medical bills, mold remediation

It is not easy for us to ask for financial help. We were raised to work harder through tough times in hopes that the diligence would pay off. Our efforts can't keep up with what life has thrown at us the past year.

On Easter of 2013, we miscarried. That was the beginning of a downward spiral with my health. While we are still in the midst of sorting out how each of us is affected through genetics and circumstance, I have found my answers. I have mycotoxicosis, which basically means I have been poisoned by the metabolite mold produces. It has affected every system of my body and my symptoms have ranged from joint pain to chronic fatigue to memory loss to confusion to random pain and inflammation and then some. It has been a scary and difficult journey figuring out why I was ill and how to rid myself of this poison. I can tell you that this was the hardest puzzle of my life and finding help was a true challenge. There is much for me to share about this but I am waiting until I have my mental capabilities back. Mycotoxins are not easily cleared and the mental symptoms are very difficult to navigate. I will share the main points though.

Sixteen years ago we rehabbed a shipping container for use as our Charcoal Deli office. Those who know us know we work hard. We do not stop trying to make our business the best it can be. The past few years have been very difficult with the recession, in finding staff and just making sure we have time to spend with our center "“ Lyden and Nolan. In keeping up with our life, we did not realize the bottom of the container was rotting beneath our feet. We work in environmental extremes and just adjust dress accordingly. Though I had backed off my hours since having children, I spent the most time in that office handling accounting responsibilities and attending to our catering clients, many of whom I call friend. Our babies spent some time in their infancy in that office with me. All along, inch by inch, the mold was taking a hold. All along my health was declining.

We spent the last few months scanning/sorting/trashing 22 years of business history as EVERYTHING is the office and the office itself had to be destroyed. I can assure you this was the worst job I ever had to do. The older the files, the more spores flew. We pushed until it was done, just before my birthday. One of the perks about owning the Charcoal Deli is the wide variety of clients we serve. PBI was huge in getting us a giant air scrubber and showing us what was happening. Coastal Crane saved the day by hauling off that toxic box. This was my birthday gift and seeing it taken away gave me hope for a future of health which is the best gift I have ever received. Mold is not covered by insurance. There has been no financial aid in the clean-up, nor the replacement of anything including the structure. A portion of our medical costs has been out of pocket as well. At this point, the costs and debt continue to rise and we are running out of options. Of course as life so often works, we have had numerous costly expenses above and beyond the mold and doctors, the most expensive being our HVAC. We couldn't seem to out-work or out-run the black cloud over our heads.

The emotional toll has been enormous, even far beyond how I have felt physically. It has cost our family time we can't regain as most days I just hung on hoping for answers and relief. It has had consequences on our business as I could not do my job well. Losing our child last spring was harder than we could have known. On top of everything Mark's father passed in December so the past year was spent with Mark doing anything for and with his Pop that he could. 2013 was not a roller coaster; it was like walking through an underground mine with no lamp and little air. As my Dad so often repeated, "Tough times don't last, tough people do." We keep pushing as failure is just not an option. We owe it to our children and our customers to keep going and so we do.

With that all starting to fade, we are very much looking forward to a new start with a new appreciation for health and life. We searched high and low for the least expensive compromise on what we both wanted in an office and the new one was delivered. Mark and I are so excited to start over in a new structure with some new ideas and hopes for the future of the Deli. While the financial aspect of replacing everything we need to run our businesses is a burden, we are still trying to enjoy setting this one up how we would like it.

However, the best news is that I am carrying our daughter. She has surprised numerous doctors by being here. We were no longer trying. When I got sick, we decided to be happy with our two spectacular sons and be grateful we have them. We found out they are bigger miracles than we had known as I have a previously undiagnosed condition which makes it difficult to become pregnant. As for our daughter, the odds were low for me getting pregnant and for carrying her this far. Clearly, there is a bigger plan working and she wants and needs to be born. Locally, I did find help in two amazing doctors (Dr. Bonlie and Dr. Pietrowski), but I chose to seek further help as my concern for our baby's well-being is at the forefront of my mind. I just returned from Georgia and have a thorough detox to completely rid this poison from my daughter's and my bodies. I can't wait to take that step back towards health. I am hoping I may have some time to feel good and enjoy this last pregnancy. I do enjoy carrying. To me it's like having a best friend with you all the time and I have been known to talk out loud to my unborn when I am out in public.

This was the short story for wordy me. Our family is appreciative of anything anyone can do to help us dig out of the financial nightmare this has created. If you know us, you know we are pay it forward people and will use this opportunity to spring us into a future of doing what we can for others. There is still much more to sort out with our health and environment, but the financial piece is making it very difficult to get to the end of this road. Thank you for any generosity you see fit to bestow upon us. Know that it is wholeheartedly appreciated and know that we will pay it forward any chance we can. Know also that mold is indeed a silent killer and we must now spend the rest of our lives avoiding it. I do not want any of us to ever feel as badly as I have the past year. Thank you for your support and thank you for reading this.

cathryn lee
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Organizer

Cathryn M. Carroll Lee 
Organizer
Cockeysville, MD
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