The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast

Episode 26: Stories of Grief, Acceptance & Strength: A Conversation with Gail McCormick

May 22, 2023 Gail McCormick Episode 26
The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast
Episode 26: Stories of Grief, Acceptance & Strength: A Conversation with Gail McCormick
The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast
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Check out Episode 26 of The Chemical Sensitivity Podcast!
   
The title is “Stories of Grief, Acceptance & Strength.” 

It features a Conversation with Gail McCormick.

Gail is a psychotherapist, former newspaper reporter, and writer based in Seattle in the U.S. She has lived with MCS for many years. In 2001, she published a book of interviews she conducted with dozens of people who had MCS across the U.S. Her goal was to find out how they were coping and how their emotional and social lives were impacted by the illness.
 
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“Living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity: Narratives of Coping”

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Aaron Goodman  00:05

Welcome to the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast. I'm Aaron Goodman, host and founder of the podcast. I'm a longtime journalist, documentary maker, university instructor and Communication Studies researcher, and I've lived with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS for years, also known as environmental illness, chemical intolerance and toxic and induced loss of tolerance or TILT. The illness affects millions around the world. It's so many people with a condition are met with denialism and been dismissed by healthcare workers, friends, even family. Countless people with MCS struggled to find healthy housing and get necessary accommodation at work and school. So the purpose of the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast is help raise awareness about MCS and what it's like for people who live with it. We've featured interviews with all kinds of people and some of the world's leading experts and researchers on MCS, and we're just getting started. 

This is episode 26. And the title is Stories of Grief, Acceptance and Strength. Features a conversation with Gail McCormick. Gail is a psychotherapist, former newspaper reporter and writer based in Seattle in the US. She's lived with MCS for many years. In 2001, she published a book of interviews that she conducted with dozens of people who had MCS across the US. Her goal was to find out how they were coping and how their emotional and social lives are impacted by the illness. At the time the book was published. There wasn't a lot of information publicly available, about MCS so Gail traveled to many parts of the country and recorded conversations with people. It's a wonderful book. And it was fascinating speaking with Gail about it, because I was interested in how it was a psychotherapist and someone with MCS, she views not only how people's lives are disrupted by the illness, but how they adapt and gain the strength to keep going. I'll leave a link to Gail's website and how to order the book and the podcast show notes. 

I hope you enjoy the conversation and find it a benefit. We release new episodes twice a month, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. You can now subscribe to hear bonus episodes featuring experts on MCS and information you won't hear anywhere else. Thanks for subscribing and helps us continue making the podcast available and creating greater awareness about MCS. The review on Apple podcasts it's a great way to help others learn about the podcast and find us on social media. Just search for the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast or podcasting MCS. 

Leave your comments about anything you hear on the podcast and please share the podcast with others. You can find the podcast on YouTube and read closed captions in any language you like support the podcast find the link to our Patreon site in Episode descriptions at ChemicalSensitivityPodcast.org. If there's someone you'd like to hear interviewed on the podcast or a topic you'd like us to explore, just let us know, email info@chemicalsensitivitypodcast.org and thanks for listening. 

 

Aaron Goodman  03:08

Gail, thank you so much for joining me today. 

 

Gail McCormick  03:11

Thank you for having me here.

 

Aaron Goodman  03:12

It's wonderful to connect with you. I wanted to invite you to say a little bit more about yourself. And perhaps would you like to share about your experience with MCS? 

 

Gail McCormick  03:26

Sure. I grew up on a farm in in Michigan, and a lot of pesticides were used. And of course, we had no idea at that time that that could be problematic. And I was a kid with hay fever and some allergies and that sort of thing. And then at age seven I was hospitalized with they diagnosed it as ulcerative colitis. But eventually I learned that it was reactions to foods that I was eating. And, you know, I at some point, like in high school, I remember I didn't, I hated going to shopping malls and that was a big thing for teenagers and especially girls and going and clothes shopping and that sort of thing. And I hated it. I couldn't make decisions. And I thought it was I just got overwhelmed by too many choices because I did better in small stores. 

