Invisible: Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

It all started with a major health crisis…

Years ago, I found myself in an almost inexplicable health predicament that dramatically changed my lifestyle.

Courtesy of those events, I sincerely offer my expertise and practical experience for your healthy living benefits.

Well, what happened, you ask?

I woke up one morning feeling terrible. My throat was burning, my head hurt, I felt strangely weak all over and it was hard to concentrate. Talk about brain fog! My throat really hurt. I looked in the mirror to see that the back of my throat was flame red. And this was no strep or cold. I’d never, ever felt like this.

I also noticed a distinct smell that pervaded the home…especially when I opened the kitchen cabinet doors. The odor was extremely pungent. It made the inside of my nose sting when I breathed. It smelled, well…toxic.

Just the day before, we had loaded up our young family in Virginia and moved to Jacksonville, Florida so that my husband could pursue his post graduate degree in seminary while working at a church as an associate pastor. I would teach part-time in the day school as well as help with the church’s music ministry.

Trying to save money and still have enough space for our family, we had decided to buy a brand new mobile home. It was delivered straight from the factory. Seemed like a good idea and was certainly a money saver compared to high-rent beach housing. At least we would have something to show later on for money spent, when we resold the trailer to buy a home.

Yep, it happened to me!

After waking up sick that first morning, it only took a total of 10 days in the trailer to permanently effect my health for the rest of my life.

Fortunately, I was able to find a medical doctor back in those days who also had a newly developed interest in the emerging field of environmental medicine. I underwent a series of traditional allergy testing as well as a complete panel of newly developed challenge tests for chemical sensitivities.

A thorough analysis of the onset of my symptoms was also completed. It was determined that I had sustained a serious chemical injury through exposure to unsafe building materials that laced the interior of our new house trailer…especially formaldehyde. My immune system had been severely compromised.

At that time in the U.S., there was an even higher amount of formaldehyde allowed in certain construction materials before more regulations were imposed on manufacturers. Unfortunately, this has not altogether solved the chemical toxicity found in many mobile homes and RVs today. (Remember the toxic FEMA trailers used for housing after Hurricane Katrina?)

I realized that the noxious fumes I had smelled every time I entered the trailer was the outgasing of formaldehyde and a variety of petrochemicals from particle board cabinets, carpeting and glue laden paneling throughout.

And only God knows what else was in there!

Even my husband noticed the odor and felt his nose and eyes burn every time he entered the trailer. Thankfully, he didn’t have the same long term health damage as I. Neither did our very young children.

At that time, I was diagnosed with Environmental Illness (EI) or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), as it is more commonly known today. I was also a ‘universal reactor’ who suffered mild to extreme reactions to just about every chemical, natural allergen or food to which I was exposed at any given time.

Another medical doctor, Internist Dr. Dino Delaportis in Hagerstown, MD discovered that I had the Epstein Barr virus which further explained my weakened autoimmune reponses.

Still searching for help several years later, I was treated by noted environmental physician in Charleston, SC, Dr. Allen Lieberman of the Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

I have twice undergone a complete panel of conventional allergy testing, have tried allergy shots, allergy immunotherapy, various nutritional support protocols, and have applied total avoidance of all substances that trigger the most severe reactions.

A New Normal: The Invisible Illness

Thus began a way of life that has been everything but ‘normal’ these past years. Avoiding daily, common health obstacles that most people take in stride and having to find alternatives to traditional living standards in order to survive has taken a mammoth amount of energy and resources over the years.

My husband and I have built 3 “healthy homes”, renovated a “healthy travel trailer”, and are currently renovating a 4th healthy home. We have made many treks to various doctors, tried many health products and treatments.

We have dealt with the stigma and social misunderstandings that are typically associated with this less publicized disability. (Believe me, this is a socially inconvenient illness! ) If it had not been for the consistent support of my husband and family, as well as faith in God, I would not have made it.

Though still a less widely recognized health condition, finally Environmental Illness and MCS are now officially recognized by the Federal Government as a disability.

Other often overlapping conditions such as Sick Building Syndrome, Chemical Injuries, Gulf War Syndrome, Chronic Fatique Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Allergies, Asthma and other related illnesses are gaining wider recognition by the medical community as often being toxic induced illnesses.

Today, my condition is generally manageable, even though my health is always fragile and daily life is often a quiet challenge. Sometimes I appear rather healthy to casual acquaintances, which can be an added burden in itself because of societal ignorance about the condition.

From the choices of personal products, clothing and foods, to furniture, automobiles and housing, learning to live nontoxic and natural has became more than just an optional health choice…it has become an absolute necessity for survival.

It is now my daily lifestyle.

Welcome to Wisely Green!

Out of these experiences, my husband and I have had many opportunities to answer questions, pass along tips, information, and practical advice to others who want to live green, healthier or toxic free for whatever reason. I’ve even been able to help others who suffer from various related health conditions to find medical support and relief.

Choosing to live healthy has its perks for any person or family. Disease prevention, better quality of life and natural healing options are just some of the best reasons.

Wisely Green is an online resource where specifically toxic free, natural and green living information, community and personal help can be found.

I welcome any questions or comments you may have, so don’t hesitate to interact on this site or to contact me.

I always promise to provide information that I really believe is true and of value, which is provided by well respected experts, or of which I have personal experience. And if there’s something that I don’t know…I will find out for you!

Here’s to your best life,


P. S. Orr, Green Living Coach & Healthy House Specialist

What Do You Think? Don't forget to log in to Facebook to comment. :)