Sundog –noun 1. parhelion. 2. a small or incomplete rainbow.

Who I am

More Update:
January 6, 2015 – Finally I think of dating these updates! Well, if you’ve been reading the last few posts then you’ll know that Zain (formerly known as Jeremy) and I are no longer together. We are living in different places now and getting ready to begin our second semesters back to college. I’m still at CSU and have changed my major from engineering to global tourism. I found a love of scuba diving and a dislike for engineering types of math, so it seemed a great way to be happy in life if I obtained a degree in a field where I could learn how to run a dive shop or other touristy thing in a tropical place with great diving. I’ve been loving working out with CrossFit for the last 8 months and have seen huge results. Falkor is doing well too!

Major UPDATE:
It’s been a while since I updated this page and this is all so huge it seemed best to put it on top. I’m well! Woooo! So is Jeremy. In fact, we are so well that we are both returning to University this August 2014 and starting again the adventure towards a bachelor’s degree. I shall be studying mechanical engineering with the hopes of getting into a space program and building things that go zoom off this planet! Jeremy is doing metal smithing and jewelry, he’s found a real love for making jewelry and will be taking that in a whole new and exciting direction.

We’ve a dog now, Falkor, who is a bright happiness in our life. We rescued him from a shelter and he’s rescued us too. Love him!

Biggest yet, we are changing our names. Henceforth, all updates will be as Cat and Zain. For the how this all started and some highlights over the five years I’ve been doing this blog, read on from here!

————————————————-

My name is Lisa and I am a survivor of the devastation multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) can cause to an otherwise healthy and happy life.

In June 2001 I was a very happy woman, completely in love with life and a good man named Jeremy. I had been putting myself through college to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Sciences. My studies had been leading me towards job offers to study birds when I graduated in six months and I felt as though I had finally found my calling in the quiet peace that field researching animals can bring.

That first week of June saw me arriving home from a ten day birding field trip to a very excited dog happy to have me back and an equally excited boyfriend. He had decided while I was gone that he was ready to become more serious by moving in to my apartment with me. It would be less than two months later that we would move out of that same apartment, our health and lives quickly spiraling out of control. There had been something highly toxic in that apartment which caused this. We have our guesses as to the cause, but that is all they are – guesses.

We moved into his father’s home while trying to regroup and find out what was wrong. Whatever the toxic cause was, we were very disturbed and worried when we started noticing that anything made of plastic which had been in the apartment, was now seeming to slowly melt. It is like that moment in the horror movie when the hero finds out that help will not be coming in time and it is only them against all the monsters they face. You just lose a bit of hope right then that everything is going to be alright.

As the summer turned to fall, our symptoms of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) began to take more form and control over our lives. Work was becoming almost impossible to do on a full time basis. I had an injury to my dominant wrist that was refusing to heal and nearly crippling the arm for any use due to pain. In search of help with the multitude of symptoms, Jeremy went to his primary care doctor who he had seen for years. It was recommended he increase his daily intake of water, nothing else. No suggestion of pacing himself, resting, or avoiding his MCS triggers.

In October of 2001, we moved from the town we lived in after having no place left to stay that was not too toxic for our MCS. The few belongings we had kept from the toxic apartment had poisoned anything that came into contact with them, causing us to become more ill every day. Abandoning everything we ever had, including the clothing we wore that day and the shoes on our feet, we started fresh in a different town a few hours away.

For the first two months after our clean start it seemed we may have had a chance. My wrist finally began to recover and I had almost all use back by December. Jeremy was working a physically demanding job but seemed to be slowly adjusting to the strain on his body and having a little more energy. Then through a series of random events, each one more toxic than the last, our reclaimed lives lost all sense of reality. By January we knew again we had to abandon everything after an unfortunate occurrence brought into our home something so toxic that it stripped the wax off the floor anywhere it had been sitting.

