Order from Chaos . . . The Art of Connecting

bigstock-Somebody-Telling-Doctor-Proble-46898629The doctor doesn’t know what to say when I tell him my blood pressure is connected, not to chronic hypertension, but to an exposure to perfume.

The girl I’m dating doesn’t know what to say when I answer the question, “how come I can never come to your house?”

The paint seller doesn’t know what to say when I tell him his $1500 supply of non-chemical paint made my rental apartment uninhabitable for me.

They just don’t know what to say.

My last blog stirred up reaction . . . but . . . based on the communications that followed, it seemed nobody knew what to say.  My intention was not to stir up pity.  Much the opposite.  My intention was to come down from a place where my ego told me I could handle everything myself and invite help.

Over the last couple of days I received emails and texts from friends and colleagues.  They wanted to reassure me they care about me and wish they could help.  I realized I failed to fully crystallize my perspectives and emotions in that last blog post.  I didn’t mean to suggest that nobody helps me.  I didn’t mean to suggest that people should pity me in any way, shape, or form.

I love people and I receive love in many ways from many people and for that I live my life with gratitude.  I know my close friends, relatives, and distant friends would help if they could . . . but it’s a challenging set of circumstances and short of finding me a non-toxic planet I could live on with my extended family, the solutions are well hidden.  Like I do when I’m solving a puzzle, or embarking on a treasure hunt, I know the solutions are out there . . . but I believe answers will come from, not a single source, but an alignment.

Those of you who began emails with “I don’t know what to say but . . . “ said exactly the right thing in following that preface.  Those who said, “wow” and had a stunned silence follow said exactly the right thing.  Those who confessed they didn’t realize how much I had been dealing with said exactly the right thing.  I don’t want apologies for human contact.  I want that contact and I invite speechless responses as well as verbose ones.  I don’t want sorrow, negativity, or pity.  If you leave those on the shelf, I assure you, anything you say is the right thing.

My belief is that chaos aligns to form order.  I live by this truth.  My Be Better students know this well.  When we find the alignment in the chaotic events and circumstances, it all begins to make sense, to create a greater good, so every little piece of awareness is a treasure I welcome.  Letting my guard down fully, confessing to a million dollar outlay without return, and admitting I’ve been taken advantage of by many who profit from health struggles wasn’t intended to make anybody feel guilty about not being able to help.  It isn’t the absence of help from friends I was addressing.  It’s the absence of fair exchange (money for result) that brings me to a place where I suspect asking for help is a far better strategy than attempting to buy it.

Every insight is valuable.  If you want to comment on the blog with a single word or a sentence, it helps.  If you pass the blog along to someone else, just to increase awareness, there’s value in that.  If you tell one person or ten people about my situation, you’re doing something appreciated.  Somebody somewhere knows somebody somewhere who can help me move past this challenging chapter, so if you simply connect with me via phone, text, email, or in spirit . . . it counts.  I continue to share light with thousands, and remain driven, motivated, and happy.  I do seminars, webinars, teleconferences.  I work with people one-on-one.  I counsel people.  I live everyday with an appreciation for all that my life continues to bring my way, knowing the future is going to bring wonder.  Most of all, I know I’ll continue to help others and that’s the greatest gift we can experience.  Anyone who knows me well knows I treasure the thank you’s above all.

In asking for help, I didn’t intend anyone to feel bad, to feel guilty for not having an answer, or to shake their heads and say, “poor Phil.”  It did require a mindset shift for me to realize, in inviting people who have the means to help me, I’m actually sharing that gift I’ve perhaps been selfish with as I saw my purpose as only to help others.  In an odd way, it feels good to come from a different place and expect the best.

In gratitude, I thank you for being connected to my life and I anticipate we will both benefit.

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The Cost: $1,000,000. The Result: Honesty and Hope.

Ego, you are dismissed, at least for now.  Honesty is the order of the day and as I prepare to let loose, my heart pounds hard.  The pounding is part apprehension about facing my present reality, part an acute reaction to the chemical stew I’ve introduced into my cells, and then there’s the good part.  The anticipation of something wonderful.

In a previous post I acknowledged that I need help, but here I sit, months later, acknowledging . . . I don’t know how to ask for the assistance I need.  I honestly suck at asking for help.  From 7th grade to 45 years old I seemed to find answers.  I faced challenges and found solutions and each challenge/solution made me wiser and stronger.

In 2005 Hurricane Wilma changed my life (read the previous posts in chronological order if you don’t yet know how).  Today, after being misdiagnosed with MS, Parkinson’s, and a host of other chronic diseases, none of which I really have, I know from a biological perspective, what led to my struggle was the inhalation of mold.  Along the way, over the course of the last 8 years, I’ve been told I had limited time to live, I have been subjected to debilitating periods resultant from exposure to perfumes, cleaning supplies, pesticides, and God knows what else, and I’ve incurred unfathomable financial costs.

OK.  I mentioned financial.  Here’s a part of the reality that I’ve only faced within the last 10 days.  I totaled up the expenses.  They include medical expenses (not covered by insurance), moving costs (I’ve moved 11 times in 8 years . . . never by choice), and home repair costs that fell short in trying to remedy the toxic indoor air quality that has plagued me.  I put a pen to it.  This hurts to say . . . but remember, this is a day of honesty.  $1,000,000.  One million fucking dollars down the drain.  I’ve invested 8 years and over $1,000,000 in attempting to rediscover my health and it’s all been a money-sucking bottomless pit with nothing on the other side.

Don’t mistake this for complaining.  I don’t complain.  While, when studying the archetypes that make each of us unique, it’s clear that we all at some level host the Victim archetype, it’s one I rarely allow to surface.  I don’t complain.  I seek answers.  I don’t feel victimized.  I convince myself I’m blessed and this is a necessary part of the journey.  That said, in this moment, it pains me, frustrates me, and at some level angers me how much wasted money, time, and energy I’ve been party to.

I wish I could say some of it paid off.  At this moment, I’m paying rent on a home I haven’t lived in in two months and as of last month I moved all my remaining belongings out of.  Over the course of the last 3 years, I gave away every piece of furniture, every book, every souvenir, every memory with the exception of my guitars and grand piano (now in storage running a tab of $85 per month).  I moved my televisions, inflatable beds (got rid of the mattresses and box springs), and clothes into a new apartment, one that I cannot even walk into without suffering effects that have sent me to hospitals on far too many occasions.

There’s a book in me.  Maybe several.  Perhaps it will share the invisible dangers that our toxic world has brought us, dangers I’ve witnessed in the role of the canary in the coal mine.  The condition named Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is such an enigma it remains unrecognized, misunderstood, and often chalked up to stress or a loss of sanity.  I assure you, it’s real.  I also know, there’s more to it than that was brought on by mold.

When the body becomes toxic at a cellular level, the communication between the brain, the mind, the immune system, and the gut begins to break down, and the body fails to recover from the adrenal overload that leads to autoimmune inflammatory disease.  There is an emotional element that drives the limbic system to associate chemicals with danger and that perpetuates the flood of immune warriors and their misdirection so they work to attack rather than heal.  I’d also have to say, while I’m being completely honest, there’s a spiritual element.  Somewhere between “life is great” and “nobody understands my struggle” the spirit gets crushed and it takes a rallying of mind, body, and spirit to maintain optimism when all seems bleak.

I’ve met people who’ve been cured of MCS, but more who’ve been destroyed.  I prefer to model those who were cured, but it isn’t a straight line.  Annie Hopper cured herself with limbic system retraining, a variation of NLP directed to brain rewiring.  Today she is one of the most inspirational speakers on the topic.  Dr. Daniel Pompa cured himself with avoidance of the irritant and years of extreme detoxing.  Today his practice is dedicated to helping a small army of doctors understand toxicity and its cure.  Henry Wright, a Georgia-based pastor cures MCS and environmental disease by connecting people with spirituality and a surrender to Christ.

My own spiritual journey through this process has led me down some amazing roads.  I’ve met and befriended ministers, rabbis, Kabbalists, clairvoyants, shamans, and spiritual healers.  I’ve met whackos and knowers.  I’ve seen things that evidenced there is more than what we can discover with our five senses.  I realize there is a spiritual component to healing that serves in harmony with shifts in psychology and biology.

Why, then, am I still in this mess?  Because, as I have shared for decades, we are all the same but we are all different.  What worked for Dr. Pompa is clearly a piece of my healing, but he wasn’t affected by mold.  What worked for Annie Hopper is clearly a piece of my healing, but she lived in a houseboat for a period of time before finding relief with her brain retraining.   Dr Henry Wright preaches and ministers and those who come to him find freedom from MCS, but my heritage and my evolving spiritual beliefs don’t fully align with his teachings.

8 years, 1 million dollars, and 11 homes after this all started, I sit here without a place to live, without a bed to sleep in, without a desk where I can sit at my computer and work, without the clarity of thought I’ve always taken for granted, and without a single guide who has led me to cure, and while despair is an option, it’s not one I entertain.  There’s an answer.  I’m far from the health I’ve known but I believe very close to the solution arising.  There are also lessons that I’ve learned, hard lessons that my stubborn instincts had to be crushed by before I accepted a new series of truths.

One of the greatest lessons is, after years of building a career by helping people, I’ve been taken advantage of, repeatedly, by people who put their self-interests above their ability to help others in need.  I’ve never thought of myself as someone in need.  Right now, I am.  Honesty.  I am.

Last week, as I had to physically leave the apartment I moved into because the paint fumes were robbing my health, my friend Jessica asked, “can’t someone give you a break?”

“A break?”  Every landlord charged me months beyond the time I spent in the home I rented, and I’ve never failed to pay.  Every doctor charged me whether or not he or she helped me.  Every airline, hotel, air purifier seller, and drug manufacturer was happy to take money from me without any concern for delivering value.  Is this the Victim mentality?  No.  It’s the wake up call.

