A New Fork in the Path

Earlier this year, we received a final report stating that “re-occupancy is ill-advised.” The thing is, we never left our home. We had recently tested for mold spores, which we later learned stemmed from damage that occurred prior to installing a new roof in 2014, seven years earlier.

I believe that biotoxin illness is the final piece of the puzzle in my health journey. In early 2015, a severe valley fever infection ravaged my body. By late 2017, the infection had spread to the soft tissue of my legs. For the next two years, I struggled physically, cognitively, and socially. I blamed it on my aging 20-something body, and hissed at my boyfriend when he suggested there was something wrong. I was deeply in denial; I didn’t want to be sick. Eventually, something gave and I sought help.

In 2019, at age 30, and after four years of wading through quicksand and being told that it was probably psychosomatic, I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a condition I knew nothing about but is basically what it sounds like.

By mid-2020, after one year on a strict diet and supplement protocol, I was able to go on my first walk in years without a taut, burning sensation coursing through my body. In 2021, we investigated mold illness–which multiple doctors had previously dismissed as a possibility–and the testing showed my my partner and I were both genetically susceptible to mold, with labs suggestive of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS). Bingo!

Earlier this year, we discovered and removed mold from three locations in our home, including a wall so water-damaged that the support beam no longer touched the ground. My partner and I have both been following the Shoemaker Protocol for several months now. Follow up labs, scans, and test show marked improvement. While there are still periodic symptom clusters, I have been feeling like a new person. Given that most cells of the body are replaced every 7 to 10 years and I only began targeting my body at the biochemical level 2.5 years ago, I hopeful for continued healing, physical strength, and mental focus.

If I’m being honest with myself, my boyfriend deserves much of the credit for my recovery. He saw my post-infection decline and insisted for years that I wasn’t at my best. He butted up against my denial until, one day, he broke through. He has spent hundreds of hours reading PubMed articles and watching medical lectures, investigating topics that my top-in-the-country doctors couldn’t bother to look into. Each clue and each small step forward was due to his caring about me. I’m realizing only now the importance of having an advocate.

When my body was at it’s lowest point (mid-2017 to mid-2020), I tried to re-frame my illness as a sign to slow down and take care of myself. Yet, I waffled between that and a pitiful plea: “why me?”. I sought out online forums, but promptly exited. While many offered helpful tips and support, there was a lot of resentment and envy towards those with healthy, able bodies. I needed a realistic plan and the belief that I could help my body, and I wasn’t going to find it there.

I feel free like the heaviest of shackles have been removed. I’m not 100% recovered, but I sense that I’m nearing the finish line and I could not be more pleased. It’s all I can think about lately. Mary Oliver famous line keeps coming to mind: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” For the first time in years, I feel like I have a choice–limitless options, with no fear of judgement.

I grew up in the desert and I feel now as I did my my childhood on the first rain of the season, rain soaking every inch of me as thunder booms in the distance and the pink dye seeps from my brand new sneakers into a newly-tinted puddle. And I am wearing the stupidest, shit-eating grin because experiencing something that feels rare and unexpected can do that.

Recovering from a chronic illness feel like standing in the pouring rain after a long drought. It was never inevitable, but rather a gift. There is a fork in the road, and for first time in a long time, I’m not limited in which path I can choose.

10 thoughts on “A New Fork in the Path

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  1. Holy hell, what an ordeal! I think these microbial infestations are at the root of so much chronic illness today, and because they’re often hidden, these illnesses go on for a very long time. I’ve seen a lot in my private practice (I’m a doc who absolutely looks at the possibility of microbial exposure), and you’re definitely not alone! I’m so sorry you went through that – and so relieved that you found answers and improvement! Good on you for steering away from the negative groups and remaining solution-focused. I hope your healing continues strong! 🙏🌈🍀🙌❣️

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    1. I completely agree! I had years of crushing fatigue and brain fog, which over a dozen doctor’s suggested I was imagining. It’s not a fun place to be as a patient. I’m so grateful for doctors, like you, who are willing to look at the full picture of health!!! I really do believe microbial exposure was at the root of my (and my partner’s) health challenges, and I hope that the next generation of physician’s are more willing to consider it as an possibility. 🙏🌈❤️

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      1. I hope so too 👏👏. Tides are changing, even if slowly. There’s a branch of medicine called Functional Medicine that is already doing this, and it’s a growing segment 😁. I have been practicing that discipline for almost 12 years and I love it! Microbes are nothing to sneeze at, very difficult to deal with, and tend to leave parting gifts long after they’re gone. May the force be with you both and please don’t hesitate to reach out if needed 💓

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      2. Yes, I love functional medicine!! I attended free lectures by Dr. Andrew Weil at as an undergrad (circa 2008), my boyfriend watched functional medicine lectures online (Dr. Jay Neilson, Dr. John Whitcomb) that lead to my diagnosis and treatment. Western medicine failed me, so I worked with two local functional medicine doctors and two via telemed. It costs am arm and a leg, but had been worth every penny. You are doing such important work, and you’re ahead of the curve!! I think functional medicine is the future 👏👏 (and may one day be covered by insurance), and the functional medicine doctors I’ve worked with are looking ahead to longevity medicine, mold/CIRS are the root of illness, and peptides/plasmalogens. It’s an exciting time to be in the field, and I bet you see far more progress in your practice than traditional physicians. 💓

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      3. Yeah!! Andrew Weil is the bomb 😁. Western medicine has its (narrow) purpose (lol), but is way over-utilized while more effective interventions get suppressed. Thank you so much for your kind words 😍. I do love what I do. I’m grateful to operate such that I enjoy a partnership-like relationship with my patients. I agree, it’s definitely the (correct) way of the future, because mainstream conventional medicine is just getting scarier, hospitals treating patients in ways that are decried even for violent criminals as cruel and inhumane. Nobody’s so much as uttered those words regarding innocent sick people in hospitals. My goal is *prevention*. Teaching patients how to take a proactive approach to their health in ways that are fun, doable, accessible, practical, low-tech, low/no-cost (or at least budget friendly), etc. I really do see amazing progress in my patients, which is always a miracle to me, that the body can heal like that. FM patients age backwards. It’s awesome 😁😍🙏🍀🌈🍻😎

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      4. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. Western medicine is integral for acute ailments, but I’ve found functional medicine to be far more effective for chronic conditions. I like you more and more with each comment you leave! 😍 You are exactly the kind of practitioner people need…someone who will work with them to identify those small, but life-changing habits that can extend life-span and health-span. 😁🙏

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  2. You’ve had quite the journey and I couldn’t imagine having your ability and strength. I often hear from others suffering that it’s your own strength and those around you (as you say, your advocates) that help pull you through.

    So glad you’re over the hump! ❤️

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