Cave Dwelling

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Multiple Chemical Sensitivity



Cave dwelling with MCS:

A life of avoidance

For eight years, I’ve done a cave dweller dance: Staying at home, avoiding people, places, and even nature.

Post by Franny Armstrong on

franny(Editor’s note: Please help me welcome Franny Armstrong as a contributor at The Canary Report! Franny is a writer of “paranormal romantic suspense” novels filled with private investigators, police, and even Royal Canadian Mounted Police who use their amazing psychic abilities to catch the villains. Franny also uses her technical and journalistic skills to create helpful, upbeat stories and articles to enlighten and motivate people. She’ll share at The Canary Report her life with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and other adventures. Read Franny’s full bio here.)


Having Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) truly limits your life. The best advice that my doctor, allergist, ear-nose-and-throat specialist, and even psychiatrist had for me was to avoid running into fragrances. Yeah, right, like I couldn’t figure that one out! LOL. Easy to say. Sure. Easy to do? Not so much.

For the past eight years, I’ve done a cave dweller dance and stayed at home, avoiding people, places, and even nature! I seemed to be allergic to EVERYTHING! The allergist tested me… no allergies found. He sent me for asthma testing… perfect lungs (non-smoker). He even sent me for a cat scan, but by that time I was too ill to travel the one-hour distance to my appointment to find out the results. I was just plain ill, so ill that I couldn’t drive myself anywhere.

For me, MCS meant extreme fatigue, mass confusion, loss of mental focus, irritability (who wouldn’t be grumpy in this shell we live in?) and so many other symptoms I can’t even list them all. Yet, was I safe in my cave? Nope!

My loving family, though supportive, didn’t truly understand what was happening to my body. They’d buy scented laundry detergent, fabric softener sheets for the dryer, scented shampoos for themselves, deodorants, cleaning products, and so on, bringing these harmful chemicals into my cave, leaving me nowhere to hide.

To live in a cave as a family, we have to learn to compromise. For instance: I won’t squeeze the toothpaste in the middle of the tube or leave socks rolled into balls, if hubby doesn’t leave his newspapers in the middle of the room, on the floor, or beside the bed and toilet… grrrr!

In the case of fragrances and other chemicals, since I couldn’t do the shopping, I had to depend on my loved ones to buy the products that didn’t make me choke, cough, have sinus infections, or make me hit my pillow for up to twenty hours a day. It’s a never-ending learning experience.

Change is not a four letter word, yet that’s what must happen in order to allow us cave dwellers to survive in this toxic environment.

Today, I feel better than I have in years. I’m taking vitamins and minerals that don’t harm me, cleaning with only scent-free, color-free, soap and vinegar, and use lots of petroleum-free elbow grease. FREE, FREE, FREE!!!

Just the other day, my hubby wasn’t even thinking about it when he oiled the hinges on the squeaky door using a spray that sent me into a massive coughing fit. He was stunned, completely forgetting about MCS since he uses the product for work every day (and he’s an asthmatic, too!).

As cave dwellers, we must educate not only ourselves but our families, friends, and even strangers who come to our doors (a “Caution: Severe Reactions To Fragrances” sign in the window might help.)

Many people don’t even realize they are wearing a scent when they come near. I tend to hold up my hand before they get to close, halting their approach, then ask if they are wearing a fragrance. This is very unsettling for some, not a problem for others, when you explain you’re allergic to them. (You and I know that “allergic” doesn’t describe the difference between MCS and allergies.)

Education is the key. That’s why blogs like The Canary Report and other MCS websites are key forces in making others aware of this debilitating illness. It took many years before governments and medical associations acknowledged Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, so take hope. Teach those you live with or who walk in your door about MCS, since knowledge is the best defense against it.

I wish you good health.

Photo of and by Franny Armstrong.

© by Franny Armstrong
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