by Jeannette Haley
My twenty-year love affair with oil paint came to an abrupt halt. My health, and heart, broke as the herbalist explained the test results. Deep inside my spirit I knew she was right, but how I hated to face the devastating facts.
“You poor lady,” she whispered, more to herself than to me as she ran her fingers up and down my spine.
Exhausted, I fell into a chair and sighed. Three months prior I had finished the project of my life. Fourteen original oil paintings measuring 5 by 10 feet for a local church. The pastor loved art and I felt privileged to be the one he chose to paint his dreams.
The project had taken only eleven months, but the skin problems began appearing early on. At first there was only a slight rash on my neck. But with the passing of time, the condition worsened. I told myself it was eczema, again. I had been plagued with eczema off and on for years.
As the excitement and challenge of this one-of-a-kind opportunity unfolded, I ignored the tight and aching muscles and creeping tennis elbow. Wrapping my arm in a tight support, I painted on. There were days when I was so exhausted I could barely crawl out of bed. Overcome with depression, I stood shaking and crying, trying to muster up the energy to drag my body out to the car.
Fear began wrapping its ugly tentacles around my mind as I considered the changes in my body. Boils began surfacing across my stomach and back. I knew I was in trouble, but hoped they would go away. I stuffed myself with supplements and nutritional supports, and told myself that I certainly ate right. After all, raw salad usually made up at least half of my daily diet.
One morning as I prepared my palette for the day, a strange shadow appeared across the vision of one eye. Abstract objects seemed to fly across my sight. “No, it can’t be!” I told myself. Loss of vision is not anything anyone would wish for, and especially an artist! Since I was doing the paintings in the foyer of the church, I quickly sought out the pastor and asked for prayer. Surely the Lord wouldn’t let me lose my sight, not when I was painting with all my heart for His glory.
As the light of day gave way to night’s inevitable darkness, flashes of light appeared on the outer perimeter of my right eye. I had to admit there was something terribly wrong and the following day made an appointment to have an eye examination.
“It’s a good thing I have a VISA card,” I murmured to myself. For the past ten years I had been living as a single, divorced woman and did not have steady income or health insurance. Try as I might, there was no escaping the mounting debt with its encroaching interest.
“You have fluid behind your retina,” explained the doctor as she illustrated a tear behind this area. I felt weak and faint. “There is no cure,” she stated matter-of-factly. It was an ultimatum I refused to believe. Somehow I knew there had to be a cure, one way or the other. I must believe God would help me. Finally in exasperation I had cried out to God, “Heal me, kill me or bring a Christian herbalist into my life.” He answered with the latter.
My weary mind forced its way back to the present. The herbalist shook her head, folded her hands on the table in front of her and began to explain the results of her exhaustive testing. I knew she was right. This time I couldn’t shrug it off and pretend everything was going to just go away. It was time to face the facts.
My colon was totally congested. I already knew it was sluggish and didn’t function the way it should, but I drank laxative teas in an effort to force it to work. She explained how all disease begins in the colon. “Your liver is toxic from all the paint,” she explained. “You are basically poisoned.”
I didn’t know at that first visit that she was not convinced if I would live. Later she told me when I first came to her all nine of my body systems were barely functioning. It was hard to know where to begin because of the seriousness of the situation. I had candida throughout my body; parasites and resultant anemia; a leaky gut; chemical allergies; hypoglycemia; weak kidneys; muscle and structural damage; extreme skin problems from nose to knees; and multiple food allergies.
My mind and emotions went numb with shock as she handed me the list of foods I was to avoid. It read as follows: Wheat, corn, rye, barley, spelt, lima beans, eggs, potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, dairy products, peanuts and peanut butter, sunflower seeds, chocolate, coffee, caffeine tea, citrus fruits, honey, MSG, bouillon, red and yellow food coloring and, of course, sugar. What was left to eat?
By the time I drove the one-and-a-half hour trip home depression settled over me like a dark, heavy shroud. I looked and felt ghastly. Ugly, dry, red, puffy blotches distorted my face and added years to my appearance. I was forbidden to wear makeup of any kind, which added to my misery. I was to cut my hair in order to rid myself of the chemicals from a permanent and forget about nail polish, perfume or anything else with chemicals in it.
My usual habit of comforting myself with a steaming cup of flavored coffee had to be forever postponed. It was going to be water, water, water and a good deal of it from now on. At least the water I drank was from an underground spring that insured I wasn’t consuming additional poison from chlorine and fluoride.