 

Gail McCormick  04:31

But eventually I realized it was because of the perfume department and all of the other exposures in the larger stores and in college I took some photography classes and I was developing my own film and I was putting my hands into very toxic chemicals. I didn't think anything of it. And I you know, gradually things became worse with my health at some point. I realized I was dizzy a lot. And I didn't feel good. And I just thought it had something to do with something I was eating, I got help from someone who was able to identify what foods I was reacting to. And I, I was, I felt normal for the first time when I got off those foods. And that was very exciting, but that unmasked my chemical sensitivities, I would be feeling just fine. And then boom, all of a sudden, something would happen. And really, I, I'm fortunate in that in grad school, I became friends with a woman who was chemically sensitive. In fact, she was married to an Environmental Illness physician. And so I knew about it, I had never occurred to me that I had it. But when I got unmasked, and I started reacting very noticeably to other exposures. I, you know, I was able to put it together, and I knew, then what was going on. And, you know, I just kind of continued from there. I've never been officially diagnosed, because I never saw a doctor who really believed in MCS, and they're, you know, there wasn't a diagnosis for it. And for the most part, to my knowledge, this still isn't. 

 

Aaron Goodman  04:58

Well, thank you very much, Gail, what led you to write the book, it was came out about 20 years ago, was it an effort to learn more about how people were living with the illness? And in the book, you write that part of your motivation was to challenge stereotypes about people who have MCS? What were some of the factors that led you to create this book? 

 

Gail McCormick  07:03

Well, honestly, it was mostly for my own survival. You know, I was a professional mental health counselor, I worked successfully with many clients with all kinds of issues. And I didn't feel I was able to cope with MCS in a very healthy way. And I, you know, the stereotypes, the stigma, that it's all in your head, or for those who don't work. They're just lazy, they don't want to work. They're crazy. You know, I, for my own sake, and I suppose from that part of me that's curious about, you know, the mental health side of things. I just needed to see, who are these other people that, you know, I'm in this suddenly, I'm a member of this club, and who are who are these other people? You know, Are they crazy? Where do they live? You know, how do they live? How do they cope? What keeps them going? Because I was in a very difficult place myself, and I didn't know how I could live like that long term. And so I started interviewing people, and I had worked as a biographer and interviewing people was something I get a lot of satisfaction from in the first place. So that's how I went down that path. 

 

Aaron Goodman  08:49

Very interesting. And I think it's, we should just say that the people you did interview, they weren't crazy. Obviously, we know that. 

 

Gail McCormick  08:57

We know that. Yes. They were not crazy. As a matter of fact, they were the most down to earth, authentic, caring people that one could meet from all walks of life, very generous, you know, great sense of humors. And I that was one of the things that really helped me that came out of the process was seeing all these people being stripped down to the bare essentials. They were so much more in touch with what is meaningful in their lives than the average person. And there just weren't the same kinds of barriers and judgments about other people that we concern ourselves with in most social interactions. 

 

Aaron Goodman  09:56

I think a lot of people who listen I mean, myself included will relate to that. And you know, I think personally, I've taken a lot of comfort in connecting with other people not through writing a book, but through meeting other people. And I think, you know, the contemporary version, perhaps of what you you did is that a lot of us are connecting online. And I think a lot of people benefit from connecting with others online. And do you see a parallel there? 

 

Gail McCormick  10:21

Absolutely. I think that the most important thing for people with Chemical Sensitivities is to connect with other people who are suffering in the same ways, so that you know, and feel that you're not alone. And somebody gets you. I mean, it's just amazing to be able to sit and talk with someone that you don't have to explain everything to and they just understand. 

 

Aaron Goodman  10:53

Absolutely, let's go back in time to when you set out to write the book, how many people did you ultimately interview and tell us a little bit please how you found them and where they were? 

 

Gail McCormick  11:06

Well, there are 30 interviews in the book. And I probably interviewed, you know, maybe 35 plus people. And I found them mostly by contacting woman, who's now deceased, she died from complications from her Chemical Sensitivities in her 30s and Cindy Doreen, and she had moved to Montana to be in a safer place. And she started the Chemical Injury Information, something and had a newsletter. And so I would contact her whenever I was going to be visiting someone where I had a safe place to stay. And, and, you know, she would share with me people in that area that subscribe to the newsletter. And I would call them, I'm not sure email. And all of that was a thing yet. And, you know, people were just very welcoming and eager to have someone want to hear their story and understand them. And so my parents are no longer living, but they they spent winters at that time on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, right on the border of Florida. 