I have to summon up a new sort of toughness.  Not the bold strength I’ve always relied upon, but a strength of admission, of vulnerability, and of a willingness not only to ask, but to embrace and welcome true help.  It’s time for someone to give me a break.  It’s time for someone to help me find a safe place to live, a place where I can raise my daughter who was used to a beautiful 5-bedroom home on the water in a great neighborhood and now cries as she watches her Dad pack little suitcases to move from hotel to hotel wondering when we’ll again find a “home.”

I realize I have to humble myself even further, to really reach out for help.  To ask, and to do whatever I’m led to do.  I have to learn to trust my intuition and get in touch with the spiritual pieces that will contribute to my healing.  This is a step, a vital step.  I’m out of money.  I’m very limited in my ability to work or to be indoors, and despite blood pressure that shoots up to insane levels threatening stroke, I can’t go to conventional hospitals or ER’s without the effects mounting.  I need help.

So I’m asking.  I’m going to add a section to this site.  Up until this moment, this blog was a release for me.  I didn’t write it for anyone else, but found it attracted a great many who suffered with invisible and misunderstood illnesses.

As my former landlord continues to ask me for money for a home I vacated, and as my present apartment complex is locked into “policy” which includes my paying for breaking the lease, my bank account nears zero.  I can no longer cough up a first, last, and security, although my track record, despite hardships, has me paying every person or company I’ve ever owed.  I’m not a risk of non-paying, but I do need a place that is safe for me.

It must have white paint (toxic compounds are in the tint) that’s been dry for over two years

It must have pure wool carpet or wood or tile floors.

It cannot have new cabinetry (if the cabinets use pressed wood they must have been installed at least 7 years ago).

It must have a yard, an open outdoor area, and/or a pool deck (screened or not) where fresh air circulates.

It must have at least three bedrooms as my daughter lives with me 3 days per week and I need an office space.

It must pass a mold test and have never had unremeditated water damage.

It must have clean ductwork and a powerful air handler (inside the home, not in the garage).

A few months ago I went to stay with a wonderful couple out in Forest Knoll, California, just north of San Francisco.  It was an escape for me where I can breathe clean air.  The restaurants serve organic food grown locally.  People grab apples or berries off of local trees when they want a snack.  Homes are built into nature with respect for the environment.  You don’t see pesticide trucks.  You don’t see synthetic landscaping in manufactured communities.  The homes are built into and alongside mountains and redwood trees.  It’s amazing how much different the air is than where I live.

I’m often asked “why don’t you leave Florida?”  I can’t.  My daughter lives here and she has been and remains my #1 priority.  In that lies part of the challenge.  In rental communities they jump to replace carpet and repaint as soon as someone vacates.  In “communities” the homes sit on swamp land covered up and treated with pesticides before the homes are even built. The materials they use for building constitute a “kit” with mass produced drywall, insulation, and concrete all prepared, treated, and preserved with aldehydes and other toxic chemicals.  That’s what makes this hunt for “safety” so difficult.

My career has been built upon my ability to communicate publicly.  I’ve stepped away from that for a number of reasons and now, it’s time to revisit it as a means to finding solutions.  I’ve decided to write letters.  A series of letters.  I’m going to write to real estate moguls hoping there’s some benevolent builder who has a situation that works for me.  I’m going to write to spiritual leaders who are in touch with their communities.  I’m going to write to media outlets and personalities who might help me spread this vital message of warning along with an inspirational message of fortitude and what I believe will be a dramatic restoration of health.  I’m going to write to friends, colleagues, peers, and scientists.  To doctors, politicians, academians, and advocates.  I’m going to make these letters public and available in the hope that someone, somewhere, knows someone who can help.  I welcome and invite direction or assistance from anyone.  I’m being honest.  I need it.

As a closing note, a huge part of what keeps me going is the awareness that millions suffer with similar conditions, and most of them suffer far worse than I do.  I’ve spoken to a great many who contemplate suicide, who wish for the Angel of Death, who have been completely alienated from those they ever cared about or loved.  With solutions, with my own healing, I become the Wounded Healer, the person who not only stepped in the waters of illness, but nearly drowned in them, the person who was willing to humble himself, put his ego aside, and in that find answers, answers that are far-reaching for those who suffer as well as for those who needn’t suffer in the future.

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The Eternal Question

bigstock-Thinking-3496828Every great philosopher, every inquisitive monk, and every spiritual explorer has pondered the question, “why am I here?” and as I sit in the middle of Boca Raton, outside of Whole Foods with my wheat grass, pineapple, and lemon concoction made by the skinny girl at the juice bar, my organic salad with gorgonzola and free range chicken breast, and my bottle of raw coconut water, I can’t help but ask, who the fuck am I, and why am I here?

No, I don’t pretend to be a great philosopher, but the events of the last few years have rattled me, have torn me from the world I knew, and have landed me in some limbo where I’m a myriad of contradictions. I’m a fitness professional struggling to battle a chronic health challenge, a business advisor with brain damage, and a world traveler who can’t walk into shopping malls, subway stations, or theaters without being impaired by chemicals in the environment (if you’re new to this blog, I’ve been stricken with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, known by those who know as MCS).

Sitting amidst the huge umbrellas, palm trees, and tables and chairs, I’m looking around me. I see two mature gay men wearing matching tie dyed shirts eating sushi as their little fluffy dog with an oversized head looks at passersby capturing his fair share of attention. I see a beautiful woman with manicured nails, highlighted hair, and a body that shows the rewards of Zumba classes at Lifetime Fitness daintily sipping a protein smoothie. I see large women starting their healthy diets with soups and salads, a couple of young tattooed bodybuilders chomping at burritos, a runner in full running gear eating a fruit salad and drinking a large bottle of Fiji water, and a table full of FAU students laughing at youtube videos on an ipad.

I just realized, I do a pretty nice job of typing without looking at the keyboard.  Not a single typo!  Kudos to Miss Timlin, my 8th grade typing teacher.  I’ll go back to scanning the scene . . .

A dead ringer for the SNL Church Lady (for those of you old enough to remember Dana Carvey’s Saturday Night Live heyday) stands reading a newspaper, a table of girls with identical glasses sit and appear to be involved in a new sport, synchronized chewing, and a slow but steady parade of well-dressed and casual reveal the dichotomy of a “natural market” in the cosmetic surgery capital of the East Coast, Boca Raton. I feel oddly disconnected, as if I’m watching a show being put on just for me.

JigsawThis isn’t typical for me. I’m a connector. I’ve always found it simple to connect with all sorts of people, athletes and bookworms, geeks and freaks, beauties, elitists, simple and complex.

Today I sit disconnected, viewing things purely from inside my own skin, pondering the question that has plagued all those who contemplated the big “why,” the elusive but important reason for being.

Although MCS has impacted my brain, and left me with a lesion in the left frontal lobe, I am not yet insane. I have my marbles.  The “why am I here” is not as much a mirror of Socrates thinking as it is a question as to whether I’m serving my purpose.  While I was very clear years ago as to how I can serve a higher good, things have changed.  I feel as if this is some sort of important transitional period, as if I have something important to do.

The reality is, I could “act as if” all is OK, do as I used to do.  I could walk over to the newly seated woman with the pink shirt and pony tail and start a conversation about the James Patterson book she’s reading.  I could summon up whatever bit of charm I can muster to try to get a chuckle out of the girls with the glasses, and at the risk of being a creepy old guy, I might even take a shot at glimpsing at the youtube video with the FAU gang. That has been my nature.

Everyone who’s known me over the past thirty years knows me to be social, a conversation starter, the possessor of a genuine interest in people. I’ve been accused of being a flirt, at times of being arrogant, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the word obnoxious was whispered after some of my bold interruptions.

I never felt as if I was interrupting.

I felt connected. Right now, I don’t.

Nobody around me knows I’m blogging. Nobody around me knows I can go into a state of brain fog or even seizures if I am surrounded by people wearing perfume. Nobody around me knows I was misdiagnosed with a host of diseases from Parkinson’s on down. It’s that sense of “nobody knows” that creates the feeling of disconnection.

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As I sit here, I understand the plight of all of those who suffer with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and Environmental illness.

I understand the dilemma of the invisible disease, and I understand it first hand.

So who am I? Am I still a fitness guy if I presently struggle with my own health? Am I still a connector if I feel a sense of disconnect from the world around me?

I think whatever is going on is somehow supposed to be going on.  For some reason I feel as if, despite all of the struggle, despite the frustration, challenge, disappointment, and expense, this is who I am. It’s something different than I’ve known, as if a trauma threw me, damaged me, changed me, and in healing I’m the same but different. I can’t yet define it, but I feel an emerging new sense of purpose.

Two women speaking Spanish wearing jeans that must have been shrunken in the wash just sat at the next table. I immediately did the “freeze” thing.  It’s a thing that all who’ve been plagued by MCS can relate to. It’s a moment of potential fear, a moment of caution, a moment where we see someone who looks as if they might be wearing perfume and we freeze to assess whether we should relocate.

I did the sniff test.  I’ll stay put.  It appears safe, at least for me. I just hope they don’t get crushed by those jeans.

ChainsawThe word “safe” takes on an entirely new meaning once MCS strikes. There was a time “unsafe” meant there were bad people, wild animals, or dangerous weather conditions. You could see or predict the dangers.  Now danger sneaks up from hidden hazards.  “A dangerous condition” might mean a fragrant shampoo and conditioner were used by someone sitting nearby. Bizarre. It doesn’t get “normal.” It becomes reality, but still, a bizarre reality.