Then the long, painful and expensive detoxification process began. I was too sick and too tired to care if I lived or not. I remember actually standing in the small dining room of our rented condo weighing out the decision to live or not. If I chose to live, then I would be plunged into debt buying herbs and such. If I just let go and died, then I’d be in heaven.
Everything was bleak and depressing. I had spent twenty years of my life as a professional artist and had finally arrived at a place where I felt I was beginning to produce serious enough work to be competitive in this very competitive field. I loved art and painting; it had been an important part of my life ever since I was a child. I had invested everything into both my art and the ministry I was a part of.
At this time my co-laborer and myself lived in Seattle, Washington. Most of the time it was overcast, dark, gray and wet. Even though I tried to ignore the gloomy weather, it had taken a heavy toll on my emotions. I felt as if I would go insane if I couldn’t see the sun, to be able to at least sit in it once a day. It was not a wish that would become a reality for a long time.
Because I never sweat much, all of the toxins were trapped in my body. About eleven months after I “crashed and burned,” we moved to Houston, Texas, in June. The temperature there and the humidity were high. I remember putting on a swimsuit and laying out in the sun to sweat out the toxins while everyone else headed for cooler quarters. It was incredibly painful.
Every shower I took for nearly a year after that first diagnosis brought untold suffering and pain, even though a friend provided a shower filter and I used the purest of soaps. My skin was red, raw, cracked and indescribably itchy. The itching began deep within my body and consumed every fiber of my being. Each night became a hell of pain and misery as the sleep I so desperately needed was denied my body. I thrashed helplessly in bed, scratching and digging myself raw and bloody even though my nails had been cut to the quick.
Sometimes my body would involuntarily tremble from the inside out from all the poison collected in my cells. I suffered incredible panic attacks and thought I was losing my mind. My skin wrinkled and sagged and my arms looked like they belonged to a person twice my age.
Ironically, through my daily Bible reading, I came to the Book of Job. Tearfully I related to everything he had to say, and understood its depths of meaning like never before. Like Job, I lay awake in the night begging God to die. I felt His majestic presence and my excited heart raced with joy at the thought of soon seeing Him face to face.
I was tired, so tired. Tired of unending, pain; tired of itching and scratching; tired of intensely dry facial skin which could never be moisturized enough; tired of bloody sheets, pillow cases and clothes; tired of the mounting unpaid bills; tired of trying to detect changes in my health which would lend encouragement; tired of trying to prepare nutritious meals from new cookbooks for people with food allergies and candida. I was too exhausted to crawl out of bed, let alone shop for organic foods and learn how to cook all over again. It was totally overwhelming. On top of this, I began to lose my voice.
The battle was not only physical, but mental and spiritual as well. Because my liver was poisoned, depression was the natural result. And as a single, middle-aged woman without financial means, fear was a constant enemy. Spiritually, my duty was to keep my heart pure, but this was easier said than done. Self-pity had to be kept at bay along with anger.
I had no support group, no one to talk to who had gone through the chemical hell in which I found myself trapped. My friend and partner, Rayola, literally kept me alive by staying with me, praying for me, encouraging me. She suffered along with me and we both had to deal with our own questions and relationships with God. Many of the other artists I knew of who had been chemically poisoned had died. I felt so alone. Friends watched in horror as I struggled to live. They didn’t know what to do for me because none of us really understood the situation in its entirety. Some turned on me and told me I needed to repent, that God was punishing me.
I do want to say at this point, however, that the Lord put me in touch with three loving and helpful Christian herbalists; a wonderful Christian chiropractor; a good massage therapist and eventually a one-of-a-kind kind Christian metabolic doctor. Dr. Richard Loyd. I credit all of them for helping save my life along with many praying friends and, as I said above, especially my close friend and co-laborer in the gospel. Without her kind, unwavering encouragement, support and prayers, I would have given up in despair. I know what it is like to nearly have the small flame of life snuffed out. I know what it is like to feel the presence of the angel of death. I know how fragile life is. I know what it feels like to be dying.
When a person determines to avoid the usual method of “healing” today, that is, to be cut, burned or drugged rather than work to build the immune system and eradicate the cause of the problem, they are met with much opposition. Well-meaning relatives and friends would ask, “Why don’t you just go to a regular doctor?”
May I state that while doctors certainly have their place and have benefited many, in my particular case, even if I could have afforded one, which I couldn’t, I would be dead today. The usual method of treating people with symptoms such as mine is with cortisone, antibiotics and drugs. In my case, my liver would have been totally undone.
I liken my sudden change of lifestyle, diet, means of cooking and thinking to that of hitting a solid rock wall at 500 miles per hour. It was that drastic.
