Exhausted, suffering from memory loss and watching her hair fall out in clumps – Emma Marshall had no idea what was causing her terrifying symptoms.
But the 29-year-old is now convinced her horrific health problems were caused by mould in her flat .
Emma, who works in the music industry and lives in Hackney, east London, has also suffered from brain fog, chronic nerve pain and skin rashes.
She thought nothing of the “thick black mould” in the bathroom of her flat when she moved in in 2014.
But, since moving out the following year, her health has steadily declined.
After several visits to her GP – who couldn’t find what was causing her problems – Emma sought help from a functional medicine specialist.
This is a form of alternative medicine which looks at patients holistically and tries to determine the cause of a problem, rather than treating individual symptoms.
In February 2019 she was told her levels of mycotoxins were sky high.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) these are naturally occurring toxins produced by mould and can pose a serious health threat.
Convinced it was breathing in toxins while living in the mouldy flat that triggered her nightmare, Emma said: “When I met with the functional medicine doctor we talked about the kind of environment I lived and worked in and as soon as I said I started to feel unwell in 2014 when I lived in the flat something clicked.
“Since then, my body has broken and continued to be slowly poisoned over the years.”
Before 2014 Emma was the picture of health, enjoying a fast-paced life working in the music industry.
Then, after a year of living in her old flat, she moved out to be closer to her new job – unaware of the string of health issues that were to come.
She said: “I’d had a few symptoms, like acne, exhaustion and aches and pains throughout my body, but I thought it was down to stress and working a lot.
“People are used to living around mould and not knowing what it’s doing to their body and, at that point, I had never heard of mycotoxins.”
Then, in early 2015, Emma’s life changed forever.
First, in February, she had a serious kidney infection and had to have a catheter fitted for two weeks.
Then, in April, she had a nasty fall in the street and fractured her arm, which led to nerve pain so terrible in her arm, shoulder and neck, she was scarcely able to move.
She then needed her appendix removed, after experiencing severe abdominal pain.
For months, she was passed around various different doctors – but nobody seemed to know why her body was reacting so extremely.
“Nobody ever questioned why my body broke down so severely in so many different ways. I was simply called unlucky,” she said.
Since then, her life has been taken over by ailments including flu-like symptoms, nerve, joint and muscle pain, headaches , memory loss, brain fog, insomnia, rashes, acne, thinning hair and facial swelling.
“Because the doctors couldn’t find anything, you think it’s all in your head and so just feel like you have to get on with it,” she continued.
“It is a very isolating place to be in, though. Knowing something is wrong and not being heard tests your strength and makes you feel like you’re screaming into an abyss.
“I would wonder why I couldn’t do certain things, but then also had to just accept how I was as my new normality.
“At my worst, I could only just about manage getting a taxi to work, then I’d go home and go straight to bed.
“People would think I was just being dramatic, which would make me isolate myself even more.”
Towards the end of 2018 Emma hit rock bottom and became so unwell that she was more or less bedbound.
Desperate for answers she researched her symptoms and found a page online about mycotoxin poisoning.
She became convinced that is what she had and paid to see a private functional medicine doctor who tested her via a urine sample.
Emma got her results which revealed she did have mycotoxin poisoning.
She said: “Functional medicine is amazing when it comes to chronic illness. They can piece everything together like a puzzle, rather than just treating the symptoms.
“The best service you can do for yourself when it comes to healthcare is to combine functional and western medicine.
“The results really shocked me. I figured I’d likely have some mycotoxins in my system, but the doctor told me my levels were off the charts.
“He asked how I felt, and I said, ‘I know this sounds dramatic, but I feel as if I am dying, and the life is being slowly sucked out of me.’
“It was traumatic knowing my body was failing and not to know why. Now it’s just as scary to discover I was being slowly poisoned.”
Determined to get well again Emma is fully detoxing her system and has set up a GoFundMe page to help with the cost of her ongoing care.
Using an alternative approach, she plans to take binders – which aim to ‘trap’ toxins and help move them out of the body – for a year before having a type of stem cell rejuvenation.
With the funds raised through her GoFundMe page she is hoping to travel to a specialist clinic called Sanoviv in Mexico for the treatment.
Emma said: “Healing is not quick and simple. It’s not a case of taking a pill and fixing something, but of finding the root cause and doing everything in my power to reset it.”
By speaking out, she hopes to raise awareness of mould and mycotoxin poisoning in the hope that, one day, it will be better understood by both medical professionals and members of the public alike.
She is also encouraging others to Tweet under the hashtag #ButYouLookFine to help raise awareness of invisible illnesses.
Emma, who is throwing an event called Shut Up + Dance on Thursday March 14 at The Curtain in Shoreditch, east London, to help raise funds and awareness, added: “The NHS is an amazing service, despite being underfunded and overworked, and the people who work in it and save lives daily are incredible.
“But the research into mycotoxins simply isn’t there, let alone the treatment.
“We’re having to catch up to all these relatively new illnesses that can damage lives, with no quick fix.
“I would really like to see testing for mycotoxin poisoning as standard protocol, especially if someone is living in a mouldy environment – but I know change must come from the top down, and not within the NHS.
“Not everybody will have as adverse a reaction as me, but those that do should be dealt with straight away and listened to.
“Diseases that aren’t widely heard of are scary, and people don’t always know what to say or do.
“What people don’t understand is that the person going through them will need to rebuild not just their body, but their whole life too – so please show love and support through those scary times.”
- To donate, visit www.gofundme.com/help-emma-get-better-where-the-nhs-cant-help .