I’ve written about my challenges in finding a “safe” place to live, and my challenge continues. I’m still living in a house that is not livable for me, still reaching out trying to find assistance any place I can from realtors, friends, eco-friendly developers, or ordinary people who might be able to direct me to a living environment that is chemical free. So far I’ve been unsuccessful and my attempts at moving have been costly. I am desperate, but resourceful.

I don’t believe I’m viewed as desperate and in that lies part of the problem. Few people know how to help. I’ve always been a solution finder, always reached out to assist others. I’ve never really had need. Today I do, and I don’t know how to be in the needy role. I continue to seek out solutions, continue to seek out experts, but as resourceful as I may be, I’ve lost many of the “natural” resources I always felt I could rely upon, one of them being money, another being boundless energy.

I’m broke, my savings are gone, and I’m often exhausted, but I continually find the ability to move forward, and I feel that’s the essence of finding cure, the crux of healing. Attitude must precede all. An acceptance of a present circumstance with a willingness to seek betterment is the one resource I am able to rely on. Resilience. Mental toughness. Response-ability.

So where does this rambling sitting with my computer outside Whole Foods in Boca Raton lead? Three places, three places that serve as puzzle pieces to help me redefine or re-discover “purpose.”

  1. I’ve gone through a spiritual journey. Yes, I said a spiritual journey. It was an unintentional one that came at me. Without sharing details, I’ll tell you it has literally rocked me from the solid ground I always thought I stood on. This is not the forum for the full revelation, but suffice it to say, my world’s been shaken, rattled, and changed by something other than I’ve ever been able to access with my five senses. It led me to a sense of a greater responsibility; perhaps a different one that I believed was my “path.” I’ve spent 30 years being “a fitness guy” and in the past five years I’ve moved into a greater arena, one of “health.’ The irony of my own health hitting some real stumbling blocks as I developed my ALIVE protocol isn’t lost. There’s something valuable in it and something greater than an accident or coincidence.
  2. I understand for the first time in my life what it feels like to be a victim. It’s hard to distinguish between those doctors, contractors, and advisors who were well-intentioned and under-informed and those who saw dollar signs in my vulnerability, but regardless of their intent, I’ve been taken advantage of. In that I’m better suited than ever to become an advocate, better able to “connect” with those who feel disconnected. In other words, my recent sense of disconnection can lead me to become a representative, a spokesperson, in a sense a leader among those who are the new generation of unwell . . . those who are affected by environmental factors insidiously entering their bodies through foods they believed to be healthy, air they sucked in through their vital breath, and water we once correctly recognized as the most important nutrient of all. In this moment of perceived disconnection from “normalcy,” I feel a new connection opportunity, a chance to throw a rope around all of those who need to be united, who have an urgent plea, a message, and a warning that they’re desperate to unleash for all to hear.
  3. I must find a safe place to live. I still live in my “new” home, but I have an air exchange unit exchanging indoor air with outside air, I have fans and dehumidifiers to maintain fresh air without destroying my air handlers with Florida humidity, I have charcoal air purifiers, and even with all of that, the formaldehyde in the ceiling insulation, the emissions from the pressed wood, and the chemicals that fill the “fresh air” from pesticides and lawn treatments leave me compromised. By continuing to put this out there, to reach out for help, I believe I’ll find a home, a rental for now, a place where I can sleep through the night in safety, a place where I can live a normal life with my 8-year old daughter, a place that gives me access to clean salt air, a kitchen without chemical-ridden pressed wood cabinetry, and a comfortable home unburdened by new paint, new carpet, or mass produced chemically coated drywall. Hard to find in 21st century south Florida? Yes. Does it exist? I’m sure it does. Will I find it? Yes, or it will find me, and that experience also serves me in being a better coach for others, in helping launch an advocacy movement that takes much of the struggle out of the hunt for safety.

So to those three ends, I keep blogging, keep sharing my experiences, frustrations, feelings, and soon-to-share victories, but I’m going another step. I’m using my abilities, god-given or otherwise. I’m initiating a new movement that runs far deeper than “fitness.” I feel it’s time to re-assess the term “health care,” and to better understand, as human beings, our response-ability for living healthfully and for raising children healthfully in a synthetic chemically-filled world begging for change.

I receive no less than 50 emails a week from people who are suffering with mold toxicity and/or chemical sensitivity. I don’t advertise for them. I don’t search for them. They find me, and they vent, and what I find amazing is, whether they live in New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, or New Jersey, their stories are identical. The specifics are different, but the symptoms, the emotions, and the way they’re perceived and treated by friends, relatives, and the medical “experts” is unnervingly similar.

Think about it. If hundreds, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people from different parts of the world are affected in the same way by their own individual experiences related to exposure to mold or toxic chemicals, isn’t there scientific validation that should allow this to be recognized as a disease? I say yes.

If there are those who have found the ideal balance of detox, medication, avoidance, and strategy to “cure” their environmental disease, doesn’t it follow that MCS and related environmental maladies should be viewed as “treatable” diseases? I say yes.

We need the medical field to recognize the symptomology, to open up to new approaches for treatment, and we need the lobbying and media power to help the public gain recognition of the chemical onslaught and subtle but very real dangers.

As it stands today, any individual attempting to “warn” people comes off as a maniacal conspiracy theorist, but united, all of the MCS voices will have power, and in pursuing a cure, I hope to unite those voices.

From Presentation

From Presentation

For now, as a preliminary step, I’ve created a simple presentation outlining 15 revelations that may help those afflicted feel a sense of “connection,” a sense that there are proactive people with hope and determination seeking true solutions and that MCS forums need not be complaint mills. If you’ve read my post, the Crow in the Fire, you understand the role psychology must play in cure, and in that we must avoid negativity at all costs. I will welcome and embrace any posts, but urge you not to spill out the heartbreaks and frustrations. That doesn’t mean they’re to be ignored, but they aren’t productive in this forum with a mission of cure.

Whether you are affected by mold toxicity or MCS, or you know somebody who has been, or if you’re a health or fitness professional with a desire to stay on top of helping people find betterment, I urge you to view the presentation (it’s a PowerPoint, no sound, downloadable as a pdf) and then to complete the survey the presentation will direct you to. I’ve already collected survey results from over 200 people. The similarities are chilling, especially because these are unrelated people from all corners of the globe. The more information I acquire, the more data I have to begin to present this as a recognized and treatable condition.

Feel free to post any comments, to read other entries in the blog, and most of all, to download the presentation and complete the Survey. The words that have served as the foundation of all of my fitness and educational programs over the past decade take on a greater importance today than ever, so I’ll leave you with those two words.

Be Better.

View the Presentation titled: Escaping the Walls of Isolation and Rediscovering Your Life

Then . . . .

Complete the Survey at:

http://yourhealthbeginsnow.com/mcs-survey

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Humbling Myself – Asking for Help

If you know me, you know me as a “fitness guy.”  I am, but I’ve been thrown into a weird and distressing place and I desperately need A SAFE HOME to allow me to reverse this burdensome struggle and return to the fitness career that has been my life for the past 30 years.

I started this blog months ago hoping it would track my recovery from a condition that has plagued me for more than the last 5 years, the result of exposure to mold after Hurricane Wilma.  There are times I interact with others who suffer with MCS and am thankful for how comparatively healthy and functional I am, but I must admit, there are times that recovery seems farther off than ever . . . and I have one significant challenge that I haven’t been able to overcome.  I live in a home, a new home, a nice home, that is taking my health from me one bit at a time.

I just ran an ad on Craig’s List.  I”m putting my pride somewhere else and doing something I don’t know that I’ve ever done.  I’m reaching out for help, hoping to connect with someone who has a heart and . . . a SAFE HOME.

If you’d like to understand my journey with all of its twists and turns (I’ve got far more to tell, and believe much of it will sound comical . . . once wellness returns).  You can read the blog beginning with my first entry:

http://aliveandbetter.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/not-ready-to-die/

Following is the ad I ran on Facebook.  I’m out of options other than reaching out for help.  I have spent now well over $300,000 on non-covered medical bills and attempts to make my home “safe.”  This has cost me far more than money . . . and here’s the crazy part.  I absolutely know . . . that if I can find a place where i can work and sleep without the severe chemical reactions I experience every night, I can get well, help others get well, and continue along a career that has already helped tens of thousands of people find betterment.  I won’t embarrass myself by walking through the financial mistakes I made trying to find a fix . . . but my spending has run out of gas.  I just lost my last $10,000 in paying deposits (first, last, security) in a home I couldn’t live in . . . thus . . . I’m here, living in the home that’s the present source of my deterioration, and hoping to find a solution and new beginning.

If you have a home in South Florida that is chemical free, has fresh air circulating, and leans toward being eco-friendly, I hope you’ll be kind enough to extend a courtesy to a genuine hard-working ethical honest person (that’s me) who has humbled himself after years of unprecedented struggle and asked for help.

Here’s the ad:

HELP!  I NEED A ROOM OR APARTMENT IN A “HEALTHY” ECO-FRIENDLY HOME

Let me begin with, I AM NOT CRAZY, am 100% sane and rational, and am reaching out with a genuine anticipation of someone reaching a hand back and offering the help I need.   Consider this a mix of a request, a prompt for awareness, and a plea.

It is not my nature to ask for help as I’ve always been a problem solver . . . but this is bigger than me.   I am an accomplished, successful, motivated, 52-year old father of an 8-year old daughter and I became very ill after exposure to mold.  I’m left with an odd condition referred to as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, an inability to tolerate industrial or  household chemicals.  It’s brought me to the most frustrating challenges of my life, the greatest of which is . . . I can’t find a place to live.  I own a five bedroom home that I built in Boynton, but after moving in, came to realize the debilitating effect of the formaldehyde, aldehydes, and chemicals in the paint, drywall, insulation, etc.  I’ve exhausted my life’s savings (literally . . . and it was significant) over the past three years in trying to remedy my home and my health.

