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Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope

Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope

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Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope

462 página
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Lançado em:
Aug 22, 2013


Imagine that the very food you eat and the beautiful carpet on your floors start to make you feel violently ill. Your contact lenses cause your eyes to burn and water uncontrollably. Trace amounts of mold on other people's clothing cause you to become unable to hold a thought or get it from your brain to your mouth during an everyday conversation.
The life you once knew is gone and you have become a prisoner of unexplainable and severe allergies and sensitivities. In this new life you can no longer shop or visit friends in their homes because there are too many chemicals and fragrances there. You become plagued by one mystery infection after another and no doctor or specialist seems to be able to give you any explanation of what's causing your terrifying symptoms. Depression sets in and becomes your constant companion as you try to cope with the stress of being sick and of struggling to live within your newfound limitations.
"Allergic to Life: My Battle for Survival, Courage and Hope" is the story of one woman's journey through a battle to reclaim her life and overcome depression caused by an exposure to toxic mold in her workplace.
Lançado em:
Aug 22, 2013

Sobre o autor

Kathryn was a vibrant and active 44-year-old stay-at-home mother of two when she decided to venture back into the workplace. Though she had been out of the workforce for 18 years, Kathryn had always been very active in community events – PTA, school board and the local 4-H club – and was always the first to volunteer to help out friends or family. Little did she realize that this opportunity for professional growth and financial independence would force her through a never ending series of battles with the medical and legal community, make her a prisoner in her own home, and mire her in severe depression. After workplace exposure to mold caused severe immune system dysfunction, Kathryn’s world turned upside down and nothing would ever be the same. She was forced to give up her most treasured possessions and was no longer able to be the active person she always had been. Relationships were tested and many did not survive. Defeat always seemed close at hand as illness thrust her into a battle not only for independence, but for her life. Kathryn’s story of self-doubt, loss of identity, and the pain of skepticism – from the medical and legal profession – is a heart-wrenching journey of endurance, hope, and hard-won triumph. Her experience with mold exposure gives her a unique perspective on the physical and emotional effects of mold exposure. Read her story and learn how she was able to overcome these many obstacles to become an advocate for her own health. Visit Kathryn: www.kathryntreat.com

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Allergic to Life - Kathryn Chastain Treat


To Life

My Battle for Survival, Courage, and Hope

Kathryn Chastain Treat

AuthorHouse™ LLC

1663 Liberty Drive

Bloomington, IN 47403


Phone: 1-800-839-8640

© 2013 by Kathryn Chastain Treat. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author.

Published by AuthorHouse 08/16/2013

ISBN: 978-1-4918-0431-5 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4918-0428-5 (hc)

ISBN: 978-1-4918-0427-8 (e)

Library of Congress Control Number: 2013913994

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.






Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Perspectives From My Daughters

Sarah’s Words

Laura’s Words


Books I Have Read



I dedicate this book to my loving husband, Rick; daughters, Sarah and Laura; grandchildren, Sadie, Kallie, and Rhett; sister, Yonona; and parents, Curt and Ila, for whom I struggled through this hideous nightmare. Without them, I would have simply given up.

I also dedicate this to all my environmental illness survivor friends: Allyson, Ann, Anne, Carol, Debbie, Elva, Jackie, Jennie, Joan, Letty, Libby, Lisa, Liz, Mavis, Patricia, Susi, and Wendy. You are survivors of an illness few understand, and you should all be proud of who you are and the strength and courage you have shown despite all the ups and downs.


M y biggest thank you goes to Rick, my wonderful husband of 37 years. As my world was falling apart, Rick was there to hold me up and give me the courage to keep on fighting. When it would have been easier for him to just walk away, he stayed. He worked harder than anyone I know to make things as safe and easy for me as he could.

My daughters, Sarah Wass and Laura Treat, have been amazing as my life was turned upside down and our normal routines and pleasures had to be abandoned. My parents and sister have done whatever task I have asked of them and without judgment. My son-in-law, Jason, immediately accepted my abnormal life and made sure that he did what was necessary to keep from making me ill. He also took time away from his life to accompany Sarah to Dallas for a week when I needed help. My granddaughters, Sadie and Kallie, have taken grandma’s limitations and oddities in stride. Sadie has even reminded her younger sister not to use certain products because they might make grandma sick. I am sure my sweet little grandson Rhett will follow the example being set by his older sisters.