 

Gail McCormick  12:35

So I interviewed some people in that area, and had a nephew in New Orleans. So I went there and interviewed a couple of people. I of course, of course, interviewed people in Michigan, where my parents main home was and family in California. So I spent some time there and interviewed people. And there were a couple of places, I made special trips to go to interview people because I knew that, you know, people with MCS had sort of collected there. And one of those places was Snowflake, Arizona. So I was able to do that on a trip when I was visiting family there. And the other place I made a special trip to was Santa Fe, a lot of people had gone to that area. And so I went by myself to Santa Fe and stayed in a bed and breakfast and interviewed a number of people in that area. 

 

Gail McCormick  13:47

A couple of them were physicians who have Environmental Illness, and others whose you know, stories are all amazing, you know, a woman who had to live outside most of the time, you know, camping in the woods, she'd had an encounter with a bear. I mean, it just goes on and on the things that people do to try to get better and to survive. 

 

Aaron Goodman  14:15

And you ask each person the same questions?

 

Gail McCormick  14:18

 Yes. 

 

Aaron Goodman  14:21

These are the questions: How is MCS changed your life? How do you cope with isolation, fear, stigma and loss? Where do you find hope? Have you had any positive effects from the illness? And what would you like others to understand about you as a person with MCS? and how do you hope others might be helped hearing your story? and as someone as a person who's trained as a mental health counselor, a psychotherapist, did you use those skills from your training to connect with people to understand them?


Gail McCormick  14:55

I suppose I did. I mean, it's not a conscious thing, it's like I brought all of my skills together. You know, in my first career, I was a reporter. You know, I did some writing, I was a newspaper reporter for a small weekly publication. And and as I said, I had worked as a biographer for clients who employed me to record their life stories to capture what was most the most meaningful experiences and lessons and relationships in their lives to pass down to their families. And so, you know, I kind of brought it all together the mental health part of me as well as the, you know, just the interviewer and the curious person I am about people's lives, which I think are, you know, like art. Everybody's life is a piece of art. So, yeah, it was all of the above. 

 

Aaron Goodman  15:58

You write these narratives of men, women and children with MCS, normalize the fear, loneliness, shame and loss that can torment those with this condition. They provide hope and encouragement desperately needed by others to persevere with MCS, collectively, they can help others avoid unnecessary chemical injuries, dispel some of the myths surrounding people with MCS and bring greater insight and understanding to those who love, live or work with someone who's chemically sensitive. 

 

Gail McCormick  16:31

Yes, absolutely. Those Those were the goals. And, you know, I even recently got some feedback from someone through social media about how the book had helped her in that way. So I'm, I'm glad to know people are still getting some benefits from it. 20 years later. 

 

Aaron Goodman  16:52

Let's talk about some of the themes that emerged through these interviews. One of the themes that I found in reading the interviews is strength or courage to go on living, resilience, which now has become an overused term, but in the foreword Pamela Gibson writes, Coping with a hidden non legitimized disability is one of the hardest things one can do in Western culture. Even so people find strength, inspiration and a sense of purpose in doing so the people in this book I have faced the void and survived after which life is never the same. And they do the impossible on a daily basis, and deserve the opportunity to give them this book to tell their stories. How did you view the this? Do you feel that as the writer of the book as a, as a psychotherapist, trained mental health counselor, what kind of strength do you think people need? Or what kind of strength do people rely on to continue living with this illness? 

 

Gail McCormick  17:53

Well, I have a couple of thoughts going in different directions. But one is that I think one of the single most helpful things For anyone struggling with this illness, you know, that can sort of make or break how well they cope is having somebody who believes them and supports them. A family member, an employer, a friend, you know, an MCS community, a doctor, you know, somebody, almost anybody, you know, if you if you don't have that, yeah, it's, it's almost impossible. And yet, yes, the theme that emerged was that all of these people found strengths that they never thought they would have or need to have and, you know, spirituality and faith came up a lot love came up a lot, you know, for, you know, like people with children or grandchildren, their love for them, kept them going. And for some, that love was more altruistic. 