I hope you’ll read on.  If you can’t help, perhaps you know somebody who can.

I realize the vital step for me is to find a safe place to sleep and work for at least a few months.  That’s a step toward recovery.  Without it my prognosis is bleak, as my condition worsens by the day, and a suitable living situation has been very difficult to find.  I must stay local as a single Dad with a loving little girl.  I’ve tried leasing apartments, renting condos, but the paints, cleaning supplies, and fragrances made each successive episode a disappointment.  What I hope to find is someone altruistic, someone who owns a property that they live in and care for in an eco-friendly people-friendly way (no harsh chemical-based cleaning products, no new pressed wood or carpet, no heavy pesticides, no chemical-based fragrances, no new paint, etc.).  It is, as I said, “hard to find,” but I remain optimistic.

In reaching out through medical, social, and web community resources, I found such “rent a room in my healthy home” opportunities, but have not yet located one in South Florida.  I found eco-friendly homeowners sympathetic to my struggle in Massachusetts, Colorado, New Mexico, and North Carolina, but none of those are real options for me.  Still, it encouraged me to keep looking with the hope a similar situation exists somewhere between Boynton and Fort Lauderdale (I’d even go as far north as Jupiter or as far West as Naples if it was ideal).  I’m hoping there’s someone out there who can offer me, at a reasonable rent, month-to-month a room, guest house, or attached apartment with a desk, internet connection, windows, access to a fridge and stove, and a bed with clean, toxin-free, air.  A lot to ask for?  Yup.  But I’m in the desperation zone.  I haven’t had success in renting commercially as they “clean” between tenants.  The last one I tried was washed down with bleach before I arrived which made it unlivable for me.  I recognize that the best bet is to find someone who is already ecologically aware and maintains a safe home.  It’s important to me that it’s in a safe community as my daughter is with me every weekend and I’ve struggled to protect her from the frustration I’ve been experiencing.

This is legit.  A plea?  Yes.  I’ve never reached out for help . . . and I’ll feel a sense of gratitude when I can repay the altruistic efforts of the person or people who find themselves sensitive to my plight.  What can I offer right now, other than to pay a reasonable rent?  There’s an irony to this but I remain a fitness professional working with hospitals to help people find wellness.  Conventional chronic diseases I’ve learned to battle and overcome (type 2 diabetes, hypothyroidism, hypertension, etc.) . . . the one I have is a work in progress.  If it’s important to you, I can help you with your health / fitness program.

If you want to better understand my dilemma before contacting me: http://aliveandbetter.wordpress.com

If you want to better understand what I do for a living: http://yourhealthbeginsnow.com

I hope.  I pray.  I remain proactive and hope the right person reads this in the right frame of mind on the right day.

Phil

Contact me at: phil@philkaplan.com

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The Crow in the Fire

I can play both sides of the fence (no, not that fence . . . I still only like women).  I can, as a sufferer of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, understand the despair and attach to those horribly plaguing beliefs and thought patterns that sound like this:

“This is the worst thing in the world.”

“Nobody understands.”

“I’ve lost everything.”

Those sentiments are real.  As I watch my body decline, the body that has not only been the vehicle that’s carried me through life with a then-unappreciated ease, but has also allowed me to stand on platforms worldwide as a role model for health and fitness, I battle despair on a daily basis.

As I think about my daughter’s future, the thought of her growing up with a “sick Dad,” or worse yet, without a Dad, tears at my heart.  The inability to function normally in the world I’ve come to love because of perfumes, paints, and chemicals that represent figurative land mines, any one of which can send me into a downward plummet, leads to a level of frustration impossible to articulate.

But wait . . . . I said there were two sides to this fence.  The other is the one I fight to connect with . . . the position that says, “this is all within my power.”

“I can heal”

“This will serve me”

Trust, faith, and action have never failed me before . . . so while this is the greatest challenge I’ve ever faced, I know my resilience, I know my deep lying strength and I know putting one foot in front of the other will lead me out of any bad place.

While I choose to stay on the side of positivity, it’s hard.  Every disappointment has the potential to become a heartbreak.

For the last three years I’ve been searching for a safe place to live, and as my search hit dead end after dead end, my condition worsened.  All of the perks that would attract home buyers and renters have become my kryptonite.  “New paint,” “renovated kitchen,” and “new carpet,” are all red lights for me.

I am sitting, as I write this, in a house I’m considering renting.  The house I live in has been a trigger for my decline over the three years.  What in the house triggers my reactions?  I don’t know.   I just know I wake seven or eight times each night drenched in sweat, muscles twitching and tingling as if they’re being eaten alive.  Sometimes I wake with muscle cramps, other times a pounding heartbeat.  Something in the inside air acts upon some trigger within my body to begin a destructive cascade, a chain reaction leading to brain, muscle, and functional deterioration.

In my last post, several months ago, I described my experience with Dr. Rea and the Environmental Health Center (as well as the horrors of Building 7).  At the conclusion I referenced an air testing kit that would tell me what chemicals were in my home and I said, “my blood boiled.”  Now I’ll tell you why.

I moved into my home three years ago now.  Everything was new.  The walls, the lawn, the paint, the tile, the carpet, the cabinets . . . . everything.  It was just built, freshly furnished, and a virtual showcase with a million dollar view.  For most people that would be thrilling.  For me . . . frightening.  Walking into the home, even before I closed on it, instantly brought a flare up of my symptoms.  My eyesight was the first thing affected.  Within minutes of walking into the house, colors would fade and I had trouble focusing my eyes on any object.  Next came the neurological symptoms, tremors, shaking, difficulty balancing and that was followed by the most distressing symptom of all, the sense of tingling that started in my brain and extended out to every toe and fingertip.  Clearly the chemicals in this new home were dangerous for me.

“Phil, you idiot, why did you buy a new home?”

A very good question.  Not fully understanding the magnitude of my condition, I believed I’d go through an adjustment period after which that home would be an ideal safe environment for me.  The “experts” I spoke to told me you can “bake” the chemicals out of the paint with UV light.  Before I moved in, I literally baked the house for three days.  I brought air purifiers into every room, added special filters to the AC units, and created a cross breeze using ceiling fans and open windows to keep air moving.  I believed it was just going to take some “fixing” before it became my ideal home.

All of my efforts fell short.  I wanted to know, what, specifically, was causing me the discomfort . . . and I started reaching out to experts.  As I’ve learned, in the medical field, the science field, and the world of alternative medicine, “experts” are common.  Expertise is rare.  I wanted to know what was in the air (a Phil Collins song suddenly comes to mind).

The first expert came in without any equipment at all.  He crawled on his hands and knees smelling my steps, sniffing inside my cabinets and drawers, and stuck his head in anything his head would fit in.  His conclusion?

“Your kitchen cabinets and the wood used for the steps are the problem.  They’re made of pressed wood containing hundreds of toxic chemicals and glues.  It’s easy to fix.  Tear out your cabinets and get rid of the steps.”

Easy?  Get rid of the steps?  In all honesty I would have done anything . . . if I really knew it would do the trick . . . but what if I tore out my cabinets, had the steps torn out (how would I get upstairs?), and I still felt the reaction?  I just had trouble trusting a step-sniffer (who charged $750), so I continued my expert search.

I found Angus (not his real name), a man who had a chemical injury in the workplace and after becoming disabled, changed careers to help create “safe homes.”  He came over to “examine” the house, of course for a fee.  He didn’t bring any equipment either . . . he was a sniffer as well, but he apparently had another talent.  He started burping.  “That’s the first sign there’s something in here.”

Angus the Burper spent 90 minutes exploring the home, inside and out, sniffing and belching, and he ultimately told me he’d write up a solution plan.  Great!  I received the plan from the burper the very next day.

“Use a special foil to section off your kitchen, run a duct from the insulated kitchen to an exhaust vent in the west exterior wall . . . “

Yikes!  Block off my kitchen with a huge silver wrapping?  Hmmm . . . maybe then I could blast my kitchen off into space and land on the moon with a full fridge.  It just didn’t seem realistic.  I was, however, pulling together an interesting cast of characters.  If I could only find a farter . . .

I asked Angus for a bit of sanity, “isn’t there an air test that can tell me what’s in the air and where it’s coming from?”  He shook his head.  There wasn’t.

I doggedly sought out ventilation experts, indoor air quality experts, and construction experts.   I found environmental scientists of all shapes and sizes.  They were all happy to charge me.  The value I received was a big fat zero.

It wasn’t until I met Dr. Rea in Dallas that I was introduced to an air quality test!  A test where, using two pumps, each the size of a shoebox, the air is collected and sent off to a lab.  There was a test?!?!?!  A simple-to-perform test?!?!?!  Burping and sniffing weren’t in fact efficacious diagnostic strategies?  It infuriated me.  I wanted back every penny I wasted on non-experts wearing expert labels.

After a few rants and outbursts, I moved past the anger, paid $700 for the equipment rental and sent the samples off to the lab.  Four weeks later I received the report.

Formaldehyde was five times levels deemed safe (per the standards of the state of Texas where the lab samples were analyzed . . . Florida has different “standards”).

Eureeka!  I found the problem!  It was formaldehyde!  All I had to do was find out where it was coming from.  I called the corporate office of the company that built my home.  They sent a VP of something out to my home.  He told me precisely where the formaldehyde was coming from.

“Everywhere.”

“It’s in drywall, it’s in insulation, it’s in paint, it’s in carpet, it coats new furniture, it’s in pressed wood, and it’s in support beams and furnishings.”

And so it went.  I’d try a new action, seek out a solution, and after coughing up money from my dwindling reserves, wind up back at square one. It’s that recurring arrival that pulls me to “the uglier side of the fence.”  It is my psychology, my inner resilience, my love for life, and my unrelenting want to be better that keep me on the side of belief.  There will be an answer.  There will be a solution.  This will serve me so I can help others at a greater capacity than ever before.

