The Things We Must Leave Behind

Yesterday, the mold inspectors came out to rip out the cabinets and knock down the drywall. The workers released a handful of expletives before explaining that the copious amount of mold under the sculpted wood and within the walls suggests that it’s been steadily expanding it’s reach for several years. They said that my symptoms perfectly align with those of chronic mold exposure and asked why in hell we hadn’t left. We’ve been told we must dispose of our mattresses, clothing, books, furniture, and any other porous materials in the home, or risk the mold returning. I can’t decipher whether this is a marketing scare tactic or the truth, so today we’re getting a second opinion. We are hopeful that homeowner’s insurance or the HOA will help with the mold removal and the replacement of the infested cabinetry and walls, but we’re not holding our breath.

Five years ago, we discovered black mold growing in the exact same locations and traced it to a leak from the condo above us. Both HOA and the upstairs owner were difficult and we never felt confident that the issue was fully addressed. But, it was soon out of sight, out of mind. Within two months, I had developed a severe case of valley fever and pneumonia, followed by inexplicable tumors and chronic fatigue syndrome, then autoimmune disease and infertility, and now heavy metal poisoning. After years of using valley fever as the scapegoat, I’m now wondering if something else left the door wide open, allowing this string of terrible visitors to make their selves at home. A million times, I’ve asked: “Why do our clean linens always smell musty?” Now, we know. The mold, quite likely, never went away.

Last Thursday, I began my new heavy metal recovery protocol. The protocol includes a modified paleo diet, with a focus on humanely-raised meat, organic vegetables, omega-3 rich oils, and high-antioxidant fruits, as well as supplements to alleviate nutritional deficiencies. I’m not allowed to consume any dairy, grains, beans, or sugar (other than fruit) for at least six months. Five days in, I’m starting to to feel better. While I’m still exhausted, my energy level is more consistent across the day and I feel hopeful that things will only get better. Now, it seems that changing my physical environment may be the next step.

The last five years have been a tangled mess of miscellaneous symptoms affecting every system in my body, from respiratory and cardiovascular to nervous and endocrine. Quite frankly, it’s been a nightmare. The health challenges have cost me career opportunities, relationships, hobbies, and tens of thousands from our “future fund” account. It’s disheartening to consider that, all along, it’s been mold. It’s infuriating to think that the HOA’s penny-pinching and dismissal of concerns is likely a contributing factor. So, I’m not allowing my mind to go there. Rather than react to the news, I choose to respond. There have and will be many valuable lessons from this experience. The biggest reminder thus far is that life is more valuable than possessions. We may need to walk away from our comfy Tempur-Pedic mattress, gorgeous Copenhagen bed, six-foot Andriod Jones painting, special family heirlooms, and beloved book collection. We can’t afford to replace these pieces, but we also can’t afford to carry the mold spores with us into the future.

There is still a long road ahead. We need to find a place to live while our home is torn apart and fumigated, and perhaps–quite simply–a new home. I don’t feel confident that our home will be safe and, as much as we love it, I don’t think I feel comfortable staying. Not when our health is on the line. Not when staying has already come at such a great cost. So, onward and upward! Here’s to a clear root cause and better days to come.

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