My parents, Curt and Ila Chastain, have been there for me whenever I needed anything and to offer support to Rick when I was away in Dallas so much. My sister, Yonona Roach, has given me encouragement and a shoulder to cry on when I needed it.

Ted Waitt, Laura’s boyfriend, also accepted my crazy life and routines immediately, which included wearing a tyvek suit to come into my house. Ted took on the huge task of editing this novice writer’s book so that you all could read my story.

Terry helped me with my shots when I was afraid to give them to myself and made the most wonderful corn-free cashew brittle. Thank you to my friend Victoria, who shopped for me and sent me card after card after card while I was away from home. Thanks to Loretta for counseling me in my deepest darkest days and helping me with the title for this book. Thank you to Sharon for all the prayers and cards you sent me.

Thank you to Richard Trudeau for taking the photo used on the cover of this book, to Richelle Pimentel for my beautiful cover design, and to George Bertaina for editing the photos you will see in the book.

Thank you to all my doctors and medical care professionals who dedicated a big chunk of their time caring for me. I would like to thank Dr. Butler, who put me in the path of Dr. Spitzer and who treated me for my everyday ailments with patience, understanding, and faith. Thank you Dr. Spitzer for never thinking I was crazy and being willing to learn all you could about this disease, my sensitivities, the mold that started it off, and for searching out and sending me to the most amazing bunch of doctors, including Dr. M and Dr. Rea. Dr. M was the first doctor I saw that understood mold and its effects on the human body. Dr. M is no longer with us and is truly missed by me and all who were fortunate enough to work with him. I would like to thank Dr. William Rea for being a pioneer in environmental illness and saving my life; no one who has truly dealt with the disease as I and countless others before me have, can truly appreciate all that he does. Dr. Rea and his amazing team are what make the Environmental Health Center in Dallas the place to go to. Dr. Rea put me in touch with three wonderful women—Dr. Carol Cole, Deborah Singleton, and Dr. Katherine Henry. I would like to thank them all. Dr. Cole’s calming effect when I was in the depths of despair, and her willingness to continue to work with me long distance, has made a huge difference in my emotional state. Deborah Singleton, founder of the Arasini Foundation, and her team: Judith Lyle, Terri Ford, Laura Sarna, and Christy Hart saw me through some very rough times and horrible reactions. Through their efforts, I have learned to listen to my body more and work harder to keep it in a balanced state. Dr. Henry, another doctor who works with environmental illness, has helped me deal with my hormonal imbalance and given me one more perspective in treating my illness. Dr. Rea also found the most amazing gynecologist for me, Dr. Walter Evans. Dr. Evans undertook the task of surgery on me when I couldn’t find anyone willing to deal with all my sensitivities. Thank you Dr. Croft for being the first to identify the mycotoxins in my body and help me to understand the devastation they can cause and for guiding me through efforts to make a safe environment in which to live. Dr. M’s passing led me to Dr. Jerry. I would like to give thanks to Dr. Jerry (who sadly is also no longer with us) for showing me a different treatment that pushed my healing another step forward.

I would also like to give thanks to a man who, having never met me before I walked into his office in 2002, took on the biggest battle in my life. My attorney, Mr. Daniel Keeling, had the courage to take on my case when so many others refused. The battle for workers’ compensation is a tough and long one. Mr. Keeling has stuck with me through it for over ten years.

There have been so many wonderful people throughout this journey. If I have left anyone out of this, I am truly sorry.

You are all true warriors in the fight against disease and for what is right and I thank you all deeply from the bottom of my heart.


"Y OU DON’T HAVE CANCER." Those words still ring in my ears. That is what my physician told me. They were meant as words of encouragement in reference to my hysteria at being so sick and having no real answers. It was true, I did not have cancer. I don’t think my doctors at the time realized the scope of my illness. I had been handed a life sentence to something that few around me knew much about or could comprehend how devastating it would be to me. I was sentenced to a life in which I would become a virtual prisoner of my home, venturing out for trips to my doctors, my attorney, the Whole Foods grocery store, and my occasional car trips. A life in which my body could not fight bacteria in the air and the faint scent of any chemical would send my body into an anaphylactic reaction. I became the girl in the bubble.