SO WHERE’S THE CROW???  WHERE’S THE FIRE?

I titled this segment “The Crow and the Fire” and so far all I’ve addressed are step-sniffers, gas-passers, and air testers.  Where’s the crow?  Where’s the fire?

The crow and the fire represent on an entirely new perspective.  Here comes the mindset shift that moves from “fixing the house” and “fixing my body” to “fixing my brain.”

If you suffer with MCS or some similar chronic condition (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc.) I’m going to urge you to stay with me throughout.   I understand the problem now and have touched upon the solution.  It isn’t my house.  It’s my brain.

In an earlier installment I told you there’s a lesion in the frontal lobe of my brain as the result of the mold exposure that kicked this odyssey off.  It’s clear that environmental toxins can affect the brain, but I now believe it’s what the brain decides to do with the messaging that determines whether or not a reaction takes place . . . and my brain is more severely impaired than even the doctors had pointed out.  They limited their diagnosis to the physical, to the images captured by MRI.

There is an astounding chain of events that led me to each step of this excursion into an odd and unpredictable reality.  “The crow and the fire” would never have come to me were it not for the woman who sent me the air test equipment and the subsequent lab results calling me days after my receiving the report.  She legitimately seemed concerned with my condition, and given the green light, some of my pent-up anger needs to pour out  I can’t burp it out, as perhaps some experts might, but I can let verbal expressions of frustration fly.  I started to let loose, telling her how all that I learned from the sophisticated scientific test is . . . nothing!  The air test showed me the problem and the problem is . . . . well . . . everything in my house is the problem.   And if you learn the problem is “everything,” in terms of power, you accomplish nothing.  She was empathetic.  She didn’t get defensive, didn’t react to my frustrated tone, but instead surprised me.  She seemed to have moved her thought process beyond the quality of the air in my home and was about to open a new door for me.

She asked me if I’d been to planetthrive.com.  I had.  It’s a website / support portal for people with chemical injuries and chemical sensitivities, but it didn’t draw me in.  I didn’t believe that connecting with other sufferers was going to serve me. I realized how difficult it is to pull despondent people up without allowing them to pull you down, especially when you suffer with the same affliction.

“She went on, “There’s some chatter about two people, a woman in Canada and a man in London who are helping people recover from MCS.”

That’s when I first heard of Annie Hopper (the woman in Canada).

I reached out to Annie, first by email, and directed her to this blog.  She responded quickly and personally and told me she had a workshop coming up in Boston . . . urging me to attend.

My defenses rose up.  I’d already invested tens of thousands of dollars in traveling to workshops, doctors, and treatment centers, and with the exception of Dr. Shoemaker helping me resolve my mold toxicity issues, not a one had any lasting impact.  She suggested I speak with some people who had attended her workshops.  I love that.  It’s something I do when people are interested in my Be Better program.  I don’t want to “sell” them.  I want them to hear, firsthand, of the results people like them achieved after going through Be Better (a personal growth program for fitness and health care professionals).  If Annie had the confidence to put me in touch with some of her students, you better believe I was going to call.

I spoke first to one woman who told me her life turned around after visiting with Annie.  She described a downward spiral followed by Annie-prompted recovery.  I was still skeptical but intrigued.

Next I spoke to Candy.  Candy was a participant in Annie’s workshop.  She was an MCS sufferer and Annie helped her find new health.  We spoke for the better part of an hour.  Candy, today, works with Annie, sharing the speaking and facilitator platform, and her passion clearly comes from her own experience with insult and recovery.

A RECOGNITION AND A RECOMMENDATION

Candy did two things that prompted change in me.  First, in considering whether the workshop would be suitable for me, she asked me a number of questions, many about my symptoms, some about the actual episode (the mold exposure), but then one that shook me . . . in a good way (don’t worry, I didn’t forget the crow and the fire.  They’re just up ahead).

“Phil, what trauma were you experiencing before the mold exposure?”

“Before?”  My instinct was to say “none,” but something stopped me.  I had never thought of my pre-mold circumstance as traumatic, but it suddenly began to unfold.  I was in a marriage that was cannibalizing me.  I had an infant daughter in a household that I wasn’t secure in.  I knew Amy and I were great parents, I knew that we loved each other, but I also knew we weren’t suited for a lifetime of marriage.  We had split up once, and now we were again speaking of divorce.  We weren’t fighting, and we didn’t demonstrate any anger toward each other, but we knew my goals weren’t hers, my way of living wasn’t her ideal, and our values were different making a lifetime of togetherness challenging at best.  Because we got along so well, even under these circumstances, appearances led friends and relatives to believe we were at peace, living with connection and joy . . . but we weren’t.  I felt I was living someone else’s life.  Even my close friends thought I was happy, but inside I was torn up, so much so that I sought out counseling independent of my wife.   Never before had I sought out psychological help, so clearly, in hindsight, I had some emotional stress before the mold hit.  I also had a business partner who was bipolar and erratic, and my “work stress” took on a new high.

Today, in working with people who are unwell, I recognize the lump sum of all stresses as a “Stress Load” that needs to be balanced with recovery.  My stress load was at an all-time max.  Now . . . add in a hurricane, the destruction of the office, personal training studio, and warehouse that were my livelihood, loss of electricity for over a week (post hurricane), warnings of more hurricanes, putting up hurricane shutters, taking down hurricane shutters, and I’d have to say I was experiencing a traumatic period in my life.  In fact, the most traumatic period in my life.

So, the first thing Candy helped me do was understand the mathematical equation, SL = TM + IC + H + BP.

You don’t recognize that equation?  I’ll share it with you:

Stress Load = Troubled Marriage + Infant Child + Hurricane + Bipolar Partner

The second thing Candy did was recommend that I read The Brain That Changes Itself by Dr. Norman Doidge.  I picked it up an hour after we hung up and I sat out on my balcony (better for me than sitting in the house) to read.  I read the first chapter and I was wowed.  This was a book about Neuroplasticity, changing brain wiring non-invasively, and I knew it was going to be life-changing, not only for me, but likely for millions of people worldwide.

I read about Edward Taub who was restoring function to brain injured people simply by activating new thought patterns.  I read of how Taub, using monkeys as subjects, was able to map brains to determine what specific neurons fire in what specific order to facilitate an action or a thought.  The brain has untapped power, and a part of its power lies in its ability to design its form, function, and the infinite potential of active pathways that link emotions, thoughts, actions, and habitual behaviors.

As I sat on the balcony wrapped up in this book, a crow landed on the railing.  Off in the distance, out in the Everglades, there were brush fires and I could smell a hint of smoke.  Here’s where the brain starts to form associations.  I was excited about understanding a new brain science, I smelled smoke which I associate with fire, and the visual stimulus in front of me was a black crow.

I looked at the crow as I thought about my conversation with Candy and I thought about the newly recognized intensity of what I might now refer to as the trauma I had been through.  In my mind, I equated the trauma with a blazing fire, and I realized that anyone who had been through a fire would have a deep-rooted fear reaction anytime they saw flames, much as I feel anxious whenever I hear of the hurricane warnings that are a part of Florida living during a recurring season every year.  I flipped back and forth, in my mind, between the fire and the hurricane, and the crow sat watching me.  “Imagine,” my brain went on, “if you were trapped in a fire and right there beside you was a crow.”  I started to create a theoretical association.  “If I was in a traumatic fire, and as I panicked and tried to escape a crow remained in my field of vision, my brain (per what I had already learned from years of studying NLP and just a few short pages from the book Candy recommended) would “link up” the crow with the fire experience, and from that point forward, whenever I saw a crow, it might summon up the anxiety I theoretically attached to fire.

I wouldn’t have any rational reason to fear a crow, and consciously I might not even be aware of it being a trigger of a stress response, but my brain, in its protective wisdom, wants to keep me away from anything associated with potential harm or trauma.

Using that line of thinking, if I could disassociate the crow from the fire, f I could recreate my brain map, the stress response would reserve itself for true danger and no longer serve as a reaction from the sight of a crow.

No, I’m not losing my mind at this point.  I’m using it!  I went on . . .

I developed a chemical sensitivity when I was living in a high state of anxiety and breathing in a chemical soup from the repair of my hurricane-damaged office.  If, therefore, I could disassociate the “chemicals” that my brain has linked with trauma from the actual stress response, I might be able to overcome this debilitating condition.  The crow in the fire stood for me as a clear representation of the mind’s ability to link unassociated events or objects and it gave me a new perspective, a new opening.

I devoured the book and was certain “I can fix this.”  I can harness my brain’s ability to change and stimulate new wiring that supports me.

I registered for Annie Hopper’s workshop in Boston and made the trip two weeks later.

Before heading up to Boston, I fully connected with this new belief, this idea that the brain can change itself and I have the power to stimulate my own recovery.  I started to grasp the idea of my brain linking up the stress of my marriage, the hurricane, the illness, the destruction of my business, and the mold and chemicals I inhaled and with that, the idea that I can separate that wiring.

I didn’t, at that point, have a strategy, but wheels started turning . . . and turning . . . and turning.

Thoughts and memories flooded my mind. I started to relive moments from my marriage where I felt that inner turmoil.  I started to relive feelings and emotions that ran the gamut while Brooke grew inside Amy.  I couldn’t turn off the thoughts, so I decided to write them down.

For 3 ½ hours I scribbled in a notebook frantically trying to keep up with my thoughts.  I was in some kind of weird zone . . . reliving the past and trying to keep up with my pen.  Was my writing legible?  Nah.  As a result of the neurological damage I suffered, my handwriting looks like a child’s random crayon propulsion, and with the speed I felt compelled to write with, I wasn’t creating a work of art, but I wasn’t writing it so I can read it.  I was writing it to, in a sense, get it out of me.

