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.”
Do you find these articles helpful? Do you have comments, questions, or feedback? Please write to us below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am grateful for your story about your illness journey and faith. It resonates with me, having grown up on the ocean and from the past 30 yes living near Green lakes near Syracuse NY. I have had UTIs for years but as I have gotten old have added sinus problems, pulmonary blood clots, chronic regional pain syndrome and most recently hypersensitivity pneumonitis from which I thought I might die, but God must not finished with me yet! I find it hard to find integrative doctors who treat mold. My sinuses grow out alpha strep and klebsiella. The granulomas in my lungs as felt to be made from mold. I do have a positive mycotoxin urine test as well as a positive Vision test. I have systemic yeast which I thought from years of antibiotics for recurrent UTIs. I have pretty much been a healthy eater but now try to eat 5 cups of vegetables/ day , low sugar, no gluten. I found it so interesting that dr Dennis does not use binders but washes out all 5 sinuses. Is it possible to find other practitioners like him who treat mold like he does? I have hyperactive lungs now and wonder if I could improve that with his treatment. Thanks for your caring and commitment to help. I hope to get to the other side of this mold mountain and be of some sort of service to people like us suffering. I spent my career as a nurse practitioner in traditional medicine but realize now there is so much more to health. I remain…gratefully yours!
Hi there! I went to SUNY Morrisville for a short time, not too far from you in Syracuse! I suspect you have been on many many antibiotics if you had UTI’s for years. As you probably know antibiotics are fungal metabolites, not to mention the breakdown they cause in our gut, opening up the door to additional health problems. I agree with you it is very hard to find a doctor that can help. Many times if you are lucky enough to find a physician that understands the fungal link to disease, they don’t always know how to treat it. Dr. Dennis understands fully how fungus doesn’t just set up shop in the sinuses but how it can wreak havoc on every organ, tissue in the body. I have learned the most from Doug Kauffman from KNow The Cause, Dr. Dennis, and Dr. Sponagule down in Florida. Unfortunately I do not know of anyone in NY. Thank you so much for your note and you are correct, God is not done with you yet. Keep praying He sends the right people in your path to help, then you can all pass on what you learn to help others, I will be praying for you too.
Thank you, Erin, for your testimony. My testimony has many similarities to yours. God is so good! He is always with us. Always hears our cries for help. Always works for the good of his beloved. He remains close by to sustain and strengthen and heal. Choosing a new lifestyle of diet, rest, and cleansing is counter-culture requiring diligence that I know I did not have especially when I was so fatigued I couldn’t walk or think. Jesus was and is my strength. I praise him for all he has done for me and you! God establish and bless you in all of your endeavors to comfort those in chronic health troubles with the comfort you have received from our Father of compassion and our God of all comfort. Please pray for me as I have that same passion to share, educate, and walk with people through similar troubles. God is placing many people in my path who are at risk due to mold exposure and other toxins. Also my family is still working on building a safe place to live after being displaced from two homes with toxic mold. We have been living with friends and family for the past three years. It is so encouraging to talk to someone who understands. Thank you.
Isn’t it amazing how God can bring his people together? Sometimes He allows us to go through pain in order for us to be able to teach, share, and feel compassion for those who fall into similar circumstances. You are right, God always hears our cries and I pray you and your family will be living in your own mold free home soon. You sound like such an encourager! Many people will need that quality in you as they walk the painful path of chronic illness. Thank you for taking the time to write to me! Erin
An individual counselor or a support group can help you deal with the stress, pain, and fatigue that may accompany a chronic illness. Signals that you are less able to cope include disturbed sleep, body aches, anxiety, and irritability. It is best to seek help early. When you are ill with an acute illness such as bronchitis or the flu, you recognize that you will feel better and back to normal within a short period of time. A chronic illness, on the other hand, is different. A chronic illness may never go away and can disrupt your life and your family’s life in a number of ways.
Thank-you for writing this article of hope. I have been chronically sick my whole adult life without recognition from most conventional medicine Doctors so I just went on sick because I had went to so many doctors to be discouraged by. Then my symptoms became debilitating and I found a wonderful midwife to help me along the way. By this time I was deep in my own research as well. I was finally diagnosed with Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism. Long story short we then tested for reactivated Epstein Bar and Cytomegalovirus which came back positive as well. I have changed my whole life in effort to feel better. I eat Paleo mostly after doing the AIP protocol and I practice stress reduction because stress seems to be a huge trigger. I have my Hashimoto’s very close to remission with my antibodies but unfortunately my health plummeted once again. I now have found a wonderful CIRS specialist to help with the mold issue that I had no idea where causing me such trouble. Your story is very touching and important to share and I personally thank you for having the courage to do just that. I also believe god wants me to go through this so that I can offer a hand to those still struggling. Again thank-you!!
Thank you for your beautiful note. We sure have a lot in common, as you know I can relate to the endless doctor visits and losing hope with each visit. I am very happy to hear you found a specialist to help you and properly diagnose you. It also warms my heart to hear you haven’t lost faith in God and believe He is using you. I can tell you for a fact you just inspired me! Keep on digging, keep on eating healthy, and eventually you will dig yourself out of sickness. Remember it’s not a doctor that heals us but God, I am glad you are looking to Him for answers and pray for your complete healing. Erin
Wonderful article I look forward to reading your book . Your story is much similar to mine except I’m still in he thick of things . I tried to see dr Dennis but I was denied due to possibly still living in mold . I have fibrosis in my lungs now so I need to do something . Thank you very much
Thank you so much for your words. I will be praying for you that you get the help you so desperately need. There are some things you can do yourself in the meantime. Remove yourself from the moldy environment, I know this one is easier said than done, and spray an antifungal once a week (Micro Balance has a good/safe product). Talk to your doctor about changing your diet to an antifungal diet and taking antifungal supplements. The body was designed to heal so don’t lose hope!