I was born October 30, 1954, the first of two daughters. My life didn’t start out simple either. Shortly after my birth, my parents became frantic as I could not keep down any formula that they tried. After several attempts at finding out what was wrong, they took me to an osteopathic doctor who said my stomach had not completely developed, and he put me on a special kind of formula. I thrived on the new formula. Over a period of time I no longer needed this special formula and ate pretty much anything I wanted.

My sister, Yonona, and I were very close. She was diagnosed at a young age with asthma and I often was awakened in the middle of the night because my parents needed to take her to the hospital. I used to tease her sometimes with the gasping sound like she did when she was having an acute attack (later this would come back to haunt me). I grew up like most other children of the fifties and early sixties; we didn’t have much money and ate our share of beans, potatoes, and Spam.

I guess I was what today would be referred to as a latch-key child. My mother worked out of necessity to help support the family. Yonona and I would walk home together, do homework, and pick up the house. Mom would sometimes have us put a roast in the oven. We had good neighbors, a retired couple, who would check in on us and be there if we needed anything, and my aunt and uncle lived a few blocks away. I had my share of emergencies, like the time the portable dishwasher fell over on my sister and the time I put cold water into the hot glass baking dish that had the roast in it and it exploded all over the oven. The most memorable catastrophe involved our pet goldfish. I was changing the water in the bowl and had dumped the fish into the sink so I could clean the bowl only to discover that I had forgotten to put water in it. I immediately filled the sink up but the poor fish wasn’t moving very much. In a panic I phoned my uncle and asked a simple question, How do you tell if something is dead? Now my uncle had a severe heart condition and immediately thought I was referring to my younger sister. He said he was on his way over and hung up the phone. Boy did I hear about it when he got there and realized I was referring to my goldfish. I never lived that down.

I played games with the neighborhood kids. We had a huge backyard that was conducive to great games of ball and we made great forts on the clothesline using towels, blankets, and clothespins. We used to pretend we had roller skates and would slide barefoot in the mossy gutters. My mother nearly had a fit when she learned what we were doing because there could be all kinds of things in there, including broken glass. We were told never to do it again. Of course, being the kids that we were, Yonona and I did it again. She fell in and got dirty. I had to sneak her in and clean her up before mom got home. I am pretty sure that was the last time we went gutter skating.

We moved around a lot when I was young. I would develop friendships, and then we would move. About the time I started junior high school mom and dad bought a home, the best part of which was that it had a swimming pool. Of course, none of us knew how to swim. Dad gave us the ultimatum. Either we learned how to swim or he was filling in the pool with sand and making a bigger yard. There was no decision to make; we took swimming lessons. So here I was, a seventh grader learning to swim with fourth graders, but it was well worth the embarrassment. All through high school Yonona and I would swim the summers away. We would get up early, pick up the house, and swim. We would eat lunch, pick up some more or put something in the oven for dinner, and swim again. After dinner we would swim until late in the evening. Those were wonderful times.

I hated riding the bus so I walked about two miles to and from high school. Finally, at the end of my senior year I decided to get my driver’s license. Dad bought an old 1964 Chevy Impala in need of a great deal of TLC. He worked on the engine and I sanded the outside in preparation for paint. Dad bartered with a neighbor to get it painted. It was great having my own car and the freedom it brought. I started community college that fall, and when Yonona got her driving permit I would pick her up after school and let her drive my car home.

After graduation from community college I was hired at the County Office of Education and began working. It was during this time that I met and fell in love with my husband, Rick. We were married on April 10, 1976, and we bought our first home (a small two-bedroom). Rick was given his first teaching contract the year we married and as part of his contract he had to coach three sports. I never knew when he would arrive home but I always had dinner ready. After two years we were able to buy a piece of land and build a three-bedroom home. I was so excited. Our first daughter, Sarah, was born two years after we moved in, followed nineteen months later by our daughter, Laura. When Laura was born I decided it wasn’t cost effective to work, and I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mother. To make up for the lost wages, I helped by sewing everything the girls wore and some of my own clothes. I even made a few dress shirts for Rick. Those first few years as a stay-at-home mother were lonely in terms of adult companionship. The only friends that I had had were mostly work acquaintances, and when you are at home and they are working, eventually you don’t have much in common and the friendships die off. I was okay because I had my girls. We lived in the Central Valley, a short drive to the ocean and mountains. Life was good.

