How My Decades of Chronic Illness Became My Purpose
by Erin Porter
Before I rattle off my story of chronic illness which includes a long list of depressing symptoms and the inevitable financial and relational hardships I suffered as a result, I want you to think on this one word for a moment; Hope. One of my favorite Bible verses is Romans 8:28. In a nutshell, the verse tells of God’s promise to make something good out of our suffering. I know this promise to be true, because I have seen good come from suffering time and time again in my life. But more on this later—I will get back to sharing my story first to give more background.
Being Healthy Is More Than Just Not Being Sick
We all know health and healing are not always just physical, so allow me to begin my story with my difficult (some may say abusive) childhood experience. At six years old, my family and I moved out of our Bronx, NY apartment and into a home ninety minutes upstate. This move was when my life, which to me already looked bleak at the young age of six, took a turn for the worse. In our new home, I developed allergies and moderate to severe asthma. I remember always taking antibiotics, steroids, and using inhalers. Even with the help of inhalers, though, I still wheezed constantly. I remember feeling humiliated by my audible, strange-sounding breathing and wheezing, especially when other kids would inquire about it. My father’s outward disapproval of my constant sickness added to my shame. He did not view me or my health struggles with compassion, but looked upon illness as weakness. In his eyes, both he and I were being punished by my inability to shake my constant, nagging ailments. I go into further detail on this topic in my book, Eat Pray Get Well – A Journey from Chronic Illness, Brokenness & Junk Food Junkie to Wholeness & Wellness.
At eighteen years old, I landed a job in Manhattan and swiftly set out to start a new, exciting life in the city. Let’s just say that telling you I was “eager” to leave my dysfunctional home life is an understatement. My independent adult life included renting one of the only apartments I could afford. This “beauty” came complete with visible mold growth and the occasional mouse to greet me every day, but I didn’t care. I was out on my own. Even though I would only occupy this apartment for 9 months, the repercussions of living in its unhealthy indoor environment would change the course of both my life and health for years to come.
Signs of Chronic Illness
My New York City journey began not with exploring the city, but rather with visiting the insides of doctors’ offices. There were so many doctors’ visits. I estimate I have been to over 60 doctors and specialists at this point in my life. My very first health issue after moving into my NYC apartment was a sinus infection. I had never had a sinus infection before, and, little did I know, this one had moved in and had no plans on leaving for at least the next twenty years. In that time, I had four sinus surgeries and took well over 100 courses of antibiotics, yet still continued to get sicker.
One year into this non-stop sinus-infection-antibiotic-fest, I was standing at the bus stop waiting for my bus to take me to work when I felt new, bizarre symptoms. The first was fatigue so severe that I had trouble finding the energy to even speak. I was also being introduced to a new, scary symptom that would be staying with me for the next twenty years—heart arrhythmias—by far the health issue that caused me the most fear.
As the years rolled on, I added even more health issues to my growing list. On top of my chronic sinus infections, chronic fatigue, and heart arrhythmias, I developed severe reflux. My esophagus often had sores on it due to the acid backing up, and the pain was some of the worst I have experienced. The reflux led me to surgeries to have my tonsils removed (twice) as well as my adenoids. Additionally, I struggled with re-occurring Epstein Barr virus, nerve pain, fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s thyroid disease, food allergies, and depression. On top of it all, I was a junk food addict! Somehow, I was always able to stay thin, even though my horrendous diet consisted of fast food and vending machine snacks. Looking back, I can only imagine how the food I was putting in my body was likely exacerbating my symptoms!
Looking for the Root Cause
Ironically, during this time of increasingly poor health, I was in constant contact with doctors for assistance and treatment. I had medical specialists in every field advising me, but, most of the time, they only had more drugs to offer to treat my symptoms. No one was helping me to figure out WHY my symptoms were increasing and getting worse. In my heart I knew that another prescription was NOT the answer, and that there was a root cause to my failing health. I did not want to use the Band Aid approach of prescription medications anymore. (Admittedly, I never turned down a chance to take antibiotics, though, as this was the only reprieve–although temporary–I could get for my sinus infections.)
Mold/Fungus and Sinusitis
As I was about to embark on a fifth sinus surgery, I found a new Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor. He took one look at my sinus CT scan and told me I had one of the most severe fungal infections he had ever seen. Yes, I had complicated bacterial infections as well (pseudomonas and staph) but fungus? Severe? My first thought was “gross”, and my second thought, being the researcher that I am, was that I needed to get busy learning everything I could about fungus and mold. I had never thought to consider fungus/mold before and got excited at the prospect of unraveling the mystery behind the illness that was destroying me. This was in 2004.
