c. water (We like 7 cups. You can use as many as 12 cups.)
Cook for 6-8 hours.
*Coat the crockpot with oil and use hot water to avoid sticking.

I double this every night and cook it all night in a crockpot. That means 2 cups of rice feeds our family of 11.

Historians say congee was first used during a famine as early as 210 B.C.

The rice expands and becomes a porridge. You can add berries, cinnamon, and honey if needed.

For lunch or dinner, use chicken broth instead of water. Until I learned to make my own chicken broth, I used a boxed organic version with no additives.

Here's the recipe I used the other night for Chicken Congee:

8 c. unsalted chicken stock
1 c. rice
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbs. grated fresh ginger
1 tbs. soy sauce (I used Coconut Aminos)
2 c. chicken meat
2 c. bok choy, coarsely chopped, or nappa cabbage

Congee has become our true comfort food. One of my older daughters traveled recently and borrowed a slow cooker to make congee in her hotel room.

For a more detailed description of congee, see this article.

Health Reform

It's hard to believe that at one time in the history of the church, people were not permitted to read the Bible for themselves. They relied entirely on the knowledge of others. Many couldn’t read, but even the ones who could had to listen to the words in another language and then have them interpreted.

This eventually changed, but it took years of reform and awakening.

I can't help but draw a parallel with our prevailing public view of medical care.

When Colin was first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes, I had no idea where the pancreas was located in the human body and certainly had no idea of its function. It didn't occur to me to study this information. I simply wanted to know how to take care of my son, and I relied solely on the medical professionals.

As our illnesses progressed over the next year I continued to see doctors as the experts. I was the common layperson in the pew.

But something shifted during this time. Something deep inside. I began to listen to my instincts as a mother. I began to trust those instincts. There was an awakening, and my view of the medical world changed.

I bought an Anatomy and Physiology book. I began to study for myself.

I learned about enzymes and amino acids. I studied the functions of the liver, the pancreas, the salivary glands, the vestibular system, and the parasympathetic nervous system.

I didn't lose my respect for the medical profession. I'll never be able to perform an emergency appendectomy or remove a cancerous tumor. I'm grateful for those who can.

But I can learn. And ask questions.

Thanks to the Internet, many of us are finding empowerment when it comes to our health.

This tells me that health reform isn't going to come from Congress after all.

Perhaps it lies within each one of us.

Chinese Herbs

A big part of our healing protocol includes Chinese herbs. These come in pill form, granules, and decocted versions. Herbs also include alcohol extractions or "tinctures." The part I like about the herbs is that each formula is uniquely tailored to our specific needs, which change frequently.

Some suggest it’s best to stick to herbs native to your country and culture. (Something to keep in mind when considering adding herbs to any protocol.) I developed a trust in our acupuncturist, and with acupuncture in general, and therefore felt comfortable trying them.

In addition, plants tend to be alkaline, and since raising the PH of our systems is a big goal, I ventured confidently into the world of Chinese herbs.

We’ve experienced help with nosebleeds, digestion, a urinary tract infection (which came after my first acupuncture treatment and the sudden release of toxins), and energy.

As our acupuncturist explained recently, many of the formulas target a lurking or latent pathogen. A pathogen which lies dormant, appears, and then disappears again. This is a good description of chronic illness. The goal then is to feed the system from the inside, push out the pathogen, expose it, and facilitate its exit from the body.

Here is one set of herbs I recently cooked.

An example of a decocted herbal formula is as follows:

Xiau Chai Hu Tang (used in upper respiratory infections, influenzas, malaria, jaundice, headaches, dizziness, and more)

The specific herbs are as follows (the English version is italicized):

Chai Hu (bupleurum)

Ban Xia (pinellia)

Huang Qin (skullcap)

Ren Shen (ginseng)

Zhi Gan Cao (licorice)

Sheng Jiang (ginger)

The herbs are placed in a pot. Soaked for one hour. Brought to a boil and then simmered for 30 minutes. The liquid is poured into a jar and more water is added and the process is repeated.

This is our kitchen counter.

Because I learn and process much more slowly now, it has taken me months to master this process. The benefits, however, far outweigh the “work” of Chinese herbs as we continue to inch our way toward recovery.

The Truth About Mold

How does a Fortune 500 executive leave a lucrative, high-profile position and become a toxic mold activist?

By experiencing the devastation of an exposure to toxic mold.

The story of Cheryl Wisecup is a familiar one. Cheryl, her husband, and four children were living a happy, normal life in Iowa. In 2002, the Wisecups decided to hire a remodeling company to remodel their bathroom. The remodeling company made mistakes and punctured two holes in a pipe inside the wall, but the Wisecups didn't know about it until much later, after they became very ill.

