Jennifer Cannon is the founder of SurvivingToxicMold.com and this is her story:
I was a perfectly healthy young woman with two kids in the prime of my life
May 2009 - Monster House
I found a single family home on a half acre that was for rent. 2 bedrooms and a finished basement that my son could use as a 3rd bedroom. It seemed to be the perfect place for me and my two kids as a single mom. It wasn't AT ALL a monster house. A 1950's ranch on a half acre in Naperville? Pretty much a blessing...is what I thought.
May 2009 - Mysterious Pipe
A week after I moved in I noticed a pipe that was exposed in the roof coming from upstairs was leaking. I contacted the landlord and management company that rented me the house, but they never responded to the situation. So...I did what any person would do: I put a bucket under it to catch the dripping water. I emailed the real estate management company that the landlord insist I use to call if I had any problems. I emailed them immediately...got a call back from the landlord and he said he'd fix it................sometime...........but never came back or called again.
June 2010 - Was this dirt on the wall?
Fast forward a year ahead....I NEVER heard back from the landlord about "Anything"...but apparently my rent checks were being cashed. I sent in my June Rent and also included the long list of emergency issues with the house including the Mysterious Pipe (Which NEVER got fixed). This time it included a new problem:
What looked to be like dirt or black dust clusters were found on the wall or growing on the wall behind a laundry room door behind the water heater. (This wall is the WALL where the swab was taken from) This wall is NOT underneath the leaking pipe and appears to be from years ago. Water Heater looks fairly new…which means that he HAD TO KNOW that this was there. No one can miss it. He FINALLY came to look at the entire list of issues (That later I would find out were ALL toxic mold issues). 3 of us were there together in the laundry room when he turned to "His Guy" and said ok, this can easily be done…let’s throw some bleach on it and just remove this piece where the mold is….and the guy wrote it down on a clipboard.
(IT NEVER GOT FIXED OR FOLLOWED UP ON)
June 2010 - Funny weird looking spots on the ceilings.
Spots were appearing on the ceiling in the bathroom: I confronted the landlord about noticing that there was something suspicious that kept seeping through underneath fresh paint that just started to show through. I told him that when I moved in it was not there and looked like someone tried to hide that there was a mold problem in the room by painting over it.
This was the same day that the "Other Guy" was also with us….The landlord rubbed it with his finger and quickly said “that’s not mold..that’s just old paint”…he also said that if it is mold that I shouldn’t be taking showers with the window closed. Trying to quickly shift the blame on me. I mentioned NO this bathroom should be ventilated with fans and he changed the subject again. He quickly changed the subject when I said that someone tried to hide it with paint.
He refused to do anything about it in the next few weeks or months to follow, I didn’t want to be embarrassed when guests came over so every 3 weeks I would get on a ladder (no protective gear…no mask..I didn’t know it was mold), and I would clean it with rubber gloves and bleach. (I would later find out this was the biggest mistake of my life). I didn’t know how else to get rid of it. I also told him that this is what I was doing and he said “ok…just continue doing that then, it’s just moisture mold and every house has that.” UNQUOTE.
So since June of 2010 I had been cleaning the ceiling on my own not knowing the dangers or toxicity of it. And he DID NOT take action to get a mold test done OR have a plan of action to have it removed.I did not know that I was in any danger…and because of his negligence as a landlord our family was now being poisoned by toxic mold I would find out 2 1/2 years later.
If I knew the dangers I would have kept calling..but again…I did not know the dangers of toxic mold that were already in the home before I even rented it. This is the bathroom ceiling that he said was NOT mold that I would continue to wash..and it would continue to reappear weeks later.
September 2010 - Told landlord that floor tiles were loose in the bathroom and not sure why.
September 2010 - Landlord finally sends in a plumber
Plumber came in and found that the there was a black slimey something under the tiles and that in his opinion looked like black mold. He also concluded that the toilet was the cause of mold in the bathroom floor tiles. He fixed the seal on the toilet and stopped the leak into the red pipe in the basement. (So the landlord knew of this leak for over a year and a half before having him come out and fix it)
He started ripping out the tiles with the black mold and DID NOT wear any protective gear, DID NOT protect the home from spores, DID NOT shut off vents in the bathroom and DID NOT seal off the area. And DID NOT tell us to get out. DID NOT hire a remediation company to clean it.
He threw a plastic bag in the hallway outside the bathroom and started flinging the tiles into the plastic bag which means he threw the spores all throughout the house and HVAC system.