January 13, 2002 is a day I will never forget. It is the day that saw us being dropped off at a ten acre piece of undeveloped property Jeremy’s mom owned on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. We had nothing except a tent, a couple of thin blankets, a backpacking stove with a little bit of food, the clothing we wore, and five dollars in our pocket.

That first night was very dark, lonely and terribly cold. As the temperature dropped, we had no way to stay warm but huddle together for warmth while continually sipping hot broth made on our stove.

Over the next few days, some family friends of Jeremy’s mom would come by and bring us food, clothing, and extra blankets. His mom had been out of the country on business when we arrived at her property, but when she returned she helped us to get on food stamps and state disability. We still lived in the tent because though we could have stayed at a few different homes, none of them were safe for our MCS and even a short visit would leave us feeling wrecked and miserable for several days.

This is how life continued for several months until a brief respite from our tent came from an offer my mom made in September 2002. She would adjust her life to accommodate our MCS and CFS. For three months we lived with her in a one bedroom apartment while trying to find a larger place we could all share. It was not easy, but as time passed we were learning how to make it work and having hope that soon we would find a two bedroom rental. We were always very cautious when talking with landlords before going to check a new rental prospect, making sure there was no fresh paint or pesticides used. Then one day a landlord chose to lie to us and we walked into a nightmare of paint fumes and residual flea bombs.

After exactly three months to the day, in December Jeremy and I moved back to his mother’s property and a tent. Once again we had to flee from a home and belongings that were now too toxic for us to continue to be around. His mom was there to help us with more clothing and blankets right away this time and it was less of a shock than the first time we abruptly found ourselves moving into a tent almost a year earlier.

It is in this very same tent from which I write these words nearly seven years later.

Over the years many things have changed, as is the way of life. Less than two years after we left my mom’s home, she would pass away with me too ill to travel and see her while she laid in the hospital for three weeks slowly dying. During that time, we began a fight to retain our state disability payments because our case worker had decided that despite medical evidence, we had given up our very happy lives to live in a tent on undeveloped property and malinger to obtain disability. A label of malingering can be a death sentence to social security disability and so we fought every effort she made to further destroy our lives.

We would survive snow storms that caused our tent to partially collapse with us sleeping inside. A deep freeze for two weeks that turned the edges of our blankets to solid ice and the frozen water vapor of our breathing made the inside of our tent sparkle as though in a crystal cave. Years passed without power or any source of heat, our water was hauled from a spigot over a thousand feet away and through a curving path in the woods. Our only entertainment was occasional books from the local library and a small battery-operated radio that somehow picked up a television channel from Canada.

Any time we left the property to go to town for groceries, doctor trips, or any of the myriad reasons a person leaves their home, we would be faced with the frightening gauntlet of the chemicals people use on a daily basis without concern. The prospect of accidentally bringing home on our clothing some unknown chemical that would cause our MCS to flare horribly and us again lose all that we owned dogged our every step in town. We barely escaped this fate twice before learning how to survive our near weekly trips.

Each trip would also mean bathing with cold water after returning home to wash off all the chemicals we had come in contact with away, regardless of weather. It was pleasant enough in the summer, but come winter time with snow on the ground and having to break the ice crusted over our wash water it took a grim determination to survive by any means necessary.

After receiving word in August 2004 that the hundreds of acres next to us would have copious amounts of herbicide applied to them in as short as three days, we packed up our tent and moved back to five acres Jeremy’s father owns. This time we were not to be sharing his dad’s home as we had when this nightmare began, but instead we pitched our tent in a small patch of woods near a water tap and a dilapidated chicken coop.

The life we set up for ourselves in this tent near the old chicken coop is much the same today as it was five years ago, except for a few major differences.