As soon as the girls were old enough I enrolled them in a cooperative preschool where parents are required to work one day a week for each child and one extra day a month. It was wonderful to have other mothers to talk to because we lived at the edge of town and there weren’t any neighborhood kids or parents for me to have contact with. Then one day shortly after we began there, I ran into a girl I knew from high school who became a good friend. She had a son the same age as Laura.

Rick and I decided that we were ready to move to a bigger house. We bought a lot and decided we would build the house ourselves. We started in August shortly before school started. Every evening and all day long on the weekends we were there hammering, sanding cabinets, painting. I was stronger than I realized. I helped carry the headers for the door and window frames. We had a raised foundation so I had helped dig the holes for the posts and when the sub flooring was in place I nailed it off (every eighteen inches of the 2530 square feet). I painted the outside of the house while Rick worked inside. I helped pull electrical wire and put in insulation. I helped stain and sand cabinets and doors. I painted inside, as well. It was a labor of love. I loved that house and miss it still today.

The girls finished preschool and attended a school near our home. I immediately became a room mother for both girls, and before I knew it I was involved in PTA. This is where many of my adult friends came from. In fact, the friend from high school’s son began kindergarten at the same school and in my daughter’s class. I became PTA president after my second year and quickly recruited the mothers of my daughters’ friends. We all had the same thing in common, and our children played together. We were a force to be reckoned with. We took on task after task after task. I loved being involved with their school and the companionship of these mothers.

One day one of the mothers came to me and said she had learned about this new game that we could play once a month if we could get 10 other women to join in. It was called BUNCO. We began recruiting friends. Some of the women were from our PTA group and some were my friend’s neighbors. We had so much fun. When an opening came up in our group, I asked Terry to join us. I had become acquainted with Terry, the school nurse, because Sarah had asthma and required daily nebulizer treatments. Terry and I became friends, and I flew with her in her plane to go shopping. Her husband had been a pilot and was in the process of recertifying himself. Terry, not one to let her husband have all the fun, took flying lessons herself. Eventually they decided to purchase their own plane. If we weren’t flying somewhere to go shopping, we were driving there or going to lunch somewhere. What a riot Bunco was. But most importantly, we got together once a month for a couple of hours and laughed and shared stories and jokes over snacks and drinks. And if I was lucky enough to win something that night, it was even better. I stayed with that group until I was too ill to play.

Sarah and Laura began getting more involved, as well. They joined band, they joined 4-H (so I became a 4-H leader), and they joined clubs. Life was hectic but we were having a lot of fun. The girls and I spent a lot of time together doing all sorts of activities. They were also beginning to want more store-bought clothes. We were able to afford more things so I sewed for them less. I still enjoyed sewing and began making dolls, teddy bears, and an assortment of craft items. A few other women I had become acquainted with joined me and we hosted several Christmas boutiques in my home.

One of the 4-H mothers suggested that I run for a position on the school board. She herself was a member and said there was going to be an opening on the board. I decided to run, not really thinking I would be elected. I won and served two four-year terms.

Sarah started high school in the fall of 1994. She attended a new school that had been built just three doors down from us and was proud to have made the volleyball team. The school didn’t have much in the way of equipment and uniforms for the girls’ teams. Before I knew it I was a founding member of an athletic booster club for girls, along with a dear friend of mine, Victoria, whose daughter was also in sports. I served as secretary. We did many fundraisers to help with the costs of starting new programs and we supplied the girls with scholarships as our fundraising dollars grew.

The girls were getting close to graduating. I began talking to Rick about going back to work. It had been years since I last worked. At my last job, computers were still not part of the everyday office. The business office had a computer but it took up almost a whole room. Most of the secretaries used IBM Selectric Typewriters. The assistant superintendent’s secretary was given an IBM Mag Card typewriter. While I was there I had been trained on it. At home we bought an Apple computer and I taught myself how to use it, and just before thinking about work we purchased a PC. I was still in the do-I-want-to-go-back-to-work-or-not dilemma when I received a phone call from someone I knew. There was going to be a temporary opening at City Hall for a woman going on maternity leave. It was only going to be a six-week position. If I was interested I needed to interview with the supervisor of that position. Rick and I discussed it. This would definitely be a way of finding out if I was skilled enough to enter a work world that now was run by computers. I had the interview and began work two weeks later. I enjoyed being busy and the interaction with others. My office skills hadn’t become rusty, and my computer skills were strong enough to get me started. By the end of the six weeks I felt I was ready to apply for other jobs.