 

Gail McCormick  19:03

You know, they feel a very intense responsibility to help others who are struggling in the same way or to try to prevent others from becoming environmentally ill helping Yeah. And helping others was one of the ways that people found kept them going. 

 

Aaron Goodman  19:27

Another thing that emerges is grief, and a woman you interviewed. Elizabeth Shuster, who was a university professor in Detroit, Michigan, said to you, everyone has to decide for themselves what makes life meaningful and worth living. For me it is to practice loving. I think that's why we're here as human beings we have the capacity to love and always I think that's what brings great meaning and joy. Even when you lose total mental abilities. It's much more than the ability to emote, I think as long as there's life there's love life is love. This moment is what you have so do with it what brings you great meaning. That quote really doesn't connect with grief so much? How did you find you find that grief is a theme that emerged in the book and from what you know of people with MCS, how do they is grief fairly common? And how do people deal with that?

 

Gail McCormick  20:20

It's, it's huge. Grief is such a major part of this illness, you know, people lose, many people lose self respect, they they think they should be able to manage because other people are, you know, doesn't bother other people, they lose friends and family member, they lose careers, hobbies, access to public places, even their own churches, there is so much loss, you know, you become an other, you know, part of the other, you're not part of the mainstream anymore. You can't be in order to survive. And you have the the losses are incredible and impact people's lives in all kinds of ways. I mean, they lose access to a safe place to live, you know, I've interviewed a couple people who had to live in their cars. 

 

Gail McCormick  21:29

And I mentioned the one who lived in the woods, you know, her mother would come driving out in the middle of huge wind storms, knowing that her little tarp would have, you know, blown away and she couldn't get it herself. She couldn't even walk. And so her mom would, you know, come and find her and set that back up. You know, Susan Malloy, who I interviewed in Snowflake, she, she became, you know, a major activist, and she even went and got a graduate degree in policy making or something to be able to advocate for this population, even though she had to attend classes in a wheelchair and wear metal army helmet because she was so sensitive to both chemical exposures and electromagnetic fields. She would have seizures from fluorescent lights exposure if she wasn't protected that way. And so I think I might have drifted a little bit here off topic. I'll let you circle us back. 

 

Aaron Goodman  22:46

Sure. Another thing that emerges in the interviews is treating ourselves with compassion. And Elizabeth Schuster, who was a university professor in Michigan said to you that those of us with MCS need to treat ourselves as we would treat a young child with this illness with love and compassion, we tend to be really hard on ourselves, we need to envision the most loving person we've ever known or heard of, to look into that person's eyes with total love and to feel that for ourselves, practicing forgiveness is the most important thing, forgiveness of ourselves and others. truly forgive. I think that a combination of letting go and forgiveness is the best that any of us can do. 

 

Gail McCormick  23:26

Yes, I would agree with that. And I would say that that was one of the upsides that developed as a theme of living with this illness that people had to do their own healing work, they had to develop compassion for themselves. They had to do healing work from unresolved traumas. And, you know, my, my take on unresolved traumas, that's not what causes MCS, but those of us with MCS cannot afford to hold on to anything that drains you know, anything from our, our system, you know, we can't carry that those extra burdens around. And so we have to do healing work to survive, if not thrive, you know, some people are able to thrive, and that is hopeful. 

 

Aaron Goodman  24:29

I really like what you said there. Another theme that emerges is acceptance and a man named Herbert Whitish from the Shoalwater Bay Indian Reservation in the state of Washington said you have to come to the realization that you can't do everything you did previously, but you can't let this illness push you to the point where you've got to quit. The worst thing that can happen is to let that to completely defeat you because once you do quit, where are you going to go from there? So this is about perseverance, but also about acceptance. 

 

Gail McCormick  25:04

Yes, part of that self compassion and not driving yourself or having to prove that you're normal, or you're not crazy. And you know, most of us, especially, at least here in the States, we are our self esteem is really tied to and our identity is tied to production, output. And so when suddenly you can't do some of those things anymore, you lose your sense of self. And you know, shame is a really big factor that comes into play. And, and shame is debilitating. So, yeah, all part of the picture. 