With the help of a very caring doctor and a kind attorney, we were granted social security disability in late spring of 2005. With our newly stable income, we knew we no longer wanted to live in a tent and thought we finally had the means with which to leave. Fearing a repeat of our rental search nightmare at my mom’s, we decided to use our back payments and a loan through Jeremy’s father to try and build a safe house for ourselves out of alternative building materials. Traditional materials such as plywood, asphalt shingles, and treated lumber were all far too toxic for our ever increasing MCS.

We chose to instead build a load bearing straw bale house. Unfortunately, negligent contractors have now turned our hope of a warm, safe home into a money sink that is three quarters done, too toxic for us to be within 20 feet of it without feeling ill, and no way to afford finishing it. We are now shackled to this tent not only because of our MCS but also from the monthly payments owed on the loan for building. It felt less like being homeless when we could afford to move out should a chemically safe rental have been found, an option now lost to us for the next ten years due to the loan.

Jeremy’s father has helped us to finally halt our loss of health by picking up our groceries and prescriptions, thus allowing us to remain housebound in our low toxic forest environment all but a couple times a year for doctor visits. The internet that runs to the computer in my tent provides for our other life needs such as clothing, supplements, and entertainment.

The same power that allows us to have computers and a light at night, also allows us to cook on a two burner hot plate and have a hot water heater connected to the nearby spigot. With the addition of hot water, we also have access to hot showers and a heat source during the winter. To stay warm, we fill canning jars and bring them to bed with us as an MCS friendly hot water bottle.

However some things have not changed at all. We still have trouble in the winter when it snows; last year saw four feet drop in the space of three days. Living somewhat rurally, the power will go out several times during the winter and this leaves us back to body heat for warmth and the tiny, somewhat MCS toxic camp stove to cook on. Torrential rains can last for two weeks making a life mostly led outdoors very cumbersome and wet. There is also the wildlife in the area which includes bears that come near our camp and mountain lions that we never see but hear about from the neighbors.

Over the last two years we actually began to regain some of our lost health and have hope that maybe, one day, we might actually find a way out of this hole that life put us in and then forgot we existed. This summer saw us try a new supplement on our own and then crash back to the same murky depths that our CFS and MCS had bottomed out in before. Slowly we are creeping back from there again, this time the climb out seems to be a little easier than the first time.

Until this last month, we had not been able to afford treatment from that same talented and caring doctor who helped us to obtain our social security disability. But we finally made the decision after our crash a few months ago, that we couldn’t regain our health alone or on the medical budget building a house had left us with. Finally relinquishing to the inescapable fact that we were not going to be able to scrimp and save enough money to finish the house, we instead started putting our money towards trying to become well.

CFS leaves us mostly bedbound all but a hour or two a day, while our MCS continually causes even simple jobs to become hugely more complicated as we work to avoid the chemicals on most products. Living would be infinitely easier if we were indoors and less chemically sensitive to life.

I have much hope that the new treatments we are both on will bring about a means to leave this tent someday, because so far nothing else has.

UPDATE (long overdue):

It’s nearly 2013 and much has changed since starting my blog over 3 years ago. For the last year and a half, Jeremy and I have been living in Hawaii. Yes! We finally found a path out from the tent in the woods and instead indoors in an amazing place. With this huge change of location has also come a huge change in health. It’s nearly unbelievable how much we have healed since being here. I didn’t know how long the road to health was, nor how bumpy it would be, but I sure am glad I traveled it.

How did we do it? Lots of sunshine, swimming in the warm ocean waters, an excellent diet (100% organic Paleo), a very skilled and caring therapist, and embracing the Gupta Amygdala Retraining program. As to how much our health has improved, I think I’ll wait to say. Many who recover from such long-term illness hesitate to speak too much of their improvement as it can take a while to truly believe with every fiber of your being, just how much better you really are doing.

That the long darkness my finally be at an end and so we wait for dawn’s light to fully warm us before we shout to the world about the miracle we found.

