If you are in the midst of terrible real-life trials, may this unique story about a strong, yet fragile faith that carries one family through from moment to moment give you courage. Despite slow poisoning from mold exposure and multiplied suffering, God is glorified through Misty Zeller’s blog Charlie’s Song, so I share it with you with permission.
From The Depths Of Suffering ~ The Zeller’s Mold Story
I’ve known this post was coming, but it’s one I have dreaded writing. We have received many emails asking what our specific symptoms are and what our treatment plan will be. I know that one of the scariest parts of our story is that it really could happen to anyone, because toxic black mold is something you almost never see. It lurks under the surface, hidden in walls and ceilings, slowly destroying your lives. And you never even saw it coming. I know that our story has made other people wonder if they too are unknowingly being poisoned by toxic mold, and if we can help even one person, this post is worth it to me.
We’ve also had many questions about how we ever even figured this out in the first place. I want to answer these questions. Not because I feel like answering them…because a huge part of me just plain doesn’t. This is a hard thing for me to write about. It’s hard to write about because it feels boring and newsy, and the kind of thing you would tell your doctor or your mom, not a few thousand total strangers. But more importantly…it’s hard to write about, because it’s extremely personal. And strikes very close to my aching heart.
But I really believe that there are people out there who are suffering deeply, because of unexplained illnesses that may very well be caused by toxic mold poisoning. I believe that there are people out there who are struggling with unexpected and unexplained infertility, and it is very possibly due to toxic mold that they simply cannot see. I had three healthy babies in four years, and then lost three babies in a row in less than eleven months time. I know that stillbirth and miscarriage happen to a lot of people, for a lot of different reasons, and that many of them go unexplained. But there is an explanation for mine. And after all that we have suffered, I do not want to leave others alone in their suffering, if our story might help them in any way.
I am not a doctor. But I am under the care of one of the best environmental doctors in the world, and I trust her implicitly. After seeing 14 doctors in 14 months, I can spy a bad doctor from a few thousand miles away. And I am so incredibly grateful I have finally found a good one. I can only share our experience, and our symptoms and treatment plan. This is not a medical journal, and if you do have concerns that you may have been exposed to toxic mold, I would encourage you to see a good doctor, who specializes in this, though they are very hard to find.
Where do I begin? I guess I’ll start with The Worms.
About eight months after Charlie died, I felt like my body was starting to shut down. I was getting worse with each passing day, and none of my doctors seemed to know or care what was wrong with me. The worst kind of doctor…is the one who tells you you’re “fine.” And I had lots of those in my life. I was exhausted all of the time. I had a deep pain in my liver every day. I had sinus infections, one of them so bad that it caused permanent damage to my hearing. My thyroid was failing, so badly that my basal body temperature was a whopping 96.7, and I was literally freezing in July. I had horrible brain fog, and couldn’t remember simple things in spite of the fact that I’ve always had an amazing memory. I had a raging ear infection, and it felt like the infection was actually starting to take over my entire body. At one point I told my doctor, “I feel like my insides are actually crawling.” I couldn’t lift my arms above my head without them going numb. And most of all, I couldn’t get pregnant, and then I couldn’t stay pregnant. In spite of what my doctors said…I knew I was so entirely not “fine.”
By that point I had been struggling with horrible eczema on my hands for about a year. It is the first symptom I can remember having, and it started when I was seven months pregnant with Charlie. My hands would explode in a horrible, bumpy, red rash, and they would become so inflamed that I would wake up in the night in excruciating pain. They would bleed, and scab over, and heal…and then flame up all over again. I went to the dermatologist twice, and she just told me, “This happens sometimes during pregnancy.” But it never, ever went away.
I was so entirely fed up with all of the sub-par medical care I was getting, that I finally found a doctor in town who specialized in endocrinology. He was my least favorite doctor of all fourteen. And ironically, he is the one who probably saved our lives. During my first consultation with him, he asked me if we had ever had our house tested for mold. The only reason he thought to ask…was because a former patient of his had suffered a still birth because of mold poisoning. He knew nothing about mold beyond that point, but I am so incredibly grateful that he mentioned mold that day.
He also mentioned about a hundred other things. He suggested I go on a gluten-free, sugar-free diet for 12 weeks to help kill off the infection in my body. He suggested I get all of my amalgam fillings removed from my teeth, to reduce the toxic load the mercury fillings might be having on my body. He also suggested I take earthworms. Yes…worms. The worm supplement was supposed to help with blood circulation, because earth worms are experts at “breaking things down.” I honestly have no idea if it made a bit of difference, but I took my worms religiously.
All of that to say, it was a difficult three months. I got eight fillings removed at one time, and it was such an invasive dental procedure that I threw up three times in the dentist chair in one morning. The dentist loved me. I got myriads of blood tests done, and went through the entire holidays eating no sugar, and being completely gluten-free. I was on a heavy detox program to remove toxins from my body and about 60 supplements a day, and yet my body was still failing. It was a long and frustrating process of getting the house tested for mold and very difficult to get clear answers on what was going on in the home, and especially in my body.