 

Aaron Goodman  25:50

Yes. Another thing that comes up, and it's one that you've noticed is the challenge of not being believed by doctors or even by loved ones. Can you talk a little bit about how you view how that challenge? Can you talk a little bit about what that challenge is, like, maybe from your own perspective, or from what you've learned by talking with others, because I think it's something that people listening will really understand and appreciate? 

 

Gail McCormick  26:16

Yes, you know, it's just, it's devastating, to not be believed or to be, you know, misdiagnosed, misunderstood, shamed that way, I feel so fortunate in that my parents never doubted, never doubted me. And so I always knew I had a safe place to go to be with family, you know, there were some family members who I think did not believe and couldn't quite be totally sent free. And, and yet would say, Well, I'm not wearing anything. I mean, everybody with MCS hears that all the time, you know, you say, oh, you know, there's something I'm having a problem, something's bothering me, and I don't know what it is, well, I'm not wearing anything. And they don't understand that there are so many products that have a scent that they wouldn't even notice, or that you can be reacting to the soap they wash their hands with and rinsed off and dried their hands. And it's still there. So that's very difficult. 

 

Gail McCormick  27:32

And I've been extremely fortunate that my husband has been supportive, because some people lose their marriages over it, you know, you can't, you can't live with someone, I don't think I don't know how you can live with someone if they don't support you, and believe you and it's, it's even when they do, it's rough on a marriage, it's rough on a on friendships, and because it impacts them so much, you know, other illnesses, you know, let's take cancer, for example, because it's so widespread, for the most part, nobody else has to change their life in order to be in relationship with you to support you. But, you know, that's one of the very difficult parts that we all hate about environmental illness that we have to ask other people to change, and we have to isolate from so many places, and that, you know, even people who want to accommodate us can't sometimes, or, you know, can't to the extent that we need them to you know, I mean, we've all probably we've all had the experience, even people, other people with MCS can't accommodate each other well, at times, because, you know, our sensitivities are different are the how sensitive we are can change depending on what kind or how long our exposures have recently been, or, you know, all kinds of factors make it so confusing and difficult. I mean, I can understand, to some extent, why it's hard for people to believe, you know, my husband will explain it to people by saying, Well, you know, you wouldn't choose to put a little dose of pesticides in your mouth, would you and swallow it or take a spoonful of it? And you know, of course, nobody would do that. But they just you know, it's just so difficult to believe that air exposure or exposure in our our food and our water can do the same thing. 

 

Aaron Goodman  29:59

Yeah, and when people in our lives don't believe us? Is it just about going around them? Or, you know, just not being in relationship with those people and just kind of moving on from the pain that that can cause? What's the best way to approach that? Would you? Would you say, I know, there isn't like a one answer for all, but how do we live? When so many disbelieve us? Do we just be in relationship with people who get it? 

 

Gail McCormick  30:30

Well, I think that's different for everyone. And, you know, for me, there have been times when I just would not be around family, a family member, if they, you know, were wearing products that were making me sick, because I was too sick, you know, I couldn't risk that I'm at a place in my life now. And in case anyone is interested, I am 70. Now aware, I'm strong enough, because my, you know, my lifestyle is, is so clean, and my stress level is pretty low. And so I'm strong enough that for, you know, short visits, and by short, I mean, I don't mean all 15 minutes, I mean, I'm not staying with that person for a week or two weeks or something. But I can, I do choose to suck it up at times, because my reaction isn't as bad and my recovery is faster. So it just depends on the relationship, and what is worth it to me or not. And but, you know, my best friend is very, you know, she's chemically sensitive. And I'm, of course, just more comfortable with those people. Because again, we don't have to explain anything, and we just, we can be normal together, we can just be normal. And that is such a gift. 