UPDATE December 6, 2013:

We are in Colorado now! Moved here a couple of months ago in preparation of beginning our studies again in college next fall, so in 2014. We wanted to establish residency and get settled before starting such a momentous step in life. Jeremy will be going for a metalsmithing/jewelry program and I shall become a mechanical engineer!

Our health has it’s ups and downs, but is infinitely better than it had been even a year ago. Our MCS symptoms have nearly fully gone and CFS is still present, but passing too. The move from Hawaii here to Colorado was not without it’s trials and these have set us back again in health for the moment. We are now in a safe apartment (first one here in Colorado was not very safe or healthy) and it’s helping us get back to healing once more.

It’s amazing to think that this time next year I will likely be taking General Chemistry, Calculus 2, and Physics at the local University. Wow!

It’s very, very good to be getting well. 🙂

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21 responses

  1. Thank you for sharing your heart-wrenching tale. I send buckets of love to you both, you are true survivors, and thankfully you have had each other to lean on. Very happy that I found your blog through your profile page on Planet Thrive. Thanks again for sharing the photos and stories of your struggle. xx Julie

    December 12, 2009 at 7:27 pm

    • Hi! Very nice to meet you Julie. Thank you for taking the time to post here. 🙂

      December 12, 2009 at 7:55 pm

  2. I just found your blog through Planet Thrive also. What a story! I have lived in Washington, know the Olympic Penninsula well. You guys are tough. I have also lived where it’s that cold.

    You’re a good writer. Thanks for taking the time to share your story. This is how we encourage and support each other. . . . swan . . . .

    January 6, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    • Hello Swan and nice to meet you! 🙂

      Thank you coming by and reading. And especially thank you for posting such a great comment. 🙂

      Have a beautiful day!

      January 6, 2010 at 12:45 pm

  3. Christina

    I just found your add on craigslist which lead me here. Thats a tirrable thing. Do they know what it was that caused it?? Which location are you in? I hope all goes well for the 2 of you. My prayers go out to you

    February 6, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    • Hi Christina. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to post. 🙂

      As for what caused this, the short answer is a toxic apartment because we were renting someplace cheap while putting ourselves through college. Least that was the major starting blow to health.

      Since that time, its been a long succession of other toxic events over the years as each time we became more sensitive to chemicals it made previously ok things suddenly too toxic.

      We are down in Olympia, off in the foothills south of town on Jeremy’s dad’s five acre property in the woods.

      Thank you for the kind wishes and have a beautiful day, Lisa

      February 7, 2010 at 9:55 am

  4. Kimberly

    Found your blog through CL. I’m very sorry for you and your partners conditions and circumstances. I hope someday the both of you are well and can lead a normal life.
    Goodluck

    February 14, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    • Hello Kimberly! I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a reply, thank you! 😀

      If hopes can bring change (and they certainly can a lot of times) then I think Jeremy and I will be well again. I’m very much looking forwards to that day when I wake up and realize we are back in a more normal world than this current one.

      Thank you again for the reply and have a wonderful day!
      Lisa 🙂

      February 15, 2010 at 2:15 pm

  5. sam

    Hi I saw your posting in craigslist in I went to your web i would like to know what area you looking for I have a propperty up gold bar if you are interested please let me know and good luck

    February 20, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    • Thank you for the reply and offer Sam. 🙂

      It looks like Gold Bar is probably a little too remote for us right now. Otherwise it would be a perfect little place with lots of clean air.

      I really want to thank you for the offer though. It brought to light a few obstacles (like getting well enough to reliably drive ourselves around) that need to be resolved before we will be able to have a place to live.

      It warms my heart a lot to know you read my ad and posted here.