He also instructed me to leave the industrial fan on for 3 days. I honestly just thought it was something I’d have to deal with until the house cleared out..I didn’t know there were any dangers in doing this. Workers used a fan to blow all the black mold through the house..he told me to leave the fan on 3 nights and all day until he returned…this blew all the spores through the ventilation system and house. I tried to vacuum the carpet where he was throwing moldy tiles onto the plastic bag….but black mold stained the carpet and made it dirty.
I used bleach ( WHICH IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO...but I didn't know it at the time), to mop the stairs from top level to living room and also wood floors going out to front door.
I confronted him about how we need to remove that wall in the basement behind the water heater as well and he said…”Na…I’ll just spray it with bleach and we’ll put the tile over it…you’ll never notice it”…..so IT IS STILL THERE to this day>>>if you move the sink and rip the tile off the wall you will see that he covered it up. (The guy he hired was NOT qualified to do a mold cleanup).
The guy finished on October 4th, 2010
October 5th - October 11th, 2010 - Whole family suddenly feels ill
We all had non-stop headaches, stomach aches, loss of appetite and some diarrhea for approximately 5 days…then the symptoms slowed down.
My health gradually got worse…..started once a week symptoms..then became more frequent:
- Spinning sensations
- Shortness of breath
- Fast heart beat
- Heart Palpitations
October through February 2011 - My son starts having health problems
The kind of Mom that I was before I got sick...was a loving mom who sacrificed everything for my kids and I would do things like make them feel special on valentines day by buying them chocolates and setting the table to have a nice Valentines Day dinner, but after this Valentines Day...that would all end.
I love to cook and bake and make my children feel like they always had a warm and happy home to come back to.
From October until Feb, my son started to gain weight rapidly. He was gaining a lot of weight in his face and chest areas. I took him to the doctor to see what was wrong. They told me that my son had high blood pressure at the age of 11. WOW! I couldn't understand how my son could have high blood pressure being as young as he was. It wasn't like he was eating something that other normal kids weren't eating.
March 25th, 2011 - A DAY I'LL NEVER FORGET
Around 8 in the evening I was working on my computer and suddenly lost my breath....I fell to the floor and the room was closing in around me...it took everything I had to stay awake...or what I thought at the time "TO stay alive". I was yelling at my kids to call 911!!
My heart was racing and I was trying so hard not to pass out but after they got me into the ambulance, I passed out and woke up in the ER.
They did a million tests on me and everything came back "normal"...HUH? How is that normal?? I was a perfectly healthy person. The ER doctor told me that I had an anxiety attack. I had no idea what this was. He gave me some anxiety meds and sent me home.
March 25th - PRESENT
I continued to suffer from anxiety so bad that I was in a constant state of anxiety unless I had my every 3-hour anxiety benzo. I suffered from this until just recently January 2014.
If you are not sure what anxiety attacks are like....please go to my symptoms list page and you can better understand what they are like.
They basically feel like every illness wrapped in one.....they mimic some very severe issues like heart attacks.
Click here to see how intense anxiety attacks can be
May 16th, 2011 - Let's start with testing this house
From March 25th up to this point I had been completely ill with anxiety attacks and I had been to the doctor several more times. No diagnosis....so I continued to take the xanax just to try and get up from bed and get around the house.
I decided to try and see if the house may be the reason. At this point I didn't make any connection to my illness and the house.
I was going to start with mold, then radon, then lead, then check the water supply etc..etc.
On May 16th I hired a local mold inspection company to come in and do a swab of two areas one upstairs and another downstairs. I also had them do an air sample of both outside and inside to compare.
What they revealed was ALARMING!!
The calls........I can still hear his voice - May 18th, 2011
The inspector on the other end told me that my house was "TOXIC" and that I needed to get OUT! Hearing this was so devastating, I could hardly finish the call. I immediately called my mom and balled my eyes out.
From what he said....I needed to leave everything sitting just as it was and not bring anything with me because of the severity of my symptoms. He said under any other circumstances he would just recommend that I wash things and move to another location.
I was so ill I could barely stand up. Vomiting, dizziness, hallucinating, every muscle in my body was aching and anxiety was now a constant feeling...so strong that I couldn't even think. I couldn't remember anything that I had just done or said nor could I talk or get the right words out to say anything.
In the few days following the dreaded news, not to mention the extreme illnesses I was dealing with, I needed to find a safe place and refuge for me and my two children. A realtor friend of mine recommended that I speak with him about possibly renting out some foreclosure properties that they were maintain. At first, I was reluctant as I was thinking: "If these properties were abandoned that meant there could be mold there too?". He reassured me that there was a specific duplex that he was aware of that was fairly new and only had one owner. He told me there were no moisture or water damage issues and that the home was very very clean and new. With my health deteriorating on a daily basis I made the decision to leave everything behind.