I put down the pen, stepped into my walk-in closet to toss some clothes into the hamper, and suddenly, THE LIGHTS WENT ON!  Everything lit up!  It was as if, while I stood in that closet, someone switched on a spotlight!  I know for people who have not experienced the bizarre unrelenting symptoms of MCS, this is hard to grasp, but for those who have been dodging symptoms and striving for survival, you get it.  I didn’t realize how dull my sense of color had become, and within a moment, something changed in my brain.  It was as if a curtain was lifted.  I stood and looked through my ties as if I were an art student at the Guggenheim.   I could see the differences in shades of purple.  Colors were bright and vibrant, and I realize, that’s how I saw the world before the onset of this dis-ease.

I don’t know the significance of that experience, but I do know it demonstrates some sort of brain-mind shift that occurred as a result of releasing the pent up trauma.

By the time I left for Boston to meet Annie Hopper, I felt a sense of control.  While I wasn’t back to my old self, I felt that I was on my way.   I could consciously control some of the reactions.  I began to sleep through the night which I hadn’t done since 2005.  Something was changing.  I was using neuroplasticity, without fully understanding it, to rewire my brain.

When I arrived at Logan airport, my heart pounded hard as I stood in the car rental line dodging wisps of perfume and cologne.  I stepped into my car and it had a mix of new car smell and cleaning supplies and my head started to spin, but somehow, within seconds, I was able to quiet the reaction, and within a minute or two, my sense of smell calmed down so the odors became the background rather than the primary feature.

I checked into the Marriott Courtyards.  They had a fragrance sprayer that blew bursts of chemical fragrance into the lobby at regular intervals.  Again, I felt the initial reaction, and was able to quiet it.  I’m not quite sure what I did to quiet the reactions, but I knew it had something to do with thinking differently to create a different neural path . . . somehow steering the stimulus away from reactivity.

When I met Annie the next day, I was elated, excited to be at what I believed was a turning point.  I’ll share the Annie Hopper experience in my next post.

For those who are anxious, who struggle with MCS or similar invisible ailments, I won’t leave you in suspense.  I will urge you to reach out to Annie Hopper.  While she didn’t erase my struggle, she absolutely held it in a new light, one that I had some real sense of control over.  Find Annie and her Dynamic Neural Retraining program at http://www.dnrsystem.com/

More to come . . . stay tuned!

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B . . . B . . . Building 7

This is not a Stephen King script, but the story I’m about to share certainly has a King-esque feel to it.  What am I talking about?  I’m talking about (eerie music plays) . . . . B…b….b….building Seven!

If you’re reading this you likely know some things about my journey taking me from mold toxicity to extreme chemical sensitivity.  It’s the most frustrating experience I can imagine.  It’s been an unprecedented drain and somehow every day I find the outlook of impending betterment.  I realize, if I’m going to beat the medical diagnoses I’ve received, if I’m going to return to optimal health, the journey must include a search, and in that search I’m certain to take some wrong turns.

As I learned to separate the few “doctors who get it” from those who nod their heads and think “the poor guy’s losing his mind,” I developed my own network of physicians I trust to help me through this process.  None of them are cheap.  None of them are covered by insurance, at least not for my “condition.”  Few of them are local, so every visit requires airplanes and hotels.

About 6 months ago I spent two full days reaching out to the trustworthy medical experts within my network and asked this question.  “If there were one thing I can do, one resource, one treatment, or one expert that you believe would most help me, what would that be.”  The opinions gelled.  I came to know the name, Dr. William Rea.

Dr. Rea runs the Environmental Health Center in Dallas.  He’s written books, conducted research, and has faced what I would call undeserved scrutiny by the power forces of the American Medical Association.  Apparently, Dr. Rea, a cardio-pulmonary surgeon, began developing a sensitivity to the soaps doctors used to wash pre and post surgery.  This happened over 40 years ago.  There was no, or little, reference at that time for the condition now known as MCS (multiple chemical sensitivity) and our world was nowhere near as toxic as it is today (1500 new chemicals are released into our environment annually).  A trained physician, and now I can safely say a pioneer, Dr. Rea sought to understand what the medical field is slowly coming to recognize as Environmental Medicine.

I read his articles, read one of his books, and called his office to set an appointment.  My friend Kelli lives in Dallas so I thought I’d mix a social visit with the next step in my treatment.  The challenge is, it’s difficult for me to travel, to ride in new cars, and to stay in homes that have any new furniture, paint, carpet, or furnishings.  Still, if Dr. Rea is the king of Environmental Medicine and made the treatment of chemical sensitivity the entirety of career, he was the guy I wanted to see.

When I called I spoke with Sue, the new patient coordinator.  She was nice, professional, concerned, and wasn’t in the least bit thrown by what I told her I was experiencing.  Clearly, she had heard it many times before.  I felt good about setting the appointment and she asked me if I’d like to stay in their Non-Toxic housing.  That sounded ideal.  No chemicals, no formaldehyde (which is in almost all building materials today), and no irritants?  I imagined a good night’s sleep for the first time in years.  Of course I’d stay in their Non-Toxic housing, and so the appointment and reservation were entered into my Outlook calendar which is the equivalent of being set in stone.

I flew into Dallas in the morning.  Non-eventful flight.  Kelli picked me up at the airport.  We caught up on our respective life experiences and had a few laughs as we drove downtown.  We found a great Mexican restaurant for lunch.  I smelled it (I know that sounds bizarre, but my nose is my best defense for avoiding chemicals).  I smelled fresh food.  That was a good thing, so we sat in a huge round booth where my feet barely touched the floor and we ordered lunch.  The waiter made fresh guacamole at the table.  Awesome!  Then he brought our fajitas.

Now, here’s yet another bizarre reality that is presently part of my life.  Throughout a day I might have over 100 different symptoms, and they change depending on the environment.  It’s honestly been near five years since I felt well.  Even though I function OK, my vision, my motor skills, my circulation, my speech, my muscles, my joints, and my digestive tract are all prone to throw weird things at me at any given moment.  So there I am, feeling relatively OK.  Just a bit of brain fog.  A little tunnel vision.  Fingers a bit numb.  The usual, and right smack in the middle of that plate of chicken and shrimp I saw a big fat chili pepper.  It seemed to be calling me, but I’m no fool.  I know those suckers can bite, so I took the necessary precaution.  I asked the waiter, “is it spicy?”

He shook his head.  “No, it’s very sweet.  Not a spicy pepper, a sweet one.”  I decided I’d cut off a little piece and give it a try.  Suddenly, lightning hit the back of my neck, someone lit a flame thrower and aimed it directly at my mouth, and my face started melting.  At least it felt that way.  I would have screamed but my voice left me.

Kelli looked at me with a mix of concerned eyes and hysterical laughter.  Here’s the amazing part.  Although I was experiencing the feeling of eating the sun, all of my symptoms cleared up.  Colors became very bright.  My senses became acutely aware of every sound and movement.  I felt like I could get out of my seat and start doing back flips through the restaurant.  My eyes were watering and so were Kelli’s, mine from the pepper, hers from laughter.

Wow.  What a mix of pain and pleasure.  I’ve never been accused of being masochistic, but I must say it was a horrible experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.  I wasn’t finished. I had to make the waiter pay!

He came back, poured some iced tea, and I put what remained of the pepper in front of him.

“OK Mr. Sweet not Spicy, you eat it.”

He shrugged.  “I could eat.  No problem.  I eat pepper all the time.  Not spicy.”

“OK, then eat it.”

Reluctantly he cut off a small piece and threw it in his mouth.  He smiled, attempted to escape, but I wasn’t letting him get away that easy.  “Wait, let me see.  Stay here.”  Suddenly tears rolled down his suddenly red cheeks.  He tried, at first, to laugh it off, but that wasn’t happening.  He stifled a cough as he slithered away in defeat.

I was in a good mood. We were having fun, and we drove to find Dr. Rea’s non-toxic housing.

We set the GPS for the address, but it kept leading us to a parking lot between the Marriott Courtyards and the Marriott Residence Inn.  Kelli pulled in front of the Residence Inn and I looked up at the address.  It was the same one we were looking for.  Ah, so the non-toxic housing was in a hotel . . . and even better . . . I’d get Marriott points!

Kelli waited in the car at first.  I went to check in.  The very nice woman behind the counter smiled, I told her my name, and she looked at the computer.  Suddenly her smile went away.  “I’m sorry Mr. Kaplan, they made a mistake.”

“Mistake?”

“Yes, they put you in (pause, shaky voice) BUILDING SEVEN! (if there were eerie music available, it would have played again).  Let me call Jane and straighten it out.

I waved Kelli in.  She stood with me as they found me a “normal room.”

“Wait,” I asked the front desk attendant, “is Building Seven where Dr. Rea’s patients stay?”  Her eyes opened wide.  She looked at me curiously, and reassuring herself that a mistake was obviously made, she said, “yes . . . but you’re not one of them.”

 

“One of . . . . who?  Or what?”  I felt the proverbial chill rise up my spine.

Just then the door opened and in walked Jane, a long-time associate of Dr. Rea, dressed in her nurse attire, stethoscope and all.  She seemed . . . normal.  Nice even.  She addressed the attendant, “He is going to stay with us, just for tonight.  We’ll put him in 714.”

The front desk lady went with it, but she certainly had me concerned.  As I introduced Jane to my friend Kelli, the front door again opened.  Slowly.  In shuffled a very thin man with pale complexion, a loose fitting white t-shirt, and . . . . a face mask.  Not like a Spiderman mask, but like . . . a doctor’s face mask.  While it covered most of his features, you couldn’t miss his wide eyes.  He looked scared.