      Thank you very much and some big hugs to you Sam,
      Lisa 🙂

      February 23, 2010 at 10:47 am

  6. jen

    hi lisa & jeremy~

    i am so glad to have stumbled acrosss your story.

    i’m just across the Strait from you, over in Canada, and i too have CFS and MCS. if i sit on the beach closest to my house, i can see the Olympics right across from me. the second i saw all those ferns and cedars in your photos, i figured you must be in the PNW.

    my partner and i spent a 6 month winter in a tent on SaltSpring Island for many of the same reasons as yourselves. bumping from one toxic rental to another, over and over again, finally rendered my body so sensitive that i could not tolerate any indoor environment well. i felt better sleeping in the fresh ozonated air of the cedar above our tent, on sand, with the sound of the waves at the door. it was a precarious existence, unsupported by the locals and vilified at times, but i know my body needed to be there.

    i’m excited to have found your blog, and to read more of your story unfolding. i’m indoors now, in a relatively non-toxic apartment… but i wouldn’t say i’m thriving. there are trade-offs, and something of the wilderness is lacking…

    take exquisitely good care of yourselves,
    green blessings,
    j

    March 22, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    • Hello and very nice to meet you Jen! 😀

      Always nice to hear from a neighbor! 🙂

      The cedars have started getting their sap moving just this week and their lovely smell has been permeating the air in the woods. Always a nice time to be outside!

      I know what you mean about feeling like you just needed to be there, I’ve had that thought more than once. Though I get more than a little tired of living this way from time to time, I keep in mind that it is what is best for our bodies at the moment.

      I’m glad to hear you’ve found indoor housing, though I can imagine what some of the trade-offs would be and I’m sorry to hear you are having to deal with them.

      Sending you some outdoor cedar hugs your way, Lisa 🙂

      March 22, 2010 at 10:03 pm

  7. Hey guys,

    I found this today:
    http://www.shelter-kit.com/cabinsandhouses.php

    They may have something that could much better than a tent… also how about an airstream, I hear they are pretty goo0d for MCS…

    all the best!

    andre
    alberta, canada

    April 4, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    • Hello Andre! 😀

      I’ve looked at those sorts of kits for building small cabins, but they all run a fair bit more than we can afford now. Really wish we had known about them several years ago as we could have used them to build a very nice place with the money we’ve spent on the unfinished straw bale home we tried.

      Thank you for thinking of us when you came across them Andre!

      Aye, I have heard the same about airstreams but the money problem comes around yet again. >.< I need to hurry up and win the lottery soon. lol

      Have a beautiful day! Lisa

      April 5, 2010 at 9:45 am

  8. Andrew R. Whipple

    Wow! Could you email me. I have cfs and mcs and am about to start a cross country search for suitable housing….

    Andrew

    November 19, 2010 at 3:17 pm

  9. Cheryl Sell

    Hi! I just found this website and even though your symptoms are different than mine, I can really relate to the different feelings you had about your illness. I have lyme disease and it is frustrating to say the least. I had it for a year before I was diagnosed, and when my dr. got the positive results back from the lab, he told me not to freak out, because with a few weeks of doxycycline, I would be fine. Well, I found out this is farthest from the truth. I am still battling fatigue, depression, overall weakness in my body, and parasites that are biting me I think becauze of my listless immune system. Some days I have felt like you felt, just giving up. I also was wondering if maybe your illness didn’t start with lyme disease. Do you ever remember getting bit by a tick? They call Lyme disease the “great imitator” becauze it can mimic many different diseases till it is diagnosed. And fatigue is definitely one of the things lyme disease gives you, among others. Just a thought. Maybe you should get tested for lyme. I hope your health comes back to you and your boyfriend. If you want to chat, my email is: chevycars60@yahoo.com

    November 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm

  10. Hi Cheryl! 🙂 I have indeed been bitten by ticks, but not tested since the last few bites. There is not a lot of lyme disease here in Washington State, which is likely why I have not been tested. I will write it down now, so I don’t forget to ask my doc about it next visit. 🙂

    I hope you find more health sometime soon too! Big hugs, Lisa

    November 19, 2010 at 7:00 pm

  11. I went to see Dr. Buscher based on your blog. I’ve only seen him once but I wonder if there is anything you did that you really think helped besides diet and Gupta. I’ve gotten steadily worse over the last two years, but have been inspired following your journey from the freezing Washington tent to Hawaii to college in Colorado. So happy for you both!