Our last day at the house was very sad, very messy and all of our possessions were a mess as if someone had robbed our home
In the video below was the day we found out that we had Stachybotrys and could no longer keep organizing our belongings and try to clean them. I went through each room and began to take video of everything. I was so sick...I couldn't even talk. You can hear me breathing through my mold ventilator mask. The most devastating day of my life. After this video I went outside and collapsed in the driveway and cried. We then drove to the store bought one new outfit each, then drove to the health club showered and burned our clothes. Me and my two kids then went to our new empty house with no belongings, no food and just sat on the floor and cried and cuddled for two hours.
Leaving everything you own - The most devastating life experience
The next two days were spent sifting through our belongings trying to find "non-porous" items that could be washed in borax and ammonia and saved. Here are some devastating "after" photos of all of the belongings that had to be ransacked and thrown in piles quickly. Everything I owned was throw in "keep or giveaway piles"...nothing more devastating than seeing your entire past...tossed into piles in your own home.
TOTAL LOSS in 2011 was:
- over $75,000 worth of belongings: Furniture, clothing, food, belongings, cars
- over $120,000 worth of medical bills and still growing
- Lost my entire ability to work - had to shut down my Marketing Firm of 7 years.
New empty house - Starting over
So June 1st we ended up moving to a new safe location while we were still trying to make sense of this enormous loss both financially and medically. We moved in with just the clothes on our back. My mother and father were SUCH blessings in my life. My mom took me to the store to try and get everything I needed for basic living...WOW, this was emotionally devastating knowing that we had lost over $75,000 worth of belongings.
The home above that saved our life was now being purchased through a short sale situation and we needed to find a new place to live.
3 years and still not healthy - illnesses and struggles like no other
We began to try to acclimate to the new home but I had no idea I'd be facing the worst days of my life physically. When you leave a home that is making you sick your body tends to have what they call a herxheimer or die off reaction. I fell so violently ill that I couldn't barely stay conscious. I have spent the last 3 years fighting for my life. Over 23 Emergency room visits. My symptoms began to increase soon after we moved due to the "die off" reaction. After about 6 months of living in the new house, I began to see a slight improvement in my health. I really did think that this was finally looking like it might clear up. But it had other plans for me.
Tested my body for mycotoxicity in March of 2013
No doctors could help me....no one could offer any help. I simply laid in bed, day after day suffering. I began doing some hefty searching on the internet in early 2012 and ran across a lab in Texas that tests the human body for mycotoxins. I was devastated to find out the test was VERY expensive and I was completely bankrupt. I saved money for over a year to finally afford the test.
I had the testing done and everything I had ever suspected was "true". I came back positive for Trichothecene toxin exposure and Ochratoxin exposure. Elevated levels. (These toxins are NOT normally in the human body unless the person has inhaled them or ingested them).
I did end up finding a new place (SUPER CLEAN and mold free)...I really thought that my health was starting to improve but then in August of 2013 I began feeling very ill again. So how can a person leave the poisoned environment and leave everything behind, yet still feel ill a year or two later?
Easy: My bathroom sink started leaking in the downstairs bathroom and I had no idea it was dripping for 2 months. I opened the bathroom vanity to look for something and noticed that the entire inside of the cabinet was fuzzy mold. I HAD FOUND OUT I WAS POISONED AGAIN!!
MOLD is ugly...it is very smart and can hybernate in major organs and tissues of the body. One day it can lodge itself in your brain, the next day it will circulate into the kidneys, liver and adrenal glands sending you off a cliff symptomatically speaking.
Here are some VERY IMPORTANT THINGS I've learned about mold during my journey:
- Women and children are at higher risk (They are exposed at greater levels and durations than men by being in the home for longer periods of time, not to mention women are more likely to be the persons to clean the areas in the home that have toxic mold.) HUSBANDS? Please check your homes regularly using my checklist HERE. Or go to my "WHERE MOLD GROWS" page to search your home for possible areas mold can be to protect the women and children you love so dearly.
- If you suspect mold DO NOT USE BLEACH TO CLEAN IT. Bleach has a concentration of too much H20 or water. Water is what increases a toxic mold's strength factor and toxicity. Have it tested FIRST before you attempt to even touch it. (for minor spots you can grab a home test kit from Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, Ace etc.) If it comes back as a NON toxic mold...then use ammonia to clean and remove it.