“Jane, the caulk!  It’s the caulk!” came from behind the mask. “The caulk!  The caulk!”   The front desk lady looked at me as if to say, “he’s one of them.”

Jane, very authoritative and professional, said, “don’t worry Chase, we’ll move you to a different room. “  Apparently Chase, who was highly chemically sensitive, started feeling the horrible symptoms I’ve come to understand after someone repaired the stove in his room.

Trying to create a bit of levity, as is my nature, I put my arm around Chase and said, “hey, how about after they move you to the new room, you and me invite a bunch of hot ladies over for a perfume party.”  I was kidding.  Perfume would kill me, but I thought the “joke” might create a sense of kindred spirits.  Chase’s eyes opened even wider.  I had to apologize and explain it’s my warped sense of humor.

Together we walked to Building Seven, Jane in the lead, Chase shuffling on her heels, Kelli and I tentatively following behind.  Jane gave Chase a key and told him to try a different room.

The rest of the property felt OK, but something changed when we got to Building Seven.  I’m not quite sure what was different, the air, the aura, the drab look of the place, but It just felt uncomfortable.  As Chase entered his new room, I looked up at the second floor.  I saw a woman with the same face mask Chase wore peeking through the blinds.  I felt like the newcomer in one of those movies where the town residents invite someone as a guest and sacrifice him to their deity.  Creepy is an understatement.

Jane, with a big smile on her face (there’s always someone in those movies who makes the doomed stranger feel welcome) offered to “show us around.”  As we walked, she spoke, almost like someone trying to sell time shares in a haunted house.  She was enthusiastic, but somehow there was a mismatch between her exuberance and the scenery.

“This is the laundry room.  We don’t allow any scented detergents or fabric softeners and ask that our residents use baking soda instead of standard laundry soaps.”  We stepped into the laundry room and there I saw another resident.  He had the same pallor as Chase, but appeared older, maybe in his late 60’s.  He didn’t have a mask, but had the same fearful wide eyes as Kelli and I stepped in.  Jane said hello, and he took a step back.  He seemed to be staring at my hands.  Jane instantly picked up on his stifled panic and reassured him, “don’t worry, he is going to use that here.”

Not going to use my hand?  Hmmm.  What did they think I was going to do?

“Your cell phone.  He, as many of our residents, is sensitive to electro magnetic frequencies.  We don’t allow cell phones and there isn’t any wireless internet.”

The tour was brief, as there wasn’t much to see, so we entered Room 714.  If the walls were padded, it would have served as a good set for a movie about an insane asylum.  The couch was a metal frame covered with foil, and on top of the frame sat a cotton cushion.  I sat on it.  That cushion was about as comfortable as . . . laying on a metal frame.  OK, so it isn’t the Ritz, but I wasn’t here for luxury.  I was here to get well.

The walls were white, the cabinets were white, the countertops were white, the beds were white, and I don’t believe there were any decorations at all.  Kelli laid on one of the two beds.  I had to laugh as I watched her, obviously void of a sense of comfort, trying to assure me, “it’s not too bad.”

The beds were metal frames with cotton mattresses and light cotton sheets.  I debated whether I should stay or not.  Jane said, “since you’re here, you may as well stay here and see how you feel after sleeping in a room without any toxic chemicals.”  She was right, but I just couldn’t see sitting in this room from 5:30 PM until morning.

Kelli had a brainstorm.  “Wanna go to a movie?”

“YES” came out of mouth before she finished her question.

We went to a mall, ate at the food court, and saw the premier showing of Super 8.  Cool movie.  Vintage Stephen Spielberg, but now, I had to go back to the Stephen King environment.

Kelli dropped me off.  I sat on the couch-thing.  I turned on the TV.  A rerun of the Mentalist was on.  I couldn’t get into it.  I just felt uncomfortable.  I don’t know how much of it was psychological and how much was the actual absence of comfort but it was a very long night.  I didn’t sleep for a moment.  I kept looking at the clock thinking hours had past and only 7 minutes had gone by since my last clock check.  I had visions of pale white people with face masks storming my door with torches, taking my cell phone, and putting me through some ritual where I became “one of them.”

Here’s the reality.  I am one of them.  They suffer from Chemical Sensitivity and although I make light of it, it is extremely debilitating.  It puts extreme limits on an individual’s ability to function in the real world.  These people were suffering, and although I still had a great hope and optimism, seeing them was a reminder of what lies ahead if I fail to defeat this condition.  Perhaps that freaked me out the most.

When I got out of bed at 6 AM, I went for a walk and a light jog.  I then went into the hotel next door, the Marriott Courtyards, so I could order some breakfast and use my cell phone.  I wanted to reconnect with the world before I took the shuttle bus to the Environmental Health Center.  Egg white omelet, a call to my assistant Stacey, and I was feeling a sense of freedom, a renewal, and I have to admit, despite the lack of sleep and oddity of Building Seven, I felt pretty good.

With a skip in my step, I headed back toward Building Seven, anxious to meet the revered Dr. Rea.  I went out behind the building where Jane told me the shuttle would pick me up in the morning.  I was the first one there.  It was 8:25, the shuttle was supposed to arrive at 8:30.  Two minutes passed and a door opened.  I was about to meet other residents of Building Seven, but this morning I was approaching it with a new attitude.  These were people, like me, who were suffering with a misunderstood disease, and they all had stories to tell, experiences to share, and perhaps I could help to reignite some hope in those who felt they ran out of options.  A woman came out of the room and she looked . . . I daresay . . . normal . . . not like the people I had met the day before.  I didn’t realize in that moment that she wasn’t a patient.  She was a private nurse, and she soon after wheeled out a very fragile older man in a wheelchair.  He had the classic Parkinson’s symptoms, his head tilted sideways, hands and legs trembling.  I said hello and they both gave me a kind but tentative nod.  There were others who funneled out shortly after, all carrying canvas bags, some wearing face masks, all keeping to themselves, and all carrying glass bottles of water.  I came to understand that they would spend entire days at the Environmental Health Center going through a host of tests, treatments, and exams.  I learned that some of them lived in Building Seven . . . for over two years!  It was the ONLY place they felt safe.

The shuttle pulled up and the nurse struggled to lift the man from the chair.  “Do you need help?” I asked, and she squeaked, “please,” so I leaned forward, thinking I would help him up from his left side, she from his right.  As I bent forward, he fell toward me, throwing his arms around my neck, so I lifted him and carried him into the back seat of the shuttle.  He thanked me.  I had such an uncharacteristic mix of emotions.  I felt sad for these people, but also fearful that they had debilitated over time, and perhaps I was now where they were just a short time ago.

I sat in the front and had a cheery conversation with the driver.  She told me about her kids, her work, and . . . she told me many people told her D. Rea saved their lives.  I thought of Pet Sematary.  The pets came back to life, sort of, but they were never quite the same.  Then I wiped it out of my mind, walked into the facility with a smile and nothing but optimism, and I met Dr. Rea.

He had wisdom.  I don’t use that word often.  I’ve used it to describe Joe Weider, Dr. Michael Colgan, and a handful of other older-than-I mentors with real life experience, a deep intelligence and continued curiosity.  Dr. Rea, I’m guessing, is near 70, but he knows of what he speaks.  Throughout the Environmental Health Center, people move from infra-red sauna to yoga, from breath testing to hair testing, from counseling to examination.  Dr. Rea examined me, noted my loss of balance and impaired fine motor function, discussed the ongoing muscle loss, and helped me understand the process of getting better.  Then he threw a dart.

“Most of the people who come here do NOT get better.”

I froze.  As I’m summoning up optimism, he pierced my new-forming belief with a single sentence.  I asked, a bit angrily, “why?”

I understood his answer.  It reminded me of something I’ve dealt with for many of the early years I spent trying to master personal training.  “Most people aren’t willing to do the work.  Everyone here has been affected by the environment, but some, like you, have mycotoxin damage from mold.  Others have been exposed to high levels of pesticides on farms.  Some have been damaged by chemicals in the workplace.  Some have filled their lungs and ultimately their cells with formaldehyde from new building supplies.  Bad air, bad water, unnatural pollutants, food additives, and individual levels of oxidative stress all contribute to filling the rain barrel.”  He pointed to an illustration of a rain barrel on the exam room wall.

“As long as you’re detoxing as quickly as you’re taking on compounds, you’re OK, but once the rain barrel overflows, your body starts to suffer damage, and from that point forward, unless you clean things up, you are sensitive to items and compounds that never affected you before.”

I went back to my earlier question.  “I understand some people aren’t willing to do the work, but what, specifically, does the work involve?”

“First, although we know you’re chemically injured, every patient has their own figurative finger print.  We have to test to find out what’s going on specifically with you, and there’s lots of trial and error.  First we have to test the air in your house.  Then we have to test your hair, your blood, your saliva, and your urine to explore what foreign substances have moved into your body.  Next, we have to identify which ones you’re sensitive to, and we do that with a lengthy series of skin tests.  The skin testing can take a week, so you’d have to be here for at least a few days.  Most people who come here just want a drug, a cure, a prescription, but it just isn’t that simple.”

“Doc, I’ll do the work, but once we figure things out, what’s the treatment?”

“Well, we connect you with our nutritionist to determine what foods may be affecting you.  We look at how you’re digesting because if your gut is compromised any oral treatments will be limited.  We try a variety of detox techniques including sauna, hyperbaric oxygen, and chelating agents.  We have to be careful, if you have heavy metal toxicity, as is common with most people in your condition post-mold exposure, you’re going to have to make sure you gradually release the metals or you can wind up really sick.  We then, with a better understanding of your individual sensitivities, use your own blood to create an antigen.  It’s all a process that becomes unique to each individual.  For some people who do the work, they find themselves miraculously better in 3 months, others it takes 3 years, but if you’re willing to do the work, we’ll help you get well.”

