Anniversary Reflections

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We celebrated our one-year anniversary yesterday. One year to the day since we walked away from our computers, stuffed animals, Christmas decorations, and thousands of memories. "Treat it as a fire," we were counseled. Below is our kitchen as we left it that night.

We took our cell phones with us. Mine was 2 months old. The battery burst two days after we left. The Verizon guy said he'd never seen anything like it.

We left our home without an air test or an ERMI test. We left because we were sick. We left because my tongue was black and Reagan's vertigo would not go away. We left because the migraines were no better and my memory was getting worse. We tried twice to remediate the mold. We replaced virtually all the carpet, re-tiled the bathrooms, replaced our clothes, cleaned the vents, and spent thousands of dollars. But the rashes remained.

We left on a Saturday night and Monday morning I took the kids to school from a hotel. Life would go on as normal. All we needed was to get away from the house and all would be well. I knew nothing about our genetic pre-disposition.

We moved into a rental home the next weekend. Much smaller, but brand new and safe. Our community graciously showered us with gift cards, furniture, and clothing. I had hesitations about the used clothing. The stress of creating a new environment was just beginning.

I found myself waking in the middle of the night with accusations piercing my soul. "You fool. You didn’t need to leave. Your kids aren't that sick. Your house is fine. What if people are helping you for no reason?" The doubts hovered relentlessly. Chris, who was tough to convince at first, became my voice of reason and truth. "Look at your timeline. Look at the symptoms."

The kids didn’t get better as hoped. My rash was improving but my depression was not. We took Colin to the emergency room 10 days after we vacated. His head was "exploding." I had numerous email exchanges with our toxicologist. He used phrases such as fungal colonization and chemical sensitivity. Foreign concepts to a mold rookie.

We needed medical help. I tried through our family physician. He knew something about mold. A relative's home was demolished because of it. I asked for specific lab tests. I set up a conference call with a mold specialist. Little response. Weeks went by. I tried our pediatrician. I begged her to write a referral to a mold specialist in Arizona. She chastised and scolded me. Discouraged me from "traipsing off to Arizona." Besides, she said, insurance won't cover this "in a million years."

She was right about the insurance company. Wrong about the help. I took Colin and Reagan to Arizona. Within the first hour of our first exam I got the answers I desperately needed. Pieces of the puzzle were coming together. We decided to "vacation" in Arizona for a few weeks to learn the new regimen of diet, supplements, and nasal sprays.

Weeks turned to months and obstacles came our way. One right after another. Slowly the older children made their way to the desert. And the reality of our mold exposure hit. We were sicker than we realized. Even Chris did not come through unscathed.

Two nights ago we gathered as a family and talked about this last year. The 5 houses, the decisions, and our progress.

"We haven't had to go to the hospital in a long time."

"The ringing in my ear has gone down."

"I can read again."

"Mom's memory is better."

"I can sleep."

I no longer wonder if it was a good decision to leave. I can't imagine if we hadn't. I marvel that we have a new chance at life.

And I look at the lessons so painfully learned. Symptoms are a gift. We have to be proactive when it comes to our health. An open mind is a necessity. Environmental illness is rampant.

Obstacles can be a source of despair. Or opportunity.

I don't know what this next year holds for our family. Uncertainties abound and health issues remain. Roadblocks are surely just ahead. I take heart in these words of Henry Ward Beecher,

"Affliction comes to us all, not to make us sad, but sober; not to make us sorry, but to make us wise; not to make us despondent, but by its darkness to refresh us as the night refreshes the day; not to impoverish, but to enrich us."