A few weeks after the remodeling work was completed, the Wisecups noticed an ominous smell throughout their house. They called the gas company, suspecting a gas leak. The gas company found nothing wrong and told the Wisecups there must be a dead animal inside the walls. The company assured them that once the animal decomposed the smell would go away. Cheryl and her husband also called a pest control company. The company found no dead animals but also suggested the source was located behind a wall.

The Wisecups continued to look for the source of the smell.

Several more weeks went by, and they finally discovered the cause. Mold and water damage were found under the bathroom where the remodeling work had been done. They called the remodeling company and their homeowner's insurance company.

That day was the beginning of a 7-year nightmare and a long legal battle. The Wisecups say they learned firsthand about the unethical and illegal activities that occur in toxic mold cases.

The Wisecups continue to deal with health problems caused by their exposure. Due to these health issues, Cheryl had to leave her position as a business executive. She is now devoting her time to promoting the truth about toxic mold and helping others who have been affected.

Cheryl has created a website called Truth About Mold and has been communicating with elected officials, families, doctors, and scientists around the world. The website has a great deal of helpful information including numerous medical studies, news articles, a list of resources and books, information about mold legislation, copies of communications with the World Health Organization and the EPA, and an entire page devoted to Mold Stories from families around the country. The page is sobering, and if anyone doubts the dangers, take a look at this compilation of stories. If you would like to have your mold story included, contact Cheryl through the Contact form on the website.

We are on the verge of some major changes in this country regarding the issue of toxic mold. People like Cheryl are helping to make that happen.

The Saints Rise Up

It’s hard to believe the Super Bowl has come and gone again. Last year we watched Arizona play Pittsburg in our new rental home. As the Cardinals succumbed to defeat, so did we. (My post from last year describes this in detail.)

Chris had just made the 13-hour journey from Colorado to Tucson with a U-Haul full of mattresses and radio equipment. I had just moved out of our vacation rental where we had lived for 6 weeks while Chris tied up loose ends in Colorado.

We were reunited at last and prepared to officially begin our de-tox together. Life was going to get better, we felt sure.

By the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, Feb. 1, 2009, it became clear that the rashes, nosebleeds, and breathing problems were not dissipating. We had been in the home 24 hours and we were sick. Very sick. We moved several of our mattresses outside, hoping by morning the house would feel different and we could move back in.

Little did we know the homeowners had just sprayed for termites inside the home.

Little did we know we were chemically sensitive, a common occurrence for victims of toxic mold exposure.

Little did we know we were going to lose many of our possessions once again.

I don’t remember the ending to the game. Chris does. He was convinced our adjustment to the home would pass quickly. I had a sinking feeling that lasted well beyond the 4th quarter.

By 4:00 the next afternoon the children and I packed a few clothing items and drove off in search of a safe hotel. Chris stayed behind to work out the details with the homeowner. The homeowner did nothing wrong. We never asked him if he had sprayed for pesticides. We didn’t know to ask.

It’s a haunting memory.

Life did not get better as hoped. It got harder. We spent two weeks searching for a safe home and longer recovering from the exposure. We couldn’t get the pesticide smells out of the mattresses, so we abandoned them. We learned that the type of pesticides that were used, pyrethroids, attack the lungs and the brain.

The next home was much smaller. Eight of us slept in one room, on air mattresses. We lived in that home for 6 months, hoping to return to Colorado. By summer we knew that recovery--if there was to be a recovery--would require much longer than 6 months.

We’re still in Arizona. We’re in our 5th home since vacating our Colorado home 16 months ago. We continue to adjust to our new “normal.” We now comprehend the harsh reality that life will never be the same . We’re even beginning to see the beauty that comes from the ashes of suffering.

I guess that’s why this year’s Super Bowl impacted me more than others. If the Saints, representing people and an area devastated by disaster, can rise up, maybe we can too.

De-Toxing for Dummies

Pay no attention to the title of this entry. The truth is we're all overloaded and anyone who considers a de-tox protocol is anything but a dummy.

Still, I had no idea what to expect when we began our journey one year ago. Recently one of my older daughters' hair turned red (from a dark brown). This happened to my son's eyebrows last summer.

I've seen more rashes than I can count. We've seen sore throats reappear, back aches return, tempers flare, and much more.

The body has to work hard to get rid of the overload.

Even my husband, who is better equipped genetically to get rid of mold toxins, has experienced Herx reactions. (Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction is named after two doctors who noticed increased symptoms following treatment for skin lesions. Herx reaction is also known as healing crisis, de-tox reaction, or die-off syndrome.)