Finding Meaning in Suffering
This is where God enters the picture. First, I have to backtrack a bit and tell you something spiritual that happened to me back in 1999. I had just had my tonsils and adenoids removed by Dr. Donald Dennis and was preparing to move from Atlanta to Florida. After surgery, I was still sick with many other health problems. Exhausted and overwhelmed, I cried out to God and begged Him for answers as to how to get well. The words that came over me in prayer were, “He is going to be the one to help you (meaning Dr. Donald Dennis), and he will be the one to change your life.” I couldn’t make any sense of this as Dr. Dennis had already performed my surgery, and I would most likely never see him again as I was moving out of state. Regardless, I placed these words in my prayer journal.
Throughout the years, I would think about and continually dismiss that message about Dr. Dennis as I continued to get sicker and endure more surgeries. Sixteen years later while preparing for my fifth sinus surgery, I was watching a show called Know the Cause – hosted by Doug Kaufmann. This show had become part of my fungus research as Doug would discuss fungal-related illnesses daily, and I had a laundry list of them. I was learning slowly, but the pieces of my illness puzzle were starting to come together. On this particular episode Doug Kaufmann happened to be interviewing Dr. Dennis. I recognized him right away! Dr. Dennis was on the show explaining his treatment protocol for fungal sinusitis. My prayer journal and the words I had written down years ago came racing back to my mind. I took off through the house digging for this journal. I had moved at least a dozen times since I wrote that message in it. Within a week, I boarded a plane for Atlanta, prayer journal in hand and was sitting in Dr. Dennis’ exam chair. I was listening, and he was indeed helping me.
God guided me in other ways that, at that time, I didn’t particularly care for. On another occasion, as I sobbed and prayed to God to heal me, I was also stuffing a Hostess cupcake in my mouth. Right then and there, God gently tried to confront me about my eating habits, but it would take many years before I would surrender and give up the food that was preventing my healing. Speaking of healing, mine was not overnight, but I can look back and see God had a purpose for my illness. It was not only to get closer to Him, but to learn from my struggles, so that I could pass on tools to others who also needed to heal. God says His people perish for lack of knowledge. I want to do my part and spread knowledge about healing.
On a side note, to show you how life can come full circle, I ended up being invited as a guest on Doug Kaufmann’s Know the Cause more than half a dozen times. I was hopefully sent there to share my story to help those that are suffering as much as I had in the past.
How I Healed My Body
What are some of the steps I took to heal my body? First, I had to change my diet and the way I viewed food. I was beginning to understand food would be part of my medicine. I had to eliminate things like sugar and gluten to stop feeding the fungus in my body. I also incorporated antifungals. I started with prescription antifungals, then I moved on to natural ones like CitriDrops Dietary Supplement. Additional natural antifungals that I found helpful to rotate were oil of oregano, garlic, and caprylic acid. Using liposomal glutathione helped support my body through detoxing the mold. Glutathione is especially helpful for its antioxidant and thyroid support. I also started supporting my immune system to increase my resiliency to fungus and mold exposure with Sinus Defense and CellTropin to support my pituitary and stimulate cellular healing and turnover. I also had to address my leaky gut and food allergies. For gut issues, I used Colostrum which is rich in antibodies and growth factors and is proven to heal and seal openings in the gut lining. Healing my gut also enabled me to finally come off Pepcid AC and Nexium after 14 years.
Healing My Environment
Another piece of my healing came from learning to keep my home as mold-free as possible. For my home, I use all of the Micro Balance products, including the EC3 Mold Solution Concentrate to keep levels of mold spores down on surfaces and in the air, the EC3 Laundry Additive to remove mold from our clothes and bedding, and the EC3 Mold Screening Test Plates to monitor the fungal load in our home, so that we know where we need to focus our attention to keep things safe and healthy. It is definitely a process but is worth it now that I know that my indoor environment makes such an impact—positive or negative—on my health.
I pray my story brings you hope and gives you the tools to start your own healing process. I continue to share my journey, healthy recipes, and chronic illness insights on my blog www.eatpraygetwell.com. Please feel free to visit me there and say, “Hello.”
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