Last updateFri, 16 Aug 2019 11am

Living with multiple chemical sensitivity

Having lived in Mexico’s coastal town of La Manzanilla since December 2018, Pam Wolski needs to find a new home. For the 30 years that she’s been struggling with environmental illness, she has had to be rather picky as to where she spends her time.

pg24Although she and her husband, Tom, have been living in La Manzanilla for only four months, the coastal town’s intense heat is the reason the Wolski’s will be moving by the end of June.

Says  Wolski,“Due to my years of being exposed to toxic chemicals, I have acquired a bad reaction to sunscreen, which, of course I need to use because of how intense the sun in La Manzanilla can get.”

The couple will soon be searching for a place farther north in Mexico, where the sun isn’t so intense.

Wolski’s troubling symptoms began in 1986, when she received an overexposure to pesticide fumes.

“I was in my Chicago apartment,” she says, “when I smelled something that I thought was smoke. Thinking there was a fire in the building, I began gathering my most valuable belongings, ready to evacuate the building.”

It turned out that the fumes were from a pesticide smoke bomb that was drifting into her apartment through the baseboards, originating from the apartment building basement. Twenty minutes of breathing in pesticide fumes were enough to set off a series of disturbing symptoms.

“Before long, I noticed I was having trouble breathing, so I visited a doctor that my friend referred me to. He diagnosed me with chemical sensitivities.”

During the time she was receiving medical treatments, Wolski continued to do research on the subject, while exploring alternative methods in psychology and spirituality.

She continues, “Adding to that unfortunate 20-minute chemical pesticide episode was 11 years of breathing in printing fumes while working as a book editor at a printing company.”

Shortly after the smoke bomb incident, Wolski started reacting to “new” odors, such as perfumes, cleaners, new carpet, and fresh paint – even interiors that had been painted many months before her exposure. After leaving those “toxic” areas, she found she could once again breath normally.

A year later, she started having dental sensitivities and had her mercury fillings removed.

She adds, “I felt some improvement afterward, and my arthritic symptoms disappeared.”

Since the smoke bomb incident, Wolski acquired other symptoms, such as food sensitivities, which she had never experienced before.

“By eating the ‘wrong’ foods, I may feel dizzy, nervous, shaky, and have problems thinking clearly. I have to rotate my foods and not eat any one food over and over again, which only adds to food sensitivity symptoms.”

The Wolskis had lived at lakeside for two and a half years, up until last December, when their lease was up. Due to an increase in their rent, as well as local traffic and development at lakeside, the couple decided to head for La Manzanilla.

“A major challenge of mine”, says Wolski, “is finding a place to live that doesn’t have new carpets, mold or that was recently painted.

“We enjoy La Manzanilla because of its fresh ocean air, Mexican neighborhoods, and the fact that we live five minutes from the beach. Also, it is quieter than lakeside.”

Wolski admits that her sensitivities have never completely cleared out, although they have improved to some degree.

“On a scale of 1 to 10,” she says, “I was up to an 8; now I’m around a 4 or 5. Some of my treatments have included homeopathy and supplements. At one point I was taking 17 supplements.”

The reason the couple landed in Mexico was because Tom Wolski had visited the country 30 years ago to help some churches with missionary work.

Says Wolski, “Tom thoroughly enjoyed his Mexican experience, so we visited the country a few times afterward from our home in Chicago, invited by some churches in Guadalajara. We ended up moving to Guadalajara in 2014 to do missionary work.”

When their lease in Guadalajara was up, they couldn’t find another place in the city that worked with Wolski’s sensitivities, so they found a place in Riberas del Pilar that suited them.

A familiar speaker at Open Circle, Wolski was invited back to talk this month about her 30-year struggle with environmental illness. Two years ago she gave a talk on quantum physics, and last year on “Science and the Mind of God” – both keen interests of hers.

Eventually, through her 30-year health struggle, Wolski ended up finding solace through friendships, faith, love and poetry – all of which she will share with her audience at Sunday’s Open Circle talk. “Metamorphosis: Surviving and Thriving through Environmental Illness” takes place on Sunday, May 5, 10 a.m., Lake Chapala Society, Ajijic. 

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