Rick and I discussed what kind of jobs I should apply for. With him being a teacher, did I want to work all summer after having 17 years of summers with him? Short of going back to school to teach, I decided that a school secretarial position would suit us just fine. I would only work 10 months out of the year and we would have our summers to do as we wished. The first time I applied, I did not make the cut because the position required a bilingual person. I waited until another opening came up and applied again.


T hen the call came— the beginning of the end . I had been selected for a position in a school office as the school secretary. The thrill of being back in the work force and earning money gave me a new perspective. My friends thought I was crazy; if I didn’t have to work, why was I trying to find a job? This would mean giving up my weekly craft days with a friend, weekly lunches with the girls, and the spur-of-the-moment plane trips with Terry. Still, I felt that I needed more. I had spent years from the time my daughters were in preschool through their high school years donating my time and doing volunteer work, and now it was time to do something else, something for me.

I was scheduled to start work on May 10, 1999. I visited the office a few days before that, wanting to see what the office looked like and where my desk would be. My coworker told me that she often burned candles at her desk because the office had a smell to it. I was so excited to start working that I never thought to ask about where the smell came from or what might be causing it. Instead I asked her where she had purchased her candle and what the scent was. As soon as I left the office, I went and bought the same candle so the scents wouldn’t compete with each other.

School was out the first of June. Traditionally that would have been the end of my work year until school resumed in August. However because I was hired late in the school year, my contract was extended until June 30th. I was also asked if I would be willing to work some in July so my coworker could have some vacation time off. I agreed that I could do that.

During the month of June we worked at cleaning and organizing the office. There was a walk-in safe in the back of the office. The safe had no ventilation, heating, or cooling. We spent several days dusting, reorganizing, and cleaning the safe. During my time at the school, I would spend a portion of each day in this safe. I worked a couple of weeks in July and started back to work the first part of August. The position was a busy one and I quickly became part of the team.

I soon learned that the startup of school was a hectic and chaotic time. Teaching staff began returning and students were showing up to pick up their class schedules. During this time, school staff had their pictures taken. I was tired and not feeling well the day of the pictures (later, when the pictures came back, I was horrified at how sick I looked). This was mid-August. I had only been working for a few months, and rather than be off work most of a day I went to a local urgent care down the street from school. I was given an antibiotic to treat a sinus infection and told that if I didn’t get better in four days to return. When I did not improve I returned for further treatment. The doctor, Dr. Robert Butler, prescribed another antibiotic and ordered sinus x-rays. The x-rays showed fluid in the maxillary sinus. Dr. Butler gave me directions that if I continued to have problems I should seek treatment from an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist).

I didn’t get better and made my first trip to the ENT, Dr. Spitzer. I hadn’t gotten rid of the infection and was hoping that he would be of help. How could I know that this would be my first of many trips to his office? He placed me on the antibiotic that had seemed to work best, told me to take it for three weeks, and scheduled me for a return appointment to his office. His thoughts were that I just had not been on an antibiotic long enough. After three weeks on the antibiotic, the pain on the left side of my face had not disappeared. Nothing seemed to work.

Rick’s high school reunion was approaching. It was near the end of October, and we went but I had no energy. I felt tired and was sicker than before, and I was still on antibiotics. People were amazed that I had been feeling so sick with my sinuses for such a long time.

In November I was sent for a CAT scan. The result of this scan was that I had cysts in my sinuses. Dr. Spitzer felt they were harboring the infection, which was why the antibiotics had been ineffective. After discussing the pros and cons of surgery, I decided that I would schedule it for December during Christmas break when I would be off for two weeks. Unfortunately, I began to get worse. The pain was becoming more and more severe and I was always tired and feeling sick. Dr. Spitzer scheduled another appointment with me to see how my sinuses looked and he said he would try and aspirate the sinuses. My appointment was for that afternoon.