While de-toxing, it can be difficult to determine if you're experiencing an effect from de-tox, a reaction to a food, or a reaction to the environment. When I break out in a rash on my hands the day after acupuncture, I know it's de-tox. If I eat something with carbs or sugar and experience sudden fatigue, I know it's dietary. Listen to your body. Keep a journal of foods, symptoms, and environments. It's amazing how enlightening this simple exercise can be.

The best explanation of the healing process I've seen comes from the book, "Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition" by Paul Pitchford. The book is more than 700 pages.

Pitchford’s thoughts on detoxification are part of a chapter on dietary transition in which he describes the patterns that occur when one moves from an unhealthy to a healthy diet. (It's important to note that die-off can also occur following removal from a toxic environment or a different de-tox protocol.)

Pitchford says, "If the new diet is purer, the old toxins are released, sometimes with various forms of discomfort known as 'healing reactions.'”

He goes on to say:

"If chronic sore throats occurred during childhood, a healing reaction could involve one or two sore throats that would eliminate any residues that accumulated from the original infection(s). Certainly everyone wants healing reactions to be minimal or non-existent.

"According to traditional Japanese medicine, however, if there is no meigan (healing reaction), there is no cure. Most reactions involve the body's purging itself of toxins."

Examples of healing reactions (according to Pitchford):

1. Tension or pain may occur in the upper back and neck, which may move upwards to the head, downward across the abdomen, arms, and legs, and eventually to the head top, toes, and fingers. Pain may occur in the internal organs, particularly in the liver area under the right side of the rib cage. Headache is common.

2. Vomiting may occur. Bile or various types of mucus may come up.

3. Digestive imbalances may develop: gas, cramps, diarrhea, etc.

4. Weakness, weight loss, and sensations of cold and/or heat are signs that the body is first strongly eliminating before the building and strengthening phase occurs.

5. Typical emotional reactions include unreasonable impatience, anger, and/or depression.

6. More sleep may be needed during transition, and dreams may be wild.

7. Menstruation sometimes ceases but will resume when the digestion calms and the liver and kidney functions are renewed.

Pitchford suggests foods high in chlorophyll to get through the crisis period.

The process of detoxification is a long one. It can take years. It requires tremendous focus and dedication. We're only a year into it, but our bodies are listening and responding. I can tell it's worth every ounce of energy we're expending.

Maybe I ought to rethink the title for this entry and simply call it, "Expelling for Experts."

EMF Documentary

At least four documentaries were released in 2009 relating to toxicity and health. I have mentioned three of them previously. They include:

Black Mold Exposure, a documentary on the hazards of toxic mold,

Under Our Skin, which focuses on Lyme Disease, and

Food, Inc., which considers the hazards of food production in our country. It has been nominated for an Academy Award for best Documentary Feature.

The fourth relates to electromagnetic fields and health. "Full Signal" focuses on the health effects related to cellular technology. The trailer can be viewed here.

I like what the director, Talal Jabari, says about his own lifestyle changes after filming this documentary:

I own a cellular phone and although I haven’t gotten rid of it, nor do I think I will in the near future, I believe I have started using it a lot more responsibly. And Full Signal isn’t a film that’s going to tell everyone to throw away their phones tomorrow. But rather to think about the necessity of using them. Do we really need to call each other 4 or 5 times on our way to seeing each other? Do we really need to watch a football game on our phones? Do we really need to call home to ask if we’re out of milk? Should your child be playing or talking on a cell phone?

The answer to all of these questions is a resounding "no."

"No" because you are directly impacting your health, your child’s health, and the health of the people living near the infrastructure.

And while I haven’t gotten rid of my phone, I’ll tell you what I have done. I have stopped carrying my phone as often, or answering it as often… and I have eliminated WiFi from my home, which was a painful blow on a convenience level, but not when you have a baby in the house.

It starts with one small step: awareness… and that is what Full Signal is about.

There are even studies that suggest that mold can react in high EMF environments. At a recent Lyme/Autism conference Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt said, "I worked with the main mold researcher in Switzerland. He could measure the amount of mycotoxins produced on a daily basis. One culture we protected with a Faraday cage, the other we left in the room. Three weeks later, we measured. The protected culture had a low amount of mycotoxins. The unprotected had 600 times more mycotoxins. Molds are now exposed to unprecedented amounts of EMF."

All of this can be extremely overwhelming. Our focus has been to create a sleeping sanctuary for our family. According to Klinghardt, he has seen great results in treating autism and Lyme simply by addressing the issue of sleeping with EMFs. For an excellent list of suggestions for reducing the level of exposure during nighttime, see this article by Dr. Joseph Mercola.