- You must use a "binder" in order to remove mold from your body: Here are a few that have worked for people so you can discuss with your doctor.
- Modifilan (Natural Rare Brown Seaweed)
- Limu Moi (Natural drink made from Rate Brown Seaweed)
- Zeolite Clay (Natural clay)
- Bentonite Clay (Natural clay)
- Novasil (Made from a rare clay substance) *New product on the market
- Cholestyramine ( Pharmaceutical drug: side effects can be sores in mouth, extreme constipation)
- Welchol (Pharmaceutical drug)
2014 - a look ahead
I am currently facing physical effects every single day.
I experienced all of this at one time or another:
DIAGNOSIS OF CFS/ME, ANXIETY/DEPRESSION, ANEMIA, SYNCOPE, HEART Arrhythmia, ATRIAL Fibrillation, GALLSTONES, HIGH CORTISOL, HIGH ESTROGEN, DEFICIENCIES of zinc, b6, vitD, potassium.
chest pain (heart)
chest pain (below heart rib)
Short of breath
deprived of oxygen
Lungs feel constricted or full of something
Blood feels thick
dizzy without stars
dizzy with stars
Just seeing stars
Fight or flight entire body
General Anxiety (GAD) took Valerian Root
Anxiety Attacks severe for months
Tingling in two fingers
Tingling in arm and stiffness
Numbness in feet
Burning Sensation in Hands
Burning sensation in arms
Prickly feeling in fingers
WHOOSHING scary passout feeling
tightness in chest
Off Balance when standing
weak headed from neck
Heat Flashes (severe)
Swirling in head like dizziness in a circle
MOUTH & THROAT
Throat pain - lower
Dry Cracked Lips
lightheaded after exercise
Severe Head spinning
Ringing in Ears
Pressure in ears
Sharp pain in head brief
Pressure in head/sinus
Random Brain Firing Neurological
Mottled skin: tophands/forearms/back arms/top knees
Dark Circles around eyes
Burning skin on forearms
SWELLING & INFLAMMATION
Inflammation in forearms
Inflammation in feet
Inflammation in legs thighs
Swelling in fingers
Swelling in brain
gut wrenching ill through whole body
burning from the inside out
Nauseous - SO SICK feeling all over
Bladder Pain or Infection
Liver swelling and pain
Sharp pain left above Hip
overall weakness (have to lay in bed all day)
weakness in thighs
weakness in upper arms
weakness in forearms
GI & COLON
Severe pain in intestines
gut wrenching ill through whole body chills shaking
BONE, JOINT & MUSCLE PAIN
Foot bone pain
ankle bone pain
Knee bone pain
Thigh bone pain/
hip bone pain
neck pain and stiffness
Shoulder bone pain
Upper arm bone/muscle pain
Elbow bone pain
Forearm bone pain
Wrist bone pain
Finger bone pain and extreme cold
REPRODUCTIVE & ENDOCRINE
Adrenal Crashes (everyday 5 years)
Serotonin Deficiency (extreme)
Insomnia (Melatonin malfunction)
Irregular timing on monthly cycles
Heavy Blood loss in monthly cycle with severe anemia
You can see a FULL list of symptoms others experience from the "Symptoms List":
- Extreme brain fog
- Extreme changes in blood pressure high one hour..then low the next
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Chronic Fatigue
- Anxiety attacks
- Extreme Nausea
- Sinus pressure
- Joint pain
- Loss of muscle
- Extreme vitamin deficiencies
- High levels of cortisol and estrogen production
- Numbness in fingers
- Weakness in legs and difficulty standing/walking
- Diagnosed with SIBO
- High Nagalase numbers
- Diagnosed with Pyroluria - triggered by mycotoxin exposure
- PTSD - severe with nightmares, anxiety attacks and chemical imbalances
Dec 2013 - June 2014 I underwent a strict mold detox diet which caused me to lose 50lbs
|Me in 2013
|Me in August 2014
What am I doing today?
I spend a good deal of my day researching toxicology, biochemistry and mycology so that I can help others through my website here.
I do my best to love others, cherish everyone and I have a new appreciation for what others face. Everyday is filled with reminders of the lasting effects of what being poisoned by toxic mold can do to a person.
I still have neurological damage that effects my nervous system. The slightest amount of stress triggers nervous system symptoms like fight or flight, concentration issues, inability to cope at times, spikes in blood pressure, anxiety. I spend most of my time looking for the positive in situations and working on my health through diet and being good to myself.
Just know that you can do this....and you will make it!!