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Living with multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS)

If you’re like Francesco Cenci and smells, such as perfume or cleaning products, make you ill, you may have multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), which is a medical condition with symptoms such as debilitating headaches, fatigue & nausea. Francesco is a long-time patient of Breakspear Medical who believes that low-dose immunotherapy is the key to maintaining his successful career & busy life. Read his full story in the blog below.

Edited excerpt from Breakspear Medical Bulletin Issue 48:

Let me introduce myself

My name is Francesco Cenci, I am from Rome, Italy and I have multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), food allergies, electrical sensitivity and chronic fatigue. I will tell you a little about my life so that you can understand why I believe the treatment that I receive at Breakspear Medical is fundamental for my well-being.

When I was 21 years old, I had everything going for me. I enjoyed competitive swimming, played in a band, had a girlfriend, and I was studying sociology and computer programming at university. Everything was great.

Then I decided to travel to and explore South America and before going, I had three travel vaccinations: hepatitis A and B, and typhoid. (I found out later that the typhoid vaccine was one that was discontinued shortly after I had it.)

Ten days before I left, I started to have stomach cramps and severe constipation. When I returned from this trip, I started to have dreadfully terrible health problems. I developed food allergies and experienced pudendal neuralgia (long-term pelvic pain from a main nerve in the pelvis) and sciatica (pain from the hip, down the leg). I saw many Italian doctors over a period of ten years and didn’t receive a definitive diagnosis or understanding of what caused my ill-health. Some doctors said that there was nothing wrong with me, while others said, “I’ll give you something that might help” but nothing helped.

Living with an undiagnosed illness

For many years, I tried to live my life with a lot of health problems. In 2010, after experiencing a lot of abdominal problems, I had to have a stomach operation and then decided have a simple tattoo done. At the same time, I decided to renovate my house. Unfortunately, all those changes caused my body to implode and my entire life to change.

My problem was not just neurological and food allergies but I also experienced debilitating problems with chemicals. I started to wear a face mask all the time because I had problems breathing the chemicals in the air, particularly perfume, and I developed electrical sensitivity, which made me feel faint and disorientated
when exposed.

Having electrical sensitivity caused very big problems in my life. At that time, I still didn’t have a name for my illness. Some doctors suggested it was a neurological problem and others suggested that it was all due to reactions to foods. No one diagnosed what my illness was.

Finding MCS experts

With the help of an association of MCS, I learned about an Italian doctor, Professor Giuseppe Genovesi, a famous immunology doctor at public hospital Umberto 1, who was committed to helping patients with MCS and electrosensitivity. I went to him and had many pathology tests completed, and he then explained that my problem was MCS.

From that moment, I started a course of detoxification infusions and they addressed many of my food sensitivities/allergies. After nine months of Professor Genovesi’s intense treatment, he told me there was another place in Europe that I could go to for further treatment of my illness called Breakspear

Sadly, Prof Genovesi died in January 2018, but I always believed he was an angel for what he did
for me. He helped me get an official disability certification, which helped me continue to work. As part of my contract, I have an air filter in my office. I don’t know how many people with chemical sensitivity can still work but I am one of those and I am very happy and thankful. I am very sad about a lot of people who cannot
work with MCS. I am not a “superman” and am fortunate to have a job that works for me.

When I came to Breakspear Medical on Prof Genovesi’s recommendation, I felt that it was the only possibility to get my life back. Jean Monro is my second angel and honestly, she gave me the foundation to get my life back under my control.

My first visit to the clinic was for five weeks. At that time, I wore only white cotton clothes because every other fabric and colour of clothes caused an allergic skin reaction. I weighed only 46kg and could only eat rice and potato without suffering from food allergy symptoms.

Prof Genovesi had advised me to do everything that the people at Breakspear Medical told me to do. I
started with blood tests and then started testing for low-dose immunotherapy (LDI) for chemicals and foods. I found it very hard to be on my own for so long, but I did not have a choice.

When I returned to Italy, I told my dad about my experience. I remember that I could feel that the air in
Rome was terrible for me. When I was in England doing the LDI testing, I could sit in an open garden without a mask but in Rome, I needed a mask.

As well as using my LDI vaccines, I started to eat more foods, using the rotation diet that Jean had recommended and I stopped eating gluten, milk and cheese. I did all the therapy that she recommended, including supplements, infusions and oxygen therapy. I was told that it is not a simple miracle
cure and that I would have to proceed step by step, very slowly.

Looking after your body & mind

Jean told me that you have not only your body but also your mind and that you have to look after them
both. With that advice in mind, I live day by day to regain control of my life.

I work hard but I also love music. When I was younger, I played in a band and now I DJ vinyls but I don’t perform in a closed space with smoke or perfume but instead perform in open spaces in the summertime. While DJing in an open space is better, I do find that I have to rest the day after a performance. I am still
learning to balance work and the things I do in my free time.

There was a time when I tried to stop my LDI treatment but I found that this treatment is fundamental for me. It is like you have a house and under the house there are the foundations and after that are the rooms, such as the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, but without the foundations, the house doesn’t exist. For those with MCS, LDI is like the foundations of the house. All the very important other things are the rooms, such as the supplements, infusions and oxygen therapy. Without LDI, you can’t live in the house.

I have been a patient at the clinic for over nine years and come back every three months or so to do the LDI
retesting. It gives me balance so I can work, socialise and enjoy my private life with my beautiful, loving and
understanding girlfriend, our children and take part in my hobbies.

When I have to die, I will die. But until the day before, I will keep going, until the last of my energy is gone.

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