There are a lot of lessons in here from me.  Prior to 2005, I never knew illness.  I never knew what it was really like to not feel “well.”  I also never knew what it was like to be a patient caught up in a medical system that doesn’t understand or recognize the ailment.

I learned from all the people I met.  I had a chance, while I was in the Environmental Health Center, to talk to some of the Building Seven residents.  I am, in fact, one of them.  I met a woman from Iowa who was diagnosed as depressed, medicated, and one step away from being institutionalized when she learned the chemicals used on her Dad’s farm had invaded her cells.  I met a man who moved in with his ailing mother into a water damaged building.  He spent two years caring for her, and when she passed, he was unable to function.  He learned what mold can do and was trying to get better.  I met a man who worked in a factory in West Virginia, another who inhaled chemicals coming through the air vent that sat over his desk at work, and another who apparently had a shocking chemical soup in her town’s water supply.

I didn’t meet many happy people there, but I did meet good people who appreciated a caring peer, a new friend, an ear that would really listen.  I feel as if I have a responsibility, not only to myself, my family, and my daughter, but with my newfound knowledge to take this to a point of complete reversal and then empower everyone who suffers with chemical injury and its residual effects to do the same.

So, $2100 later, I wound up leaving the Environmental Health Center and the next step was to order a $700 air testing kit to determine what chemicals are in my home.  I stopped in my tracks.  “There’s a kit?”  My blood boiled.  I’ll tell you why in the next installment.  Until then I remain ALIVE and moving toward greater enlightenment and ultimately recovery, and perhaps in search of the next hot chili pepper.

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Not Ready to Die

Not ready to die
A Personal Heartfelt Honest Release written April 3 & 4, 2011.

I’ve opted to name my new blog with the same sentiment that I rely upon to approach this next chapter in my life, A.L.I.V.E. and Better.  I could have just as easily called it, “Spilling my guts in the name of survival.” You’ll understand shortly, but let’s begin with an obvious question.

“If, Phil, you are in fact “spilling” with survival as the end game, why are you doing this now?  We thought you were always honest.  What secrets have you held on to and why share them if you’ve held them close up until this moment?”

Ah, a very good question.  Why now?  I’m about to share experiences and insights that have remained private not in the name of evoking sympathy.  I believe (an important word which will appear more than a few times herein) that sharing the personal ins and outs of my recent journey can offer help, support, and a sense of shared energies toward using my own experience for our collective growth and betterment.  I believe that betterment can carry forward to personal trainers, to individuals seeking greater fitness, and to those who might feel as if they’re too far gone.  It’s a powerful belief and I’ll share from whence it came.

Let’s start at the beginning, knowing this is a living document that will evolve from week to week (http://aliveandbetter.wordpress.com).

My name is Phil Kaplan.  I’ve spent the better part of my life as an author, speaker, motivator, educator, media personality, and fitness professional.  When asked what I do for a living, my answer is now concise.

I’m a personal fitness trainer.

Over the last ten days I had the most hard hitting wake-up call of my life.  I don’t know that I’ve ever had as many thoughts flying through my head as I do right now.  I’m sitting outside at Spazio in Delray Beach at 2:00 PM with my laptop trying to get some of the jumble in my head sorted out.  I haven’t any immediate plan other than to let the words fly, to set some of the cyclical thoughts free (I will give this my full attention even though the two tan blonde women at the next table are wearing very short skirts – not that I’m looking).

I told you I’d rely heavily upon the word “belief.”  Allow me to share a few of my own.

I believe I’m a good guy.  I have a good heart, sound morals, and throughout my adult life have remained committed to helping others find betterment.  I don’t have any hidden skeletons, I don’t have anything I’m ashamed of, and every decision I’ve made since my brain reassembled from the insanity of my teenage years has been in line with “doing the right thing.”

I believe I was blessed with a propensity for compassion, with creativity, intelligence, rare resilience, and an extraordinary ability to communicate.

Now, I sit here at 50 years old (how the fuck did that happen?) and I wonder why the last decade has had those beliefs shaken.  In this moment, removed from marriage, divorce, and the mountainous stresses I’m working my way through, my beliefs are firm, but there are others (one or two) who would likely challenge every one of them.

In perspective, it isn’t that much different than the one person out of 200 who checks “fair” in the stack of seminar evaluations that are almost exclusively “excellent.”  It troubles me, and while I should dismiss it as minor, I can’t help but let it sting.  The difference is between a momentary evaluation and the reflection I’m experiencing now is, my marriage and the last 8 years of my business took effort, energy, and years of my life.  In short, it’s been a weird fucking decade.

Every story benefits from a bit of irony.  This irony will not disappoint.  I’ve been told by a doctor I have two years to live, and 8 months have elapsed since then.

It didn’t hit me until this week, perhaps because I wasn’t willing to accept it, and I don’t know whether that’s a strength or a weakness.  Perhaps it’s both, my blessing and my curse.

Last week I received the result of my latest brain MRI.  It showed significant decline and suggested a loss of motor function and language skills is impending in the months or weeks ahead.  A pulmonary test showed my lung capacity is less than 40% of what it should be with my pulmonary artery gradually losing function, the ophthalmologist told me my vision is going, and my body is changing in unpleasing ways.

The proverbial “last straw” happened in an explosive tantrum where I literally lost it.  I lost my composure in a “discussion” with a business associate, and it sent me over the edge, emotionally, physically, and in terms of the wake-up call I’m receiving right now.  I can’t explore the details right now as the episode is too close. It summons up the same feelings that sent me over the edge.  Perhaps in a few months I’ll share the specifics of my explosion.

Here’s what I know.  With the words, “two years to live” rattling in my head, I’m not anywhere near ready to die.  There is a great deal I have to do and I have the most incredible little girl in the world who depends upon me to teach her, support her, steer her, and prepare her for a joyous and rewarding life.  My daughter, Brooke, makes the idea of my shutting down an impossibility.  There’s just no way.

I mentioned irony. Let’s get back to it.  The irony that comes along with my diagnosis and the unnerving prediction that accompanied it is, I’ve spent the past 3 – 5 years developing programs and protocols for others, programs and protocols that will now serve me.  Ironically, I’ve become the target of those programs.

For someone who’s touted the benefits of and pursuit toward wellness, I’m not well.  I never imagined I’d say that.  Health and fitness were always primary concerns in my life.

Today, I am in an unfamiliar place where I need betterment simply for survival.  I have the tools.  I am going to use my A.L.I.V.E. protocol and my Be Better program (if you’re not familiar with these I’ll provide links as this progresses) to create an entirely new universe for myself, one filled with health, abundance, joy, achievement, and love.  I will find a new excellence and it will be the cornerstone of the legacy I leave in 50 some odd years, when it is time for me to step off.

Having been a student of Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, I am not surprised that the theme returns to me often.  At this point I’m very clear on the message of Frankl’s work.  We need a “why.”  We need to be excited about our existence and harbor the knowledge that there’s significance in what is yet to come.  As I’ve gone through this period of contemplation, I’ve decided I have an immense power to help people by “activating” an elite force of fitness professionals who can spread an important and timely message.  I also have a power to teach these professionals to find prosperity and respect, perhaps beyond what they even know is possible.

On the 25th of this month (April) I’ll turn 51.  The week following, I am going to lead a new group of 20 fitness professionals through the Be Better curriculum, a curriculum I’ve conducted for only 120 personal trainers from around the world a curriculum that is proven to serve as a platform and vehicle for extreme growth.  As powerful as the program has proven to be, this time through it will be different.

Firstly, I’m extending the curriculum to 10 months so it carries us into 2012.  Secondly, when the program concludes, I’ll be alive and well, proving the doctor’s presumption flawed and I, and the group, will remain kindred spirits with a significant message of the power to improve.

I will go through my own A.L.I.V.E. protocol, a comprehensive exercise and nutrition program I’ve introduced to the medical community as being “curative.” Today it’s hard for me to even complete the functional six (the first week of the program).  I have to stop frequently to catch my breath.  The doctors I’ve seen for my own health do not put much stock in exercise’s ability to restore pliability to my pulmonary artery, but I’m up for the test.  This is where my belief will drive me to challenge opinions based upon conventional “wisdom.”

I have powerful evidence to show the anti-inflammatory properties of unique combinations of exercise, and further evidence to show the process of “reversing the disease continuum” has little to do with medication and everything to do with lifestyle, load, and recovery.

I am reconnecting with my true passion.  I will use my A.L.I.V.E. program as leverage to build an entirely new business from ground up.  I’ll create educational resources, a number of facilities, and prestigious affiliations.  I’ll build something that leaves my daughter Brooke with a strong and reliable future, and in putting myself on the line, I’m inviting 20 personal trainers to join me as I share every detail of every step in my eighth Be Better group, a group I’m calling Be Better, 2012.

I approach this moment and every moment that follows as if there are no limits, as if we are masters of our own outcomes, and as if health predictions are simply red flags and warnings allowing us the opportunity to take control.

My A.L.I.V.E. and Better blog will be updated frequency and can be followed at http://aliveandbetter.wordpress.com.

In the weeks to come, I’ll post info, for those who have interest, on the journey and conditions that have put my health in jeopardy.  If you want to know NOW, or if you suspect you may suffer with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or Mold (Mycotoxin) Toxicity, send me an email (phil@philkaplan.com) and ask me to send you the details of my personal experience.

If you’re a personal trainer and have interest in being one of the next 20 Be Better trainers, send me an email with the Subject Be Better 2012.  I look forward to a thrilling future!

Be Better,

Phil

Note: I appreciate all of the emails expressing concern.  For those who do want to know the long story, I’ve added it here at the site:

http://aliveandbetter.wordpress.com/the-unwell-experience/

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