Rayola also had “hit a wall” with her health and was borderline diabetic. We had been working day and night, seven days a week, in ministry. Now we were paying the price.
For the first four or five months I suffered what is called “healing crisis.” One day you may feel quite well only to plunge into a hole of illness for three or four days. The up’s and down’s keep you from being able to plan anything in advance, making you feel helpless, hopeless. Unless a person has experienced this process, it is hard for them to understand or relate to it. Let’s just say you can barely move, barely think–you feel like a plant, alive but not alive in the truest sense of the word. You don’t have enough energy or feeling of hope and well being to give a rip. The future looks hopeless and bleak, because you don’t have enough energy to even plan for it, let alone take any kind of action.
Because of the process of detoxification, I went out as little as possible. I never knew when my body would literally “give up” and I didn’t dare venture too far from home. It was hard to drive, hard to talk with people. Every little thing took massive amounts of energy, and I had none in reserve.
Everything was affected in my life. I had to purchase all cotton clothes because my raw skin was too sensitive to wear anything synthetic. Eczema ate at my ears and I had to give up wearing pierced earrings or any other kind of jewelry. I had to change my detergent and double rinse my laundry in white vinegar to insure all cleaning residues were rinsed out. I had to avoid all the nicety women love – perfume, cosmetics, dusting powder, beauty parlors and the like. In short, I looked and felt like a freak. People shunned away from me when I ventured out to shop, afraid I had something “catching.” Now my heart aches for those who are deformed or disabled. How broken their hearts must be!
I even became allergic to Latex rubber gloves. This meant I couldn’t even wash dishes! Every time I put on a pair of gloves to help with the housework, I broke out in itchy blisters.
Eventually I improved enough with the use of herbs and other specific nutritional supplements to enroll with three friends in health care educational classes. These proved to be of tremendous benefit because not only did I meet others with health problems, but I learned why I needed to continue the A, B, C’s of health care (activate, build, cleanse).
Each weekly class brought encouragement and enlightenment as the instructor not only taught us the basics of how our wonderful bodies work, but gave us personal attention. These educational sessions provided me with the reinforcement I needed to continue the long, difficult struggle toward physical freedom and health.
Early on I realized that it was an absolute necessity to change my mindset. In other words, I had to forever close the door to my former way of thinking and living and accept new ways. Since I am the type of individual who has a difficult time letting go, it was a major battle to emotionally and mentally work through the changes. I came to realize that there are seasons of life and that God had brought me to a new season. The ability to change and adapt to new situations and surroundings was necessary if I was to survive.
At the time of this writing over five years have passed since that first diagnosis. My skin has finally cleared up and the color of my eyes, which had been nearly black (indicating in my case extreme toxicity), are growing lighter in color; my liver has been cleansed and strengthened as well as my kidneys; my strength is returning and I am usually able to work all day; my digestion and colon have improved even though I will be cleansing, activating and building for the rest of my life.
My eye problem has improved although it is not completely healed and I still battle loss of voice. I have suffered incredible muscle and joint weakness and pain, but am improving through an exercise program and massage therapy. The Word of God is my pillar against irrational fears.
Happily, I am able to wear clothes made of materials other than cotton and can tolerate pure cosmetics and non-toxic jewelry. Some of the foods, which were stricken from my diet, I am now able to consume in moderation. I praise the Lord for the many delicious natural dietary substitutes which we are privileged as Americans to have available to us.
For me, the detoxification process has been severe. For others it may not be as severe. Each of us has our own road to travel. I have had to consider this trial of faith as one of the supreme tests of my life. Would I continue to believe God was in control, that He would see me through the long days and nights of suffering, that He had a divine purpose in it? Admittedly, I was physically reaping what I had sown. And my experience did benefit many others as they witnessed the devastation in my life and became concerned about their own physical welfare.
The day came when I had to close the oil painting chapter of my life. I felt as if my heart would shatter into a million pieces. Tears rolled uncontrollably down my cheeks as I collected the beloved tubes of vibrant colors and placed them in boxes along with the mediums and other solvents. “Lord,” I whispered, “thank you that I can at least continue my art with other less toxic mediums, but you know working with anything else is like marrying my second love. But I choose to trust You.”
He then reminded me of the woman who broke the precious alabaster box of costly ointment and poured it out upon the Savior of the world in a selfless sacrifice of pure love . . . broken and spilled out.
If you have suffered from chemical or toxic poisoning, or know of someone who has, I would love to hear from you. See our Contact us page.