Allergic to Life

Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and HopeAllergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope by Kathryn Chastain Treat

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Not only is Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope a wonderful resource and reference guide for people who are sensitive to chemicals but it also serves to show ordinary people what it’s like to live a life while sensitive to most everyday substances. It reads like a medical thriller, for it seems like poor Treat is doomed from the start, yet it’s also warm and engaging enough for the reader to feel as if they are actually there, experiencing it along with the Treat.

Treat’s struggles read true to life and are indicative of the challenges that many people, in 2013 and beyond, will have to face. In some circles it is said that only people who believe in climate change (and our planet’s protection and care) believe in environmental illness/chemical sensitivities, yet, it’s impossible not to when the impact of this medical condition touches on your own life–or that of someone you care for. This book shows exactly what it is like for those people and their families. It’s truly an environmental issue and the book touches on that briefly.

What I liked most were the explanations of the various treatments, most especially Dr William Rae’s of the Environmental Health Centre, in Dallas (EHC-D). EHC-D, a medical facility whose treatments focus emphasis is the relationship of health and disease to environmental factors; here is where Treat underwent many treatments that enable her to live a more functional life, today. The way she has managed her condition over the years (and still does) has bought her great success. They haven’t cured her but they have paved the way for her to be able to have some exposures without becoming completely disabled, which has lead her into a new appreciation for life, family and joyful hobbies. For someone who was ‘allergic’ [read, chemically sensitive] to everything, she has come a long way, being able to tolerate so many new things.

For anyone suffering with this condition, this book is a must read, if only because the treatments used by Treat are ones that are actually science-backed, peer-reviewed methods, rather than many of the ‘pseudo science’ type methods that come in and out of fashion in the Wellness industry; and while many of those methods take advantage of a subset of society who will do/try almost anything to get well so as to attempt to live life with some semblance of normalcy, these treatments seem the real deal (if you have the money).

With the use and misuse of toxic chemicals rising, this condition is sure to touch the lives of more and more people in the future. For those unlucky souls, Treat’s book shines like a beacon of hope on a dark night in stormy seas for anyone who feels lost amongst the mass of information–and misinformation–that’s out there.

It really is mind boggling how much of an impact being environmentally ill can have on a person’s life. But the way the author has dealt with it and come out of it is a great example of how to survive through such turmoil. It’s a fantastic read, one that I’m sure to refer to again in the future. The perfect gift for anyone going through this type of illness; whether that be toxic mould illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), mild chemical sensitivity, allergies or any other immune disorder where foods, chemicals or other environmental factors impact on the health of an individual.

Also something else I’ve found that’s been of help, the author’s blog, allergictolifemybattle, where there is a wealth of information and support from the author and like-minded followers.

UPDATE: my local allergy and chemical sensitivity support group, AESSRA, has a copy available on loan from their library!

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Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Book Review: Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Causes, Effects, Personal Experiences and ResourcesUnderstanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Causes, Effects, Personal Experiences and Resources by Els Valkenburg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I inhaled this book in one sitting, literally. I gassed myself on the petrochemical inks used in the printing of it; because I wanted to know how, what, why MCS. (Not that I’m an MCS-er (cause like, it doesn’t bloody *exist* here in Australia; yet, contradictory to this non consensus on an actual diagnosis, I’ve met plenty of these walking-talking-MCS wounded myself!) but I have been tested and diagnosed as sensitive to chemicals, so I just wanted to find some help relevant to my situation, seeing it’s so bloody similar?!)

Although insightful and engaging, this book was an intensely annoying read because, although it contains a whiff of delightful little morsels of helpful information, ultimately, it’s not as ‘resourceful’ as the title suggests: the links referred to in the book are outdated; therefore, some of the references are not able to be located using a Google search. This book was released in 2009, so the information should still be current. (So to all those aspiring authors out there – you know who you are –  make sure the sources and links you quote as references are able to be followed up on.)  However, I did enjoy reading about the suggestions for using Tyvek to cover furniture, and the use of Tyvek suits for visitors to wear if they happen to have perfume on, but this protection measure would not do anything to prevent the air being contaminated by the perfume. Would it? And besides, who lets fragrance-wearing people into their home if they, themselves, are sensitive to it? Oh, of course, that’s it: Valkenburg must have visitors who have it in for her, just like I do occasionally. (Yes, Aunty Betty, I’m talking ’bout you!) You know the type: the “I’m-not-wearing-any-LeDoucheDaSmellyArse-Designer-Fragrance-today,” types. (Said from behind teeth lying through pong emanating out VOCs packed with enough synthetic musks and phthalates to supply a Greenpeace Investigation of Chemicals in Perfumes.  (If you are interested in this Tyvek idea, there is a woman using it to protect herself from mould spores, which she is highly sensitive to; and I can’t recommend her tips highly enough. She knows her stuff!)

Valkenburg makes many suggestions regarding helpful products and services for people with Environmental Illness (EI), chemical sensitivities, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) (which really are all the same illnesses, it just depends on which country you live in, and what the doctors there tell you!). Some of the suggestions were new to me, but most are common knowledge for anyone who has had to live with this for many years (like I have. Twice). There is not a lot of lateral thinking, which I found disappointing as I was really looking for some new ideas. I guess I’ll just have to stick with avoiding chemicals, walking on the beach, and covering everything with foil, taking supplements, wearing a mask, and in the mean time, hope to hell that I can recover. Again.

And another thing, pedantic I know, the mask that Valkenburg wears on the cover is not one listed as available from any sources in the book or one that I’ve ever seen. Anywhere. Ever. She does make it look fashionable though, in that rich autumn berry colour, and I really, really want one like that. But alas, it’s not discussed in the book. The only masks are the 3M, I can Breathe, and the other ‘ugly fugly’ ones that we can get here, in Australia too.

Furthermore, I would liked to have seen some coping strategies and some tips on getting people who wear fragrance to not wear it. (I guess I’ll just have to write a post about that subject myself. When I’ve mastered the art of this task, of course!)

The foreword is by Greenpeace, which is probably why I bought the book in the first place. I’d follow Greenpeace to the end of the earth (or to the saving of it.).

Overall, Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Causes, Effects, Personal Experiences and Resources is a fast yet dense devouring, leaving the reader feeling that MCS is a real and severely debilitating illness that needs to be taken seriously right now. The topic is given extra weight when it is the writer, who themselves is suffering, and putting their energy into writing such a book for the benefit of those who suffer like themselves in having to deal with what is fast becoming a modern epidemic.

I can only recommend this book to people newly chemically sensitive because the rest of us know most of what is in this book. I still gave it five stars (cause I’m good like that!). If you’d like more up to date information, and to find out about the hottest book on this exact subject about to hit my shores and yours, head on over to here.

Understanding Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Causes, Effects, Personal Experiences and Resources is available from Amazon and all good bookstores.

View all my reviews

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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