And in the midst of it all, I got pregnant. And then, less than four weeks later…another sweet baby came and went from our lives. What was happening to my heart…completely overshadowed what was happening to my body.
But I was so incredibly sick of being sick, and I was not getting better. I remember looking in the cupboard at the 60 supplements I had to take that day, and thinking, “I am eating worms…actual worms. How did I get to the point where I would actually say, ‘Nobody can help me…I guess I’ll just eat worms.’”
I got there…the same way everyone with unexplained, chronic pain gets there…I woke up one day, and I was suddenly no longer healthy. One symptom creeped up, and then another, and no matter how many doctors I went to, no one could help me. And before I knew it, I was sick, and in excruciating pain.
Even as I write this, I think to myself, “Who in the world, wants to hear about my boring list of symptoms?” Because I don’t even want to write about it. But there are millions of people in this world who live in chronic pain. They spend all the money they have to spend, and even money they don’t, on doctors who simply do not help them get better. They feel trapped in a body that is betraying them on every level, every moment, of every day. And I never really understood how paralyzing it is to live with daily, unexplained pain…until it happened to me. So, if you’re still with me, and you’re still reading my boring symptoms list, please hear this…
If you are one of those people…I am so deeply, deeply sorry. I am so sorry for the moments in your children’s lives that you have missed, because you were too sick to even get out of bed, let alone bake cookies for the school Christmas party. I am so very sorry for those missed memories. My year has been filled with missed memories. I am so sorry that every moment of your life has been clouded by suffering, fear and uncertainty. I am so sorry that your days have been wrecked by debilitating physical pain, and the gnawing soul pain of the “not knowing.” And I know that for some of you, even knowing why you’re sick, doesn’t take it all away. We finally know what is causing our sickness…and these have been some of the sickest days of my life.
And if you are not one of those people…please bear the burdens of those around you who cannot take a moment of heath for granted, because they are so few and far between. I am so unspeakably grateful for the people in our lives, who took advantage of a time when they were healthy…and could have done anything with it…to love on us in our pain.
All of that to say…by the time I ended up in Dr. Hope’s office, I was so entirely weary. But she listened to me. She has more medical degrees on her wall than most of the doctors I’ve seen, but she didn’t treat me like I was less than her, just because I was the patient. She believed me. And she helped me. And why…well, because her office is filled with patient after patient who has been ignored and minimized by doctors who know absolutely nothing about toxic mold poisoning. Her office is filled with people who have been sick for a very, very long time.
I remember hesitantly telling Dr. Hope about my “heavy arms symptom” at our first appointment. And without a moment’s hesitation she said to me, “That…is one of the most common symptoms of mold poisoning. Many of my patients complain of heavy arms, or even that their heads feel too heavy to lift up most days.” The moment she said this, it was like the clouds parted and angels started singing. There was a REASON for my pain. I wasn’t just crazy, or delusional, or being dramatic. Someone finally acted like it was not normal to not be able to hold my hands up to the steering wheel, or to carry my little Sophie. Someone was familiar with this symptom. Someone knew WHY I was suffering. And someone was finally going to help me.
I cannot tell you the relief that came in the finally knowing. I no longer had to just eat worms, and hope it was “helping.” I was sick. And someone believed me. And someone could finally tell me why I was suffering.
Many people have asked us how we are doing physically, and how they can be praying. Honestly, it has been a very rough couple of weeks. The medicine we are on to remove the mold from our bodies makes us very, very sick, and I feel completely wrecked most days.
And it is an extra wound to carry that all five of us are sick at the exact same time. The kids have been incredible. They have done an amazing job taking their glutathione every morning, and their activated charcoal every night. Every night Freddo says to me, “Mommy, why do we have to drink this stuff…it looks like rocks?” And it does. It actually looks like someone grabbed a bunch of ash from a fire pit and threw it into his cup. But our sweet kids take their ash every single day. It gives them tummy aches, and headaches, and it makes my heart ache just watching the mold continue to wreak havoc on their little body’s. But there is only one way to get it out. And they have been so incredibly brave.
In many ways, the kids are doing far better than I am. Within a week after we moved out of the toxic house, the eczema that I had struggled with for over a year…completely went away. But Dr. Hope had warned us that as we started to heal, our bodies would become more reactive to the mycotoxins, especially the mycotoxins on our old, exposed things. I didn’t totally believe her, but the other day I was out in our garage going through insurance papers from our old house. Within minutes of touching the paper from the old house…my hands became completely inflamed. It was the worst outbreak of eczema I’ve ever had, and I woke up during the night multiple times last week, in so much pain that I couldn’t even go back to sleep. It is so incredibly frustrating that my hands are once again inflamed. My ear infection is back in full force. I have a headache, a sinus infection, and the worst brain fog and exhaustion of my life. And those are just my symptoms. We are still, very, very sick and would so appreciate your prayers.
