Doctors brushed off her fatigue, but Susanne Bennett, 55, wouldn’t settle for feeling less than her best. A little detective work led her to the culprit—and helped her reclaim her vitality in days
A sneaky chemical is making 93 of us allergic to other things. Discover the easy antidote
And then the little bear said… umm… he said…” Susanne’s voice trailed off as she looked at the eager 4-year-olds waiting for her to keep reading. “When my son, Cody, was in preschool, I would often volunteer to read books to the kids,” Susanne recalls. “Even though I was a busy holistic chiropractor, I loved squeezing in time to see him and help at the school. But on this day, my exhaustion and brain fog were so severe that I stammered and struggled to get the easiest words out. I started over and eventually finished the story, but the entire time, I was so anxious and kept thinking, What’s wrong with me? I can barely get through a children’s book!
“That was 20 years ago, when fatigue set in and changed my life. My relationship with my husband, George, was most affected. When we’d go out to dinner for a date night, I’d fight to keep my eyes open. All I could think about was getting home so I could go to sleep. And I was so irritable and snappy with George that we grew apart.
“Fatigue took a toll at work too. I needed to stay alert to treat my patients, but I struggled to think straight. It was so bad that I worried I was losing my memory! Before I saw each patient, I had to go over my notes because I couldn’t remember their health histories. I even had my assistant take a photo of each person to get a refresher on what they looked like before I greeted them.
“By the afternoon every day, my voice was hoarse and strained, which seemed odd. And even though I ate healthy, exercised and took supplements (a multi, probiotics and L-carnitine for energy), I had frequent headaches and aches and pains.
“The final straw came shortly after I bought a new car. I was driving with Cody in the back seat and heard sirens. But I was so disoriented, I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. I got frazzled, losing control of my car and slamming into the car in front of me. Thankfully,
Cody and everyone else involved were okay. But
I was terrified! I knew something was wrong and needed an answer fast.
“I saw several doctors who all ran a variety of tests—but they didn’t find any problems. Since I looked healthy, they brushed off my symptoms and told me I’d feel better with more rest. It
was so frustrating that none of them could figure out what was wrong.”
“I decided to try and figure it out on my own, and started to reflect on when my symptoms flared. I remembered that my symptoms were really intense when I moved into a new home years earlier, and when I had my office remodeled with fresh paint, new carpet and new furniture. At the time, I chalked it up to stress, but now I wondered if something in my house or at work was making me sick. That didn’t totally fit, though, because I also noticed that I got dizzy when I went into clothing stores. And when I spent time outside or relaxed in a sauna I’d start to feel so much better. “My real aha moment came when I attended a post-graduate program on environmental toxins. I was shocked to learn that formaldehyde, which is in so many things we come into contact with every day including furniture, clothes and carpeting, is linked to all my symptoms. Plus, I found out formaldehyde can cause sensitivities to other toxins and even foods. I was sensitive to perfume, nail polish and cleaning agents, and anytime I ate food with preservatives, I’d get a rash. Suddenly I realized formaldehyde could be at the root of all of it. “I started eliminating everything I came into contact with that had formaldehyde. I ripped out the carpet and flooring in my office, replaced the particle-board furniture with real-wood and metal furniture from tag sales and flea markets, and repainted with noVOC paint. I also shopped online to avoid clothing stores. Almost immediately, the fog lifted and my voice was no longer hoarse. Within one week I had more energy, and my other symptoms vanished. I couldn’t believe what a huge impact formaldehyde was having on my health, but was thrilled that such easy fixes made all the difference. “Now that the fatigue isn’t holding me back, I have plenty of energy to devote to my business (DrSusanne.com), and I cherish family time. Cody and I love to cook meals together and George and I are more connected than ever. We love to go out to dinner, catch a late movie and go dancing. Life is good!” —as told to Julie Revelant