 

Gail McCormick  32:22

And I think, you know, in terms of themes that came up. That's what people with MCS want others to know, we are normal people having, you know, reactions to toxics in the air, food and water. And many, many people I mean, we're not one offers, you know, it's a large population. And that, no, they're sensitive, and there are so many more people who just, they're ill, and they just assume that's part of normal life. And so they don't, you know, wouldn't consider that it's might be caused by exposures. And that they might be able to improve their health by changing their lifestyle, or their diet or whatever. And some people prefer not to, they'd rather take medication for, you know, illnesses, or then then make those, you know, what they see as sacrifices. But, you know, for many of us, it's actually been, I hate to use this, this word, because some people, it's no blessing at all. 

Because they don't have enough support, they don't have the luxury of living in a safe place, and, you know, having enough resources to get the supplements and the organic food and the medical care that they need. But it can be a blessing to be out of that crazy treadmill life of, you know, wanting more and more and not wanting to miss anything and having to try to do all and be all to everyone. No, there's there's, you know, a lot of healing on many levels that comes from being forced by chemical reactions to change your life. It's, you know, it's the 10,000 blessings, the 10,000 sorrows of Buddhism, you know, the price has been steep. And there are some silver linings. 

 

Aaron Goodman  34:42

Yes. And as you say, some people might, as you say, many people can't get accommodation to, you know, work in places that are free from chemicals, or access, chemical free health care housing. So that's particularly troubling, isn't it? Would you say for people who want to help you?

 

Gail McCormick  35:05

Yeah, certainly is, you know, I have a niece who lives in Michigan, she's in her mid 40s. She's a single parent. And she's chemically sensitive. And then she got COVID, two or three times. And since COVID, having COVID, her reactions are much more severe. She has anaphylactic reactions, and her workplace has a fragrance free policy. But the way it's enforced, believe it or not, is she if she's having a reaction, she has to go home, and she doesn't get paid, they don't enforce it in the workplace. And she can't work from home because of some rule about, you know, how many days of sick leave you take, or whatever, and allowed to work from home when working from home is what would enable her to be, you know, productive 40 plus hours a week? And, you know, it breaks my heart for her because she, she doesn't have many places to turn. 

 

Aaron Goodman  36:24

Yeah, I think a lot of people will relate to what you're sharing. When you look back on the book, 20 years after it was published? Do you feel that the narratives are still timely? 

 

Gail McCormick  36:34

Sadly, yes, I do. And I think that, you know, more current narratives are important so that people realize this, this hasn't gone away, you know, and we have more so called green products. Now, there are even more fragrance free policies. There's more awareness in some ways, and yet those policies don't protect people like my knees, they're not enforced. There's no, no more doctors who are, you know, diagnosing MCS, there are no better treatments that I'm aware of. I'm not certainly no expert in these areas. But that's my impression. And, and that's sad. But, you know, the other day, for example, I was reading the the home magazine section of the newspaper, and there was some article about creating cozy guest rooms. And, you know, I listed all these things, and it said, don't use fragrances, because many people are sensitive to them. And I went, wow, you know, this isn't a mainstream publication. So, and I do see more and more of that. 

 

Gail McCormick  38:01

And yet, on the policy side, on the practical side, you know, it's doesn't seem to be making a lot of difference at the individual level of people who are suffering. So there's a lot of work to be done. 

 

Aaron Goodman  38:17

There's a lot of work to be done. And we, you know, when you wrote the book, the internet was just getting going, right. So you were reaching out to people, maybe by email, but as you mentioned, through getting the names, finding their names, through newsletter, and probably placing phone calls and going to their homes, where today, a lot of our communication is happening online. And a lot of people with MCS are sharing their stories on in online groups. And do you feel that that's something that is beneficial for folks? And do you agree that there's more opportunities for people to do that? 

 

Gail McCormick  38:52

I'm sure there are more opportunities with all the, you know, new technology and social media. And I think that that is, I think that's great. I think that one downside could be, you know, I don't know, but this comes to mind. You know, I remember when we had an in person Support Group here in Seattle, and there would be, you know, there would somebody would sort of facilitate it, so that it didn't just turn into a venting arena, which venting is important. We need to vent you know, we got to put that somewhere and there are many ways to do that, you know, we can write, we can talk we can chop wood, but, you know, to have some facilitation to help everybody, you know, get some new information or just to be heard and seen for who they are in addition to environmental illness, and, you know, have it offer, you know, support of different kinds than then simply venting. And I only recently because you told me about an online group. 