I arrived at his office not knowing what aspirating the sinuses meant. I had no idea what an ordeal this would be. A numbing agent was placed on the gum and underside of the lip area. Dr. Spitzer left the room to see another patient while we waited for the area to become numb. Then I was given a couple of shots of anesthetic to further numb the area. I made the mistake of looking at the tray of tools he would use—a hammer and large type of nail. There were also some needles. I began to get nervous and to panic. What was he going to do? He returned to the room a short time later, took the nail, placed it at the gum line, and began tapping at it with the hammer in an attempt at getting the nail to break through to the sinus cavity and get it to drain. I could not feel the nail but my head shook violently with each tap of the hammer. An eternity seemed to pass before the nail broke through the sinus bone. The doctor placed a syringe in the hole that the nail had made in the sinus cavity and flushed it with saline. Nothing happened! If the procedure had worked, then mucous would have drained from the sinuses with the force of the saline being injected into them. Nothing came out! I had gone through this awful ordeal and my sinuses had not drained.

Dr. Spitzer then gave me the news that we needed to move the surgery date up. Something was wrong, and we could not wait to get it resolved. Instead of having surgery in December, it would be scheduled for the end of November. I drove back to work in a stupor. I hurt so badly and was so shaken up. I took a pain pill when I returned to work. I sat at my desk in tears.

I met with my boss and explained the horrible ordeal I had just gone through and the results. I then told him that the surgery would have to be moved up from December to November. He was very supportive and told me to do whatever was necessary. He could tell that I was in pain and upset over the news of surgery and the ordeal I had just been through. He asked if I wanted him to take me home. I told him that I would phone home and have my daughters drive to school and one of them would drive me back home in my car.


O n Thursday, November 23, 1999 I was taken into surgery. The surgery was deemed a success. The cysts were removed from the left maxillary sinus, and the doctor had also removed one from the right maxillary sinus. My turbinates (the bones in the sinus) were shaved, as well, to allow for better drainage. The surgery was done in a diagnostic surgical center and I was sent home as soon as I came out of anesthesia.

Rick drove me home. I spent the night in the recliner. My nose had been packed with gauze and breathing was only possible through my mouth. My mouth always seemed dry, and I would wake up off and on all night to swish my mouth with water.

The next day Rick took me to the doctor’s office to have the packing removed. Dr. Spitzer felt that the removal of the cysts and the shaving of the turbinates would prevent any more problems with infection of the sinuses. My sinuses continued to be swollen for the next several days, and I continued sleeping in the recliner because it was too difficult to breathe lying down until the swelling went away. I recovered at home and returned to work the following week, working only half days at first. I had temporarily lost my sense of smell and taste but otherwise seemed to be doing well. I was told that the loss of taste and smell was common but that these would return, thank goodness.

I continued to be tired and the pain was persistent. Taking pain medication daily seemed all I could do to keep the pain in check. On New Year’s Day, 2000, I was startled at what I saw when I blew my nose. What I saw in the discharge made me begin to worry. There was a mass of black threads in the mucous coming from my sinuses. This was something out of a science fiction movie! I had never experienced anything like this before. I wasn’t getting better. Why weren’t the treatments helping?

I phoned Dr. Spitzer the next day and was able to get in right away. The doctor’s response was that it looked like mold (similar to what is found floating in a coffee cup that has set out for a few days). He placed me on Diflucan, an antifungal drug given to women to combat yeast infections. My thyroid was also beginning to give me problems. The test came back within normal range. However, I was given a steroid to reduce the inflammation in the thyroid. When the steroid failed, I was placed on a low dose of thyroid medication called Levoxyl in hopes that it would reduce the thyroid inflammation.

When school returned, I told my boss that the doctor thought I had a fungal infection in my sinuses. The pain continued and I was not getting relief. Although I continued to hurt, I did not take time off from work. I still worked a 40-hour week.

The following week I returned to Dr. Spitzer’s office because the Diflucan was not helping. He was worried about a possible bacterial infection and an antibiotic was added. This pain and inflammation of the sinuses went on for a couple of months.

In March another CAT scan was ordered. The results of this scan showed inflammation in both the left and right maxillary sinuses. I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. Why wasn’t I getting better? Dr. Spitzer informed me that I would need surgery again to strip the infection from both maxillary sinuses.

I was afraid to tell my boss that I would need time off again for yet another surgery. I had been working less than a year and here I was asking for time off for a second time. How could this be happening? This was unbelievable! Again I had to leave my coworker in charge of my job duties as well as the duties of her own job. I was feeling so guilty over this burden I was placing on her.

On March 16, 2000, I once again was wheeled into surgery. The surgery was performed again at the local surgical center. Both sinuses were cleaned out and we thought everything would finally be resolved. Once

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