But a few years ago, it became apparent that my candle-collecting hobby would have to end.
* * * * *
My mom started experiencing migraine headaches in her late thirties. I have memories of a coworker bringing her home because she was unable to drive for the pain and sickness.
I can remember Mom and Dad coming to visit me at college, only to have to put her to sleep in my bed until the pounding and vomiting would go away.
And over the years, Mom noticed that her triggers had nothing to do with the suggestions her doctor asked her to track, such as peanuts or chocolate.
Mom's were due to fragrance---or so we suspected.
A short walk past the perfume counters would trigger a migraine. We tried to slide through the maze of free perfume samples quickly just to get to the main part of the mall.
Finding a place to sit in church became trial and error. Inevitably, a heavily perfumed woman would sit next to us, and we'd need to change seats. At times we ended up sitting in the choir loft to avoid fragrances.
And over time, it wasn't the heavy perfume that bothered her. She became like a bloodhound, aware of the slightest micron of scent. No one else in our family would smell it, but she could.
Teaching in her elementary school became difficult. Working in a classroom put her, literally, in a potpourri of fragrance. From the shampoo and scented lotion her students used to the fabric softener sheets employed by their parents, my mother found her migraines becoming more frequent and more intense. In addition to the physical symptoms her migraines would bring, my mom also experienced social isolation. She would avoid certain offices, stores, and people, afraid of triggering a migraine. Not to mention, not everyone understood what she was experiencing. As with many silent disorders, people can respond in a range from not understanding to being downright cruel.
I was fortunate to attend a conference in Pittsburgh called Women's Health and the Environment in 2007. Sponsored by the Heinz Foundation, it gathered current researchers to present their findings on how our health is affected by what we choose to eat, the air we breathe, and the chemically-laden products we use on our skin. It was at that conference that I learned that there is a name for my mom's condition. It's called CS or MCS, for Chemical Sensitivities or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities.
Today, Suzanne over at Mommy Footprint has written about Chemical Sensitivity. At the bottom of her post she gives a few starter ideas if you're thinking of reducing the amount of fragrance in your life. If you or someone you know seems to be sensitive, you may want to hop over and check out her recommendations.
* * * * *So, do I still burn candles?
The answer is yes. I couldn't live without the beauty of soft candlelight. But the candles I burn now are fragrance-free. No more Yankee Candles in our home. Since my mom lives next door and I love her, I do whatever I can to reduce the risk of exposing her to synthetic fragrances.
On so many levels, going fragrance-free fits in with what I believe about the chemicals we use and the impact they have on our immediate environment. So it's a step we've taken on our journey. Tomorrow I'll be back to talk about the ways we've been able to reduce fragrance in our home, and some resources that have helped along the way.