 

Gail McCormick  40:22

So I've, you know, started following a Facebook page. And, you know, I see that there's both, you know, it's a place for venting, and a lot of, you know, important information is shared, including how what kinds of doctors people are getting a diagnosis from that is, can help them to get benefits. And so I, but I haven't really been involved in enough of the online communication to really, you know, have strong opinions about it. But I think it's great that it's available. And, you know, and it's global. You know, we know, this is everywhere. 

 

Gail McCormick  41:12

And I think that I, well, in my book, there is an interview with a man from Belarus and I he was here in Seattle, because he was the chaperone for a group of children who came from Belarus, in the wake of the nuclear explosion at Chernobyl brought kids here to get a summer reprieve from radiation exposure to try to boost their immune systems with, you know, good food, clean food, and, you know, not having the exposure to the radiation. And I was working on my book at the time, and one of the things my husband and I did, that helped expand my world that was, you know, slipping between my fingers and getting smaller was we hosted two of these children of Chernobyl because, you know, we resonated with, with them suffering or being exposed to, you know, environmental illness and toxins. 

And so we were with Anatoly, the chaperone, he was going with us to an appointment with the girls. And he said that the girls who were only eight years old at the time, wanted to know what my book was about. They knew I was writing a book, they also knew I was chemically sensitive, because, you know, I had had that explained to them. They didn't speak English, but I had it explained to them so they would understand. And they were, they were great little protectors for me. But when I explained to Anatoly what my book was about, I thought, Oh, he's gonna think this is some weird American thing now, you know, and he was ecstatic. He said, I have this, but I didn't know there was a name for it. And so, you know, it's just amazing how many people do resonate when they hear these stories, and they connect the dots. 

 

Gail McCormick  43:21

And my, my current writing is about my relationship with those girls from Belarus, and our relationship is now 25 years strong. And I've been able to visit them, I was able to visit them and in Belarus and Ukraine and and make that work chemically, for the most part, probably because they knew how, you know how I reacted to things and could make sure that I was in a safe place. And so yeah, that that's my next book coming out in the spring of '24. A way that expanded my world. And, you know, I was not able to have children of my own, which could be related to pesticide exposures and hormone disruptors, of various kinds and variants, pregnancy losses. And so that's how I made family. And so they're my they're my girls still, and they are mothers now and so I am a an honorary babushka, and I think that there are ways for us to connect with with others, you have to get pretty creative, but boy, that's another theme that came out in the interviews these, you know, people with MCS have to be creative, and they are so creative in finding ways to make things work finding joy. 

 

Aaron Goodman  45:08

Well, thank you so much, Gail, for everything you've shared, and I really enjoyed speaking with you. 

 

Gail McCormick  45:13

Thank you so much. Thank you. And I'm, I'm glad to be on your podcast. It was an honor. Thank you so much.

 

Aaron Goodman  45:26

That brings us to the end of this episode of the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast. Thank you very much to Gail McCormack for speaking with me. The podcast is produced by me, Aaron Goodman and Raynee Novak. We release new episodes twice a month. Subscribe where you get your podcasts. And you can now subscribe to hear bonus episodes featuring experts on MCS and information you won't hear anywhere else. Subscribing helps us continue making the podcast available and creating greater awareness about MCS. Leave a review on Apple podcasts it's a great way to help others learn about the podcast. Find us on social media, just search for the Chemical Sensitivity Podcast or podcasting MCS.

 Leave your comments about anything you hear on the podcast and please share the podcast with others. You can find the podcast on YouTube and read closed captions in any language you like. Please support the podcast you can find a link to our Patreon site in the episode descriptions at ChemicalSensitivityPodcast.org And if there's someone you'd like to hear interviewed on the podcast or topic you'd like us to explore, just let us know email info@chemicalsensivitypodcast.org and thanks for listening

Introduction
Gail's HIstory
Chemicals
Survival
Not Crazy
Connection
Interviews
The Questions
Combining Skills
Coping
Grief
Compassion
Acceptance
Being Believed
Supportive
Relationships
Accomodations
TImely
Support
Chornobyl
New Book
Conclusion