So, that’s it. A very long, boring symptoms story. But all of that, brings me to the thing I really wanted to say.
I hate being sick. I really, really hate watching the people I love most, suffering right alongside me. And there is nothing I have hated more in this world…than having to bury three precious babies I had wanted to keep.
But I came across a quote the other day, and I can’t get it out of my mind. It has stuck with me, and I’ve thought about it often, especially on the worst days.
I thought about it the other night at 3 am…when I sat on the bathroom floor, weeping, because my hands were so inflamed I couldn’t possibly sleep. I thought about it as we went through our garage…and threw out even more stuff from our old house that I had hoped we would somehow get to keep. And I thought about it as another month went by where I am so incredibly sick that the idea of trying to trust God for another baby…has to be the absolute last thing on my mind.
The first time I read it, it made me mad. It seemed way too trite and pat. The word “kiss” was especially hard to take. I don’t want to kiss the things that have made me ache so badly. I don’t want to kiss suffering…I want to beat it up. And mostly, I want to run as far away from sorrow as my legs can carry me. My heart is bleeding as bad as my hands, and it’s hard to think of welcoming suffering, let alone “kissing” it.
But the more I’ve thought about it, the more Spurgeon’s words resonate with me.
I get waves. Waves have been a familiar theme for our family over this last year of pain. Life’s sorrows totally do “like sea billows roll.” And they more than roll. They slam into you relentlessly, and you wonder time and time again, if you are actually just going to drown at some point under all of this pain. Emma asks me multiple times a week, “Mommy, why does our life have to be so hard?” Her question hurts every time. We have felt slammed over and over again…by the sorrows that ravage our lives.
But I really think there is an eternal truth to these words…and it has breathed fresh life into my gasping soul this week.
Every single wave…has slammed us into somebody.
And not just somebody, the Somebody who we asked, long ago…to take our lives. To save our lives. To sustain our lives. To use our lives. To redeem our lives. And most of all….to be with our lives.
I did not feel close to God as I wept over my inflammed hands the other night. But He was with me. I know He was with me, because the only thing on my deliriously exhausted mind at 3 am that morning were these words, “Thank you, God, for Job.” I kept saying it, over and over again. A little delusional, and mantra-like.
But I felt such genuine gratitude in that moment…that God did not leave me in that moment alone. That God did not leave me in that moment, without someone who had gone before me through it. Job’s boils hurt so much that it says he, “found a piece of pottery to scrape himself with as he sat in ashes.”
We literally sit in ashes right now. We take 12 activated charcoal tablets a day, to help bind up the mold as the toxins are released…and it’s literally just ground up ash. It means the world to me that Job sat in ashes. Because right now ash is ever on my mind.
It means the world to me that Job scraped his bleeding sores in the night, just like I scrape mine. That Job knows exactly what it felt like to have to bury the children he loved more than anything. That Job knows what it feels like to live with prolonged, varied, and excruciating suffering.
Because in the end…after all that he had suffered…
Job still kissed the waves.
Job still believed that God was good, and that God was love, in the midst of every unlovely thing that came his way.
Job believed that being slammed against the Rock of Ages was still, in the end, everything that matters…when everything else that matters is taken away.
“As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth.
Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God;
Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes will see and not another. My heart faints within me!” ~Job 19: 25-27
It has been a very difficult couple of weeks. My body especially, is not responding well to the mold medicine and I have been very, very sick. It felt like a real slap in the face that suddenly, after they had finally gone away, the boils are back in my life. I wasn’t thinking particularly holy and glorious thoughts in the bathroom at 3 am that morning.
But I did feel a deep, holy gratitude for every detail of Job’s life of suffering. Gratitude that God included Job’s story in the 66 books we have to cling to as we stumble through this life. Gratitude that Job walked with God to the very end of his suffering.
And most of all, gratitude that the God who sustained Job’s life, and far more importantly…his faith…is the same God who sustains both yours and mine.
I’d really like to put a bow on this post. To say, “This is what we had…and now we are all better.” But we’re not. The waves of suffering crash on and on and on.
And that’s…why Job’s words give life. Because someday, the waves of suffering will cease.
Someday…Jesus will come in power, and take His stand on the earth.
Someday…He will stand over every storm of this life, and He will say once and for all, “Peace be, still.” And the peace will stay.
Someday…even after my body is destroyed, I will see the Rock of Ages, with my very own eyes.
Someday…He will introduce me to my babies.
And someday, there will finally, finally, be an end to all of this pain and suffering.
And so, we wait.
“From the ends of the earth will I cry unto You when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” ~Psalm 61:2
A Personal Letter From Pastor John Piper – letter to a parent grieving the loss of a child
When Rocks Speak – on grief and suffering
If you suspect mold issues in your home, Andrea Fabre’s blog MomsAware is filled with practical and sound information on mold and related health issues. Andrea has found a great passion for the subject and is dedicated to using the knowledge she has acquired to help others.
Thanks for reading!