First off, if you’re here looking for these tools, I’m so sorry. It means you have the kind of illness or disability where the doctors do tests and shrug. Or you have the shrug version of a diagnosis where they don’t actually treat you and you have to come up with your own treatment plan. Those with IBS, food intolerances, chemical sensitivities, fibromyalgia, CFS, ME, autism, hyper mobility and anything deemed as rare know what I’m talking about. Maybe you are going through the fun game of specialist hot potato where they throw you onto the next one while yelling, “Not me!” You also might live in one of the many countries where you simply can’t afford to visit a specialist or have to wait for years to get into a free one. Or they don’t have any in your area and you can’t afford to travel. So, my apologies for the lack of medical care and problem solving doctors you’ve encountered so far. Hopefully these tools can make it a little easier for you to get answers and Sherlock your way into some meaningful treatment plans and proper diagnoses.
I’ll be adding more to this because I have more tools that I’ve used to figure out how to maintain myself. I’ll announce them on twitter from @erin. These tools are meant to be free. They are not to be sold. Don’t be that guy.
Medical History and Summary
This is to correlate your data and history to get a big picture view of various events and tests that they might not have seen all in one place. If you have access to all your labs, you can include all your abnormal results. Write out the things that they have already tested and diagnoses abandoned. There are instructions on how to fill this out in the Word document. You should be able to open Word documents on Linux systems and Apple. I made this in Pages so the formatting will be off. Currently WordPress is not letting me upload Pages documents and I need to figure that out. I have included a PDF for those who need to have it printed for them and filled out by hand that contains no instructions as well as one with instructions for those with programs that let you edit PDFs. If you edit this in Word or Pages it will update the table of contents pages for you automatically.
Happy International Disabled People Day! This year, the focus is on invisible disabilities. I’m Erin and I have an invisible disability collection. Today, however, I’m going to talk to you about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, which is an Environmental Illness.
Environmental Illnesses are a group of disorders that are covered under Human Rights in Canada and in Ontario as a part of the AODA, where I live, but they are hardly ever included in accessibility plans.
People who have MCS can react to a large variety of things, often along the Volatile Organic Compound groups, which can be naturally occurring (like in essential oils, tree sap, and pollens) or chemically processed. Usually there are natural based ingredients in the processed product that are the root of the issue, but they are ubiquitous and current labeling laws do not protect people with reactions outside the most common allergens.
The most common sensitivity for people with what I call ‘beginners MCS’ is perfume and scented products.
Features of MCS include migraines, hives, eczema, food sensitivities similar to MCAS, brain fog, dizziness, asthma, hair loss, psoriasis, nervous system control issues, muscle control issues, vomiting, diarrhea, breathing issues, emotional regulation issues, body temperature regulation issues, sweating, nose bleeds, and I’m sure other things I’ve forgotten because I ran the dishwasher during the day and the rubber casket hasn’t off gassed yet and it’s been a full year so far. My lung lesions are caused by chemicals but I had to ask multiple doctors before one gave me a CT scan to prove I even had them.
There are only three treatments centres in Canada for environmental illnesses, and there are no environmentally safe hotels or places to stay if you can get an appointment at one, because hotels are not forced to be accessible. Most even spray ‘signature scents’ around their properties. It was over a year and a half wait to get into the Women’s College Hospital in Toronto as it is not properly funded. There are no official treatments. They try to get you seen by as many specialists as they can for the associated symptoms, but often people with MCS do not have traditional test results and then are left to deal with their disease alone, or forced to try out alternative medicines which are not covered under provincial healthcare and or insurance (should you have access to some). This leaves the MCS community vulnerable to scammy practitioners and commercialized health care fraud, which often makes their issues worse. Alternative practices that do help are not sanctioned as there has been no funding put into research or attempts at creating medicines. Promising medicines like Low Dose Naltrexone are not prescribed for symptoms related to MCS and you have to fight to even get a doctor who is familiar with the illness who will try to treat you. The knowledge management on this illness is so bad among healthcare practitioners that people are often prescribed anti-depressants and then gaslit about their symptoms. After having anaphylaxis while traveling internationally, a doctor in Toronto General Emergency told me there was no such thing as MCS and that I was having a panic attack. I went home and vomited foam on my own, with no blood tests to capture the moment. People with EMF sensitivity are the hardest hit with this issue out of the environmental illnesses.
The only option is avoidance and for most people that means complete isolation and no health care, as hospitals, doctors offices, physical therapists and more do not have accessible facilities. Dentists and Dermatologists even often sell scented products and use essential oil diffusers, making them among the worst of the health care providers for accessibility. Especially now, with inaccessible cleaning products being broadcast as the only option by Health Canada (while safe peroxide based disinfectant alternatives and unscented soaps exist), we have been completely cast aside. Health Canada even warns about the dangers of indoor VOCs, yet has created a situation where they are unavoidable. My son has no access to his school and it will take a long time for the chemical soup to clear. Most people with MCS have to do many treatments to get these pervasive products out of drywall. There are off gassing protocols we use and they all have limitations.
