Mystery Diagnosis Follow-Up

Tom and Liana Jones' nightmare was documented this week on the television program "Mystery Diagnosis." Tom is a government research scientist. At one point in his career he worked on a project to detect haptens. (A hapten is a small molecule that can elicit an immune response only when attached to a larger carrier, such as a protein.) The target chosen for that particular study was the mycotoxin aflatoxin B1, which is emitted from the fungus aspergillus. It is also a known carcinogen.

Liana, a former children's pastor and school administrator, mother of five grown children, took a job with a property management company in 2001, soon after the company relocated to a 90-year-old building. In 2002 she moved into a second-floor office. She developed a skin rash (misdiagnosed as shingles). She had severe leg cramps at night. Her fingers locked up when she typed. She became severely fatigued. In 2003 a mole was removed from her left leg. The mole was found to be a Stage 1 melanoma. She developed a post-surgical infection that took ten months to heal.

Soon she had trouble seeing. She noticed memory lapses. She developed sinus problems, which led to breathing difficulties. She developed migraines. In April 2005 Liana went blind in her left eye. That same month a worker submitted an invoice for work done on her office building and mentioned, "There's mold in this building." Tom suggested a mold test, and the findings in Liana's office showed elevated levels of aspergillus/penicillium.

Meanwhile, an allergist suggested a CT scan for Liana's persistent sinus issues. The scan showed the likelihood of a mass. An MRI revealed a skull-based tumor. A biopsy was performed, and Liana was diagnosed with olfactory neuroblastoma. The mass appeared to be cancerous. Tom remained perplexed. Could a mold exposure possibly cause this? Was it possible the experts were wrong?

Liana went back to work part-time and began to expel pieces of black/green/yellow tissue from her sinuses. Tom took them to his laboratory for analysis and determined that the tissue samples contained fungal elements. Meanwhile, Liana continued her cancer treatments.

Tom took the lab results to mold specialist Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, who validated Tom's hypothesis that the mass was in fact a fungal infection.

From 2007 to 2008 Tom and Liana pursued help from other specialists, including Dr. Michael Gray in Benson, Arizona. Dr. Gray initiated an anti-fungal protocol that included anti-fungal nasal sprays. Tom suggested, and Dr. Gray agreed, that they incorporate coconut oil and colloidal silver into the treatment because of their anti-fungal qualities. The mass responded well, and in November 2008 Liana had surgery to remove the remainder of the mass and any remaining spores. On November 10 the final pathology came back "No Tumor Seen."

In the book Surviving Mold, Tom writes:

If I'd listened to the advice of "experts" and their suggested treatments of "cancer," when a mold infection was her problem, I think Liana would have been long gone.

Her story isn't just the usual "I was exposed to mold and now I'm desperately ill." The treatment for her illness nearly killed her. She went blind, and then got the cancer diagnosis; she received chemotherapy and radiation therapy for an illness she didn't have. Some of the best physicians on the East Coast were all wrong about her.

The episode of "Mystery Diagnosis" told this story well, in my opinion. It also brought back painful memories for me as I re-lived our son Reagan's unwarranted surgeries and continued dismissals by doctors. I did, however, wish there had been more emphasis on the rampant nature of illness caused by water-damaged buildings. Liana's story, while certainly rare as it pertains to the specifics of her mass, represents a whole host of individuals who have been misdiagnosed and unable to find help. Ninety-six percent of all sinus infections are fungal in nature, according to a study done by the Mayo Clinic in 1999.

Still, Tom and Liana have their lives back. And their nightmare will help many others make the critical connection between indoor air quality and health.

Below is a link to an excerpt from this January 5th episode of "Mystery Diagnosis," titled "Bizarre Nasal Growth."