Celebrating a fallen MCS queen

Environmental illness can be challenging in a way that is hard for others to relate to. Especially when one becomes reactive to the ubiquitous chemicals in modern life, there is a terrifying loss of safe spaces, over and over. This is traumatizing. When people are ignorant enough to discredit your experience as “psychosomatic,” a second trauma is experienced.

For example, when you Google “MCS” or “Multiple Chemical Sensitivity”, Google will suggest other questions in the “People Also Ask…” section, such as “Is MCS real?” and “Is MCS a mental illness?”

Please. I am having none of this.

Today I feel like commemorating the life of my friend Candace Covington, whose 44th birthday would have been this week. An illness started her chemical sensitivity when she was just in her 20s. Because the illness is so multi-factorial and complex, there is a lot of misunderstanding. It is way too easily dismissed as psychosomatic (especially in women) by people who don’t understand the physiology. So here’s a little primer on multiple chemical sensitivity.

  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Rashes
  • Inflammation
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Chronic pain
  • Flushing 
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Fast heart beat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Sweats
  • Abdominal pain
  • An illness, injury or massive mold exposure can kick this off. (Mold kicked it off in my body.) It is extremely difficult to “turn off,” thereby requiring a lifestyle of avoidance of the substances that cause these reactions. When I say “requiring,” I mean it is totally mandatory and non-negotiable if one wants to stay alive and feel ok.
  • Where can you go to avoid 80,000 chemicals? The wilderness is literally the only solution to truly, fully recover. (It DOES work. You heal. Then you manage the reactivity.) Otherwise there are lots of meds and stopgaps. You have to go back in time to the dwindling places that have not yet been polluted. (The wildfires in the west are being fought with flame retardants, one of the worst possible chemicals for chemically and mold-sensitive people, thereby further limiting our options.)
  • MCS absolutely has a genetic/epigenetic underpinning, being informed in real time by a person’s genetic ability to clear toxins through various pathways (sulfation, methylation, glucaronidation) using genes such as MTHFR, CYP450, SOD, GST, PON and NOS. “Metabolic parameters indicating accelerated lipid oxidation, increased nitric oxide production and glutathione depletion in combination with increased plasma inflammatory cytokines should be considered in biological definition and diagnosis of MCS.”
  • We are just now getting to an era of being able to measure real-time epigenetic responses to environment with Dr Shoemaker’s GENIE test. It’s not perfect but it’s a breakthrough. This isn’t looking at your predispositions, it’s revealing which genes are activated and expressing in that moment.
  • And there’s your sixth chromosome, which holds a whole bunch of human leukocyte antigen factors that govern your innate and adaptive immune responses.
  • Your Innate (old, non specific) and Adaptive (new, specific) immune systems can slip away from each other and stop communicating well. Th1 dominant and your innate immune system flares and tends towards autoimmunity. Th2 dominant and your allergies go haywire. Didn’t know that could happen? It does. How do you fix that?
  • If someone has a history of trauma on top of these genetic vulnerabilities, (and seriously, who doesn’t?) the autonomic nervous system can become permanently altered. This means the vagus nerve creates disrupted cell signaling that can impair the parasympathetic function, making it almost impossible to calm down or sleep deeply. Ever. Yes, it’s fucking psychological when you can’t find a safe place anywhere. But it is also physiological.
  • “Approximately 47 percent of the U.S. population, 150 million Americans, suffered from at least one chronic disease, as of 2014.[3] Almost 30 million Americans are living with five or more chronic diseases.[4]” Let’s look at the fastest growing one:
  • After 30+ years of Alzheimer’s research, Dr. Dale Bredesen has concluded that no less than 50% of people (probably much more– my opinion) who struggle with impaired cognition are dealing with a toxic component (5 elements: infections, organic and inorganic chemicals, heavy metals, mold toxins and viruses.) Yes, it is reversible, but you need to understand it before you can address it.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association is aware of the scope of the problem (Check out page 11 of this report.) But the enormous sums that have been spent on 400 failed drug trials tell me they still don’t understand the etiology. Hmm, and what’s going on at the FDA with Biogen’s drug?
  • If you are getting my drift, there were over 47 million people worldwide in 2015 suffering from dementia and that is projected to rise to 76 million in 2030 and 145 million in 2050. (pg.13) Half of those people have a toxic component (even though 9 out of 10 are breathing polluted air?) And who thinks MCS is psychosomatic? Who’s crazy?

    This is a public service announcement in honor of Candace’s life because she did not get the help and understanding that she could have had because her illness is a “new paradigm” illness. It is an illness of the future (which we are already in, but which the current medical paradigm has not caught up to.)

    Candace was living on the edge of survival, sleeping in her truck, for more than 2 decades. Some massive contaminations removed from her the only safe spaces that she had fought so hard to keep. And she gave up. I don’t blame her one bit. I am sincerely happy that she is free.

    She is worth honoring because she let this incredibly absurd, dystopian situation soften her. She became kinder, more generous. She worked hard and created her own business, the Creosote Bush Salve company. She lived in Texas and got no public assistance. She felt guilty for being sick.

    I don’t feel guilty.

    I feel determined. (Can you tell?) I feel like calling this what it is. If you are sick with a complex chronic illness, I see you. You need a clean, safe place to heal and become educated on how this all came to pass. You deserve dignity and safety and truth. You can use this experience to heal and grow.

    Rachel Carson was right.

    Happy Birthday Candace. Enjoy those wings, darlin! ❤

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