Pharmacies sell perfumes and often are the only places you can get flu shots. Canada Post locations are often located inside dry cleaners or perfume store pharmacies and do not offer accessible curb side services (even during covid). We do not have regulations on home dryer venting filtration to stop the onslaught of dryer sheet fumes that affect people and the environment. Airlines spray pesticides on planes and are not required to notify passengers. Many cleaning standards mandated by the government for food services are inaccessible, barring disabled people from working in entire industries.
Once you’re pushed out of the workforce by inaccessible standards and unenforced policies you have the option of not having your disability covered under Canada’s Disability tax credit program, and fighting to be on provincial disability which is at below poverty rates. The assistive device program in Ontario doesn’t cover air purifiers, needed to maintain health. Air purifiers are also not tax deductible as health expenses, neither is infrared sauna use, which is one of the only suggested treatments. There are no safe homeless shelters, and most low income housing is not chemically accessible. There are no scent-free, low VOC long term care centres. Food banks are not accessible and cannot handle requests such as no nightshades, pesticides or foods without preservatives. We do not have VOC ratings on products, we do not have a scent-free path similar to gluten free paths for foods and there is often contamination. I need a back brace and I can’t find one I don’t react to, which is a huge barrier to health care. So, we are recognized in Canada but not supported, or treated. That stops today, and how we do that is by:
Funding research into treatments and capturing genetic information for those afflicted to add to the drug reaction database.
Clearly stating accessible standards and not forcing disabled people to disclose their illness to get accommodations.
Updating inaccessible workplace standards like for commercial kitchens.
Creating a VOC rating standard for products as a part of environmental carbon emissions legislation.
Creating a scent-free food chain.
Creating accessible housing.
Funding disabled people who can’t work and providing them with the tools they need to get well, like knowledgable doctors, air purifiers and grocery cards to purchase their own foods.
Hiring people with MCS to create your policies and solutions.
Have a great day, ditch the perfume if you’re going out, wear your mask and stay safe.
Regardless of how you feel about the holiday season — no matter if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Mawlid, Bohdi Day, Yule, the Birthday of Guru Nanak, nothing or anything else — most people at least agree that we should be nice.
Every year I’ve set up an advent calendar for my daughter, even though I’m not a believer in the background of Christmas. Hey, even atheists love a good party. Plus, if the party has a lot of decorations, presents, food and niceness… come on now. I even made a magnetic fridge advent calendar after my grandma passed away as an homage to her, and told my daughter that Great-Grandma watched over her and gave her the treats. Well, she figured me out this year.
Rather than making 25 treats during a season already saturated by sugars, I thought about the stellar values my super awesome Grandma had, and how I could turn the calendar into something actually magical. So we sat down and I cut up 25 pieces of paper and asked my now seven year old daughter what we could do each day leading up to Santa that would be kind and nice, but not necessarily cost any or much money. Folks, she has come up with a brilliant list of Nice Things.
We folded up the papers and put them in a bag, shook it around then placed them in our advent calendar so each day would be a surprise. I will post the Nice Things we do each day on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram with the tag #25NiceThings and then follow up with how it all turned out. I challenge you to follow along and do a Nice Thing with us! Or make your own Nice Things list and tag #25NiceThings so my daughter and I can follow you and have more ideas for next year. You don’t have to believe in any holiday or religion to want be nice and do Nice Things. You just have to be thoughtful. So be thoughtful with us this year. I have a good feeling about you.
I found out that gluten was an issue when my daughter was reacting to my breast milk. She had terrible sleep and digestion issues until I took gluten, dairy and soy out of my diet. We thought that was the end, but our digestion problems continued. Through stool samples, testing and the mother of all elimination diets we know we have a lot of food intolerances due to gut bacteria and missing digestive enzymes. We still don’t know the whole story yet, but we are well on our way.
Based on the combination of our food issues, it became impossible to find pre-made snacks for my son to take to school that were also nut free. We tried every pill for dairy and they do not help. We can’t eat most grains, mostly everything has to be cooked, whole vegetable and legume groups are out and it’s boiling down to being an issue digesting cellulose. So, yeah… shopping became difficult. This was not my first time at the adversity-rodeo however, so I promptly developed delicious recipes so that my son will not feel left out and still get to eat his favourite things. On top of that, these are school safe so that other kids with severe nut allergies will not have to be concerned. With great gut bacteria you need to cut out foods that feed it, so I make my foods low glycemic.
Get ready to eat some amazing cost effective snacks!