Help Fran Breathe

After having worked as a clinical social worker in Massachusetts since 1982, my family moved to Maine in 1994 when I was hired as the Clinical Coordinator for a rural mental health center. In 1997, I was promoted to the Unit Manager for the county. In August of 1998, after the Great Ice Storm in February, I made the decision to leave my job so that I could be more available to my family.  I was very excited about starting work for an adoption agency in September as my husband and I are adoptive parents. However, that never happened due to an incident the week I was to start.
In September of 1998, I was deeply impacted by the cleaning of my road early in the morning where massive amounts of dry road dust were put into the air covering everything to the point where I couldn't see the house across the street or the color of my car. I have had asthma and allergies since age 4, so I knew this was not good for me.
I found myself unable to work due to severe lung damage, decreasing my lung functioning to 21%. At this time, at the age of 49, my husband and I were raising our young son who was 6 years old. Over the next 4 years of attempting to work, I was then disabled in 2002. We nearly lost our home but were able to sell it and move to our current home. Due to the condition of this home, an 1860's Cape Farmhouse, we had to invest much money to make it livable for my health conditions as best we could.
While disabled, I created a non-profit called Oxford Hills Center for Advocacy and Ethics where I would advocate for those having difficulty getting their medical, mental health, or other needs met. I had also beome involved in my church as a worship leader, singing and playing piano but, after this incident, I was no longer able to sing and sometimes speak due to medication side effects impacting my voice.
Caring for others has been my life-long work so, in spite of my disability, I continued to find ways to do my work as a clinical social worker as well as advocating for anyone needing help in my community. I began private practice in 2008 and had a small caseload. After becoming ill again from the office where I rented, I again retreated back to my home. My dear husband, the love of my life who has supported me through all of this, built a waiting room on the front of our home and a wooden walkway up through two beautiful 100 year old maple trees and our Serenity Garden, a source of peace and beauty as people come to my office.
I work with elderly couples, young adults, and adults.
I was trained as a Guardian ad Litem about 10 years ago but, again, due to my illness, I was unable to continue. I was just accepted in the training for next week but had to decline due to my current illness. Last winter, I became a Family Coach for Safe Families for Children but again, due to exposures at home visits, I became severely ill for 6 weeks so I no longer do that work.
I continue to advocate, regardless of being paid, whenever needed. I wish to continue my work to serve others but, with living and working in a 157 year old house presents many breathing issues even after we have put so much in to making it our home that we love.
Of course we have been greatly impacted over these nearly 20 years financially. However, we have great faith and we persevere with loving hearts in our loving home.
When I am well, I feel great. But, I never know when I will be struck with a severe exacerbation usually lasting 4 to 6 weeks where I cannot function or work. My life has been shrinking more and more as I try to minimize being exposed and getting very ill. When ill, the medication impacts my mood and physical being so that I cannot even leave my home in this small community.
I have a good diet to minimize reactions---no gluten, dairy, sugar. I excercise and am quite "healthy looking" to those who do not know this story.
As these exacerbations have been increasing to several times a year, our finances continue to be an issue---we have none. We have no assets, no equity in our home. We live by faith and we focus on the half-full glass and we live in peace and love not allowing the stress of life to control who we are. We love others and continue to give, regardless of how little we have, because that is who we are.
I love my work and will work until I can no longer work, as is the case with my husband who is 3 years older than me.
This money would be used for renovations so that I can breathe and carry on my work.
My diagnoses are Severe Asthma and Allergies, Asthma COPD Overlap Syndrome (ACOS), and Bronchiectasis.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my story and I hope it has given others hope in their journey. Please feel free to share this as there are many suffering with lung disease who need understanding and loving support.
With peace and love,
Fran
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Organizer

Frances Cosentino White 
Organizer
Oxford, ME
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