About Me and MCS

My name is Teena Booth, I live in Phoenix, Arizona, and I am not a doctor, not a scientist, not any kind of medical professional.  What I am is a mother of three, and writer of fiction (Falling From Fire), non-fiction (Unfinshed Evolution), and television scripts.  I have 19 produced TV movies to my credit.   

I am also someone who suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and salicylate sensitivity, although I had never heard of such conditions until several months after becoming inexplicably ill.  In hindsight, I can see that I had been experiencing mild chemical and food sensitivity for several decades.  But in 2013 my sensitivity became severe enough that I was almost entirely housebound for six months. Today, although I still have MCS, I am almost entirely symptom free on most days, thanks to what I learned in developing my own theory about what had happened to me.  (You can download the full theory from the home page of this site).

 

The following is an excerpt from the introduction to my "paper," which is not so much a paper in the scientific sense, but a personal account of my own particular experience with MCS:

 

The closer one looks at the human body, the more one marvels at the intricacy of its design. Especially marvelous is our capacity for sensation, and how the body is able to perceive its environment through a delicate dance of energy. The sense of smell for example:   Molecules of a scent rush into the nose as we breathe in, the molecule binds to a receptor (a protein) of a sensory neuron/cell at the top of the nose, the protein then changes shape, opening a channel and allowing an influx of ions that reverse the polarity the cell, firing off an electric signal that travels to the brain, which then interprets that signal as a sensation.  

 

It is a beautiful system, this translating of energy into conscious, perceiving life. Our sensory system connects us to the world and to the moment so seamlessly, so reliably, it never once crosses our mind that something could go wrong with it.  But this delicate and finely balanced system gets bludgeoned every day by chemical onslaughts in the environment, in our homes, and in the food we eat.  And once this system skews out of whack, and innocuous sensation suddenly leads to crippling pain --  what a shock!  It feels as if the impossible is happening, our wonderful sensitivity turned against us. 

 

It was August of 2013, in the middle of my ordinary life, that I began experiencing inexplicable headaches, heart palpitations, strange neurological symptoms and facial swelling.  I thought at first I might have a food allergy, but eventually I worried I was afflicted with a brain tumor, or going crazy, or both.  It took two months of stark fear and confusion -- along with visits to several doctors, numerous blood tests and a negative CT scan -- before I was diagnosed and given all the pieces of my medical puzzle.  I was suffering from two related conditions:  Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), and a food intolerance called Salicylate Sensitivity.     

 

Essentially, whenever I breathed in chemicals from scented products like shampoo or detergent or cleaning solutions (beware of Swiffer), or when I ate spices or fruits or vegetables high in the natural food chemical salicylate (beware of cinnamon), I experienced wretched headaches, a racing heartbeat, and a feeling like a shutter had been flipped closed in my brain. When I avoided those scents or foods, I felt pretty much normal.  But of course, avoidance of those things was a near impossible task. I quickly became a neurotic hermit, scared to be around other people, scared to eat. Worse, I felt life had become hostile to me. When the air you breathe and the food you eat effectively becomes poisonous to you…. Well, to say it was a rough mental road to travel is an understatement. 

 

Although I’d previously never heard of such a condition--nor was anyone I personally knew familiar with MCS (including my doctor)--sensitivity to the chemicals in perfumes, scented detergents, cleaning products and air fresheners is actually surprisingly common.  A 2004 prevalence study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that 12.6 percent of the population of the Southwestern U.S. reported “hypersensitivity to common chemicals,” with 3.1 percent having been officially diagnosed with MCS.  Similarly, a survey sponsored by the California Health Department found that 15.9 percent of Californians said they are “unusually sensitive to everyday chemicals,” with 6.3 percent receiving a diagnosis of MCS or environmental illness. That means millions upon millions of us live with sensory systems overwhelmed by the swirling soup of chemicals that are so pervasive in our lives....    

 

Next:  Searching for a Theory

 

 

By Teena Booth