    December 16, 2013 at 10:33 am

    • Hello!! Sorry to take so long approving your comment, life is a little hectic this time of year. 🙂

      I hope Dr. Buscher can help you, I found at the least he always made me feel well supported and that helped on it’s own.

      Super sorry to hear you have been getting worse. I highly recommend the Gupta program. Over the last month both Jeremy and I have seen some amazing results of 14 months of work, the MCS is almost fully gone. We’ve started being able to use scented soaps at home and in the shower, don’t have trouble at all in most stores, and stopped feeling like I had to shower if I went inside any store for even a few minutes. Life really is improving with less MCS.

      Gupta has helped the most, but also we had a great therapist in Hawaii who helped a lot too. Definitely Gupta though. Best of luck and Happy New Year! 🙂

      December 20, 2013 at 4:25 pm

  12. Tent Dweller.

    Hi! I am so glad that I found your blog in the maze of my internet research. I too got super sick from mold while living in the NW. It’s nice to read about someone that’s been in a similar situation. I’ve been creatively living outside/staying with people/living nomadically/generally feeling terrible for several years now. I noticed that you went to Hawaii at one point. I’m curious to hear a little more about how you did there – I’ve thought about trying my luck there myself. I realize that everyone is different, but I am intrigued that you went from one super damp climate to another, yet somehow managed to make major strides in your recovery. Was mold an issue for you there? Thanks for documenting your experience, you’ve done a great job. Feel free to respond to me via e-mail, or on here.

    January 5, 2015 at 12:30 pm

  13. Cat

    Hello Tent Dweller! Hawaii varies greatly in climate based on the location you are living on the island. I also think the different islands vary too.

    For me, I found Maui to be pretty good on the west side, but the east/rainy side was difficult for mold. When I lived in Haiku, it was ok until the spring and even then it was fine as long as I didn’t go for too many walks in spots that stayed shady. It just wasn’t hot enough to take care of the mold during the spring. I would have enjoyed staying in Haiku, but when trying to find a rental mold did become a bigger problem. I also think I was in a bit less moldy spot in Haiku.

    While living in Pukalani which is more west from Haiku, it was a whole lot drier. We did get times of huge rains, but nothing ever seemed moldy. It was a very nice balance of dry/warm climate, but with some occasional colder and more moist days. I think Makawao is much like that too.

    Further west and in the tourist area, it gets really hot and dry. No mold there at all.

    As for much more east in the Hana region – gorgeous, but lots of mold. I could only go there in mid-summer without a lot of trouble. Too much rain and dense tropical undergrowth.

    It’s really nice with businesses though, there is a lot more fresh air for most of them and I found it easier to shop for groceries, etc.

    As well, there is cane burning and VoG, these can be more problematic for some and also depending on the side of the island you are on. Cane burning only occasionally came up to Pukalani and almost never Haiku. Just shut the doors/windows for a few hours and its usually fine. The vog, I always used molybednium to help with processing the sulfur and did a lot better than other people who were sensitive to it. They also do homeopathic remedies that I hear help with that too. Most of the time it’s not there, but occasionally you’ll get it for a week straight. Amazing sunsets can happen then.

    I’ve know people with MCS there who thrive and others who can’t seem to find what they need, largely because they spend a lot of time in the wet areas. If you stick to Makawao or more west on Maui, then it should be fine. I don’t recommend Paia due to the cane burning being so nearby.

    Also, occasionally the beaches can be a bit mildewy back in the trees, but if you stick to the sand and ocean it is fine.

    Let me know if you have any other questions! This was a good one. 🙂

    Happy New Year and best of luck if you decide on Hawaii! Cat 🙂

    January 6, 2015 at 11:31 am

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